Blind panic grips me at the thought that all over Britain there are people sitting in cosy home offices operating gizmos with ease. I imagine I am the only person alive who can’t print out something from an email without getting in my car and driving to a small shop with no name on Streatham High Road, where a monosyllabic gentleman in Islamic dress will allow me to log on to one of his ancient reconditioned desktop computers and send the document I want to print to his printer, and who will then slap the few stray sheets down on the counter with a look of disdain and ask me for £9.50.
I imagine that everyone else is sitting in nice, well-ordered studies with the latest MacBook Pros sending documents of which they need hard copies — and no doubt photographs taken with digital cameras and iPhones too — to their wireless printers with a flick of the Return key, probably as they sip home-brewed cappuccino from gleaming Gaggias and nibble, if they are David Cameron, sandwiches made with bread forged in the latest bread-baking machines (although how the Prime Minister has time to knock up a multi-seeded cob is clearly a matter for a full public inquiry).
Don’t get me wrong. I have a printer. It’s called a Hewlett Packard Photosmart C4485 All-In-One Printer-Scanner-Copier, which gives me to think it could be quite good, if it wanted to be. But it doesn’t want to be. It sits on the floor showing not an ounce of ambition or motivation. No demands are ever made of it. I have never been able to persuade it to do anything.
I suppose things were just about alright between me and the printer for the first few months after purchase. It printed, grudgingly, although I never could get it to make photocopies. And it laughed in my face when I pressed the scan button. But as soon as the first ink cartridge needed replacing, we hit a total impasse. I fed cartridges of every colour, brand and persuasion into its orifices, but none of them hit the spot. Every time I start it up the same message flashes up: ‘Ink Low’.
Sometimes, when it gets bored of complaining about the ink, it says: ‘Out of Paper’. I’ve put all sorts of silky expensive A4 paper in its tray, fanning scrupulously, to no avail. It makes a huge hoo-ha out of sucking three pages inside itself, munching them through its innards: ‘Yum yum! Yum yum yum yum yum! Yum yum! Yum yum weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!’ it goes, as it spits the pages out blank.
It takes a fancy to some of the rougher types of paper that is nothing short of revolting. ‘Yum yum! Yum…yum…yum…yuuurm yuuuurm yuurrrrrrrrrrm [belching noise] yurrrrr…’ Then I realise the paper has gone all the way in but has not emerged. I have to stick my hand down the printer’s throat and pull out the shreds.
Like ditching a boyfriend because working through a relationship is tiresome — and starting a new one is so much easier — I went to Curry’s to buy another printer. But the bloke behind the counter informed me he couldn’t connect it to my laptop. I would have to download some discs myself or ring a helpline so they could ‘talk me through it’.
‘That is never going to work, not even if you had Bill Gates or the ghost of Steve Jobs on the line,’ I predicted. ‘Don’t worry. I will just never print anything ever.’
From here to eternity, if anyone sends me something that needs printing, off I will traipse to the little shop with no name on Streatham High Road. I was resigned to feeling quite shameful about this. But then I confessed my failing to a technophile friend, and he informed me that he can’t handle his printer either. ‘It goes wrong almost as reliably as the boiler,’ he said, before explaining that last week he had just bought his sixth printer in four years. As far as he can make out, everyone on earth is in the same position.
This is excellent news. Apart from the morale boost for yours truly, I feel there must be wider implications. If everyone is having problems with their printers, then surely this could be an incredible force for good. Has the UN thought of exploiting the universal non-working of printers phenomenon in matters of international diplomacy, I wonder?
For example: ‘Dear Mr Jong-un, Of course, you must build nuclear weapons if you wish. In order for us to authorise this, we simply ask that you print off and sign the enclosed PDF form entitled “Request to build and launch missiles”, and return it to us at the United Nations Security Council, New York. Yours, The Secretary General.’
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