We have a co-op student at work right now.  He is a very pleasant guy, hardworking and fast at what he does.  Almost too fast.  It’s hard to keep him busy because he works so fast.

One thing I’ve had him do is get stuff ready to send out to clients/contractors/etc.  The first time I had him do this, I sort of outlined what I wanted done and left it up to him.  In what I think is a sadder commentary on the state of public education than on him personally, he began to address the envelope:


So I did up a little exemplar of what I wanted and he did it over with normal sized writing.  He picks stuff up quickly if it is explained well.  I had him do a bunch of packages to be sent out today and he did them very quickly and rather well.  When I told him what he was going to do and mentioned addresses he made an ‘oh no’ face and I assured him that he would be fine.  Then I related this story:

During my second co-op term in college, I worked for an engineering company in Kitchener.  We did a lot of concrete repair and replacement work for high rise apartment towers in Toronto and summer was the busiest time (thus the hiring of not one but two co-op students).  Very early in my term there, I had to put together packages of contracts to send out to various contractors.  High rise concrete refurbishing is a fairly narrow market (oddly enough, you’d think there would be more companies in such a non-specialized business) so the four contractors were each getting five or six contracts apiece.

I spent about three days preparing everything.  In Ontario at that time, contracts were not particularly electronic.  It wasn’t a case of typing something into a PDF and printing it (as it is now).  I actually had to type these 25 or so contracts up on a typewriter.  Fortunately for me it was an electronic typewriter.  Unfortunately for my co-workers and the other company who shared our building, it was an electronic typewriter with a backspace functionality and I am a very poor typist.  Even when I’m typing slowly, roughly every keystroke in three is the backspace key.  The typewriter in question hammered extra loudly three times in order to delete a mistyped character which was, I think, a design consideration.  It was saying, “if only you typed better WHAM WHAM WHAM I wouldn’t have to WHAM WHAM WHAM punish you and everybody WHAM WHAM WHAM else in a WHAM WHAM WHAM four block radius WHAM WHAM WHAM.” 

After my typewriter adventures (and contracts are deadly dull, repetitive, dull things to write), I had to package everything up and send it out to the contractors.  FedEx came and took it all away and, two days later, the phone calls started coming in.  I managed to send every single one to the wrong company.  Not a single package of contracts went where it ought to have gone.  I was mortified.  I still have no idea at all how I managed it.  My boss was (understandably) upset but was fairly understanding.  He was able to laugh about it later but I may well take the shame and ignominy to my grave.

a simple prop to occupy my time