Printer Troubles

There are some stories you just shouldn’t print out at work.

But, hey, sometimes it’s just too convenient.  You’ve gotten a rejection and you don’t want that sad puppy staring you in the face.  You want to print it out and drop it by the post office on the way home.

At my day job, this sort of thing is allowed as long as the privilege isn’t abused.  Everyone takes advantage of the convenience.  You see the oddest of things in that print tray.  But no one abuses the privilege.

Once, I got to the printer a few seconds too late and someone was reading the first page. 

“Hey, this looks pretty interesting,” the guy said.

I took it as a compliment, but it was the only time anyone has sampled my stories that way.

Yesterday, however, I printed one out that might have caused problems.  It was a story that came out of a challenge a number of my writer friends took on, writing a piece based on some piece of spam we received.  I wrote a humorous story based on my favorite topic.  (No, not food.  My other favorite topic.)

The problem this time, however, was that the printer was in a bad state.  I arrived to see several people surrounding it, having no luck at resuscitation.  The guru for this printer was gone for the day but she’d be back at the crack of dawn.

Only then did it register that I didn’t want this story sitting in the output tray for anyone to read it but me.  I went back to my desk and cancelled the print job. 

No big deal.  Except that the printer queue showed that it was cancelling the last half of the job.  Presumably, pages one through eight were lodged firmly in the printer’s memory, ready to be spewed out as soon Ms. Printer Guru arrived the next morning.

Oh, crap.

Why did it have to happen with this story?  Almost any other one would be better than this one.  Hey, I think it’s a heckuva story and have been told the same thing by highly respected writers.  I’ll be very proud when it’s published and will let all of you know about it. 

But I didn’t want it to be read by anyone standing by that printer.  Least of all, Ms. Printer Guru.  I’d rather my resume be stuck in that limbo than this story.

So I went to the printer, tried some more to fix it.  Hey, I’ve got a brain too.  At least allegedly.  I pressed “Cancel job” about fifteen times.  Then I pulled the plug.  That would have to flush those first eight pages (or at least pages two through seven) from the printer’s memory, right?

But what if it wasn’t really a printer’s memory (lost and gone forever), but instead a small hard drive within the printer?  I doubted that was the case, but this was a high-end model. 

Could those pages be stuck somewhere still waiting to be printed?  I cursed myself for not printing something safe first just in case.

I went home thinking I was probably okay.  Almost certainly okay.  But my subconscious still woke me up before the crack of dawn and I beat Ms. Printer Guru into work.  When she arrived (and finished chatting with someone for ten minutes that felt like an hour), I casually mentioned the problem and she promptly showed why she’s the printer guru.

And the only thing extracted from the printer’s maws was somebody else’sembarassing personal document.

Yippee!  I could stand there and, pure as the driven snow, mutter bemusedly about the stuff some people used that printer for. 

I have, however, learned a lesson.  Some stories are best printed at home.  And if I just can’t wait, I’ll try something safe first.  I’ll print out my resume.
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  1. Chris

    Once, while working at a major magazine, I sent a poem to the printer. I rushed over as quickly as I could, but by the time I got there, an editor and one of his assistants were reading it–and laughing! Since I wasn’t on good terms with them, I took the laughter more as a sign of personal enmity than as literary criticism. But it still ruined my day/week/month.

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