Who could it be? Who makes my blood boil? Who, when I approach them, knowing that only they can give me what I need, looks at me with an un-moving, in-human face, promising to make my life more difficult?
Answer: The copy machine. That diabolical contraption with hundreds of moving parts; built to help mankind, but somehow frustrates us beyond belief. The copy machine. For the past few weeks, it has been my arch nemesis.
This quarter, I am a teaching assistant for UCLA's course ESS 9: The Solar System and Planets. Every week on Thursday morning, I make 86 copies of the lab handout to give to my 86 students. Every week I put my fate in the hands of a whirring plastic-and-metal beast the size of a juvenile buffalo. And every week this beast arbitrarily decides whether to make my morning easy or difficult. More often than not, it's the latter.
I want to save paper. Save a tree!, they tell me. Ok. I will tell the copy machine to print all 4 pages of the handout onto two pieces of paper, by printing on both sides. 1 side to 2-side copying? No problem! shouts the copy machine, grinning a little too widely to be sincere, that's-a mah special-tee! 86 copies? Psh. Child's play. And here I go. . . I'm a making your copies. . . and out comes the first all nice and crisp. . . and here comes the second.. . and we're doin pretty good. . and BUZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!.
The instrument panel lights up like a christmas tree. Apparently there is something wrong with absolutely every part of the copy machine, and the LCD screen is kind enough to show me all 22 steps I need to take to un-clog the machination. Open the left cover, wind the spool to make it spit out the paper, open the internal door, careful don't touch that part because it will burn your skin off, find the paper that got crunched when the copier was trying to flip it over, rip the paper out and make sure and grab every last piece of it so it doesn't gum up the gearworks, now open the right cover. . . it just goes on like this.
Got me all unclogged? asks Mr. Copier as if it was my fault. Good, now I can continue. And here I go. . . out comes the BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!
Lather rinse repeat.
Preventative action does not seem to apply here. The copier rolls dice to decide whether or not it will malfunction. Eventually, I'm able to force out all 86 of my copies, some with unsightly ink marks, others a bit crumpled from me yanking them out of the bowels of the machine. I turn on my heal, hard won copies in hand, and step solemnly away. I am at the mercy of this beast. I will be back next week to negotiate with it. I must have it's product. Despite it's shortcomings, it is the best copy machine in the building. It knows how important it is. It toys with me because it can. It is that for which I have the utmost contempt, and the utmost respect. The copy machine: My arch nemesis.