When the school photocopier bites back

A school photocopier breaks silence and responds to all of the abuse it's suffered at the hands of frustrated teachers

Just think of all the abuse that a school photocopier suffers on a daily basis, writes Stephen Petty

You can swear and curse all you like but has it ever occurred to you that you might be the said “useless bastard”?

After all, I am not the one who habitually turns up only moments before the start of a lesson, urgently demanding your multiple copies. I am not the reason why the right-hand section of your worksheet is then so often mutilated upon reproduction.

I am not the one who will have opted for “portrait” there instead of “landscape”, or for “enlarge” instead of “reduce”, or who generally opted in life for “inept” instead of “capable”. Nor am I the one who caused you to order 300 copies when you only wanted 30. 

Don’t blame me for your mistakes. I just replicate them. I do not know what you want; I cannot actually read your mind. Which is probably just as well, given the woeful attempts by some of you at photocopier-flirtation with that poor NQT. Embarrassing or what?

“Broken it again, Miss Anderson?” you say to her, again, every time. As a photocopier, I am in no position to criticise repetition, but I have heard you make that comment so many times to her! (Again, you probably think it’s only about 30 times when it’s really about 300.)

And whenever I run out of fuel and politely ask you to “add toner” before resuming my work, why do you always seem to take this as some kind of personal affront? When will you learn that the only outcome of you ripping out the cartridge and beating it up is for any lingering dark powder to end up spattered all over you and your work clothes?

Go easy on that photocopier

I mean, did you even bother turning up when there was that introductory training session about me on my first day in the school? (That was the day I was brought in to replace the last machine that you had beaten, bullied and hounded from the premises.) I certainly don’t remember seeing you amongst the three staff there who bothered to turn up. I know that you’re busy, but what about the idea of one step backwards, two forwards?

Teachers are supposed to be some of society’s good guys and yet the prejudice and abuse I suffer is beyond belief. Yes, I do have a “condition”. I get a little bunged up inside from time to time, much to your and my frustration. But that is perhaps because I have to live each day on a diet of uncut paper and nothing else – ream after ream of the stuff. Take my place for a day or two and see if the same problem doesn’t befall you.

So, when my blockage problem happens again, why not read the medical instructions flashing up on my screen? This might conceivably work better for us both, rather than you recklessly hauling open all the drawers and diving inside into the darkness like some kind of staffroom Indiana Jones. But maybe this is all about impressing Miss Anderson, once again? 

You and your colleagues thought it was so amusing, joining the rest of the nation in printing off and displaying behind my back one of those familiar “office jokes” made at my expense:

“What does the photocopier have in common with Bob Marley?”

“They both love jammin'”.

Did anyone find that funny in the first place? So why has it been on that wall for over five years now? 

Surely it is time to lose those signs of blinkered prejudice and bring an end to all the tired old bigotry against me. Let’s start over again, this time with you showing me a little more respect and gratitude. Just for once, don’t make me have to repeat this again and again. 

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams’s School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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