Mental Notes On Metal Desks

In years past, it was at the heart of almost all recreation centers.

Scrapes and bruises were treated on it; kids as well as staff seemed to hang from it. You could kick it, stand on it, and even eat your lunch from it. This most amazing piece of recreation lore is the metal desk.

To some degree, it has gone away with paper registration. But, unlike the mountainous stack of paper and the line of customers at the rec center on the first day of camp registration, the metal desk holds a special place in my heart. Where has it gone and why?

The Anatomy Of A Metal Desk

The classic metal desk is constructed of a minimum of 80-percent metal compound, although traditionalists prefer one closer to the 95-percent-plus mark. In general, there are three drawers on one side, a pencil drawer in the middle and one or two deep well drawers on the other side.

The color schemes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but typically the body had a different color than the top. The tell-tale sign of a well-worn metal desk is a crater or “moon-like” design across the body, characterized by deep alternating depressions speckled with rust. In many respects it is these craters or “battle scars” that make the desks so valuable and sought after. Each depression is a story, a moment etched in time forever.

Shock And Awe

Recently I needed a desk for a satellite office I share with another employee. In the current economic climate, purchasing a new one did not seem financially sound. Instead, I asked around to see if anyone had an extra one.

A week went by with no leads, and then I saw a co-worker who inquired about my search. He explained he had one desk that was collecting dust in the back of his storage shed and I was more than welcome to it. He added he was reluctant to say anything initially because the desk was a bit outdated, heavy, noisy, rusty, and an eyesore–even in his shed.

I met him the next day at the site to take a look. As he opened the shed doors, I was flooded– not by a horde of cockroaches–but with countless memories. It was the grandest desk I had ever seen–all metal, the bottom a dark shade of brown and the top puke-green. Beautiful! The cabinets rang with noise as I pulled them in and out. As I slid my hand across the body of the desk, I could feel all the balls and bats that had scarred it over the years. It was perfect!

My enthusiasm caught my co-worker by surprise. He started looking through the desk, wondering if a pile of money was stored in the back of the cabinets. No, I told him, the desk reminds me of years past, and its sentimental value is worth more than anything.

Unfortunately, moving the desk had to wait because the two of us were not capable on our own without serious bodily injury. The next day, four of us loaded and transported it to its new home. The responses from other employees were mixed–while some sought therapy for me, others reminisced. It seemed almost everyone had a memory or two of a metal desk they once sat behind or better, sat on.

The Future Of Fine Furniture

Where did the metal desks go? As old recreation centers were retrofitted and updated, old behemoths of desks did not fit into the modern-day office. They were either auctioned off, given to maintenance personnel for their sheds, or put in dumpsters.

Fortunately, several manufacturers offer trimmed-down versions of these desks in a variety of designs and colors. While they may not require four people to move them anymore, they still give the parks and recreation professional the same durability and functionality–more or less.

Do metal desks have a place in today’s parks and recreation organization? On pure aesthetics, even I would have to say that is debatable, but is there a middle ground? Even with the advent of recreation software, paperless registration has not conquered all. The qualities that made the metal desks such a mainstay for so many years are still applicable today.

With a long life-expectancy and high durability, they still have many qualities consumers look for in a desk in a community-center setting. With a hurricane or tornado looming overhead, drive-by shootings outside, or a bench-clearing brawl in the gym, what better and safer place is there to be than under a metal desk? When you think about it, a metal desk has numerous advantages over its engineered wood-and-plastic counterpart.

Don’t Assume New Is Better

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