19th century skills not enough any more – if they ever were

My printer stopped working. I had a lot of document work to do, and not having the ability to print, scan or copy documents was a pretty significant inconvenience. Rather than panic, or more accurately, after first engaging in a reasonable amount of low-level panic, I went through my standard seven-step protocol for dealing with computer and printer malfunctions.

Step 1: Ask Wendy for help. This step was quickly and easily dispensed with since the woman who is my wife was out of town for the first part of the week and so I couldn’t ask her if she had any ideas about how to revive and reengage the recalcitrant printer.

Step 2: Percussive Maintenance. I applied a little percussive maintenance to those parts of the printer that seemed to respond to this technique in the past, but without success, even when I added some colorful vocal encouragement to the mix.

Step 3: I checked to be sure there was no high-impedance air gap in the network. (I checked to make sure that the printer was plugged in. It was.)

Step 4: I repeatedly cycled power to the main panel. (I turned the printer on, then turned it off, then repeated the process about a dozen more time, then tried it again another dozen times while also simultaneously applying a little percussive maintenance and vocal encouragement.)

Still no luck.

Step 5: I checked to make sure that the printer had not undergone a thermal reconfiguration. (I checked to see if any part of the printer had melted after I spilled my coffee on it while completing Steps 2 through 4.) Nothing had melted, and nothing looked shorted out, except my eyes.

Step 6: Kinetic disassembly. Showing admirable restraint, I didn’t kinetically disassemble the printer by blowing it up or ejecting it from my second-floor home office window.

Step 7: I sent out an SOS call to my employer’s IT Helpdesk. To my surprise, within minutes I got a response and within minutes of that response I handed control of my computer screen over to a technician operating from an undisclosed location and for the next 90 minutes, I watched my screen light up in an incandescent and incomprehensible rush of activity as the technician flashed through a number of trouble-shooting drills, removed and re-installed the printer and scanner programs, and engaged in a steady and remarkable display of impressive computer wizardry. When the fireworks finally stopped, I received an e-mail from the technician explaining the results of his extensive troubleshooting efforts. The message said, essentially, “Beats me.”

Urgently needing to print out a document and sign it that same day, I forwarded the document via e-mail to an island business that offers various computer and printing services and asked if it could print my document for me and hold it until I could make it down to their office to pick it up. They said “sure.” But when I got there, it turns out that they were not able to print the document I had forwarded to them for technical reasons. But, they also said I could go back home and put the document on a thumb drive and bring the thumb drive to their office and they should be able to print it from the thumb drive. Which is exactly what I did, after ever so politely suggesting that the data about their being unable to print the document from my e-mail would have been very useful information to have shared with me before I made my first trip to their office.

Having survived the immediate printing crises but having lost a little faith in my company’s IT department, I decided to go out and purchase an inexpensive replacement printer similar to one we already had at home but that was evidently on an unscheduled sabbatical from printing and scanning. I unpacked and set up the new printer in my home office, and with the help of the same company technician, we were able to get it up and running, printing and scanning with veritable wild abandon as if to make up for lost time.

And so I am again able to do my work, and all is well. I’d like to say that I learned some valuable lessons from this experience, but none really come to mind. I’m afraid these kinds of days are just inevitable for a 21st-century man equipped with 19th-century skills.

Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.