Today, I wearily trudged to the copy room, to make yet another billion copies. Teaching consists mostly of making copies and then distributing copies. The students then lose the copies, thereby creating the need for even more copies. As far as I can tell, only the Xerox people win on this deal. However, I have become highly skilled in the art of copy-making. I can collate, staple, hole-punch, make double-sided copies and even make enlargements. I spent $25,000 to get a Master’s degree that qualifies me to work at Kinko’s. How would you like that document bound?
I don’t mind making copies, but I hate going to the teacher workroom. It is a place that fills me with dread, makes my insides curl up into themselves as I turn the handle on the door. Yes, this is a strange reaction, but I am about to share with you one of my darkest phobias, one that dates back to my early years in elementary school. Way back in those dark ages, I was considered a “gifted child.” All this means is that I taught myself to read when I was very young, read a lot of books, and I have been slacking off ever since. Child genius, that was me; see how far I’ve gone? I make copies now! Anyway, I was in some sort of student tutoring program, helping the unfortunate, non-gifted students, and as a very special member of the geek squad, I got to go to the teacher workroom for some reason I can’t recall. While we were there, a teacher showed us the paper cutter and warned diabolically, “NEVER touch this paper cutter; it’s very sharp and can cut your fingers off!!!” And dramatically, she held up her thumb and I was horrified to see that the tip of it was missing. She then laughed diabolically and her face began to melt….wait, maybe that was a movie. Regardless, this incident scarred me for life, because amputated thumbs are the stuff of nightmares.
At that particular time in my life, I was VERY impressionable, as highly gifted, slacker individuals frequently are. We were living on a military base outside of Washington D.C., and I had to walk to and from school by myself every day. Theoretically, my older brother was supposed to walk WITH me, but that seldom happened. And I remember vividly that I spent the entire year walking alone, in mortal terror, because I knew for a fact that the demon baby from the hit movie It’s Alive was lurking in a ditch, waiting to tear my throat out with its fangs. I mean, where else do demon babies hang out?? It made perfect sense to me. Fine, I had some issues. Don’t get me started on the novel “Audrey Rose”, which was another one of my terrors that year. So it’s really no great stretch to understand why I was horrified by the teacher with the thumb nubbin. And to this day, whenever I see a paper cutter, I instinctively, automatically, clench my fists shut tightly in order to avoid having them amputated by a rogue cutter.
Well, I have had to learn to live with this fear of copy rooms and paper cutters, given the profession I’ve chosen, because making copies is essential to the practice of teaching. So I gamely entered the copy room and pointedly ignored the paper cutter. Fortunately, this particular trip to make copies was a bit more exciting than usual, which kept my mind off the paper cutter. Instead of the same, tired, black and white copies usually required, I was going to be printing documents on green paper!! Really, it’s the little things that get you through the day. Now those who don’t possess my advanced copy machine skills might quiver in fear at the prospect of making copies on green paper instead of white, but for me, with my unique skill set, it was going to be a walk in the park. Because I knew that to print on green paper, all I had to do was replace the white paper in drawer 1 with the green paper, and then change the setting on the copy machine. No problem at all.
Boldly, I strode up to the machine, pulled open the drawer, and replaced the paper. To my astonishment and delight, when I closed the drawer, a message popped up on the screen advising me that I had changed to GREEN PAPER!!! ‘Holy Crap, how cool is that?’ I thought to myself, and abruptly, my cynical disdain of copying evaporated. The copy machine KNEW what color paper I was using. It was a miracle, and I was appropriately impressed. I competently tapped the touch screen, choosing the number of copies and changing the drawer settings, and then pressed START. Immediately, the machine sprang to life, and began spitting out my perfectly printed green copies.
Satisfied that things were humming along, I headed for the restroom, taking care to skirt around the paper cutter which sat on the counter, taunting me malevolently. I could almost hear it whispering, “Come and play with me little girl…I LOVE thumbs” and a cold chill ran up my spine. (The ultimate nightmare would be the It’s Alive baby armed with a paper cutter.) I made it to the bathroom safely, shut the door, only to immediately hear the copy machine grind to a stop. “Great,” I thought, “a paper jam.” I finished quickly, and went back out to see what was happening, taking care to give the paper cutter a wide berth.
Copy machines these days are computerized, and there is a display screen that advises you exactly where the problem is located. As directed, I opened Door Number One, and cleared a single sheet of green paper. Then I opened the front and found that there were five pieces jammed beneath the rollers. Well, as a graduate of the Advanced School of Copy Machine Maintenance, I didn’t flinch; I simply rolled up my sleeves, turned lever A counter-clockwise, lifted levers B and C, and jiggled lever D. In no time, I had extracted the problem copies, chortling in amazement at my own competence and superiority. I closed the door, reset the machine, and stood back to wait for my copies.
Only it printed two copies and jammed again. With a bit less enthusiasm, I performed the above procedures, and added the step of removing the green paper from the drawer and then re-inserting it to ensure that it was loaded correctly. I closed everything up and tried again. And again, it printed two copies and jammed. Snarling, I ripped open the doors and performed the same procedure. And it jammed again.
By this time, I was covered in ink, I was sweating, and I had wasted about ten sheets of the fabulous green paper. The paper cutter on the counter was smirking at my distress, offering to help me out by amputating all of my fingers, which would entitle me to a lifetime of compensation from the school system and get me out of the teaching profession for good…NO MORE COPIES it seemed to say. I WILL END YOUR COPY WOES FOR GOOD IF YOU JUST COME TO ME….
I closed my eyes tightly and willed the voice to stop. I opened my eyes, and went through the paper jam clearing ritual again. I shut the doors, the machine whirred to life, printed a copy and jammed again. My knees were aching. My fingers were ink-stained and sore from digging under the rollers. I was reaching the breaking point. Furiously, I cleared the jam again and hit START. And it jammed again.
Reader, I persevered and got the copies made, but it was a hard fought battle. It was as if the copy machine had joined forces with the malevolent paper cutter in order to beat me down, to break my spirit, but I was strong. I fought the good fight and I emerged victorious. Somewhat. When I returned to the classroom, I had 42 green copies. I originally left the room with sixty sheets of green paper. Unfortunately, the casualty rate was high; I hope the media doesn’t hear about this skirmish because I will lose my rank of General Copier.