A Brief Monologue About the Paper Cutter and Life

So I have this new job, and it’s actually a really fantastic  job, flexible, benefits, everything. But part of any new job is cleaning up after the last guy, or girl in this case, and so you gotta make it your own, right? Right. So I’m at the job, and one of the first things I have to do is to redo these pamphlets, ’cause they’ve got the wrong e-mail address on them now, so I gotta fix the document and then print out like a hundred of these things. But not just print, ’cause first you gotta cut ’em all in half, and then staple the two halves together like a booklet. And there’s a hundred of ’em. But it’s okay, because we got a paper cutter.

The first thing I do is print out five of ’em, as a test batch. I had printed one out as a test the other day and it was fine, but it’s a new day and I don’t trust the me from last week to accurately communicate things to the me of now. So I print out five and stick em into the paper cutter, and I swing that office machete down, and then bam! Five pieces of yellow paper, cut cleanly in half, ready for stapling. Except when I go to staple them I see that they are not even. The lower half is taller than the upper half. And I want to be good at this job, and I want to impress people, and I want these things to look professional, and now we got a centimeter of paper sticking out of the top of the pamphlet. So I go to look at the pamphlet that me from last week left as a guide, and it looks fine. So I figure that maybe five is too many sheets of paper to cut at once on the paper cutter. I fill up Printer Tray 2 with yellow paper, I pray that no one else in the office is printing anything at that moment, and then I hit go on one hundred of these things.

Now five is too many, but if I do ’em one at a time, I’m going to be there forever. I don’t have time for that. So I do two at a time. I do two, I cut ’em up, I stick ’em together, and I examine very closely, to make sure that each half is exactly five and a half inches tall. And it looks good. So I put two more in. And then two more. And then two more. I’ve got to do this fifty times, I’m figuring, which is a lot less than a hundred times, but it still seems like a lot. And I wonder…what about three?

I put three in, line it up very carefully, slash that blade, and do my double check. Yup. They look fine. The paper cutter can handle three. So I up it to three. And it only takes me two sets of three to wonder about four. If I could do four, well, that’s twice as many as two! That’s twice as fast! I would be pretty psyched if I could do four. And I do. And it works. And now I am chopping paper like a madman. I am so frickin’ productive, and the boss walks by, my boss’s boss, and she asks where I got the paper, to make sure I know the paper system, and I tell her I got it from my office, and not from the community paper supply that is off limits to the community for budget coding reasons, and there is pride in my stance. She doesn’t know that I doubled my productivity, and then doubled it again, but I know. I have confidence. I think I am making a good impression.

I grab another stack, but it feels slightly thicker. It is four? Or did I grab five by accident? In my heart, I know the answer, but I am lazy. I’m cocky. I don’t want to stop and count them, and I start thinking, well, so what if it is five? When I did that test batch, I was inexperienced. I wasn’t in my groove. I was still learning the ropes. But now, hey, I’ve been doing this for almost ten minutes, and maybe I can do five now. Maybe it wasn’t the paper cutter after all. Maybe it was user error. Maybe I can go back and do a lot of things in my life that I’ve been scared to do, just because they didn’t work in the past. Maybe those childhood traumas can finally evaporate and I can adjust my outlook on life, realizing that it is a new day and everything is possible again. I am older, wiser, better! I shove those papers in there, but very carefully this time. I am looking at all the angles here. I make sure everything is perfect, and, very carefully, I let that slicing arm drop.

I almost had it. It sticks on that last piece of paper. The first four fall away no problem, but it doesn’t cut the corner of that last sheet. And the more I try to fix it, the more folded, wrinkled, and mangled it becomes. And now I’m kicking myself, because I knew. I knew. There were five. And I can’t do five. And as I am wrangling the paper out of the slicer, I happen to look up and see the name written across the top of the paper cutter. Quartet. Is that the name of the company? The name of the device? I have no idea. But it says quartet right on the top. Four. It’s been telling me four the whole time, and I wasn’t listening. There were the instructions from the universe, right before my eyes. Four sheets of paper, stupid! How could it have been any clearer?

And it actually made me feel a lot better, you know? Four was the limit, and I knew it, and I was comfortable with it. I chopped and I chopped, four pages at a time, and they were all exactly right. No more stress about how much paper to use. I was at peace. Until I get to the end, and, I guess because of all the weird combinations I had been trying, there are five sheets left to cut. So what do I do? Cut two and three? Or try one more time for that impossible five. I look down and the paper, and I struggle. Honestly, and I can’t believe it either, but I am having a crisis here over how many pieces of paper to cut at one time. If only there had been six, I would have done three and three and had no qualms. But to go back to two? That felt like defeat. On the other hand, I knew my limitations. And this wasn’t my paper I was playing with, this was work paper. I picked up three sheets, shook them down into alignment, and placed them on the machine.

But I couldn’t do it. I had to try one more time. Because maybe the time before, I had failed because I was too cautious. I almost had it, and if I had swung a little harder, I might have gotten through all five sheets. So I was nervous. it’s stupid, but I was nervous. I took all five sheets, and I slid them under the bar. I tried to pretend that this was nothing. Just another set of four. I was good at it now. I could do this. And even if I screwed it up, I had those five test copies, so it was low risk, I told myself. I threw caution to the wind, lined that paper up, and pushed down hard on that lever. And it cut through. And they were perfect.

Take that, universe.

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