Canyon of Confetti

Indulge me, please, as I make a connection between the recent victory in the World Series of the New York Yankees--their 27th championship--and what so many futurists perceive to be the imminence of a paperless society, and what, by extension, all that portends for the traditional book as we know it. It's a stretch, I agree, but an amusing concept to consider all the same.

If you were paying attention this past Friday, there was a ticker-tape parade through Lower Manhattan, and unlike so many other New Englanders who chose to tune out--I have been a Red Sox fan for more than half-a-century--I tuned in. Yes, I wanted to see the MVP, Hideki Matsui, riding in the lead float, I even wanted to see that amiable turncoat, Johnny Damon (I am actually very fond of the man), rejoicing in the triumph with his ebullient teammates. But what I wanted to see most of all was how New York City was going to handle the matter of the ticker tape at a time when there is no ticker tape.

The reason for that, you see, is quite simply that there are no more stock tickers, there haven't been any for about thirty years or so, the only ones that survive are now museum pieces, and the only ticker tape available these days is a custom-order curiosity that sells online for $40 a spool. But there was a parade in Lower Manhattan through the Canyon of Heroes on Friday, all right--the 205th such celebration since the whole tradition got started on October, 29, 1886, that one to salute the newly dedicated Statue of Liberty--and there was plenty of paper filling the air. What it was, according to press accounts, was a half-ton of confetti packed in 400 bags and trucked in by a group known as the Downtown Alliance to be distributed among employees in the financial district who now get their stock quotations from computers.

When the confetti ran out, according to a piece in the New York Post, some dull-witted revelers began tossing rolls of toilet paper, which is fine enough, I suppose, as long as its unspooled and not likely to cause a concussion if it hits someone on the street, but not so bright were the financial records and other confidential office materials that went out the windows along with it. Among the fifty tons of debris collected by sanitation workers were pay stubs and trust fund balance sheets. Some of the documents came from the Liberty Street financial firm A.L. Sarroff, including client accounts, with Social Security numbers and detailed banking data. "They're records that should have been shredded," said firm founder Alan Sarroff. "An overzealous employee threw them out the window. He was reprimanded."

So--a half-ton of confetti, and fifty tons of office paper, a ticker tape parade doth make. There's still plenty of cellulose, in other words, to fill the void, and a good deal of it, apparently, remains necessary to the conducting of business. And the future of the parade itself? Like the traditional book that so many of us prefer, it's in no immediate jeopardy of falling out of favor either. Why? Simple enough, in both instances, because people like it. All you need to mount a procession through in the city that never sleeps is a legitimate hero to honor. Good luck on that score; if you're going to toss out the office records in jubilation, though, make sure you shred them first.