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Day seventeen of the quarantine: an experience

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When one works at an office, and it comes along with an ample amount of paperwork, having his/her own affairs in order is usually treated like an unloved second job. In all my time in this country, I have only managed to file my taxes on-time once. I was on schedule to do it this year but then with all this pandemic rule easing I let it go, again.

What better day to put all your tax affairs together then April Fool’s Day. Already a day late, but not this year as the government gave us a “no questions asked” 90 day extension I think, I started following the directions my accountant sent me and needed to build up the evidence packet. Working in my home office since 8:00 this morning, I needed a productive day to catch up with my work, which I was falling behind on, plus finally getting the tax stuff together.

Now I haven’t had a printer in my residence since 1996. It was one of those printers which required paper with holes on the sides. You lined up the holes with two rotating pieces which drew it into the printer on a perpetual basis. The paper was continuous, pages separated by serrated edges you needed to separate. These printers were notorious for jamming, breaking and basically not working unless you had a special touch. I touched it so much that it went flying out the window on a sunny summer’s day while trying to print a highschool essay and from that point on I basically outsourced the job to professionals. The movie Office Space comes to mind here.

I already knew a couple of weeks ago that printing would be a challenge, and my neighborhood printer would probably be closed, so I bought one of those small printers in case of emergencies. Taxes are an emergency, especially as I expect a CZK6,000 refund this year, so I proceeded to set up the device for my home office. I know I am not alone on this project because while searching the online shops I found that many printers, paper, and/or ink cartridges were sold out. But I did manage to buy one and there it was, looking very compact, new and easy to use.

I was surprised that the only cable in the box was the electrical cable. Everything is wireless now and people can print from phones, computers and tablets at will. I was excited about that. So I indulged the instructions as I have long ago learned that in fact I am not smarter than the engineers of the products I buy. I had it all in front of me ready to assemble and setup when the rest of my family came in. I thought this would be a good opportunity to show them how handy papa is. So I showed them the cd, where to put it in the computer, how to find the instructions and what to do. Step by step we all went through the stages.

We got to the point where we had to print the “aligner” page and scan it back in so the printer can read the pattern and adjust. I was showing them how to put it on the screen when the oldest asked “I want to, please?” I hesitated, but thought it was the right thing to do. I gave him the sheet and showed him where to place it. At that exact time the youngest bumped the chair he was standing on and the little fella fell right onto the printer, hands right down on the scanner transparent, hard. A bit of crying and yelling but I calmed them down. I looked onto the bed and asked why they weren’t watching us from there? Then I noticed that the other two boys had gotten into the paper, and the 500 sheets of paper had been reduced to a pile of crumbled garbage. I must have been so engaged in aligning the printer heads that I neglected to notice all the paper being crumpled, chewed, jumped-on and otherwise destroyed!

So the whole basis of printer feed systems seem to be that the paper is in normal condition. As I tried to iron out some sheets for the printer I started having flashbacks of the crumpled messes I used to get out of my printer back in ’96. I fed the sheets onto the paper-tray and was hoping that I was ready to print.

I showed my boys what taxes are and started with the actual return. I hit the print button everything looked good and I started the process. The Wifi connection worked, the printer acknowledged receipt and off we went. The first page made that horrendous crumpling sound as it began to feed into the machine and my heart rate doubled, but a few seconds later the first page lay in the tray. I held it high and proudly displayed the work of art to my boys. I even ran into the kitchen and announced to my wife that the printer works, as if I was Johannes Gutenberg himself and had just invented the machine that would enable so much change in the world.

I ran back to my bedroom/office and my heart sank. The printer was blinking, and there was a crumpled piece of paper stuck in the machine. The nightmares of my youth immediately flashed upon me. How could this be? It is 2020 and I am having the same problems as 1996! I looked at my boys who were intensely studying me and my reaction. I calmed down and tried to recompose myself. “Did you touch the printer” I demanded? They nodded their heads no. I pulled the sheet of paper from the chute and hit the power button. Hopefully it will reset.

As I studied the printer I looked at the boys who seemed suspiciously well behaved at this juncture. I asked them if they didn’t know what the problem was. The oldest pointed at the paper tray. I asked him to show me what was wrong. He removed the paper and pointed to the wheels which take in the paper. I asked him what he put in there. “Gummy bears” was the answer.

It looks like taxes are going to have to wait, again.

Paul Lysek – The idea of writing a daily update came to me by seeing, hearing and trying to understand all the things that are happening around us at this time. This story is a combination of all those sources, including friends, relatives, and experiences with attempts to bring out the satire, emotion and changing environment of the situation. It is entirely fictional, with the exception of my sarcasm.

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