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Cheryl Hughes: Checking Printer Status

If I ever snap and decide to blast something with a shotgun, it will be my printer.  The home printer and its cousin, the small business printer, are two of the most frustrating pieces of technological equipment ever created.  If Gutenberg had foreseen what his invention would evolve into, he might have second-guessed the whole idea of the printing press.

Several of the businesses we deal with at our quick lube have gone to paperless billing.  All of the invoices and statements are sent to my email to sort and figure out then print on my home printer (our work printer is part of a dedicated system that will only print within that system).  Why do I need a hard copy of the bill? You might ask.  If you have ever dealt with tax agencies or government agencies in general, you will know the answer to this question.  In the event of any kind of audit, the burden of proof rests squarely upon the shoulders of the citizen, not the government, hence my decision to keep hard copies of everything remotely akin to a tax deduction.

I have spent many an hour attempting to get an attachment in my email sent to my printer.  During the process, my computer sends me all kinds of messages about my printer.  “Checking printer status, printer in error mode, selected printer cannot be found” are a few of the most common.  I have to slog through the HELP menu for possible fixes for my problem.  A flare gun would be more helpful.

When I was in elementary school, our teachers used carbon copy machines.  I still remember the smell of the ink on the handouts.  They would make multiple copies of festive Christmas scenes or spooky Halloween scenes we could color with our crayons.  In high school, carbon ink was the smell of semester tests.  The tests were closely guarded by the teachers for fear that students would get their hands on one before test day or sneak one out to a friend in a class that followed their own.  

Garey had a friend on the inside track with his high school English teacher.  The teacher was one of those educators who took great joy in failing her students.  Garey’s friend, Johnny, dated Anita, who was the English teacher’s student aid.  Because of Anita, Garey and Johnny kept passing grades all year.  When it rolled around to the end-of-semester test, the teacher became suspicious that something was going on.  She printed out just enough tests for each student.  The tests that were smeared or had some other printing defect she sent to the incinerator behind the school to be burned.  Anita got the word to Johnny, who ran straight to the back of the school to stamp out the flames.  Garey and Johnny passed the class. (Oh, the good ole days, when the worst that happened in school was kids cheating on a test.)

Large companies call in repairmen when something goes wrong with their printers.  The problem with personal printers is that no one will work on them.  The charge for repair costs more than the printer itself, so repair people advise you to just go buy a new printer.  I’m guessing Gutenberg did his own printer repair.

If you go online and watch someone demonstrate how a Gutenberg printing press (invented in 1439) works, it looks to be a grueling process.  The metal type has to be set—each word spelled backwards.  The type has to be inked with two large inking balls.  The type has to be pressed into the paper, and the paper has to be carefully removed from the type.

I put forth that Gutenberg’s process was no more grueling than what I have to go through with my home printer.  I type the page on my computer.  I click on the PRINT icon, I press PRINT & nothing happens.  I receive a message from my computer that says “printer in error mode.”  I click on HELP.  HELP tells me to check my computer to printer connection.  I do.  I try again.  Nothing.  HELP suggests I check my internet connection.  I do.  I try again.  Again, nothing.  HELP directs me to Technical Support.  I call Technical Support.  They keep me on hold for 43 minutes, while they entertain me with Fur Elise, a piece of music I wish never to hear again for the rest of my life—my apologies to Beethoven.  Technical Support finally acknowledges me and walks me through several steps that are supposed to get my printer out of “error” mode.  They don’t.  Technical support suggests I buy a new printer.  

I leave the room where my printer lives and decide to do something more productive, like wait for a pot of water to boil.  When I return to the printer room, there are 56 copies of the page I was trying to print—approximately the same number of times I clicked on PRINT when I was trying to get the printer to do so.  If I had used Gutenberg’s model, I would have printed one page at least two hours earlier.  I would have saved time, ink and 55 pages of paper.   

The next time someone wants to check my printer’s status, they’ll have to follow the trail of shotgun shells.


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