A minor inconvenience of epic proportions

The soul-blightingly large Midwestern university where I teach freshmen composition operates on what they call the quarter system. For tediously complex reasons having to do with 1) the alignment of the stars and 2) the university presidents reading of a squirrels randomly scattered entrails, this means that the fall term doesnt begin until the end of September. In other words, I start school about a month later than most people people whose schools operate on the antiquated and, if I may be so bold, un-American semester system. So I got to spend the better part of September chilling mad fresh in Saranac Lake, and while this might sound like a good time, it was actually a great time. And thats what worried me. My vacation had been so pleasant that I knew fate cruel mistress that she is had an unpleasant trick up her sleeve for me. I was bound to suffer a minor inconvenience of epic proportions upon my return to school. And suffer a minor inconvenience of epic proportions I did. Unsurprisingly, my troubles stemmed from technology gone awry. I have a theory that technology from the adding machine all the way to the Large Hadron Collider gets a kick out of going awry and irritating the living snot out of everyone. Its clearly the first step in the thinking machines plot to overthrow and enslave mankind. After all, irritating the living snot out of ones oppressors is the first step in every successful revolt. Case in point: the Boston Tea Party. Wham, bam, thank you Uncle Sam. Anyway, the English department higher-ups at my school which Ill call the Midland State University, because I like calling stuff by made-up names purchased new copy machines over the summer, but didnt have them installed until the day before classes started. They did this so that if the machines proved defective, nobody would find out about it until they were making copies of their syllabus ten minutes before their class started. But I kid, especially if any English department higher-ups from the Midland State University are reading. I dont hold you at all responsible for one of the new copy machines jamming on me as I tried to photocopy my syllabus last Wednesday. It was simply plain old bad luck my just deserts for having such a nice summer. When the new-and-improved copy machine started beeping, notifying me of the jam, my first impulse was to escort it to a secluded meadow and un-jam it permanently with a Louisville Slugger while a rap song played in the background, a la the dudes in Office Space. Instead, I took a few deep breaths, opened one of the treacherous machines side panels, and peered at its innards, hoping to spot the problem. As I squatted there, poking at cogs and yanking the occasional lever, one of my old professors appeared beside me with an armload of papers. Hey, Dan, he said, looking down on me with a sad smile. This thing jammed already, huh? I nodded. Its slowly draining my will to live, I said, sniffling. I was losing my battle against the tears. Well, my old professor said, starting to back toward the door and making a big show of glancing at his watch, Id love to stay and help and all you know, provide moral support and everything but, uh, Im just going to, uh, you know, uh go across the hall and make my copies over there. And with that, he turned and speed-walked out of the room. At that point, everything went black. When I came to twenty minutes later, the copy machines jam had been cleared and I had all the copies I needed of my syllabus. According to the security-camera footage I persuaded the higher-ups to let me watch later, Id not only fixed the machine myself, but Id fixed it in a mere five minutes. And what about the other fifteen? Id spent them hunkered down in the corner of the copy room, rocking back and forth and mouthing the lyrics to Huey Lewis and the Newss Workin for a Livin. Nothing that I wouldnt have done had I not been in a fugue state, in other words. Dan Leonidas makes shallow observations. He can be reached at dpleonidas@yahoo.com or myspace.com/lastminuteconcerns.

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