The Copy Room — A Dramatization

Friday — 4:30 PM

My team had finally accepted the grim truth that, while we had much to scan, we did not have a scanner.

The four of us stared at the pile of reports stacked eight inches high in the middle of the table. We willed a scanner to appear among the tangle of laptop cords and coffee cups in our tiny audit cave in the back corner of our client’s office, but the room — while cozy with debits and credits and the heat of too many bodies — remained lacking. It was irritating, but I saw the situation as as an opportunity to demonstrate my willingness to problem solve.

“I can take the reports home with me tonight, and bring them to the office on Monday morning and scan them there,” I said, referring to our headquarters in Midtown which has not only a scanner, but three on every one of its 26 floors. My manager approved — it’s expected that first years will take on administrative tasks with enthusiasm. So when the day came to a close, I lugged the papers home with me and dropped them heavily on the coffee table, where they were forgotten in the wake of the carefree wake of the weekend.

Monday — 9:00 AM

I stood in the copy room on the 19th floor, and as I flipped through the stack of reports I realized that every two papers were stapled together, and every ten or so of the pairs were bound with another monster staple.To scan the reports they needed to all be staple-free — this would seriously throw off my productivity metrics. But I was focused. I found a staple remover and set to work.

10:00 AM

Barely halfway through the stack, I’d broken the remover. After a hurried hunt for another, I impaled myself on a hidden staple shard and left a smear of blood on an invoice. Panic began to set in — this was taking much more time than I’d allotted. I was off track, way off track, would I even be done by eleven, by lunch? I ripped out the next staple with a touch of desperation.

10:30 AM

My surroundings began to blur and morph into a haze of file cabinets and reams of printer paper — my hand cramped up, but I barely felt it, my vision tunnelled and all that there was was the staple in front of me, a single point of focus in front of my nose. A secretary drifted in and out but I scarcely noticed her presence, she made a copy and left, so simple, so quick …

10:50 AM

I tore through the last paper, and the room came back into focus as I gazed at the heap of splintered shards of staple piled atop the scanner — I felt proud. The rest would be smooth sailing, hundreds of pages through the scanner, PDF converted and emailed, done and dusted. By 11:30 I’d be finished, back at the client’s office having coffee, laughing with my team about how silly this had been …

11:30 AM

Nearing death, I leaned my body against the scanner and rested my forehead on the cool plastic. The machine told me with rasping groans that it was jammed again, the ninth time in the last half hour — i wanted to fight it, to kick and punch it into submission, but I lacked the energy. The same secretary from before came into the copy room again and saw me slouched over the scanner. She looked at me with sympathy in her eyes.

“You poor child.”

Usually I’d object to being called a child in my place of employment, but not now — now, I wanted her pity, I wanted her to see me and tell all the others, “There’s a poor girl who’s been in the copy room for two and a half hours! Someone ought to intervene!” And then maybe she’d give me a hug and tell me not to worry about the reports, I could finish them later…

but she was already gone.

I weakly opened the scanner top to look down at the ninth destroyed invoice, another sacrifice to a god of office equipment. I thought of how I’d once had dreams.

12:15 PM

I held back tears as I re-scanned fifty pages that hadn’t saved. I felt exhausted and completely alone — I imagined the other people on the nineteenth floor talking about the copy room troll with shaking hands and dead eyes. The legend of the troll would spread, would become public accounting lore …

12:40 PM

The end was near, but I hardly cared. From what I could tell, the walls of the copy room were closing in, but I couldn’t be sure — all I knew for certain was that there was another paper under this one, and another under that, and another…

1:10 PM

I stumbled out of the elevator and into the revolving door, which spat me out into the loud brightness of mid afternoon. Jolted back into awareness, I stared up at the winter sky — it sprawled over my head and tunneled down Madison Avenue to a point in the distance. It blanketed a city of tunnels and trains that could take me anywhere in the world — the shoulder-bumping crowds spilled out beneath it and disappeared into doorways and around corners, poured out of a series of underground staircases. The cold air was sharp in my lungs and world felt brand new– it was all louder and faster and brighter than I’d remembered, and I don’t think it had ever been more beautiful.


Originally published at joannakenney.tumblr.com.