If All Else Fails

I always said that if I didn’t make it in the big leagues, I’d train to be a copy machine repairman. Some may frown upon this plan; it does appear a waste of a very expensive education. My scowling and confused acquaintances just do not see what I see in these docile beasts of reproduction.

Copy machines do have a tainted reputation. Like hippopotomi, the purring and warmth radiated from the grey exterior of the xerox copius invites our trust, projecting a calmness only achieved by tame animals. Only later, after the aggressive mammal storms you, do you realize that the xerox copius only wanted to eat your electricity, and is rebelling against your bidding with a four-door paper jam.

A copy machine repairman is the Dog Whisperer of the IT industry. While programmers brainwash computers into obeying their commands with software installations, or worse, wipe their hard drives to erase behavioral problems–the technological equivalent of euthanasia?–copy machines must be tamed. The copy machine must know that you are the boss. Finicky creatures, prone to panic, they need to know that their owners can operate independently.

Think back to the last time your copy machine jammed. Your deadline approaching, you begged the machine to spit out your document. Each time you fed it through, a terrible crunching sound halted production after only two pages emerged reproduced. The remainder you found stuck in the duplexer, another page stalled on the bridge, another pinched between two rollers, streaked with toner. 

A copy machine cannot suspect your desperation, or it will test you. A stellar repairman not only frees the jams, reloads the toner, and runs diagnostics. Such a repairman empowers users to show their machines that they not only command the respect of their employees, their families, and their pets, but also their technology. The repairman teaches troubleshooting techniques, so the authoritative office worker may outsmart their Xerox, teaching it to think twice before getting sassy.   

Despite their penchant for doling out immense amounts of frustration, I adore the two copy machines delivered to my office a few months ago from a giant warehouse (breeder?) in New Jersey. The quiet hum drowns out the squirrel prancing in the ceiling, and the warm pages it spits out drive away the damp, chilly draft that surrounds me when I pick copies out of the tray. The mindless work of reproduction provides respite from hectic days; the problem solving and coordination required to collate and staple a duplex print job energize and rejuvinate a mind left sluggish by a dull day.

Nigel, our copy machine repairman, visited last week after I failed to find the source of a particularly wicked jam. I warmed him up with some small talk before interrogating him about his job satisfaction. He appears happy. He comes in late and leaves early, gets to travel throughout the hospital campus, and meets new people every day. The Toshiba models he primarily services only require a one week training class. 

I have interpersonal skills. I walk fast. I have nimble fingers. I could be a copy machine repairman! I am not yet ready to give up my job, as manic and as depressing as it often can be. I am not ready to give up on the dream of writing a book, or saving the world, or becoming the next expert in my field. Yet I find reassurance in this plan B, even fantasize about it when stressed by the demands of my job. In my rolodex, I keep the business card of the account manager from the copy machine warehouse–my parachute out of my white-collar nightmare, if all else fails.

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