7 Alternatives to Committing Arson When the Copier Jams for the 40 Zillionth Time

There’s something wrong with me.  

Actually, there’s an alarming number of things wrong with me, but today I will be talking about my rage issue directed at copy machines.  

It all began at my first school, where our resources like textbooks and technology were so limited that virtually every lesson required printing and making copies. The dependence on these copies, combined with the unreliability of the teacher copy machine, created a situation in my psyche I’ll refer to as the Danger Zone.

I can’t tell you how many hours I must have wasted at that school trying to clear paper from the hot, plasticky, inky grip of that machine. (There was a good copier in the front office, but administration put a password on it to prevent teachers from using it. I am not kidding.) My first year, I would sometimes spend half an hour after school trying to get the copier to work, only to leave in tears and take my copies to an office supply store, where I’d be charged thirty dollars and reasonably lose faith in the whole world.

But with a semi-sincere thanks to my first school, I got really good at fixing the copier. After a while, I could remove paper from Areas A through X in record time. I could tell just by listening which tray the copier liked or didn’t like. Lulled into a false sense of security, I began to think that I actually had power over the copier; that it could no longer undo me.

But just a few days ago, at my new school, where my stress levels are at a five-year low, I went to the copy room thirty minutes before class started for a packet I needed. After loading the paper and making my selections, I heard the aggressive whirring sound that I knew signaled a jam. No big deal. Opened it up, removed fourteen pieces of paper from the various sections of the copier’s bowels, closed it, chose a different tray. Another jam. And another. And another. The machine jammed round after round as if the stacks of innocent paper were prey in the maw of some great and terrible megafauna.

There’s a reason matches aren’t allowed at school, and it’s this: if I had matches, I would have set that copy machine on fire.

I went to the Danger Zone*.

Because of how deeply I want to make sure you don’t follow in my footsteps, I created the following list after lots of meditation and centering prayer:

8 Alternatives to Committing Arson When the Copier James for the 40 Zillionth Time 

1. Give the copier a name. Personifying the copier may create less hostility in you. It’s much easier to roundhouse kick a copier when it doesn’t have a name. Would you roundhouse kick Gladys? Or Nelson? Or Mabel? (Some names might not work. For instance, I would totally roundhouse kick a copier named Derek, but that’s for personal reasons. Make sure you choose a name that connotes no feelings of animosity.)

2. Think about brighter things. Front row parking spaces! Unexpected snacks at department meetings! Jon Snow! Students actually returning your pencils! The idea of literally anyone beating Donald Trump for the presidency!

3. Use this time as a chance to be reflective about your own shortcomings. Think about times when you’ve done something stupid over and over and over. My list is endless. Keeping a bag of trail mix in my desk**. Putting huge glasses of water on the corner of coffee tables. Choosing weird passwords I can never remember. Giving students candy at the beginning of class instead of the end. See? Copiers aren’t the only ones who commit the same mistakes over and over, always with the expectation of a different outcome.

4. Have at least one back-up lesson plan ready to go that doesn’t require copies so the next time the copier jams you can be like, “No worries, Gladys, we all have bad days!” and stroll out of the copy room, leaving your nearby coworkers befuddled as to how you ever passed for Highly Qualified.

5. Go to your mind palace. You don’t have to do anything there. Just take a few deep breaths and for a few moments live in a place that is quiet, pristine, and totally under control. My mind palace is on the edge of the sea at Land’s End in southern England, and if I look hard enough I can see lambs grazing in the meadow from my window just beyond the Diet Coke fountain. Ah.

6. Ask your administrator if he/she would be willing to consider a system in which every time the copier jams, it sends a message to deliver a small electrical shock to your administrator via a special collar around his/her neck.  Asking might get you a newer, more reliable copier! Or it might get you fired. But then you could find a job where you don’t have to make copies.

7. Visualize the paper forming a little punk rock band and actually jamming inside the copier. This won’t make your copies magically appear, but it may make you smile when you think about little pieces of paper with stapled lips or eyebrows jamming out on their tiny guitars and electric keyboards.

  There. That feels better.

What’s in your mind palace?

Love and deep breaths and Zen thinking towards copiers,


*Until literally ten minutes ago when I Googled it, I thought that Kenny Loggins song was “I Went to the Danger Zone.” Did anyone else think it was “I went to the danger zone?” Welp, now that joke’s lost.

**For some reason, right after my first handful of trail mix, I completely black out and when I come to I’m scraping the last sunflower seeds off the bottom of the bag. It’s frightening, actually.