I’ve read extensively in the self-help/relationships genre, and the bottom line seems to be that women and men have a hard time understanding each other. Particularly, women don’t understand why men think it’s so hard to be in a relationship with them. Women tend to be pretty fluent in relationships with men and also with other women; it’s hard to imagine what it is like to be in a relationship where the other party is a complete mystery. So, women, I have a great exercise for you to sympathize better with your man– invest yourself in a relationship with a piece of office equipment.
At my place of work, it is our copy machine. See if these little exchanges don’t sound familiar:
Scenario A: Paper Jam
I think: All I want is thirteen double-sided copies of this worksheet. Why do you have to make everything so complicated? Can’t you just make my copies for once? I don’t know what those pictures on the screen mean; So I guess I am going to have to open every single one of your doors and find this #%$!! jammed paper myself. Now this simple interaction that could have been done in five minutes is going to take my whole lunch break.
Copier thinks: If you would only take a minute to understand my inner workings, you would know exactly where the paper went and why it became jammed. I am even giving you a diagram to help you find it! How can I make this any easier on you? By the way, slamming my doors and yelling is not getting you to the root of the problem any faster. And if you knew how much this “simple task” actually involves, maybe you’d be a little more patient.
Scenario B: Replace Toner
I think: Are you freaking kidding me? I JUST replaced your toner–there is no way you could possibly need more already. How often do I even copy here…once or twice a day? Do I need to come up with a toner allowance for you so you don’t blow it all on one set of memos? I don’t even know what toner is, so how can it possibly be that important?
Copier thinks: That just shows how much you know, you big jerk! You have no idea how hard I work all day while you are off in your classroom. You are not the only one that needs me; if it’s not one teacher, it’s another, and everyone thinks that their needs are the most important! By the time you come to me with your demands at the end of the day, I’m already exhausted. ALL DAY, I give, and give, and give. And all I ever ask for in return is a little toner!!
Scenario C: The indecipherable message
I think: Holy, moley, what does that even mean? I have NEVER seen that before on your touch screen. I get the paper jam; I get that you need toner, but how can I even start to figure out how to fix this problem when I don’t know what you’re talking about? And by the way, I happen to need three transparencies and fifty packets, hole punched and stapled. Do you have any kind of a time frame for how long this meltdown is going to last?
Copier thinks: Maybe I don’t even understand what I need right now! This is the time when a little love and understanding goes a long way–and that does not mean telling me about the transparencies and packets that you need! Do you notice that the only time you ever come in here is when you need something from me? Maybe this little message is the only way I can get you to stop and pay attention to me. All I want is a little quality time!
And, hopefully, Scenario D: The Reconciliation
Me: Thank you for making my packets. They’re exactly what I needed.
Copier: You are welcome. It really is no trouble; I’m sorry that I lost my temper and jammed those papers on purpose.
Me: No, no, it was my fault. I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate all of you hard work. I know that for every transparency paper that melts in your heating element, you have made 100 more without any trouble, and with no thanks. I’ll try to remember to be a little more appreciative.
Copier: Me, too. You really are working so hard. And without you, my life would have no purpose. What would I do if I wasn’t making copies for you?
<Teacher and copier continue affirming their mutual need for and admiration of the other. Violin music swells in the background as teacher and copier move forward in cooperation and respect.>
This post was originally published on November 11, 2008. I’m taking a break from new content over the holidays; enjoy some of my favorite past posts for the next two weeks!