There are no clocks in tech hell, only the maddening drip of eternity as what remains of your life ebbs away.

If you have a phone, a computer, a smart TV, you’ve been there. There, everybody has the same expression: exhaustion, bewilderment and horror.

The task seemed simple — buy a new printer. Not any printer but a wireless printer. One that did not require a cord.

“You want to be able to print on both sides,” said Bob, who knows everything about everything and who is one of the few people around who has been to the end of the internet and back.

Printing on both sides seemed environmentally responsible. The sort of thing that balanced the long shower or tossing the yogurt cups in the trash rather than recycling them because washing them seemed like one virtue too many.

We had an HP printer that worked fine until the print became too faint to read. I like HP and see myself as an HP man although I’m not sure what being an HP man means but whatever it does, it was enough for me to stay with the company.

I bought an HP OfficeJet Pro 9010 series that cost $199 and came with eight months worth of ink, I think it came with free ink, but I signed up for the monthly ink program so I’m not sure whether I’m saving or spending money, but my money would be on spending money.

I put the box on my desk. The printer, because of the Styrofoam, was wedged in so tightly that in order to remove it, you had to be willing to donate the skin on the top of all 10 fingers.

Sacrifice skin or slash the corners of the box, which I did with a brass letter opener, being careful not to stab the printer to death.

I was doing well. I had removed the printer from the box and was following the large-type, well-illustrated instructions numbered 1 through 5. This was a snap.

I ripped off the blue tape that fastened the lid to the body of the printer (1), plugged the printer into the wall (2), snapped in the ink cartridges from my “free” eight-month supply of ink (3) and inserted a fresh supply of paper into the paper drawer (4).

When I reached No. 5 on the instruction sheet, which was separated from the rest of the instructions by a thick blue line, it read, “To complete setup, get HP software at 123.hp.com.”

I had to go online? I had already plugged it into the wall. Wasn’t that enough? Now I have to write code?

Things got foggy after that. I was disgusted with myself because I’d gone for the 1 through 4, easy setup, head fake. Now I was headed down the rathole littered with printers that never worked quite right and people who could not get beyond step 4.

I spread every USB cord I owned — almost 20 — on the floor to see if I could find one that would connect my computer with the printer after I gave up on the wireless fantasy. I remember cursing before I realized I was trying to connect one end of the cord to the wrong port in the OfficeJet Pro.

I texted a friend. Somebody who might know slightly more than I did. He didn’t answer right away and shouldn’t have because having tech problems is like having kids, eventually you can’t farm it out. You have to become an expert because you are on your own.

I talked to India a couple of times. When you talk to India, you talk loudly. If there is anybody in the house it’s better they leave, otherwise they might think you are hard of hearing or a lunatic.

India helped. They normally do. Even with people who are speaking to them at the TOP OF THEIR VOICE.

At some point, when I read the directions, “You may want to stand close to the printer with your laptop so they can communicate wirelessly,” I wondered how close? Should I stand on top of the printer? Would it help if I jumped up and down on the printer?

I remember needing a shower. Skipping dinner. Being cold one minute and then feeling as if I had a fever the next.

Finally, the printer worked. I’m not sure why or how or whether I could explain it to a friend and even if I could, we are destined to spend a certain amount of time in the twilight tech zone.

The OfficeJet Pro prints beautifully. Clear and sharp. I’m probably running low on free ink but I think I have an eight-month supply. Eight months or this weekend, whichever comes first.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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