Monday, May 15, 2006

Quiet Night

It's a quiet night around here. Our "big three" schools have collected the final papers from their students - and those students have had enough library time in the past 6 months to tide them over til the next time they get sent here to go through another school. Even the smaller schools don't seem to have much going on right now - no frantic searching for facts on little-known or understood countries, no biographies to research and write. Tonight, all we really have are the die-hard researchers - those trying to get something together to publish - and the ones that are only here temporarily (TDY) that come in the library to kill the boredom by playing on the internet in between emails to their family/friends/wives/boyfriends/children etc.. The Die-Hards generally know what they're doing and don't ask for much. The Bored Ones only want to flash ID's at me so they can get online (they don't really need to flash the ID's, but I've stopped telling them since they've already flashed by the time I do). It's calm and quiet enough to drive a girl insane. So I sit here reading National Guard Magazine. Not, as you may think, because I want to, but because it's one of the titles I index. I'm trying to weed through something on the National Guard Association's legislative objectives for FY2007 and budget preparation...hey - are you still awake, or did you nod off for a second? Told you it was quiet around here tonight. And then, the one thing happens that I personally dread, each and every time that I work the reference desk. It makes me feel helpless - and lets me know that my quiet night of peace is over. Oh sure, it may only happen a couple more times tonight - and it might not happen at all - but now my nerves are on edge, anticipating that every patron that walks anywhere near the vicinity of the ref desk will have the same question/problem for me: "Do you know why Printer 5 isn't working?" The copiers/printers are the least understood part of our entire network. There's 5 copiers, all of which serve double time as printers for our 40+ computers. They seem like marvelous machines - you can do all kinds of fascinating copying on them, turning things backwards, blowing up a picture of the president's nose so that you can see all the tiny blood vessels (umm...not that I would know...), shrink the president's head so that it's a tiny dot on his over-padded shoulders (ditto); double-sided printing, legal-sized printing; double-sided-legal-size printing; collating, stapling, scanning....our copiers do many marvelous things. What they do not do well is act like they are printers. Sure, we may occasionally force things to print from them - but they let us know, every day, that it is not by their choice. It is only because we know The Guy. The Guy has a tool belt, a tool box, and even a small cart on wheels that he can use to move the Copier around when it's not acting correctly. And the Copier knows that if it misbehaves too much, The Guy will be called. We, like the Copier, do not know for sure when The Guy will arrive - but we all know that he carries things on his tool belt that will make the Copier scream silent cries of agony. So the Copier takes us to the edge of insanity...and then backs off, waiting for another unsuspecting moment when it can randomly feed paper through places where no paper should be fed. Did I mention we have 5 of these Copier/Printer Demons? All on the same convoluted network. In theory, when one of them is too busy/lazy/broken to handle the work being sent to it another will pick up the slack and have the queue cleared out in a jiffy. In reality, half of the papers never print. And the ones that do print never get claimed, because the patron gets tired of hearing the librarian mutter under her breath as she takes another misfed piece of paper out of the bowels of the machine. Tonight, it began with Copier/Printer 5. Someone tried to print something, and the Infernal Machine refused to print without jamming. After the same document jammed 4 times (and I cleaned out the Printer 4 times), I turned it off, hung a "sorry we can't control the Printer" sign on the front of it, and made everyone print to one of the other 4 Printers. I told the Printer, quite loudly so that the other machines could hear, that The Guy would be called first thing in the morning. The sign was not a good idea. When Printer 5 doesn't work, it should send stuff to one of it's buddies to print up. That is NOT what happened. Instead, I now had people asking where their stuff was. The sign on The Printer From The Devil's Workshop tells them that they should select another printer if it doesn't print up somewhere. This makes them angry - most of them have closed out of whatever it is that is so important they must have it RIGHT NOW. Then, this really nice girl comes up and says she's having problems with Printer 4. I go in to take a look...and find that paper has jammed in it, too. Only this young lady thought she was smarter than the machine - so she started opening flaps and doors to pull out the misfed papers (If it's a long enough document, there are places where 5 pieces of paper can get simultaneously stuck. I learned to count how many pieces of paper I had pulled out before I assumed I had them all). Anyway, this Young Lady just yanked the papers out, instead of turning the knobs politely as you must do with our Spawn of Satan Printers. So what do you think the Blasted Machine did? It ate a tiny sliver of paper. A piece of paper so miniscule that three flaps and one drawer had to be removed before it could be seen. Needless to say, my fingers are not quite dainty enough to grasp this paper. Just as I started to get up from the ungraceful position in which I had had to contort myself to see this scrap of fiber, I hear the Wonderful Girl say "ohhh..I thought I heard something rip when I tugged on that last piece...." In the interest of keeping my job, I tell myself over and over that I didn't hear her. That she hadn't really meant to imply that she had opened the machine and just yanked on a piece of paper. I start towards the front to get the pair of needle-nose pliers, with her behind me asking if she can help. Taking a deep breath - and reminding myself that I hate the machines, not the people who use them - I ask her to reprint to another machine. 10 minutes later, I feel like the Empress of the Universe as I stand looking at the 1 inch by 1/2 inch piece of paper in the nose of my pliers. I pushed the machine back together and watched it start printing. I walk from the room, feeling that, for once, I have won over The Machines From Hell. And I desperately wish for a quiet night.

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