TRAVEL-SANJOSE142

We've come a long way since the Apple II computer — seen here at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View —  but that doesn't make technological trouble-shooting any easier.

Renee Sklarew / Special to The Washington Post

A few weeks ago, the printer at home stopped working. I am the IT man in our house, which sounds good but it isn’t. Dante’s description about the entrance of hell also applies to me being the IT man: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

"Would you mind fixing the printer?" Sue said. "I have to print some things by the weekend."

The weekend? That’s two days away. I’m busy, busy, busy. Also unqualified, unqualified, unqualified.

How do you say no? Sue was appealing to my technological manhood. If you can’t get the printer working, what can you do?

Fix the printer? A piece of cake. I can fix the printer while I’m baking muffins and watching the Dodger game.

I have my IT secrets. Secrets that start with "turn off the computer, let it get a good night's sleep and maybe, by morning, the printer will forget that it hasn't been working and when you turn it back on, it will start printing again."

I like to use the word “reboot.” “Reboot” gives you some IT street cred. Rebooting is the first thing you learn in IT school.

I turned off the computer and then in a flourish of technological stagecraft, I unplugged it from the wall too. Sometimes, shutting down the computer is not enough to induce amnesia so you have to unplug it and leave the house for a bike ride.

An hour later, I plugged the computer in again and tried to print. Nothing. Maybe if I kept pushing the print button the printer would get the idea I wasn’t fooling around  — "I'm not playing with you here" — and I really wanted to print. 

The problem with pressing the print button 12 times, which I did, is if the printer starts working again when you’ve left the room, you’ll get 12 copies of your five-page document.

Rebooting didn’t work and neither did trying to induce amnesia. The next step for an IT man is to employ colorful language. Although colorful language rarely fixes a printing problem, there is a certain therapeutic value for the technician.

I Googled “printer doesn’t work.” Google suggested: “First, try restarting your computer, printer and wireless router. To check if your printer is connected to your network: Print a Wireless Network Test report from the printer control panel.”

“Print a test report?” I’d love to if the printer worked but it doesn’t. Should I write the report out by hand? Before printing presses, if you wanted a copy, you lit a candle, took out a quill pen and large inkwell and got to work.

Maybe the printer was broken. These things break, don’t they? Everything else breaks, why not a printer?

I was at my wit’s end, assuming I had wits to begin with, so I called Guillermo. Guillermo used to be the IT guy at the paper. Guillermo is the man that every woman wants to be married to because he has old world manners and new world computer skills.

I explained the problem in my normal speaking voice trying not to let it get too high. Hysteria is not a winning quality in husbands or IT men.

Guillermo listened quietly then asked, “Have you checked to see that the USB cable from the printer is plugged firmly into the back of the computer?”

I put the phone down. I reached behind the computer. The USB cable was plugged in, but not firmly. I jammed it in so hard that the computer started to dance off the desk.

Suddenly, the printer sprung into gear. Printer music. Printer music is sweeter than a Mozart piano concerto.

I told Sue her printer was fixed. I didn’t say how. There was no reason to give away an IT secret.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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