Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Copy Cat

I’m not really a monster, you know. I’m just a little stressed.

I feel the need to defend myself against the monster charge given some of my recent behavior. I mean very recent, not the last 50 years.

I had some adorable kids call me "Mr. Monster" during the recent blogfest picnic in Prospect Park, but that was meant in fun. Now I’m not so sure.

This latest square dance with dementia started at work, when some inconsiderate schmuck decided to print out at least two entire books, books, I tell you, on the office copier.

This copier serves about half the floor, so if it gets bogged down on one massive project, you have a lot of angry people—with me leading the way.

In spite of all this crap about a paperless society, I still like to print out my stories before I file them. I find if I proofread a story solely on the computer screen, I tend to miss something.

And since I make a lot of mistakes when I write—misspellings, typos, dropped words (a big problem)—I really prefer to have the hard copy in one hand and the avenging pen in the other.

I also like to print out press releases, court documents, government reports or anything else I’m writing about so I can write in the margins, highlight the important stuff—I’m old school all the way.

But none of that was happening last week. As the printer kept on droning and droning, heaving up page after page of this mammoth job, I kept getting angrier and angrier.

Forget that I couldn’t get any of my documents printed, the noise alone was driving me batty; I felt like a drone working his life away in some smoke-belching Industrial Age factory.

This is one of my nightmare visions of office life: all your hopes and dreams are forgotten and your very reason for being boils down to whether or not you can use the Xerox machine.

Then the miracle happened—the damn copier stopped. Great, I thought, I can finally print my stuff. Only it wasn’t so great.

The print job wasn’t finished; the copier had only run out of paper.

I put in a fresh ream of paper and immediately the copier sprang to life and resumed spitting out more pages from this seemingly endless book on tax law.

I re-filled the paper twice and the damn thing was still going. I felt like an animal trainer throwing raw meat to some rabid lion or a fireman on an old locomotive.

It was like the copier was possessed and we needed Father Karras to come in and do an excorcism. (The power of print comples you! The power of print compels you!)

Meanwhile, I was fuming, I was livid, I, of course, was over-reacting. Maybe Father Karras could do something for me, too.

I kept threatening under my breath that I was going to cancel the job--who the hell did this twit think he or she or whatever was clogging up the printer?

I’m not some goddamn office lackey filling up the copier every time it goes belly-up. I was working myself up into a right proper fit.

I called the IT department and after a lengthy and thoroughly pointless conversation, the geek or geekette, I guess, actually gave me Xerox’s phone number so I could take care of this situation.

Shit, lady, why don’t you send me a set of tools and I can fix the men’s room toilet while I’m at it?

I left the office in an extremely foul mood. It seemed like every person in the city was coming out of nowhere and getting in my way.

When I got to West Fourth Street, this boob had planted himself against the wall—during rush hour--while a woman came at me from the uptown side of the station with two little girls falling in behind her.

Do The Stomp

I tried to get around them, but the living statue against the wall refused to acknowledge the presence of anyone else on the planet. I had an appointment uptown; I couldn’t screw around with this nonsense, so I took a step.

And I walked right on this little girl’s foot.

She was about five years old and wearing flip-flops. I heard a substantial “ouch!” as I took my step and I quickly hurled a “sorry” over my shoulder like a verbal hand grenade and kept going.

I was on the A train heading up town when I finally admitted to myself what I had done with my manic-New York commuter-bum rush behavior: I had stepped on a child.

I pictured that girl sniffling as she told her mother about the nasty bald man who had stomped on her.

I imagined the mother cursing my name under her breath (not in front of the kid!) and wishing she had a chance to get her hands on me. God, I sounded like such a scumbag.

I told myself it was an accident, but then I remember Freud said there are no such things as accidents. If that’s true, then on some level, I intentionally stepped on that girl’s foot.

I can’t bear to think that—I love children, I would never hurt one deliberately. To hell with Freud—when was the last time he rode the A train? (I almost wrote “Screw Freud,” but that’s too freaking weird.)

I’m still caught up with this idea that rage is the equivalent of power, that by fuming I’m actually accomplishing something. I must believe that rage is liberating in some way when in it is quite the opposite.

Being trapped by anger is like being in solitary confinement, even though there are millions of people around you.

I was feeling so guilty as the train pulled into 72nd Street, way too early for my appointment, of course.

As I was leaving the station I saw an elderly lady struggling against the tide of heading-homers to get downstairs with her shopping court.

Everyone else was ignoring her, but I had to do penance so I offered to carry her shopping cart down the stairs.

I saw she was walking with a limp—poor woman!—so I stuck out of my hand and guided her down the steps. When we reached the platform, she smiled and gave me a firm shake.

“How do you do?” she asked.

That helped a little bit, but I’m never satisfied. I was walking around the Village on Friday night and I was running late—again with this?

As I came to a narrow point on the sidewalk, I saw an elderly Jamaican lady standing motionless as she allowed other people to go around her.

She had this nervous smile on her face, as ill or weak people usually do when they fear they’re getting in the way of the masses. I made sure to give her a warm smile as I slowly eased around her.

“The sidewalk is so narrow,” she said softly.

“Yes,” I said, “and everybody in New York is in a hurry.”

That got a genuine laugh out of her, not a nervous twitter, and I bid her good night, feeling a little better about myself.

I got the IT people to reroute my printing jobs to a copier in another area of the floor. It means a longer walk, but at least I don’t have to wait for the possessed copier to finally give up the ghost.

When news of Bush's torture scandal broke, I recall reading an interview with a World War II veteran who had been in charge of interogating Nazi officers.

This man said he had gotten the information he needed from his prisoners, but without resorting to torture--even those these men were part of Hitler's genocide machine.

"I never lost my humanity," the veteran proudly declared.

I try to think about that when I go charging out into the world. Yes, I may be in a hurry, but there are people who aren't, there are people who are unable to hurry, even if they wanted to.

I’ve decided that I’m not a monster; I’m like Lon Chaney in “The Wolfman” or one of those two guys in “The Hulk” movies. (Three if you count the TV show with Bill Bixby.)

I’m a reasonably decent man who, like all of us, has a monster somewhere inside him. We all have to tame our inner fiend to make sure it stays “inner” where it belongs.

And if we can do it without having to lock up the children, so much the better.


Jennifer G. said...

OMG, it drives me absolutely mad when people don't move out of the way when they are able to move out of the way and should be the one to move out of the way. A huge pet peeve. It's passive aggressiveness on their part, at least, and sometimes seems to be downright nonpassive aggression (or whatever the opposite of passive aggressive is - deliberate aggressive??) One of the things I like so well about working from home is that I do not have to deal with the masses anymore, because at 5 pm, they become stupid, ignorant, passive-aggressive masses who want to take out all of their frustration on poor innocent commuters. Gah.

Rob K said...

Oh, I hear you, Jen, and I am doing my damnedest to nail a work-from-home gig.

I know I could handle life in New York a lot better if I wasn't part of the daily cattle drive.