If at First You Don’t Succeed . . .


I love my job and I love the teachers I work with, but my interaction with them as a librarian has produced some sidesplitting episodes over the last four years. Well, last night, Budge and I went to a small get-together at one of my teacher’s homes. Ben and his girlfriend were in attendance as well. Ben is the subject of two of my favorite stories about being a librarian. Both happened his first year as a teacher and my second year as a librarian.

These two stories are the unembellished, unvarnished truth. I can’t make anything this good up.

First, Ben came to me the second day of school, which was a workday, with a stack of posters and such to laminate. Now I come from a high school background and we didn’t laminate nearly as much as the lower grade. I quickly learned my first year that the more laminate on hand, the better. Middle school teachers would laminate the students if they could get them through the rollers and heat shoes.

Anyway, Ben has all this stuff to laminate and I’ve got a million other things to do, so I tell him the machine’s been on all day so it should be heated and ready to go. I know lots of librarians don’t let teachers do their on laminating, but I just figured reasonable, college educated people should be able to run something as simple as a laminator. It’s a pretty foolproof machine. Of course, a wise man once said that anyone who calls something foolproof usually underestimates the creativity of the average fool.

So all is quiet for about ten minutes. I can hear the laminator running from my office where I’m getting stuff ready for the first days. Sounds like all is well. Then I hear, “Uh oh.” Folks, you run into lots of situations where you don’t want to hear, “uh oh.” Doctors’ offices, car repair shops, and children’s birthday parties are some that come to mind. To that list add the laminator room.

I walked in and the machine was running strangely. I could tell something was wrong but couldn’t put my finger on it until I realized the laminate was UNDERNEATH the table and moving. Then I saw what had happened. Ben had run a poster through, but didn’t feel it was thick enough or some such. No problem. I have people double coat stuff all the time. What Ben did differently (and God alone knows what thought processes were involved) was he reached under the machine and pulled the poster through and up to the rollers and ran it again WITHOUT CUTTING IT FROM THE ROLL. The result was he literally laminated the laminator. Plastic and poster had wrapped every roller and heat shoe and semi-melted into a goopy stringy mess. I think if the poor boy hadn’t looked so confused and sad, I’d have run HIM through the laminator. As it was I ran him off, cut the machine off to cool, and went to sharpen my scissors. It took over an hour, many swear words, and two razor blades to get everything straight and unwrapped. Ben no longer laminates his own stuff.

This next one is even better.

I was in my office when I waved at Ben who was going into the copier room. He hadn’t been in there more than five minutes when he called me. I recognized the note of concern in his voice and went to see if I could help. He was standing in front of the copier holding some transparencies. He told me he’d run two transparencies through the machine, but nothing had come out the other side. I asked him for one of his sheets. It confirmed my worst fears . . . plain acetate write-on film. I wanted to cry since that kind of bone-headed move wasn’t covered under our service contract. BUT WAIT . . .

Ben looked at me, then at the plastic now fused around the fuser of the copier and said, “well, that explains the other two machines.”

Here’s the good part. Ben had gone to the OTHER copier room on the other side of the building and tried to run his “transparencies” through the copier in that room. Nothing had come out. Either time. Ben has very high self esteem, so he was certain he’d done nothing wrong and the machine was obviously defective. So, he proceeded to the LOUNGE to use that copier. Again, two tries with the bogus transparencies, two goose eggs in the hopper. Did I mention Ben’s self-esteem?

So, when he came to the library, Ben had already SHUT DOWN every other copier in the school. Did I mention Ben had FIRST PERIOD PLANNING, or that this was MONDAY? I looked at Ben and asked, calmly as I could, “Ben, why didn’t you come ask me or someone else when the FIRST machine didn’t make your transparency?” He said, “I thought something was wrong with the machine.” When I asked, “And the SECOND machine?” He said, “Same thing.”

For a long time, Ben was forbidden to use the copiers. I cleaned up an old spirit master machine, put it in his room and DARED him to come near a Mita machine. I still have two “butterfly” shaped pieces of acetate in a cup on my desk from that incident. I show them every year on the first day of new teacher training . . . along with the $1500 repair bill — $500 per copier.

I am happy to report that Ben has become much more technologically savvy. This year, with great trepidation, I checked out an ELMO P-10 document camera and a really nice InFocus projector to him. So far, students say he is doing great with both. He’s enrolled in the next SmartBoard training class, so we’ll see. I swear though, if he writes on that SmartBoard with a permanent marker I will not be responsible for my actions.

5 responses »

  1. 3 machines?!!! That is TRULY amazing!
    I’m going to share your story in our staff room tomorrow. At least my teachers tend to stop after one breakage. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. I love the stories. Keep them coming.

  2. Ha, ha, ha sounds like my Lammy has a friend in Ben! He also has a secret teacher friend at my school, who did almost the same thing to Lammy AND Friday went to copy only to come back holding a metal rod form inside the machine where she tried to unjam paper. Sigh. First year teacher memoirs to come.

  3. Hi I repair laminators for a living around Pittsburgh Pa. I am constantly amazed at how many ways there are to break anything.

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