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Printer of My Discontent

Temporary, my ass. I feel like I've worked here forever.

I speak of my current job at an environmental control office, which has been extended to a period of three weeks, the second of which I am now plodding through with a dull expression and a lackadaisical attitude. My work here has not become even slightly more interesting, and I spend a great deal of time sending e-mail to employees I don't know in hopes they'll write me back. 

This is done under the pretense of a supposed mistake: I send a random employee a file via e-mail and attach a note asking them to look it over and get back to me. A few moments later, I send them another e-mail asking them to disregard the previous e-mail, explaining that I had made a mistake, I had meant to send it to someone else, and I apologize, blah, blah, blah. This clever ruse is perfect for ensnaring unsuspecting employees into sending me an e-mail that says something like: "Hey, no problem." Or, "It happens to the best of us." Or maybe, "That's okay, these e-mail systems can be tricky, why don't we become friends and e-mail each other several times throughout the day, thereby forging a relationship that does not require actually meeting each other and providing you with something to do when you're not entering data into Pollution Control Facility Certificate forms."

I've applied this brilliant technique several times, though so far I've gotten only one response, which read: "Message Undeliverable." I think it's a good start. If I can figure out who Sys.Admin is, I'll have a brand new friend.

Obviously, I'm a bit lonely here. Without a phone, I find I actually miss talking to random idiots, and only one or two people a day come near my cubicle. Even then, it's usually just to hunt for a binder among the thousands that surround my desk.

After I take a break, a man gets on the elevator with me on the first floor and says "Hi." Eager for even meaningless small-talk, I return the greeting while nonchalantly leaning over and pushing every single floor button to prolong the ride and therefore increase the chances of a lengthy conversation. After a long, slow, jerky ride up to 14 he gets off without having said another word to me and looking annoyed for some reason. I ride back down to 5 alone and confused. How could I have handled that better?

I have spent the rest of the day manipulating data for an twenty-two page report, the subject of which is not important (at least, its not important to me), and now, finally, I am finished. I press the print button and stroll over to the printer to collect my masterwork and hand it in to the boss, who will hopefully allow me to spend the rest of my day trying to figure out how to change the icons on my computer into amusing cartoon characters. 

The printer I use is down the hall, and boy, is it a beauty. It has several paper feeds, including one for letter sized, legal, fancy letterhead, and envelopes. Its also amazingly fast, prints with outstanding quality, and is almost completely silent when running. Iíve gotta hand it to the designers, theyíre geniuses! They should get some kind of award or something. 

The printer is also in the center of the office where there is usually a collection of dorky office guys who stand around with their hands in their pockets, peeking over the cubicle wall of the one cool guy of the office, and trying to engage him in conversations about cars or the cool guy's girlfriend. The cool guy I have never actually seen, because he never leaves the cubicle, preferring to actually work, I suspect, unlike the dorky guys, who stand around all day doing what I just said they do.

Today, however, there are no dorky guys to be seen, for the obvious reason that in their place are standing a collection of power guys. I call them power guys because they radiate the stuff, and spend most of their time in the conference room that has glass walls so you can see how important and powerful the power guys are when they are having a conference.

In case youíre wondering, this is not all extraneous information, designed to take up space and segue into another amusing tale of office mishaps. No. This is completely relevant information designed to take up space and segue into another amusing tale of office mishaps.

So I walk down the hall to my destination, warily eyeing the power guys and hearing the big beautiful printer warming up and getting ready to betray me, which it does immediately, by printing my carefully scrutinized and meticulously formatted twenty-two page report entirely on envelopes.

Envelopes, for those of you who donít know, are cleverly folded and glued bits of paper that you put ordinary sheets of paper into. In order to fit the ordinary sheets of paper into the envelopes, you generally need to fold the sheets into thirds. What Iím getting at here, basically, is that envelopes are about one-third the size or an ordinary sheet of paper, and that for every one page of my report, the printer will need to discharge three envelopes. By employing a scientific calculator, we can arrive at the conclusion that the printer will crank out exactly sixty-six envelopes, over a period of time that is beginning to seem equivalent to the Age of Enlightenment.

Do I need to explain my hell? Do I really? My report is being printed on envelopes. With a gang of power guys just inches away, I feel fresh perspiration begin to trickle down my back. What should I do? Can I run back to my computer to stop the printing process, or will I find that the entire document has gone through? And when I get back, will the power guys be ankle deep in envelopes, each containing a third of a page of my report? What if, while Iím casually walking down the hall at forty-five miles per hour, they start looking at the envelopes? What will they say? Nice margins? I donít think so. No, I canít leave, I canít allow them to see what a complete and utter moron I am. My heart yearns for the dorky guys, if only they were here, we might all be able to share an annoying, honking laugh over this. But power guys never think this kind of thing is funny. Power guys are the embodiment of pure evil.

I am beginning to worry, because hours have passed and the envelopes are still coming out. Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk. Why, when you print envelopes, does the printer make such a loud noise? Is it really necessary? Whoever designed this printer should be shot. Its slow as hell and damn noisy. Power guy number three is looking at me, I know it, probably wondering if I am planning to mass-mail the entire Asian population. Power guys would never normally even so much as look at me, but I think, like some animals, they can instinctively smell embarrassment.

Now the stupid rotten doody printer is running out of envelopes. I canít believe I actually have to refill the envelope tray. I compare it to a situation where someone is shooting at you, and you helpfully offer them a handful of bullets. But what else can I do? If I just let the tray empty, the printer queue will stack up behind my document and the entire office will be unable to print until someone feeds in some more envelopesÖ and then my secret will be out. Nor can I turn the printer off, because any printing jobs that are waiting will be erased.  I wonder how I can yank the cables out of the wall, pick up the printer, throw it through the fifth-floor office window, and make it look natural.

Finally, finally, the last envelope has been spat. Gathering up the twenty-two inch stack of envelopes in straining arms, I head back to my desk. A thought enters my head, and I walk instead to my bosses office. "Hereís the report," I screech, dumping the sea of envelopes onto her desk and floor. "Need it mailed anywhere?" Then I bray freakish laughter.

Actually, I donít do any of that. I just go back to my desk and work out a chart of all the recycling bins in the office, and how many envelopes theyíll each hold.