Tag Archives: Kinko’s

Aging in America


Like most humans, I’ve been doing some aging.

To pass the time while getting older against my will, I’ve been thinking about how we think about aging in America.

We tend to look at old people as though they were born that way–like they just popped into existence wrinkled and angry and riding scooters and clutching enormous purses that organically grow hard butterscotch candies.

But people aren’t born old. It’s not like being Scandinavian or left-handed. If we’re lucky, we’ll all become old eventually.

We know this is true intellectually, but we all seem to believe it won’t happen to us. It’s like when you arrive somewhere and there are a bunch of people standing around the door and you think, “It must be locked.” But you try it anyway, as though you were THE ONE who could figure it out.

But, no, the door is locked and you will get old. And it will piss you off.

I used to wonder why old people were so cranky. Then I realized it’s because they’re not old people.

They are young people trapped in the body of a monster.

I know that sounds mean. But we treat old people like monsters. We’re frightened of them. If the world was suddenly full of billboards that read AMERICAN HORROR STORY: THE ELDERLY we would all just go along with it.

A few weeks ago, I observed an old, angry monster-person at the Kinko’s in Hollywood.

Quick side note—I used to work at Kinko’s. I know Kinko’s. It’s not called Kinko’s anymore, it’s FedEx Office. It’s been FedEx Office for years, but everyone still calls it Kinko’s. Which I love. It’s like a scar we can’t forget. Kinko’s is like if Satan came to earth and was like, “Look, I know I’m obviously Satan, but for branding reasons could you all please just call me Steve?” And we’re all like, “Fuck off, Satan. We know what you are.”

That’s what Kinko’s is like.

Anyway, I went to Kinko’s or Satan’s FedEx or whatever you want to call it and there was a ruckus because there was an old man sitting in a chair at the counter. He yelled at the poor guy working at Kinko’s. He made it crystal clear he wasn’t going to move until he got his copies. A long line formed. A young dude in the line with a peace symbol neck tattoo tried to reason with the old man. He said, “Come on, man, this Kinko’s dude is just trying to do his job.”

The old man stared at him and yelled, “I AM 88 YEARS OLD! SITTING DOWN IS MY JOB SO FUCK YOU!”

I immediately thought two things.

1) I hate Kinko’s.
2) Being old seems kind of awesome. I can’t wait until sitting down is my job.

It’s incredibly difficult to feel positive about getting older, because we have a huge problem with the difference between BEING OLD and BEING NOT YOUNG.

In America, you’re only ever three ages: Not as old as you want to be, 25, or might as well be dead.

People hit 26, 30, 40 years old and they’re like, “WHY? WHY? WHAT HAPPENED? IT’S NOT FAIR! A MOVIE I ONCE SAW IS TEN YEARS OLD! WHAT’S THE POINT OF EVEN GOING ON???”


It’s like ordering a pizza. A delicious, wonderful pizza with ten slices.

You eat the first two pieces and they are AMAZING. Warm, delicious.

Then you take one bite of the third piece. It’s slightly cooler.


And you bitterly chew your pizza, weeping, and reading BuzzFeed articles about how great the ’90s were.

Our lifespans are increasing all the time. Instead of living into my 80s, I’ll probably live into my 90s. Awesome! A whole extra decade to feel like shit because I’m not 25!

Bullshit! I don’t want to do that.

I have this crazy idea that it would be nice to enjoy my life instead of drowning in nostalgia.

I want to stay motivated and forward-moving.

I want to stay healthy and strong.

I might even EXERCISE.

Then, when I’m 88 years old and I want to scream my fucking lungs out at some punk at Satan’s Copy Shack, I can do it standing up.

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Memoirs of a Copy Consultant

I’ve never written anything about 9/11. In general, I don’t write about tragedies.

I once did some comedy about the destruction of the Columbia Space Shuttle. But it wasn’t really about the Columbia Space Shuttle. It was about CNN trying to milk as many ratings out of the tragedy as possible. They kept playing clips of people in Texas reacting to the explosion and crash. It was a parade of people describing the sound, how their dog reacted, how quickly they picked up their rifle, etc. I criticized CNN saying, “It’s not even news anymore, it’s just an endless documentary on how Texans react to loud noises.”

I think it’s still a fair criticism of CNN’s journalistic standards, but I also think there’s something humanizing about reflecting not just on tragedy but our reactions to it.

As 9/11 recedes farther into the past, the general reaction from our society seems to be “Never Forget.” Or if you spend a lot of time on social media, #NeverForget. I think “never forget” comes off as a cursory, vaguely ominous way to memorialize a tragedy, but every year I do actually remember where I was and what I was doing that day.

I was a Copy Consultant at Kinko’s Copy Center in the IDS building–one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most iconic skyscrapers. I had always hated the term “Copy Consultant.” It was such clear bullshit. Like we took rich people out to lunch, drank some martinis, and discussed how their decision to print a flyer for their garage sale on B3 (Cosmic Orange) might affect their grandchildren’s future. Calling that guy who works at Kinko’s a “Copy Consultant” was like calling a boxer a “Face Crushing Analyst” or a plumber a “Fecal Solution Expert.” Trying to make it sound better just made it sound worse.

About a year before 9/11, Kinko’s made all the Copy Consultants wear identical blue aprons emblazoned with the slogan “Express Yourself.” Yes, nothing says “Express Yourself” like being forced by a giant corporation to wear the exact same thing as all the other employees.

If you’ve ever been to a Kinko’s, you probably have a Kinko’s horror story. Here’s one of the reasons Kinko’s employees are surly: working at Kinko’s is like being a chef at a restaurant where all of the diners can see into the kitchen, yell at you to cook their food first, call you names, and threaten to save up some money to buy a gun and come back later to kill you. That last one is a true story.

As ridiculous and inconsequential as making copies sounds, it was a high pressure place to work.

On the day of this horrible tragedy, I was not just any Copy Consultant. I was the Assistant Manager.

We had a television playing CNN strategically placed where all the angry business people stood in line waiting to yell at us about printing some copies of their Quark file off their Jaz Drive.

All of the customers and Copy Consultants stopped making and/or yelling about copies and watched the surreal acceleration of events from horrible plane accident to well-organized attack to paranoia that every tall building in every city was a target.

I got calls from family and friends telling me to get out of the IDS Center immediately. Then I got a call from the IDS security saying they were considering closing the building. Then I got a call from my boss’ boss’ boss. I can’t remember his title. He was the “Count My Money While You Sad Bastards Make Copies and Get Death Threats Consultant.”

I had worked at that Kinko’s for two and a half years. As an Assistant Manager, I had closed the store once for Christmas Day. Even then, I considered staying in the building because we were behind on all the copies we were supposed to be making. Kinko’s didn’t close like Sea Captains never abandon their ships.

So I was shocked when the big boss asked me if I could please close the store immediately. So I did. And everyone was impressed that I knew where the keys were and how the doors were supposed to lock. At the time, closing a Kinko’s was like magic–arcane knowledge that only a few knew and most didn’t really believe existed at all.

I drove to a suburb and dropped off all our store’s work at another store. I felt helpless and struggled to find something normal to do. I stopped at a toy store and looked at Star Wars action figures. That seemed insipid and I felt guilty. I went home. I contacted friends in New York and Washington DC on a dial-up modem. I stared at CNN.

When I think about that day one of the things I remember is this: I believe it was the only day I ever worked at Kinko’s IDS in which no one–not customers, employees, big bosses, or myself–was a dick to one another. It was one of the few times I thought, “Wow. We did a really good job of expressing ourselves today.”

Strangely, I often forget a far more relevant memory. A few weeks later an FBI agent came into Kinko’s IDS and asked to talk to the manager on duty. I took him back to the manager’s office. In my mind, an FBI agent was Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks or Scully from the X-Files. A sharp mind with a kind soul, a black suit, and a gun.

This was a real FBI agent. A tired guy in a dumpy suit sitting in the back office of a Kinko’s armed with a notepad, a pen, and a ketchup stain on his shirt.

He sighed before he even started asking me questions. Like he needed to wind up before he could deal with another fruitless conversation. He told me that the FBI believed some of the terrorists involved with 9/11 had used computers at one or many Kinko’s locations in Minneapolis to communicate before the attacks.

He asked me if I or any of my workers had helped anyone suspicious.

At the time, the way a Copy Consultant had to log every single customer into the rental computers was with a password that changed daily.

Every customer ever hated this. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t just be told the password and enter it themselves instead of being treated like a child and having the Copy Consultant lean over them and enter the code.

So the question from the FBI, the question that made this tragedy relate directly to me, the question in which I could do something positive, was this: Do you remember anyone seeming violent or angry while logging them on to a rental computer?

And my answer was: Yes. Every person I’ve logged on to a rental computer in the last three years.

He gave me his card and I promised to call if anyone remembered anything.

