Death by Printer

life, the office

What happened to the good old days of office printers when you pressed the print button on your computer and the printer printed your document for you? This simple process worked quite well for me. Why did we need to upgrade to a megatron the size of a small house that requires you to submit a saliva sample, scan your iris, donate a kidney, and do a rain dance just to activate it?

95% of the requests for a printer revolve around printing a document in some format. Letter-sized, legal-sized, black and white, or color. Collate and staple. Done. Scanning to email takes care of another 2%. Why do these modern beasts focus on the remaining 3% of features that no one actually uses?? I don’t need my printer to brew my coffee and knit me a sweater. Why does it come with 879 buttons, 538 settings, and 317 sounds that activate a furious eye twitch every time I approach it? It takes me half an hour to figure out how to print my document. I can fax, bake a biscuit, and pay my mortgage with that damn machine but God help me if I want to print on 11 by 14 paper. That will take one full working day to figure out. And I can assure you it will still end in failure.

The accompanying noises leave me feeling like I’ve missed out on learning some obscure computer language. Five beeps and five flashing red lights go off when the printer is out of paper, but don’t confuse this with five beeps and seven flashing orange lights when the printer is out of legal paper. Four staccato beeps and three vibrations to notify you the toner is running low, but don’t confuse this with three staccato beeps and two vibrations which is a helpful reminder that you’re printing excessively and need to slow your roll. Which is infuriating because if this machine could stop printing hieroglyphic gibberish on the third and second-to-last page of every document I printed, I wouldn’t have to reprint all of my documents.

Every time I need to print, I prepare for battle. I take deep breaths and begin my internal meditation process so I don’t flip my shit on this $9,000 box of bells and whistles when it won’t automatically “wake up” when I send my documents to print. No, this needy asshat requires you to press the “awake” button which is different from the “on/off” button but is the same shade of green. And of course you press the “on/off” button assuming you need to turn the printer on to print your document but since the printer was only hibernating you’ve turned it off by mistake and it will now require nineteen minutes to start up again and re-calibrate its internal settings before being ready to print. But by that point, the six documents you needed to print have been mysteriously wiped from the printer queue and you are one eye twitch away from losing all of your marbles. The point of a printer is to enable your job, not increase the administrative burden and your deep desire for a Vodka-Xanax cocktail.

As soon as I made peace with this printer from hell, my company instituted an ever more rage-inducing form of printer torture: follow-me printing. Sounds stalkerish, but I can assure you that this printer does not pay any attention to you. The idea of follow-me printing is that you send documents to print and they queue up in your very own printing cloud and when you walk up to any of these follow-me printers around campus you swipe your badge and your documents show up in the queue to print. All of this sounds fabulous. You don’t have to worry about printing confidential documents and running to the printer to get them before anyone else comes. You can’t print the wrong documents or too many copies by mistake since you can edit your queue before you print. You can print in different buildings around campus so you are not tied to one printer in one building across a mile-wide campus. All of these features are lovely but for a printer that works one day out of a five-day work week, utterly useless. This futuristic prima donna breaks down before you even get a chance to send anything to your queue. And assuming that you can continue to collect documents in your queue until the printer is operational again is a pipe dream. Conveniently, as soon as your printer cloud is one document away from a thunderstorm and the printer is working again, your queue has been reset to empty. Voila, let the eye twitching commence.

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