Yesterday I had a call from a minor customer who said her printer wasn't working. This is an old SCO system; there hasn't been much done to it in years, and the single printer is an HPLaserJet hanging off the parallel port. There's just not a lot to go wrong there, but she's not the kind of person who wants to type anything or look at anything. I knew I'd have to go there even though it was probably a five minute problem. No remote access other than an old modem, and I have no modems anymore.. I was stuck. I asked the "Has anything changed" question and got the usual "No, nothing has changed" response.
This was particularly rankling because I had better things to do so I'd want to get there early to be able to get back in time to do some of those things. The traffic would be rush hour, it would take a long time, and I'd probably be right back out in it heading back within minutes. I was very displeased as I left the house at 6:15 AM.
The traffic was even heavier than usual, bogging me down for a two hour fume filled drive. More discouragingly, I could see that the road back on the other side of the highway was even worse; no doubt I'd be lunch time before getting back even with five minutes on site. I charge travel mileage, not travel time, and hate to enforce minimum on site times for good customers, so none of this was pleasing me.
I finally pulled into their lot and was soon in front of the system. I logged in, and checked the spool. Empty.. hmmm. Oh well, let's see what happens: 'date | lp'.
My eyebrows raised as the printer lit up and ejected a page. I looked at it - sure enough, it had the date command results. Puzzled, I walked to the manager's office and waved the piece of paper at her. "Seems to be printing now?" I half asked and half stated.
"Well, yes, but it stops if we print large jobs".
Stops? I went back to the printer and sent a few two page jobs. They printed. I went to the manager again. "What do you do when it stops?", I asked.
"We open the tray and have to pull out some of the paper".
"In other words, you mean it's a paper jam?", I asked incredulously.
"Why yes, I guess so.", she answered.
Back in the computer room again. I looked at the printer, it was fairly new: in fact I had installed it not very long ago. It certainly didn't have a worn out feed mechanism and obviously it had just printed several pages. As I thought about that, I became aware that the room seemed humid - much more so than it should have been given the temperature. I then noticed the elephant: a freshly plastered wall. I put my hand on it, it wasn't damp, but it was still fairly cold. The manager had followed me. I turned and asked the obvious: "Was this done recently?". She responded affirmatively.
Well, now the jamming printer had a reasonable cause: high humidity from the plaster and maybe a little dust from sanding, just to sweeten the pot. I explained this, and noted that it seemed to be OK now and if it weren't perfect yet, changing the paper and sticking a fan in the room would undoubtedly help. The manager seemed to want me to do something else, but I don't clean printer insides and I didn't think it needed it anyway.
Back in my car, inching my way back toward home, I had plenty of time to ponder the various meanings of "not printing" and "nothing has changed". When I finally did get home, I prepared a smallish bill (too small) and took a calming walk to the post office to mail it out. It was now well past noon as I thought it would be.. oh well.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence