The Princess and the Peed Off Copy Machine Woman

Too Much! Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)

During my first year of teaching, I learned a tip: get on the good side of the secretaries and the janitors. What I didn’t know, though, was that there was another person more powerful than they: the copy machine woman.

Jackie ruled her domain with an inky fist. She had exacting rules for filling out a copy request form. More important, though, was the unwritten rule that newbies didn’t know about. The experienced teachers knew to ask her about her cats, which she photographed in holiday costumes.

Instead, I dropped off my copy requests with only a perfunctory greeting.

Jackie didn’t make any of my copies, not that day, not that week.

Bumblebee Cat Costume Image by Pets Adviser (CC by 2.0)

Now that I’ve been teaching forever, I can deal with whatever technical difficulties come my way. As a new teacher, though, my lesson plan was my life preserver, and my lessons all relied upon those unobtainable copies.

Out of ways to stall my classes, I went in early to ask for my copies. With a huge smile, Jackie told me they weren’t ready yet.

“I’m sorry, but do you know when I could get them?”

“I’ll get to them just as soon as I can,” she said.

I looked past her at the bulletin board and focused on a tableau of one cat wearing a feather headdress and another cat wearing a tricorn. Columbus Day? A Thanksgiving preview? Dear God, what were those poor creatures having to endure? I considered fawning over her cats.

Ambush in costume Image by Brett (CC by 2.0)

I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I did the only other thing I could think of. I walked down the hall to her supervisor, and, feeling like a nerdy student, I tattled on her.

Her supervisor was appalled that I had fallen victim to the Great Copy Stonewall of 1997, and I got my copies, along with a new title every time I spoke with Jackie: Princess.

“Why, hello, Princess! Do you need those quizzes run off right away?” she asked.

“Well, no hurry. If I could get them by Thursday, that would be great.”

“Princess, for you, I will do them right now.”

This went on for weeks.

Other teachers complained that we weren’t allowed to make our own copies, and one of the machines was deemed touchable by teachers for three periods a day.

I skulked in and approached the machine.

“It’s Princess!” she said. “How can I help Princess today?”

“Oh, no thanks. I’m just going to make a few copies.”

I was then guilty of the greatest scourge on a copy machine Jackie had ever seen. I started to copy a textbook without putting paper over the uncovered portion of the glass. The resulting black band of toner would wreak havoc with Jackie’s machine.

My senses bombarded by the mechanical whirring, I had no warning that Jackie approached me from behind. She put one hand on my shoulder and another on my hand, all while leaning in to shout in my ear to stop.

Between the shock of her shouting, and the half-a-second-later realization that she was manhandling me, my circuits overloaded. I pivoted around, and, an inch from her face, screamed: “Don’t touch me!”

There’s no easy way to take it back once that particular cat is out of the bag. I apologized, but I had hurt her to the core. We were enemies.

She never called me Princess again.

Angry Rudolf Image by Ross Berteig (CC by 2.0)

This is part of an occasional series, Scene from a Memoir.


  Thanks to the Bronze Lounge at yeah write for critiquing the first draft of this essay.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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29 Responses to The Princess and the Peed Off Copy Machine Woman

  1. Love it! The cat pictures are, well, … amazing…
    bogqueendiane recently posted..Cruisin’ Solo and Lovin’ It: My First Guest Blog PostMy Profile

  2. I haven’t even read this yet, but had to say how much I love the pictures you found.
    that cynking feeling recently posted..ringing phones, wringing handsMy Profile

  3. TNKerr says:

    Awesome. The photos sprinkled in added another dimension that makes this awesome.

  4. Aww so cute!! Sorry, I’m a sucker for cats 😉 Your post made me chuckle as it reveals a common theme that I have also found in the legal office environment around the true hierarchy being bottom up!
    Glasgowdragonfly recently posted..On the RoadMy Profile

  5. christina says:

    how freaking bizarre was she?!??!
    christina recently stint as rock star bicyclist: a true storyMy Profile

  6. Silverleaf says:

    I kept seeing this title but, being in the Silver Lounge last week, I never got to read it. It’s amazing! Your pace is spot on; you slowly reel out the story, revealing layer upon layer of craziness ending with what is clearly her final judgement. I could feel your bewilderment and annoyance.
    Silverleaf recently posted..Follow the LeaderMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I look back on it as a failure of mine. I would be better now with knowing how to schmooze her and connect with her in a positive way, well, hopefully a little better. But, yeah, she was acting pretty crazy, so I liked hearing that too.

  7. Abby says:

    You put up with being called “Princess” much longer than I would have!

  8. Katie says:

    I assume that this was post-mimeograph machine days? I’m trying to picture Jackie with purple ink all over her hands & face.
    Katie recently posted..No One Likes to Come Back from VacationMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Yes, it was, but I remember those from my elementary school days. I remember getting them still damp with that weird smell.

  9. Oh no! I hate having to deal with people like that. Like you, I’ve had those moments that just can’t be taken back. To be fair, though, she wasn’t exactly an angel.

    Great storytelling! I didn’t see your pre-Bronze lounge version, but this is polished and really enjoyable to read. 🙂
    Suzanne Purkis recently posted..Fighting WordsMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks, Suzanne–they gave me some great advice in the Bronze Lounge. As for difficult people, I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with them, but not enough.

  10. Tina says:

    I don’t like people to touch me, although I think I have done a better job of hiding it in this part of the world with all the huggy people. If I had been in that situation back then, it is likely I would have punched her. So I applaud your restraint. However, I also empathize with having to deal with an enemy for at least the rest of the school year.
    Tina recently posted..In The Light Of DayMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      If she hadn’t taken me by surprise, I probably would have let her manhandle me–I was new and stressed out and had a thousand other problems. I worked there for many years, and we never got along.

  11. Nathan James says:

    Jackie has issues. I don’t blame you for your reaction at all. I think I’d handle it the same way considering her passive aggression.
    Nathan James recently posted..BoxesMy Profile

  12. Marissa Bergen says:

    Usually people like that are used to things like this happening and get over it quickly. At least you got a good story out of it!

    • Marcy says:

      Good point, but she never got over it. I do tend to look at miserable experiences that way now–at least I can get a story out of it 🙂

  13. Meg says:

    OMG. People are so … quirky. Those poor cats. Really, this story sounds like a perfect sitcom script. You should shop it around. Fun read, Marcy!
    Meg recently posted..Bosnia, 1994 (gargleblaster)My Profile

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