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Friday, January 8, 2010

Working Lunch

If you're a Non-Profit Organization's cumrag like I am, you no doubt spend some inglorious portion of your workweek at Staples, searching vainly for the generic equivalent of the prescription-strength Avery 3160 labels or, worse, shackled in endless misery to a photocopy machine the size of a Volkswagen Jetta.

That's me. That one.

Oftentimes, I am dispatched to Staples with some bizarre photocopying assignment that I screw up with greater frequency than I screw up a supermarket run.

"I need 12 copies of this, front only, 25 copies of this, double-sided, one righthand corner staple-- this one is Sally's copy, so it has to be 3-hole punched, I need 16 copies of each of these, three pages, double sided, non-collated, and this one 14 copies, the first page I don't need double-sided, but the second and third pages should be double-sided with just a paper-clip, because, you know, why waste the staple?"

The usual duration of my photocopying session at Staples is anywhere from 35-50 minutes. It's an utterly soul-deadening experience, like sitting through an elementary school Thanksgiving recital or being married to Tom Brokaw. Sometimes, to insert a little pleasure into the monotonous escapade, I'll stand really close to the copier, with my pressed groin up against the warm machine. Don't worry-- my fly's always up. And I don't undulate.

But, really, it's about the only joy I get out of a Staples run, and it's a small, socially dubious joy at that. But, on Wednesday, I learned that there are some people in this world who get far more out of a workday jaunt to Staples than do I.

Like, for instance, the woman who was at the copier across from me. I hope you enjoy this photo, which I took great risk in taking.

Seriously-- I had to make sure that not only was the flash turned off, (yes, my cameraphone has a flash!) but that it was on silent mode so it wouldn't make that stupid fucking faux shutter click when the picture's snapped. I think she would have caught on that I wasn't checking my email and I was taking a picture of her and her, *ahem* work-station.

And let's look at that work-station, shall we?

You will, no doubt, observe the delicious-looking, lovingly toasted bagel (I believe it was an onion from its waftings) coated generously, but not gloppily, with vegetable spread*.

(*N.B.: I use the term "spread." I do not use the term "cream cheese" because it reminds me of the substance one finds between one's toes/ham-pies after a week of non-bathing. So I hear.)

You will also, I am certain, notice her not one, but two beverages. A fruity water (why does water need to be fruity? Why does Splenda need to be fiberry? Why does orange juice need to be calciummy?) and a coffee. Hot and cold. I guess she just couldn't decide what sort of mood she was in. A Surf-n-Turf action kinda gal.

Now, maybe you'll think I'm a bad little Apron for making cracks at the expense of a chubby black lady with a big cross around her neck photocopying community action ditto sheets at Staples on her lunch hour. Well, if it makes you feel better, I wasn't positive I was going to use the photograph of her for anything other than amusing my wife until she ran out of toner. She started waving her arms about like she was Gilligan going down with the S.S. Minnow and then, when that didn't get Jannette's (the sassy, black Staples Copy Center employee) attention, she snapped her fingers.

And I thought the Mayans were going to be off by two years.

Lesson for the day: you don't snap at Jannette. At the risk of sounding like a Dilbert cartoon, I've been going to this Staples for a long time, and I've gone toe-to-toe with Jannette and I've always ended up backing down, sometimes trembling. But I'll be goddamned if Jannette didn't respond immediately with a big thing of toner for that lunchonette counter woman's copier. At the risk of sounding like a Boondocks cartoon, maybe it's a black thing.

I continued making my copies, dutifully, diligently, deadeningly and, as I pressed my nether regions up against the machine, slumping there like a deflated sex doll, I eyed this munching, brunching, coffee & fruity water-swilling copywench with a mixture of palpable disdain and, yet, definite envy.

For a very brief moment, children, I admit that I wanted to be her.

Well, not her, exactly. I think a cross would look a bit silly, and maybe offensive, between my boobies, but like her. I'm the guy at the Starbucks fixins bar who deliberately makes himself as small as humanly possible, keeping his arms and hands directly in front of him, never daring to reach in front of the person next to me for an eleventh packet of sugar, or the little glass shaker marked "CHOCOLATE." God forbid I try to toss my stirrer stick into the trash can in front of you. But, for that instant, in Staples, I wanted to be the one who spreads his fucking shit all over the goddamn place.

I steadfastly refuse to enter any retail establishment while holding a cup of coffee. I think it's rude, disrespectful and, frankly, asking for an expensive accident, to walk into somebody's store that they try to keep clean, with brown, staining, hot liquid. This policy of mine often requires me to thrust lashings of piping hot coffee down my gullet in the car in the parking lot of Anthropologie so I can go browsing for clothes with my wife, only to see at least six leggy, slutty twenty-somethings swilling greedily from white and green paper cups.

And, in that instant, I thought to myself, "Self, judge her not. She is just refusing to be pigeonholed and curtailed and sidelined by a world that will bowl you over if you do not assert yourself. She is saying, 'I am here!' She is proclaiming that she and her accoutrements have value and worth and a place."

And then she reached all the way over my photocopier and started taking handfuls of paperclips from my copy station.


  1. I've spent my morning unstapling, scanning and then restapling invoices with someone standing over my shoulder in the copy room clearing their throat. A field trip, even to Staples, would be greatly appreciated, especially if someone like her parked herself at the machine directly across from me.

    Can you believe we went to college for this shit?

  2. You know, I'm actually pretty offended that you bothered to spell Volkswagen correctly.

    My husband had a VW and it did nothing but continuously fall apart for 5 years. Getting rid of it was the best decision we ever made!

  3. God, I miss Philadelphia. You just don't get that sass anywhere else.


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