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Call the technology tamers!

The new printer looked like something that wanted my lunch money.

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Phil Marden

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It’s a sign of what I’m going to call maturity that I no longer like to accumulate things. I used to buy things whenever I thought my life could use a little sparkle. That is why I have an egg separator shaped like a human head. The egg whites are supposed to drip out of the nostrils. It’s taking up space in the cupboard, and now I find myself wanting the space more than the item. Used to be, the fact that I didn’t have a full set of matching plates would be enough to justify a new set. Now, as long as everyone at the table has something to dump the potatoes on, I’m good.

But I did want to replace my printer, even though it sort of worked. It squawked. Semicolons scared the ink right out of it. It began shooting out test pages every time I turned it on. I had to fluff up every piece of paper before it would draw it in, and the last time I opened up the back to officiate over a paper jam, I broke something. This meant that when I printed a document with numerous pages, I had to fluff each individual page, jump to the back to hold the piece of plastic on until it fed, and then pop back to the front to fluff again.

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I hate the idea of ditching more plastic in a world with way too much of the stuff. But, in a rash moment, I did. It was an online special. Shipping was free, and it was so absurdly cheap I clicked on it before I had a chance to think about worker exploitation. Two days later, a box thudded onto the front porch. I straightened the pictures on our walls and had a look.

It was massive. We lugged it inside and peeled it open, assuming it would be mostly packaging, but it wasn’t. It squatted in the middle of the room and said “booyah.”  I’m getting used to having appliances that are smarter than I am, but this one looked as if it wanted to take my lunch money. I folded the cardboard back over it and slid it against the wall.

Not till the next day did I feel up to looking at the instructions. Instruction No. 1 was to check to see if it was there (it was), and after that things fell apart. As I recall, we needed different cords depending on whether we planned to scrapulate, keep it in dorple-mode, or make thermocules. Different directions applied if we wanted to operate it remotely from Jupiter or spring it into action by barking. I gently put the manual away and left the thing in its original plastic wrapper in case I needed to smother it in the middle of the night. But I had an ace up my sleeve: We had friends coming to visit. Young ones.

They showed up full of the easy good nature that we have come to associate with young people, because we are not their parents. Justin had not been in the house five minutes before he prodded the box with a toe and said “New printer?” as though he did not know the meaning of fear. In no time, he had the thing corralled on our desk with all the cords spanked together, and Rosie took over to make the introductions with our computer. 

“There you go,” she said. “We have unfriended Hew­lett-Packard, and now we’re in a relationship with Brother,” and, if you don’t think about it too hard, that is a wonderful thing.

I hope they like the egg separator.


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