printer in flames

Tis The Season…For Wanting To Trash Technology

Have you seen that movie Office Space wherein three dudes take their despised office fax machine out into an open field and smash it to smithereens with a sledgehammer, their feet, and even their fists? That’s what I wanted to do with my home printer yesterday while spending nearly four hours with my laptop failing to recognize it as anything other than offline, so perhaps it was a laptop issue. But at this point I don’t care.

Here’s the irony. I bought the flipping printer last year for the sole purpose of printing out my annual Christmas letter, which I’ve written for more than thirty years now. Indeed, there were many years—especially while practicing law—that it was my only creative writing endeavor. Yet after this fiasco, I was near tears and had absolutely no charitable Christmas spirit or joy—things that bring joy being the very subject of this year’s letter.

Printers do not bring me joy and mine sure as hell didn’t yesterday. It’s a wonder that my frustration, as high octane as it was, didn’t cause the blasted piece of maddening technology to burst into flames.

To add insult to injury, I attempted to use it to print one measly document three weeks ago, figuring I would need to haul the printer out soon for the big Christmas letter anyway, hence I should make sure all was fine and merry and bright—especially the ink.

Did I let myself get bent out of shape when it didn’t print properly, with faded colors and absolutely nothing printed in black? No I did not. For once. Instead, I calmly went online and ordered ink—using my phone. I inserted that ink into my printer yesterday, and everything went downhill from there.

The especially confounding thing was, weeks ago my laptop had no issue with recognizing the printer, and the printer had no issue recognizing my Wi-Fi connection. But yesterday they apparently both decided that not only had they never met each other, they also didn’t want to, and in any event they weren’t going to do it for free. More on that momentarily.

I went through exhaustive attempts to turn both effing machines off, to unplug and then reboot. When that didn’t work I followed numerous additional sets of “directions,” avoiding maddening attempts by HP to get me to pay for extension of an expired warranty. And—get this— HP not only wanted me to extend the printer warranty, it also attempted to push me, in all of my blind frustration, into extending the warranty for the laptop I had previous to my current Dell laptop. And now I remember precisely why I didn’t stick with the HP brand when I got fed up and bought a new laptop.

Bottom line? No way was I spending another dime on this exasperating endeavor. Because, despite having purchased new ink, I’d rather just buy another frigging printer than extend a stupid warranty. Besides, technological devices should be made to last longer than a year, and no bona fide purchaser should have to also purchase an extended warranty to get help troubleshooting a mystifying problem.

Conclusion? There is no such thing as successfully troubleshooting electronic devices with no human beings other than yourself involved, and attempting to do so makes you want to shoot the technical trouble, or at least take a hammer to it, Office Space-style.

All I could do was keep trying different things because the totally worthless electronic troubleshooting took ridiculous amounts of time and went absolutely nowhere, fixing nothing. In particular, I did not enjoy being repeatedly told the problem was my printer was not turned on when it absolutely effing was turned on.

Eventually, more than three hours later and for reasons that shall forever remain unknown to me, my printer suddenly spit out, in nice dark black ink, directions on what to do. I could have sworn it was steps previously taken, but at that point I’d also completely obliterated all downloaded apps associated with HP and my particular printer model, so who knows what buttons had or had not been pushed?

All of my buttons had definitely been pushed to the brink of desperation.

Ultimately, I decided to pretend like it was brand new printer that my laptop had never heard of before, because that’s how the fickle POS technology was acting anyway. I went through the now-familiar steps, making sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth were connected, downloading all necessary whatever’s to finally get my laptop to deem the printer “ready” as opposed to “offline.” I’ve never been so relieved to see the word ready before.

I immediately and giddily (despite exhaustion) printed out fifty copies of my Christmas letter in lovely green, so at least the off-brand and therefore much cheaper ink worked, and then got a wild (hopeful) hair and decided to print a couple of one-page documents from email that I’d procrastinated on. You know, because I was on such a successful printing roll and all.

What happened? My printer seemed to freeze or choke or have another infuriating memory lapse along with my laptop, and there it was again. My not really  “new” HP printer was declared offline by my annoyingly slow and insipid laptop.

Yes, they are both still alive. No, I am not altogether calm yet. But I will not attempt to print a single page for likely the next eleven months. And I likely will show absolutely no Christmas spirit to a business, medical provider, insurance provider, or any other entity that casually requests I print out confirmation of anything like it’s no big deal. They can go stuff it.

The good news? Having spent last week drafting said Christmas letter and handcrafting Christmas cards in which to insert the letter for mailing, I was at a loss as to what to write for this week’s blog post. And, voila! Ho ho ho!

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