Today was the worst day.
Okay, sense of proportion, hi. Richard Briers died today. So, somewhere, out there, some people are having a really, really bad day.
This was not the worst day. It was not even at the same party as the worst day.
But it was bloody grim and I wish to catharsise through the medium of prose.
Today, I got my hand stuck in a photocopier.
Do not laugh, reader. Don’t you fucking dare.
I am kind of the opposite of a photocopier-whisperer. In my vicinity, photocopiers break. I don’t even have to be using them. My mere existence is enough to make them jam, break, burst, explode, and otherwise malfunction. Needless to say, I usually get other people to do my photocopying for me. Today, I’d left it a bit late, and I don’t like to take the one perk of my job for granted, so I undertook the task myself. About one third of the way into my notes, the photocopier jammed.
I am AJH’s total lack of surprise.
Thus began the extensive process of unjammification. Now, there are a range of photocopiers of varying helpfulness scattered around the buildings, with the one that actually works being situated in the main admin office. Being a lazy sod, I had opted for the one closest to me – an ancient, doddering, hate-filled machine that won’t just let you get on with opening all the doors, flipping all the levers and pulling out all the trays as is traditional during a Jam Alert. Oh no, it has a little display screen upon which it prints a series of incomprehensible instructions indicating where it (usually erroneously) believes the jam may be situated. Any deviation from these instructions, even if it leads you to locate and relieve the ACTUAL JAM, causes the machine to categorically reject your actions.
I genuinely believe the problem is borderline phenomenological at this stage. I’ve sometimes even tried to reason with it:
Photocopier: I have a paperjam
AJH: No, you don’t, I’ve fixed the paperjam, you only BELIEVE you have a paperjam.
Photocopier: I have a paperjam
AJH: Seriously, photocopier, you need to re-evaluate your philosophical position. What makes you THINK you have a paperjam?
Photocopier: I have a paperjam.
Anyway, the damn thing is utterly unreasonable and refuses to entertain any of my concepts. (Thank you for joining me aboard this Dark Star riff). So, the long and the short of the matter is, I’m basically a broken slave to its will. I try to follow its little instructions except they’re incredibly obtuse and always look something like this:
What? You want me to do what? And you always end up on this frantic flipping, pushing, pulling, twiddling, tweaking, swearing quest, that feels kind of like trying to sexually satisfy someone who doesn’t like you very much when you can’t speak their language. I just don’t believe there are any activities – involving other humans or not – that are best engaged upon by PRESSING ALL THE BUTTONS AT ONCE.
Anyway, after about six hours of this, I did manage to locate the jam. Or rather, the quaternary jam, having already identified and fixed the primary, secondary and tertiary jams. As I said, when I break a photocopier, I dun break it good. The photocopier is basically made of Lego in that it consists of about three compartments bolted together. This jam was located in the far left compartment, which is the bit through which the final product (assuming you are ever lucky enough to receive a fucking final product) emerges. I diligently flipped, pushed, pulled, twiddled, tweaked and swore and when I’d got all the levers pulled, all the dials spun and all the trays hanging out like entrails, I spotted the interloper – lurking, possibly on a cigarette break, right at the back of the tray that slides back and forth between the left and middle sections.
“Got you, you little bastard,” quoth I, reaching in.
Whereupon, it slipped betwixt my grasping fingers (ah, it was ever thus) and floated gracefully down onto the tray beneath, where I could not reach it.
“OMG I’M JAMMED!” shrieked the photocopier.
I looked around for something to hook with it, failed to immediately spot an Interior Photocopier Wrangling Device and decided I’d just have to go for it, unprotected and unaided, like the manly warrior I am. It was pretty deep in the annals of the photocopier and, although I have long, chimpanzee-like arms, they’re not actually made of spaghetti. So I assumed what we shall gloss over merely as ‘an undignified position’ on the floor (leaving the rest to your imagination, actually please don’t imagine that, it wasn’t pretty) and slid inside, as smoothly and effortlessly as a pervert fisting a dolphin.
Just when my fingers closed around the paper, the photocopier gave what I can only describe as a shudder and a crunch. I had one of those moments, right when you’re on the brink of being sure something awful might happen, when time just slows right down. There’s nothing you can do, really, except think one coherent, complex thought – perhaps with the terrible clarity of knowing it might be the last you ever think. Mine went something like: “Holy shit, I’m going to lose my hand. I’m going to bloody sue. But my hand! I like my hand, that’s the hand that does all my favourite activities…NOOOOOOO.”
Anyway, I did not lose my hand. All that happened was that the photocopier sort of closed around me, tight enough to render me completely trapped, arm-deep inside it. Alarm, distress and panic ensued. I went through the usual motions of tugging, wriggling and whimpering but to no avail whatsoever. Also, range of motion, you’ll be surprised to learn, is significantly reduced when you’re face down, arse up on the floor with your elbow deep in a photocopier.
This, I’m sure you will say, would have been a good time to shout for aid. Well yes. But this was the third floor photocopier, unvisited by any but me. And, surely, I could probably have raised some assistance by wailing loudly enough but, honestly, given the choice between being rescued from a photocopier by a bunch of 18 year olds with smartphones and dying in there, I would go for dying every single time.
I do not want my legacy to be: loldudetrappedinphotocopier.com. I do not want to have any legacy at all. I want to slip peacefully from this earth, having known love and happiness, and not done too much damage to anyone else.
