Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dr. Blot, case file #453

It was an ordinary day: I was catching up on paperwork when the patient came into my office. I could see immediately what the problem was by the monochromatic streaky paper she held in her hand - she was out of ink. She proceeded to tell me her story - one I had heard before from so many others. She had attempted replacement but the store was out of the proper cartridge, so, desperate for color printing options, she opted for the cheaper option of a cartridge refill kit. These kits tout themselves as big money-saving miracles and tempt you with their little syringes of vivid primary colored ink. But like so many other patients I had seen in my office, things go horribly wrong when people try to refill ink cartridges at home. I had made my plea many times to our local government officials to take these dangerous and misleading products off of the shelves, but any progress was being tied up in litigation by the crooked ink-hustling bastards that market these terrible substitutes for brand name ink cartridges.

Her case was slightly complicated by the fact that she did not have a brand name cartridge to fill, she had the office depot version. I had seen this many times before, too. It was a concern, but nothing that would prevent me from continuing.

I did advise the patient, as I always do, that this procedure may not work. These refill kits are very complicated. And in the end, she may have to resort to buying the brand name anyway, essentially throwing away her $18 (which was supposed to save her about $20. But when things seem too good to be true, they usually are, so my mother always said. My mother doesn't have a printer, but how right she was.)

The patient signed the waiver and I proceeded. I placed several layers of paper towels on the kitchen counter and began the procedure. With the syringes loaded, I carefully filled all 3 of the color sections of the cartridge. There was considerable mess. The blue compartment presented the most difficulty. There was some sort of obstruction - a sort of diaphragm that seemed to be preventing me from filling it as easily as the others. But I did manage. Once the compartments were all filled I set about to cleaning the cartridge. One half of a roll of paper towels later, I inserted the cartridge into the printer for a test page. I held my breath as the printer churned out the test page, one suspenseful line at a time.

The results were not as I had hoped. With ink covered hands, I removed the bleeding cartridge and went back to work. What followed was a laborious series of shaking, prodding, poking, swearing, refilling, wiping, more wiping, more swearing. Until I was sure I had done everything I could do. The patient's cartridge had hemorrhaged ink everywhere. My kitchen counter looked like I had slaughtered Bo-Bo the Clown - there were ink splatters everywhere, and my hands, despite being shielded with gloves, told the tale of my battle.

I was pretty certain that the situation was hopeless, but I nonetheless returned to the printer with the smeared and ravaged cartridge and carefully inserted it. I selected the option for test page and cartridge cleaning and paced in front of the office.

In the end, I had to pronounce the patient's cartridge useless. My hands were stained with my effort. And entire roll of paper towels filled my garbage can to the point of overflowing. It was a rainbow nightmare. I set about to cleaning the primary colored disaster off of my counter and my hands, utilizing comet, bleach, and soft scrub. As I wiped up the various drips and splatters, I thought for one instant on a paper towel where the 3 ink colors had gruesomely commingled, that I saw the form of an inky cupcake. I didn't pause to ponder its meaning, instead, I disgustedly gathered up the remains of the refill kit and tossed it in the garbage. Some of the evidence still remained on my hands. But if my patient would tell just one friend to stay away from what appears to be the easy solution and buy the name brand cartridges, my efforts would have been worthwhile.

Please, tell your loved ones. Tell your husbands. It is tempting to save money in these troubled times, but skimping on ink cartridges is just too risky.

Tomorrow, I have a chewing-gum-ectomy to perform on Elmo. I pray it goes better.

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