The paper carnival

Copious amounts of personal documents filled a Bronzeville bank’s parking lot this past Saturday. Whether it was an incriminating paper trail that needed to be destroyed or a letter from some lost lover, no sheet of paper was spared. Sponsored by the Illinois Service Federal Bank in Bronzeville, Shred-o-Rama invited Chicagoans to shred any and all papers–up to one hundred pounds–free of charge.

The ISF Bank was founded in the 1930s to serve the South Side’s African-American community. It has since grown from a one-room office on 47th Street to a multimillion dollar entity, and now hosts the Shred-o-Rama twice a year. The event, as executive Assistant to the Chairman and CEO Cynthia Williams explained, is designed to let people “get rid of old papers that they obviously don’t need any longer, for purposes of protection.” In one fell load, everything from old bank statements to top-secret national security files can be destroyed forever.

The enormous “Accurate Document Destruction” truck, which was provided by the city’s largest mobile document elimination service, dominated the parking lot. The hulking white beast hummed and whirred with each new load of documents, clanging and banging in a cacophony of noises as it ripped apart everything it was fed. After dropping off stacks of paper, the newly lightened participants could wait and watch their documents torn to bits, monitoring the job on the truck’s internal monitor. There was no need to worry about overwhelming this Leviathan with mountains of classified files: at a past event, a single person brought in three carloads of legal documents. While this season’s Shred-o-Rama saw nothing quite as dramatic, people showed up with paper in all sorts of receptacles, including cardboard boxes, trash cans, and laundry hampers. Once all the records and statements had been obliterated, attendees were invited into the bank to enjoy free hot dogs and potato chips.

The festivities did more than inspire good cheer, however. All the shreddings collected were recycled, turning thousands of sheets of secrets into fresh, unblemished paper awaiting new secrets.