So it was death or my own ingenuity. I was lying there, pondering what poems I’d like read at my funeral and wondering if I had any hope of carving my preferences into the body of the photocopier with my fingernails, when it suddenly occurred to me that I’d left my phone on top of the machine. I was saved! Huzzah. Of course, that did involve being able to get at it. I shall not bore you with the intricate calisthenics I practiced in order to get a phone from the top of a photocopier while being trapped underneath said photocopier but, in the end, I did manage to knock it down, by adopting what I have trademarked as “The Elephant Scrumping For Apples Technique.” You work it out.
Of course – this led to a whole new set of problems. When you’re stuck in a photocopier, who you gonna call? No, seriously. Who do you call? I mean, H’s mum? In the absence of my own, she’s kind of adopted me and is generally the person I call when in that unique state of having a problem I should be grown up to solve on my own but blatantly can’t. But what could I say to her? “Hi, I’m a stuck in a photocopier in a different city, come and rescue me, please?” And there I was, lying there, half eaten by a photocopier, scrolling one handed through my contacts, suddenly conscious of the enormous uselessness of everybody I knew. Lawyers, academics, agents, writers, headhunters, management consultants, computer programmers, actors, stage magicians, people who live in France. Why the fuck in my nearly-thirty years have I not befriended someone best input into my phone as “Person Who Gets Other People Out Of Photocopiers At A Moment’s Notice.”
The loneliness, reader, it was crushing.
Worse, once I’d got past, H, H’s Mum and my closest friends, the next top number on my phone was our local Chinese takeaway. Ye Gods. “Hi, Mr Tsang, I’ll have a number 32 with extra chilli as usual and a photocopier extraction please.”
And, after that, was my ex-counsellor. Another fabulous conversation: “Hi, Sohani, I know you haven’t heard from me in a while but I’m kind of stuck in a photocopier.” “Mmm, how does that make you feel?” “Well, kind of trapped to be honest with you.” “What it’s like, that feeling of being trapped?” Okay, I’m being unfair to her. She was wonderful and helped me through a very difficult stage in my life. She never actually said ‘how does that make you feel’ even once. Though she did make me talk about my mother. Shudder.
There were even people on my phone whose names I DID NOT RECOGNISE. What the hell? “Hi, AJH here, I seem to have your phone number, did I pull you maybe? And, if so, did I fail to call you back next morning, I’m so sorry, how do you feel about getting me out of a photocopier. In a bit of a jam here, no pun intended.”
Of course, I could have just rung the reception of the building but see mortification comma personal.
And then I hit it. I am genius! On the side of the photocopier was the name and contact number of the supplier. I could ring them, explain my predicament and they could tell me how to get out of the photocopier. Hah, genius is an understatement. I mean surely this sort of thing happened fairly often? There must have been a secret release catch somewhere, right? So I dialled triumphantly and then I waited on hold for nearly half an hour.
Eventually, a woman answered the phone. To say she was a robot, would have been an insult to robots. Now, I understand she was a person with a life, possibly a miserable life, and her job is clearly shitty. But still. I had my fucking hand trapped in the fucking photocopier.
AJH: Ah, hello there. Feeling a bit of a fool here, sorry to, ah, trouble you with this, ah, silly silly problem. But I appear to have my hand stuck in the photocopier. It’s in the side bit, you know, where the paper comes out. Could you maybe tell me how to, you know, get my hand out again. That would be lovely. Thank you so much.
Evil Robot Woman: What is the make of the machine?
AJH: Well, I can’t quite see, because as I explained … I’m stuck in it.
ERW: I cannot process this call unless you state the make of the machine.
AJH: Oh, ah, rightie-ho. *breaks neck* It’s [make and number].
ERW: Where is the machine located?
AJH: [Gives details].
ERW: Are you the primary contact for the machine?
AJH: Um, no, but I’ve got quite intimate with it. I’ve got my hand stuck in it, you see.
ERW: Only the primary contact can make service requests on the machine.
AJH: OH GOD PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME LIKE THIS. Can’t you just … please … tell me how to get my hand out of the photocopier? Is there a release catch or a button somewhere? What if I turn it off and turn it on again? Except I can’t reach the plug.
ERW: You are not the primary contact for the machine.
AJH: I’ve got my bloody hand elbow deep in the machine. I’m feeling pretty primary right now.
ERW: *long sigh* Is there a fault with the machine?
AJH: YES. MY HAND IS STUCK IN IT. I’m not an expert but I don’t think that’s standard operating practice.
ERW: I will see that a service engineer is dispatched.
AJH: All right. When will they get here?
ERW: A service engineer will be dispatched.
AJH: Yes, I know that. But when will they arrive, post-dispatch? I don’t know if I made this entirely clear, but I’ve got my hand stuck in the machine and I kind of have things to do?
ERW: A service engineer will service the machine in 3-to-5 days. Please ensure nobody uses the machine during this period.
AJH: THREE TO FIVE DAYS?! What about me?
ERW: If the fault cannot be fixed within fourteen working days, we will supply a temporary machine to replace the faulty model.
AJH: But I don’t want another machine, I want my hand out of this one.
At this point, finding myself lost in a Kafka novel, I gave up. I did, as you may have already inferred, liberate my hand from the photocopier. I did it by brute strength, rather in the manner of a fox gnawing its own paw off. Thankfully, it wasn’t that extreme but I do have a nasty set of bruises running from thumb to wrist.
And I did not finish my photocopying.