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More Silly Conversations with My Principal

April 20, 2016

Most schools have  a staff member who has a special skill that others may not share. Often there is the custodian who can operate all of the heavy equipment that no one understands, or the efficient secretary who knows every phone extension by heart, or the physics teacher who inexplicably comprehends how to navigate all of the frustrating nuances of the grading software.  Schools usually have these experts, but there is usually at least one more:

The Photocopier Wrangler.

The one who always finds the jam, who knows how to replace staples, add new toner, and not only realizes how important it is to do a sample set of a packet before printing it sixty times, but is also aware which screen will enable that feature.  The Photocopier Wrangler even knows how to copy a book without that dark black border that wastes toner and increases the likelihood the copier will jam.  Moreover, the Wrangler does not need to be  reminded of these difficulties.

At times when others are tempted to curse, slam copier doors, shout at the machine, scream at the clock, or rush to the office for help or insist that the secretary summon a technician, the Photocopier Wrangler just sizes up the situation and gets on with it. Usually by the time help arrives, the Wrangler has solved the problem, and the machine is humming along like normal. The Wrangler is often already in class, completed copy job in hand.  Indeed, new staff members might have to wait months, if not years, to discover the identity of their school’s Wrangler.

As it turns out, the Photocopier Wrangler at my school is yours truly.  Indeed, it was while wearing my hat as the Wrangler that led to my most recent Silly Conversation.


I entered the copy room to discover the photocopier non-functional.  One of the paper drawers was popped out, and a hastily written note adorned the feeder: “COPIER JAMED. OFFICE TOLD.”  I realized instantly it was far more likely that the copier was actually jammed, as that is a common mishap for these machines, whereas being “jamed” is far less common.  After a brief investigation, I realized that a sheet of paper had become wedged behind the paper drawer, thus causing the malfunction.  It was an odd place indeed for a paper jam, made all the more strange because it appeared to be an original.  It thus would have had no business being anywhere near the paper drawer.

That, though, was a mystery for another time.  As the Wrangler, it was my job to find a way to clear the jam.  The misfed paper could not be reached by hand behind the drawer, so I pushed the drawer in and out, until the force of the drawer popped the little perpetrator up high enough that I could reach it. It had now been ripped into a few pieces, but with a bit of stretching, was able to collect all of the sheets.

I shut the drawer and the machine went back to work.  Its first order of business was to print out the same document seven times, because we all know that when we send our document to a printer, and it doesn’t immediately come out, the magic elixir is to send it as many times as possible until it does.  I did finally get a chance to start my copy job, and then headed to the office to let them know the machine had been restored to working order.

I entered the office, and announced to one of the secretaries that she need not call the tech person out, as the problem had been resolved.  My principal looked up from his desk, and with his face a twisted mass of confusion and awe, asked me to repeat myself.

Me:  I said the photocopier has been fixed and you don’t need to call in the tech person.

He said nothing else, but rose from his desk and took several silent steps towards me. His mouth was actually agape, and he looked upon me with such disbelief, one would have thought I had instead announced that I had reanimated his dead brother, and that he was waiting to speak to him in the teacher’s lounge.

Him:  Wow! How did you do that?

Me:  I cleared the jam.

Him: What?

Me: I said I cleared the jam.

Him:  I don’t understand. How were you able to do that?

Me: I used my arm.

Him:  You used your arm?

Me:  Yes.

(I waved it around a bit to make sure there was no confusion.)

Him:  How did you use your arm?

Me:  I stretched it.  And then I clamped my hand around the paper, and then withdrew my arm.

(Again, I felt it necessary to supplement this description with a mimed demonstration.)

He said nothing, his expression unchanged.  It was at that moment it occurred to me that the photocopier was not simply an office machine to my principal. It was a great spiritual mystery, one that could barely be cognitively apprehended.  A bit like the Holy Trinity, the Noble Eightfold Path, or whatever the fuck it is Scientologists believe.

Having nothing else to add, I turned and headed back to my classroom.  Such is the occupational hazard of being the Photocopier Wrangler.





5 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy Simard permalink
    April 20, 2016 2:33 pm

    This wonderful account had me right back in that copy room, struggling with frustration as I watched a certain colleague once again jam the darn thing up! But the description of the principal’s reaction had me in stitches! Thanks for the great start to my day.! I am picturing you in that copy room right now…..😱

  2. Patty Rankin permalink
    April 24, 2016 12:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful wit and hilarious hijynks! I think we all know the frustration of a copier anonymously jammed and left for dead. In this case, I think the principal did it in the copy room with a candlestick…

  3. Dani permalink
    September 14, 2016 1:59 am

    This had me laughing out loud at my kitchen table. I can see the miming clearly. Thanks for the laugh!

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