Friday, October 09, 2009

Why Bother?

Here I am, again recovering from yet another Wagnerian storm of fury and self loathing. What puzzles me most is why I even bother to be surprised when something I do does not go the way it should go...or the way it would go--flawlessly--were you or any living creature with a modicum of motor skills and the I.Q. of a turnip doing it.

I suppose a bit of backstory is called for, here.

I related in an earlier blog my Friday from Hell--yet another in an endless string of examples of my cat-and-mouse game with life (I, of course, being the mouse)--in trying to get back to Chicago from my last trip to Rochester, MN after the return bus for which I held a ticket was cancelled without notice, thereby effectively stranding me 400+ miles from home with no other practical way to get back.

I had sent a letter to the bus company, Jefferson Bus Lines--remember that name--responsible for the problem, together with copies of the $226.00 in expenses I incurred as a result.

Got a reply yesterday telling me they were sorry, but it was clearly my responsibility to check to see if the bus might have been cancelled. (Excuse me?) But they magnanimously offered to refund a portion of my unused bus ticket (all of $36.00) if I sent them the unused ticket.

Now, these blogs are filled with ample evidence that I am not the brightest button in the jar, but I also am not totally stupid. So I should send them the original of the unused ticket and, when I write them after six months of not hearing from them again, I can get a letter saying "We never got it. Tough shit."

So I wrote them another letter this morning, and set about printing it out to send them.

Have you ever printed a letter using a computer? You select what you want to print. You turn on the printer. You go to "File" and select-and-press "Print" and the printer hums and whirs efficiently and dutifully produces a copy of what you requested.

YOU do that. I select what I want to print. I turn on the printer. I go to "File" and select-and-press "Print" and the printer hums and whirs and grabs six sheets of paper, wrinkles them up, and crams them just far enough inside itself for the "PAPER JAM" light to start flashing wildly. The printer's designers have carefully made the machine so that once something is caught within, it is almost impossible to remove. They did build in, however, a clever little digital display to assist the owner in resolving the problem in three easy steps.

Each of the three steps appears on the tiny screen for no longer than two seconds. Step one involves opening the door to provide an unhelpful front view of the printer's innards. Step two shows a hand pushing some sort of red lever to the left, and Step three involves closing the door. I caught on to Steps one and three fairly easily. The problem lay in Step two and pushing the red lever to the left. There is no red lever. There is no lever of any color. Just the exposed innards of the machine. I want very much to push the red lever to the left. Really, I do. I would be giddy with delight to be able to push it. If it were there, which it isn't.

I am of course by this point approaching apoplexy, exerting all my willpower to prevent myself from grabbing the printer and throwing it through the unopened window.

I eventually get the jammed paper out of the machine. Hoping for the best, I press the printer's "Off" button, planning to let it rest and consider the error of its ways, then restart it and hope it's learned its lesson. The machine stays on. I press "Off" again. Five times. It stays on. I clamor under the desk trying to figure out which one of the 247 plugs and wires under there is the one for the printer. One by one I pull out 246 of the plugs, checking to see if it is the one for the printer. It is not. The 247th one is.

I let everything rest for a minute, then plug it back in. I go to "File", select-and-press "Print" and the machine hums and whirs and politely takes one sheet of paper from the stack, ingests it, then spits it out, blank. Before I can do anything, it takes in and spits out four other blank sheets of paper in rapid succession, then stops halfway through the fifth sheet, leaving it half in and half out of the machine. The printer, both it and I know full well, is sticking its tongue out at me.

I yank it out and call my long-suffering friend Gary. He comes up to my apartment, sits at the computer, goes to "File," selects and hits "Print" and the machine hums and whirs and takes one sheet of paper from the stack and dutiful produces the letter I have been trying to print for the past hour and a half.

Gary, as always, looks at me with a sad little smile that so clearly says "poor, hopeless Roger," shakes his head, and leaves. And I sit down to write this blog and try not to cry.

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