Life Lessons From A Paper Stopper


To answer your first question, a paper stopper is that last little flap on your printer’s paper tray that flips up at roughly a 30-degree angle to supposedly stop your paper from falling onto the floor. Hence the above photo.  I’ve never had an issue with paper falling on the floor, with or without the stopper, so I never pay much attention to it.

How can a 2.875″ x 1.5″ (actual dimensions) piece of plastic teach you about life on a more meaningful level?

Recently, I was wrapping up work for the day when I realized last minute I needed to print some flyers for my kid’s school before I could leave.  As I turned on the printer, I saw the paper stopper was folded in, rather than extended as recommended by Epson.  A thought from seemingly nowhere popped into my head: “You should flip that out.”  Then my inner dialogue kicked in and said, “No, you usually don’t mess with that thing, why bother now?”  “Yeah, self, you’re right. Just ignore that instinct which came from the ethers.” I went about closing up the office while the pages printed, stopper folded flat.

Well, it turns out that the stopper wasn’t folded flat.  It was slightly raised.  The first page got caught underneath it and bowed upward, causing the second and third pages to jam the printer.  After fixing the jam and reprinting, I noticed the print heads were out of alignment, leaving small, repeating lines in the flyer.  I like for everything I produce to be neatly and professionally done, even when printing a flyer for school, but time was of the essence and I needed to take what I had gotten and go.

So what?!  You lost 15 minutes and had mediocre flyers for 10 parents at a preschool, what’s the big deal?  

While this wasn’t a problem in the grand scheme of things, or really any-sized scheme of things, it was indicative of how we can live a better life when tuning into those subconscious directions we receive from time to time.  Listening to that instinct I had and taking 3 seconds to reach down and flip out the paper stopper would have made my life better, albeit in a very small way.  But even these small instincts are important, because by listening to these (“Open the paper stopper.” “Drive home that way today.”), we can practice for the larger ones (“Change your career path.” “Move to a new city.”).

I find that when I’m out taking photos, I tune into my environment and find great shots by just going with the flow of life.  I’m still practicing this in my day-to-day life, but I’ll get there, one paper stopper at a time.

Author: Zach Dobson

Zach Dobson is a documentary and commercial photographer based in Indianapolis. He holds a degree in journalism from Indiana University with a concentration in photography. Since starting his business in 2006, Zach has focused on documenting people’s lives and businesses in action. Zach’s client list includes the Indiana Pacers, Coca-Cola, the AARP, ZipCar, Indiana University, Visit Bloomington, Hamilton County Tourism, Land O’Lakes, RIOT LA Comedy Festival, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana High School Athletic Association. Zach is a Professional Member of the American Society of Media Photographers [ASMP]. He resides in Carmel, Ind. with his wife and business partner, Courtney, and their five children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *