Lost Journal: On Paper, My Job is Reproduction

Tim Mollen, Lost Journal: On Paper, My Job is Reproduction

Journal entry: February 20, 1996 (age 26) – Reproduction

At the age of 26, I have achieved the title of Reprographic Engineer.

I make copies for a living. Not just any copies, mind you. I don’t copy resumes for any schmo off the street (who, by the way, probably also wants to be a reprographic engineer). Nay, I say. I stand at a copy machine for hours and hours, making piles and piles of copies of piles and piles of documents to be used in litigious litigation. It’s like being a lawyer, but without the high pay, sense of civic duty, or freedom to use a chair.

Every job that comes off the copier is visually checked, page by page, by another employee. If ten sets of copies are made, one, five or, sometimes, all ten sets must be inspected, depending on the importance of the project and the customer’s willingness to pay for the extra quality assurance. Any problems with page order, cut-off words, or legibility must be corrected in all the sets of copies. On a really bad day, the death of an old growth forest may prove to be in vain because of an incorrect contrast setting while copying depositions in the case of Furless Friends of Old Growth Forests v. Heartless Lumberjacks.

My employer, CVK Reprographics, is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The business operates out of two townhouses, and a co-owner lives in one of them. The business ran out of room in their main space, so they just plunked a huge copier in his basement. My cousin, Madeline Sullivan, whom I love dearly, got me this job after she worked at CVK for years. The owners trust her and, by extension, me. (One would think this extension of credence to family members would be rare in Washington. But, like Billy Carter, Neil Bush and Roger Clinton, I’m grateful for the consideration.)

I am frequently entrusted with the key to the co-owner’s townhouse, so I can work there when he’s not home. The mind-numbing boredom of making copies all night isn’t helped by being all alone in a creepy old house. At least when I’m at the main office I can joke around with co-workers Andrew Peach and Joey D’Avanzo, both of whom are hilarious. “Joey D” gives me the kind of dating advice that only a confident, young, Italian-American guy can give. Usually, he demonstrates his technique for approaching women – an impressively varied array of facial expressions that he always combines with the same three words: “Get ova here.”

The only benefit to working alone is that I control the music selection. Of the limited selection of CDs on hand, the only ones I really like are Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Dulcinea and Nick Heyward’s North of a Miracle. I can also bring in my own CDs, most of which wouldn’t go over well with my co-workers. (There’s not a lot of Cliff Richard or Helen Reddy fans over there.) But all the music in the world can’t ameliorate the drudgery of this kind of work. Our worst task involves identifying documents for the discovery phase of litigation. I affix a tiny sticker to the bottom right corner of every page, giving it a unique, alphanumeric “Bates number.” I might as well be listening to the original score from Psycho.

Tim Mollen
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