Friday, January 4, 2008

Recent Encounters at Staples...

....where I have a photocopying thumb wound! Those machines can be savage when not treated with respect.

So, I'm there for like 4 hours yesterday making copies which will then be scanned into pdfs for my grad class. TD is my faithful sidekick, but has gone around the corner to get himself some coffee and me a muffin.

An attractive, well-dressed, late 30s-ish woman walks in and is copying across the "work island" from me. She notices the seven hundred and four different medieval books I'm calmly taking the little sticky-notes out of (a mix of primary and secondary reading, of course). And she says,

Lady: Are you torturing your students?

MW: Huh? Oh, yeah (token laugh) - it's for a grad class I'm teaching.

Lady: They let you teach a grad class with a master's degree??

MW: ?!?!?! (thinks, "am I wearing a shirt that says "I only have a master's"?)

Lady: I mean, I assume you don't have a Ph.D., you're too young.

MW: Oh. Nope, I finished in 2006.

Lady: That's impossible.

MW: ?!?!? Actually, no. I was there. So were my parents. I have proof...

Lady: You're too young. But, anyway, do you teach this stuff??

MW: Stuff? Yes.

Lady: I hated the Canterbury Tales in highschool. I read the Cliffnotes version and hated it. We had to memorize the entire sucked.

MW: The entire General Prologue, or just the first 17 opening lines or so?

Lady: No, the entire thing! And it was in that ancient language. Did you know that it was actually written in an entirely different language??

MW: No. I didn't know that. I just hope no one recognizes that gap in my knowledge if they read my dissertation.

Lady: I hope your students don't mutiny this semester, ha ha!

MW: I have ways of putting down insurrection with violence. They won't know what hit them.

Lady: Uh.....

And then a nice Indian man walks in and wants to know how to use the machines.

Man: What do I do? I want 160 copies of these.

MW: Oh, I don't work here, but I can show you quickly. Do you want them stapled?

Man: No.

MW: 2-sided? Collated?

Man: No. No.

MW: Okay, that's easy - you just put your credit card in the thingy and then...

I proceed to show him how to put the originals in and what to punch on the keypad. And then I notice an outsider who is sidling up to my machine as though he's going to poach it! So, similar to the Romans when they left Britain, I decided to withdraw my troops in order to protect my photocopying empire.

At that moment, the man I'd been helping put in his card and it immediately shot back out at him. He looks at me expectantly.

MW: Oh, it might need another card - you can ask one of the photocopying people to help you at the desk - I've got a ton to do here (I say, glancing significantly at the poacher).

Man: The Staples guy looks busy. You do it.

MW: ??!! I don't work here, they can help you. He's just hung up the phone. He looks free.

Man: You can just do it. (He starts trying to force his credit card and papers onto me).

MW: Look, I have a ton of my own work to do. I'll call the guy over...(begins to wave hands in the air like I Just Don't Care).

Man: (looking irritated and hurt) I don't see why you couldn't have just done it for me.

At that point, TD brought in my chocolate chip muffin and I nibbled it to calm my ire. Why did he want me to do it? Was he afriad of the Staples guy (a skinny, acned kid of about 16)? Or was it because I'm a woman, maybe?

How is it that I look old enough to be entrusted with a stranger's credit card to make copies for him, but so young that the mere suggestion that I have a Ph.D. is enough to make a women who is not much older than me react with complete, total, monolithic disbelief??

I told TD the story as we continued copying and we laughed and laughed....


Pantagruelle said...

That is one weird story!

Why were you at Staples in the first place though? Surely you can make photocopies on campus in your dept for free--and free from all the weirdos?

squadratomagico said...

Actually, I think both people were responding to your sex. The woman probably would accept a young man as a PhD, but not a young woman. And the Indian guy sounds like he has a sense of entitlement a mile wide, and expects you to do his menial work for him -- again, because you're female.

But, like Pantagruelle, I couldn't help but wonder why you were at Staples???

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Hee, that was my question, too!

I've been in that situation, though - for some reason people in stores are always accosting me to help them. (Some of it's probably because I don't carry a purse much of the time, so I look like a salesperson. But I swear I've had that photocopy conversation before!)

medieval woman said...

Ah, ladies! I wish I could make all the copies I wanted for free. We're only allowed 500 copies a semester and that wouldn't have come close to covering everything (like syllabi, articles, etc.). If I get the syllabi done early, I can give it to the department secretary to copy, but I *never* get it done early. So, I spend about $20 and then once their copied and scanned, I never have to do it again! I'm assigning things that I'll teach over and over again, so that's good!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, and as a late-30s woman now, I'll speculate that she's facing her own kind of I'm-not-really-THAT-old crisis, and it's not only that she thinks you look young, but she doesn't quite realize her own age. That is, she recognizes you're younger than she is, but she doesn't quite realize how old she is, and so thinks of "younger than me" as "way too young to get a Ph.D.", if that makes any sense.

(I'm not saying late 30s is old! But I have to confess that I kind of wonder where my 30s went and keep thinking of myself as younger than I am. So I think of people younger than me as, oh, just out of college, and have to remind myself that it's been nearly 17 years since I was in college! People younger than me can be older than 24!)

Which is not to deny that the conversation was obnoxious, mind you!

medieval woman said...

NK, I know! I'm exactly the same way. I was talking to my students about seeing the original (and best0 Star Wars in the movie theatre for the first time. What an experience it was and it was like nothing else anyone had ever seen...

They all looked blankly at me and one said, "we weren't alive then". I was trying to figure out how someone could be in college, but not old enough to have at least seen The Empire Strikes Back in the theatre....

Anyone younger than me is a zygote.

Dr. Virago said...

Like squadrato said, it was *all* about gender.

But here's what I want to know: wha the heck is *with* people who announce that they hate the occupation or specialty of the person they're talking to?! It's not just medievalists, or even just academics, but I swear we get more than most. Next time it happens, I'm going to ask my interlocutor what s/he does for a living and then go on and on about how boring/awful that profession is, and see how *they* like it.

And wow, the *whole* GP? All 850+ lines? That's impressive! ;)

Belle said...

Snark: Maybe we just need to quit offering to help people, or learn to play them. I can be wearing long dangly earrings (which I do because I love them) and will get called sir. Repeatedly. To my face.

And yes, I too have had that conversation, although in other venues. When somebody tells me they hate history, I simply tell them they were probably poorly taught. You'd be surprised (perhaps?) how that shuts them up (or down?).

Andrea said...

or say sadly "You must not be very bright." Butn o one asked the question I am burning to know. How did you injure your thumb.

medieval woman said...

I know - memorizing the over 800 lines of "that entirely different ancient language" stretched my imagination as well! Sure thing, lady...

The copying thumb wound was a freak accident (and not a paper cut). I was trying to get the lid of the copier open even more (thinking it would go all the way up to a right angle with the copier itself) and I shoved a bit vehemently and it bit back. I.e., the completely superfluous and strangely sharp piece of plastic on the inside of the copier "lid" cut the crud out of my thumb. If I get printed, there will be a tell-tale scar!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

What everybody said ... except, why make copies to scan? Scanning directly seems like it might save time and money, if you can get access to a scanner ...