If you want a funny version if this, go read „Why I believe printers were sent from hell to make us miserable“ by the Oatmeal. If you want to know how well printers succeeded at the task of making me miserable, read on…
I just want to moan about the miserable feeling that I get when even the easiest things fail. I think this is because in most cases, I just can’t figure out if it’s just those things that fail, or if it’s me.
One such thing is printing. I have to hand in several homeworks per week, and being the kind of nerd I always was, I prefer to write the solution on a computer, using LaTeX. In this portable environment, it can’t even shock me if my laptop breaks, because there’s always some other machine around that can process LaTeX. And while there always may be problems with how to typeset a given formula, a solution can always be found. In the ideal case, I can find it in 2 minutes with google, but even when I struggle for 30 minutes, this comes with a certain feeling of pride, having achieved something, having learned a valuable piece of knowledge for the future.
Then I have to print it, which can be done on one of 12 printers at my university. It either works, which really isn’t enough to give me a real, intense, fuzzy warm feeling. Or, if it doesn’t work, it fails. I hit print, and nothing happens. Or, I hit print, and it says „done“, but the paper just isn’t there. Or, I hit print, it says „processing“, says this for about 20 minutes (while the printer actually does nothing), then it forgets my order and prints something else for someone who’s luckier than me.
No matter in what way it fails, a true solution lies beyond my reach. Yeah, I could buy myself a printer, but that involves money… you guess the problem. Everything else is just not under my control. So I come to the university early, planning more than 1 hour to print 3 (!!) pages of black and white text. Given more time, I can always try again to print. Which I always have to pay for, probably even when it fails.
Today, I spent more than 1,5 hours printing my three pages. I used 4 university PCs in 2 rooms, 6 printers in 3 rooms, my own OQO UMPC, and a PC in a copy shop which had about 20 printers, but failed even more than the entire university gear.
I had to hand in my homework 40 minutes late, causing considerable overhead for my professor and his assistant, who was already gone with the homeworks which were handed in on time. It was ok, but of course I don’t know home many times it will be OK in the future. And even though he didn’t say anything nasty, it gave me the feeling of having failed. Having failed personally, on a trivial task. And without any trace of a proof, I guess everybody else manages to print things on time. Well, call me a pussy for that, as I could just forget about it and be happy.
But the aftermath is, that the additional time I spent printing, was initially planned to do another homework and hand in some even more important papers to the university. My schedule just is too packed to reserve 5 hours a week just for printing some pages. As you might suspect, the responsible office was closed by the time I had my homework printed. And, guess what, I already planned to hand this in yesterday, but I first had to print it, and by the time this was done, well the office was also closed. So I have to go there the next time they open, which leads me to missing at least one lecture – plus the two I missed yesterday by printing. Which is ok, because when I don’t hand in those papers by tomorrow, all my lectures and homeworks and everything is meaningless anyway.
And slowly I come to the bitter conclusion, that my entire life might eventually fail, not because of big catastrophes, but because of the accumulation of small failures, adding up beyond the sum that the society is able to compensate.
So you might find my personal misery and its nasty details rather uninteresting or even annoying. Everybody thinks so, and because of that, I can’t reply to questions like „Why did you hand in your homework late?“ with an answer like „Yeah, you know [insert the whole blog post here], that’s why.“ Instead, the answer would be more like „Because I’m an idiot who can’t even manage the most simple things in life, that’s why.“ I might want to add „There’s also a good reason for it, but you wouldn’t want to know the details.“ In the end, I start to believe that I’m that idiot.
And you might ask from where I take the time to think and write about it. Well, while waiting for my printouts, of course.
So, whats the end of the story? Finally, I ended up with my document, that is, three copies of that document, and eventually found 7 more copies of the papers I wanted so print yesterday, scattered through the printer rooms. I guess there are 4 more copies of my homework on their way, too. Hooray.
Note from today: I might want to add that I bought a printer some weeks later, and now I’m floating in endless happiness.