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..
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© 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence