LOS ANGELES. Rodney Gage spends his day hunched over a photocopy machine at a 200-person law firm in Century City. “You wouldn’t believe the crap I have to put up with,” he says as he staples an 80-page bond indenture together. “‘I told you to do it two-sided,’ or ‘I wanted it on 8½ by 11!’ What do they think I am—a photostatic professional or a baby sitter?”
When he gets off work, Gage likes to relieve his frustrations by what some people would consider a busman’s holiday. He takes a souped-up photocopier out into the streets of East Los Angeles, where he and other “copy jockeys” parade their high-performance machines in a macho dance of office equipment hardware.
“My work copier is my ball-and-chain,” he says with a smile on his face as he clears a jam in a paper tray. “This baby”—a lovingly restored Xerox Model 0800 from the late ’60′s—”is an expression of my personality.
Gage’s “rod” or “hog” has been customized in the style made famous by the MTV hit show “Pimp My Ride,” with a supercharged drive train, a stereo system that features a six-disc CD player, and an espresso machine and a cup holder for his chrome coffee thermos. “This baby’s loaded,” he says.
As he rolls down the street Otis Redding’s “Happy Song” blasts from his speakers, and Rodney hums along with the late soul great. “Dum-dum-dilly-dee-dum-dum—do it again,” he sings, and it is clear that the ladies on the sidewalk like the cut of his copier’s jib. “This thing is a poontang magnet,” he says. “I used to just have one of those little Canon jobbies, and I was always hornier than a two-peckered billy goat.”
Xerography is an electrostatic reproduction technology invented in 1937 by Chester F. Carlson and developed by the Xerox Corporation. An image is exposed to a plate causing electrically-charged particles to adhere to a photoconductive surface, impregnating a piece of paper which gives birth to a copy after a nine-nanosecond gestation period. “Styling” through the streets with a refurbished copier thus has sexual overtones that are not lost on eligible women, and some who are ineligible.
“Yoo-hoo—Rodney!” one woman calls as Gage makes a right-hand turn onto Spring Street. “Why you got your hand up in the air like that?”
“Robert-Louis-Stevenson—right, left, stop,” he replies, repeating the mnemonic device used to recall the standard bicycle hand turn signals.
“That’s a nice-lookin’ copier you got there.”
“Tell me somethin’ I don’t know, baby,” he says with a laugh.
“How many sheets a minute?”
“Thirty-one!” he responds with pride.
“Ooo-wee!” the woman exclaims. “You wanna be reproducin’ somethin’ for me?” the woman asks suggestively, but Rodney is too busy.
“Take your report down to Kinko’s baby—I ain’t got time!”
As Rodney casts one last, admiring glance in the woman’s direction disaster strikes; a fully-loaded Lexus driven by a Hollywood producer’s 18 year-old son comes careening around the corner and crashes into the classic copier, totaling it.
“Hey, man! What’s the freakin’ idea?” Rodney screams, a tone of desolation in his voice.
“Sorry,” the boys says.
“My baby!” Rodney sobs as he bends over the wreckage.
“My dad will buy you a new one.”
Rodney perks up a bit. “Really?” he asks.
“Whatever you want,” says the kid.
“Like, say, a Sharp AR-275 Digital Imager, new-in-the-box with an automatic single pass document feed and printer interface upgrade?”
“If that’s what it takes,” the kid says with a shrug.
“Thanks—thanks a lot,” Rodney says. “I’ll let you be the first to hop on the glass and make a copy of your butt!”