It’s strange to me that I often forget this event. That I’ve never written or talked about it. It’s possible that I signed one of the terrorists onto a computer. If I did, at the time, it was a simple human interaction. The kind I had every day.

We don’t forget the tragedies. We don’t forget the horrible explosions. We forget the small human interactions.

Remembering every little detail of where you were and what you were doing on a given day seems like an odd, sometimes self-involved way to reflect on a tragedy. But it does remind me of how much I do forget. How many little human interactions that I don’t or can’t remember. There just isn’t enough room on my brain’s Jaz drive.

I have nothing new or particularly special to say about the tragedy itself or all the huge ripples and big dramatic events that it precipitated. I also have a ton of work to do today and probably shouldn’t be taking the time to write this. But for some reason, today, it just seemed worthwhile to remember and share the little human interactions. To remember not only what I was doing that day, but how much life has changed since.

I no longer work at Kinko’s. I find it much easier to express myself as a comedian and a writer than I did as a Copy Consultant.

A final note on Kinko’s. The company has since been bought out and what we once knew as Kinko’s is now called FedExOffice. But everyone still calls it Kinko’s. This makes me happy. It feels like if Satan himself came to this mortal plane and said, “Look. I know I’m clearly Satan. I’ve got horns and a pitchfork and everything, but could you guys all just call me Steve? It’s a rebranding thing.”

And we all said, “Sure, Steve.” And the “Steve” was just dripping with sarcasm because of course we’re not going to call you Steve. You’re Satan and we all know it. Just like we know FedExOffice is Kinko’s. A wretched hive of surly underpaid workers and stressed out angry customers who just want to get a damn copy made.

That is a place we all know. A place of a million little human interactions. That place is called Kinko’s.

And we will never forget.


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The Very Best Of My Very Bad Halloween Costumes

A brief remembrance of my top five horrible Halloween costumes.


Age 7. My cape was an old white pillow case that had turned kind of yellow. It was tied tightly around my neck. My tunic was a red-tinted Super Grover Sesame Street t-shirt. My little green shorts were a pair of long green bell bottoms. I had no mask because my parents were concerned about my safety. Apparently, they wanted me to be able to clearly see what was happening when I choked to death from having a pillow case wrapped around my throat. Also, my older brother dressed as Robin’s crime fighting partner: Humphrey Bogart. I am not making this up.


Age 11. For horrible details, see this post.


Age 15. Some friends who lived in a not very cultured (okay, white trash) suburb of Minneapolis convinced me that we would get a “butt-load” of candy if we went Trick Or Treating as the members of Guns N’ Roses. I won the honor of being Axl because my natural physique was closest to that of a heroin addict. Our costumes were mostly jean jackets and fake mullets. We were indistinguishable from the majority of grown men who lived in this suburb. We did not receive a “butt-load” of candy. Perhaps, a “shoulder-load” worth, though. Most adults probably thought we had come to the door due to a paternity dispute involving their teenage daughter. No singing was involved.


Age 28. For three years, I was an assistant manager at Kinko’s. I happened to quit on Halloween. My girlfriend and I were going to a costume party that night. By now, I was an actor and didn’t like dressing up for Halloween. As I told her, “I feel weird looking like a plumber without doing plumber things. I don’t want to go to a party and put on a little plumber play.” As I tore into my closet full of theater costumes and props, I decided I should probably put my stupid blue Kinko’s apron in there in case I ever wanted to play a stupid Kinko’s guy on stage. Then I realized, I could play a stupid Kinko’s guy for Halloween. So I wore the stupid blue apron. I wore it ironically. And I spilled a decent amount of beer on it. Perhaps intentionally. Perhaps not. Intent and beer are often mortal enemies.


Age <redacted> I now worked at a museum giving tours and performing. I felt obligated to attend a co-worker’s costume party. Strangely, the stage costume I felt most comfortable in was my giant squirrel outfit. The giant squirrel outfit wasn’t easy to put on. There were belts and straps involved. I put it on in my apartment. I walked two blocks to my car, while smoking a cigarette. I stuffed myself and my huge tail into a Subaru. I then drove several miles, hunched over the tiny steering wheel. I imagine it looked like Frank Miller illustrating a Warner Brothers cartoon. I got to the party. There were witches, mummies, vampires, and plumbers. I was voted “most creative costume.” People kept offering me the bowl of mixed nuts. I only knocked two paintings off the wall with my tail. Overall, I felt it was going well. I spent the rest of the night drinking bloody punch (cherry vodka) and chatting about the future of non-profit organizations in Minnesota. Dressed as a fucking squirrel.

Happy halloween.

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