Friday, 2 April 2010

The Printer Catastrophe

I’m going to go back through time today, over the seconds, minutes, hours and days, way back to October 2009. It is portfolio time again for my MA in Professional Writing. Time to smarten up those sentences, tidy up my punctuation, and add some spirit to the submission I have been working on, before printing out two copies of the 30 odd pages and binding them together ready for the hand-in date.

But no, disaster has struck: my faithful printer has run out of ink! Oh how grateful I am to you, Amazon, for being one click away on my mouse, and enabling me to instantly buy the replacement cartridges. And there are even people on your website that offer remanufactured cartridges so I don’t have to feel bad about consuming the resource that is plastic. Not only cheaper on my pocket, but better for the environment. Perfect.

Life never quite works out how you expect it to, though, does it? Or at least, not like you want it to. First of all, I ordered a coloured and a black cartridge, but the kindly marketplace buyer from whom I purchased them considerately and helpfully sent me two coloured cartridges instead. ‘Well, that’s ok,’ I thought. ‘I won’t make a fuss, I’ll just save the second one for next time, and get another black for now.’

Ah yes, what a simple idea.

The coloured cartridge wouldn’t work in the printer. Bron had to follow a set of carefully written instructions enclosed with the cartridge on how to persuade my printer that yes, this cartridge really is compatible, its not a lie. Eventually the printer was convinced, but it meant that the printer controls were unable to read the ink levels, and it rather put me off the idea of remanufactured cartridges. So when it came to my second attempt at purchasing a black cartridge, that little voice in my head told me to stick to a normal, new cartridge rather than a fancy recycled one. Shamefully, I listened. Not that it did me any good. I don’t know why, but it turns out that installing an official printer cartridge alongside a remanufactured one is a really bad idea. Printer non comprende. Printer kaput.

At this point, having already spent over £50 on cartridges, I couldn’t face the idea of having to buy another, new coloured one, and discard the two recycled ones. And only with the vague possibility that that would actually fix the problem. So my printer sat, tucked away under the computer desk, refusing to work, for two and half months.

And so it would probably remain, if Bron, bless his cotton socks, hadn’t surprised me by buying a brand new printer for Christmas. It seems rather terrible to say it, actually: that instead of trying to solve the problem a new one was purchased to replace the old. Very modern living, very consumer society. I do have some feelings of badness and feelings of guilt over this, but my new printer is lovely and sleek and shiny, and it does – so far, at least – what I ask it to. Which is more than I can say for the old one, now consigned to the attic.

But I also can’t help but see the irony in the situation: I tried to do good, to do the environmental thing and use recycled or remanufactured cartridges. And it wound up costing the environment more than if I hadn’t tried.

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