Machine Repair Guy
The Xerox 3500--now there was a copier! The Telecopier II and the 2200 came out in the early 1970s. These were the Model “A” and “T” Fords of the industry, but the 3500 is the Mustang or Thunderbird of all copiers. Since its debut in 1978 many decent machines have come down the pike. But to those of us who started out in the dark ages, it’s the 3500 that is the jewel in the crown. Sure it would break down, but it was a repairman’s dream. Ted Healy, he passed in 1997, was the design engineer on the project. It was his philosophy that all things break down, therefore you have to design them with access to a quick and easy repair. I could make a half a dozen service calls and be home by noon if everyone had the 3500 back then.
I left Viet Nam in 1970. I’d completed two tours repairing the Bell Iroquois (Huey to civilians). I worked in avionics but hung out with the power plant and electrical boys long enough to pick up a few things.
When I got back to the states, I was battling booze and drug demons. My AA sponsor, Hap Morrison, a hell of a guy, called my old CO and asked him what he could do for someone like me drifting through life. He didn’t have anything but dropped the name of an office equipment guy in Boston who might need typewriter repair help. Jesus H. Christ! I go from working on the sophisticated UH-1B helicopter to using Q-tips to clean the keys of an IBM Selectric! That’s like asking a world-class chef to make grilled cheese sandwiches using Velveeta! But I was a bum, literally, trying to stay high by the hour, cadging spare change outside the Park Square “T” station in Boston. Yet I cleaned myself up for a day, borrowed a suit from Hap and went to see the guy.
I knew I wasn’t going to get it from the moment I walked in. There are some people you dislike instantly. One glance and I could tell he had spotted me for the vagrant I was. In his mind I’d work two days and steal everything that wasn’t bolted down, including the copper pipes in the bathrooms. I didn’t even have a resume, just started rambling on about Nam, buddies I served with and what a great piece of fighting machinery the Huey was. That lasted five minutes before he cut me off, shook my hand and said he’d be in touch, probably laughing up his sleeve that I didn’t even have an address or phone.
On the way out there were these three guys banging on a machine just out of a cardboard box the size of your Aunt Fanny. I winced as I walk past them, biting my tongue at the way they were treating the device. I knew I was getting the boot anyway so, gunny sergeant that I was, I spoke my mind.
“Show some fucking respect for the engineering, boys, and you grunts might let it warm up a bit as well.”
They gave me the “who-the-fuck-are-you” look, but the boss is tugging on my arm. “You know anything about photocopiers?”
I go over to the machine, squat down and open up the service doors. It was the Telecopier II, the first mass-produced one Xerox put out, a dog but what first of anything isn’t. “Looks pretty simple. The biggest issue will be heat displacement. If it’s in a warm room and used often, the photoelectric lamp and friction will cause these three rubber rollers here to become too soft. Humidity will make it seize up, causing paper jams.”
“So you know about photocopiers?”
“Never saw one in my life, but this one’s a train wreck ready to happen. You’ve got a three-inch intake fan that’s blocked by the wiring harness, which could be moved and taped out of the way, but even doing that won’t fix the problem. In the summer you’re going to expose it to eighty-degree air temperature. If it’s not in an air-conditioned environment, say 60 degrees or lower, you’ll be able to fry eggs on it. We’re in the Neanderthal Age with respect to thermal management.”
Long story short--I got pulled back into the office, filled out a few forms, and was told he was taking a big chance hiring me. I was on a two-week trial. Any booze on my breath, any fights or abrasive behavior, and I was gone. Then I was given a manila folder. I was now Hansen’s Business Machines office copier and duplicating specialist. Take the stuff home, study it and be back by eight sharp.
As so it began. By week’s end I was making installation and service calls all over Boston. My hands were black as midnight from the toner cartridges, and I was going through white shirts like matches on a windy day. I asked old man Hansen if I could wear other clothes, but he gave me a talk about representing the company in a professional manner.
In the next few months the 2200 came on line, which was a mild improvement but still had major flaws. I tried to train some of the typewriter guys to handle the workload, but it was a case of them being set in their ways. So I made some calls. Jim Amos out in Tacoma, Phil Shapiro and a couple of others--“I’d struck gold,” I said. We’d put the unit back together just like old times.
Well, as disappointed as I was that none of them wanted to throw in with me, it was probably the best thing that ever happened. My counselor at the VA said that if I wanted to kick my addictions, the first thing I’d have to do is get rid of all my combat buddies. Otherwise we’d just sit around shooting the shit in some bar and that would be the death of me.