Saturday, February 4, 2017
Mulling over O'Connor, Copying Machines and Minutia
As an assistant in the room, my presence is only an augmentation of the learning enviornment, and some days, the pay is for dealing with difficult students. However, keeping machines on task proved far more daunting. Today, I spent the bulk of my afternoon attempting to amass and assemble copies of O'Connor's most famous short story. The first machine needed a part. The second machine (in the office), could only be used for school business, not classwork. The third copier flashed evil red lights.
With the new semester, we had six more students than versions of "A Good Man is Hard to Find," and while the students could listen to an audio verison and follow along with their phone; for annotation, they needed an incarnational version. Flannery would approve. She also knew, the way we come to understanding of all things, is suffering. I suspect she had a hand in the matter.
After twenty minutes of waiting for the office copier (There was a queue of teachers and assistants ignoring the policy), I attempted to fix the third machine by rebooting it. Much to my astonishment, the screen cooperated and I thought, "I am the master of my domain!" for the five copies of page one it spit up, before flashing the same error as before. Undeterred, I turned off the machine and rebooted again. Five more copies. I now had page two. Each page grew subsequently lighter. At seven pages long, I pressed the buttons and my luck turning the machine on and off for the subsequent five reboots before sneaking out of the copying room with my six versions of the story. I did have to trace the last page with a marker.
Leaving the machine with a red flashing light bruised my conscience, so I rebooted one more time. The next person might not need more than five copies of any one thing, and thus not find out the machine needed a serious repair. That afternoon, four students showed up having lost their versions.
I tried the staff room and planned to simply pull up a pdf of the story and have the computer print it. It did, but swallowed the last line of each story. It also printed them front to back, and flipped every other page, making the new version almost unreadable if you didn't know which way to turn for each page. I spent the rest of the period writing out the missing words of O'Connor's prose at the end of each page and wondering if the whole thing would have been easier and quicker if I'd retreated to a monastery and copied the needed documents by hand.
Having missed period five and six in the classroom, all for papers needed in period five and six, I pondered whether I could plead temporary sanity and remove all the infernal copiers to the outside, and perhaps invite all the faculty to take turns shooting the machines in the woods for being misfits. I thought it would give me great pleasure to imagine the machines being destroyed, or it would if only they could feel pain.
Somehow, the demonic desire for their demise wouldn't find any pleasure unless the copiers experienced agony, my irritation, my annoyance, and the collective pain of the staff and students. I told myself, it wouldn't be a sin, except I knew better. I wanted more than justice. I wanted revenge, and not just revenge, universal revenge for all the printers which ran out of ink, all the copiers which failed, and all the technology that made all of us slaves to their convenience, and masters of nothing.
A fellow teacher came into the staff room ranting about how the machines. He cursed them all and we agreed, Hell is littered with office machines, all unable to print or copy more than a page at a time, and with jams and no ink, and in Heaven, they don't bother with machines because everyone has a copy of the book and they can't lose it. I took satisfaction in the theological rightness of this revelation, that no technology would be saved and even better, I had no obligation to pray otherwise. I pulled out four old Norton Anthologies which included O'Connor's story from the library for the next day. If the kids needed more copies, I'd be ready and maybe, save my own soul from spending further time in preemptive purgatory. A good man may be hard to find, a good soul even harder, but a good copier, that's the stuff of legend.
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