How to Prepare for a Writers Conference

By Ernie Witham   |   July 2, 2024

I spend a lot of time alone in my office. It gives me time to contemplate the oddities of life. Like why my printer suddenly refused to print the workshop materials I needed to bring to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. 

No matter how calmly I coaxed it – “You stupid #%&^#*^%#! I ought to take your cheap plastic butt straight to recycling.” – it ignored me. 

“Did I hear you say you are going to recycling?” My wife yelled from the other room. “Can you take the stuff in the garage?”

I had read the one page of instructions, a third of which were in Spanish and a third in Chinese. They mainly just talked about what a great deal it was if you ordered ink directly from them, even suggesting a subscription service that could save me up to two cents a copy.

“What freakin’ copies? The thing won’t even print.”

Next I tried going to the website and chatting with an AI representative. “Would you like information on some of our other great printing products?”

“No. I just want this one to print.”

“Would you like more information on our HP Club? You can get additional discounts on our inks and may be eligible to win a free ‘I Love HP’ tee shirt.”

“I just want the damn thing to print!”

“Thank you for using our chat service. Please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime for more useful information. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye? You didn’t fix the problem. Hello? Hello?” 

Okay Mr. HP Envy Inspire! Your time is up. You are about to become a big pile of plastic parts. I’ll tear your insides out. Rip your cord off. Bust up your…

The printer made a noise. Lights lit up. A piece of paper started to feed. Finally! Then it stopped feeding, the lights went out, and my office became silent. Well, kinda silent…


“Everything okay dear?” My wife asked. “Need anything?”

“Can you bring me a flame thrower and some fire-retardant gloves?”

“Ah… No. How about a Xanax instead?” The printer lights came on again, as if to say: I’d like a Xanax. Then turned off.

My wife walked into my office. She was holding a steaming cup of tea. “Caffeine free,” she said. “What are you trying to print?”

“Stuff for my workshop, ‘How to find humor in everyday situations.’”

“Like your tiff with the printer?” She smiled. Then she placed her hand on it. It sprung to life, lights flashed, paper fed, and it made what can only be described as happy noises. Then it began printing my pages!

“What are you the King Midas of electronics?” We laughed.

But the printer didn’t stop. Because I had pushed the print button dozens of times trying to get it to work, it was now printing dozens of copies, faster than I have ever seen it print. It was shooting pages all over my office floor.

I kept pressing stop, to no avail. My shoes disappeared. The room started to heat up with mechanical smells. I reached over and pulled my wife’s hand off. Even that didn’t work. Now the thing was jumping about on its stand, getting louder and louder, going faster and faster. I tried to pull the plug out of the wall. I got a shock.

“Maybe we’d better leave,” my wife suggested. She ducked out the door, but I couldn’t get through. It was as if the printer had decided to do me in.

“I was just, you know, kidding about that flamethrower.”

It spit out another page that became airborne and hit me on the bridge of the nose.

“Ow! Hey…”

Another page went for my left eye, but I was able to duck. I tried climbing under the desk, but there was no room with all the pages stacking up. Maybe I should get on top of the desk. The printer started spitting pages in that direction as if it heard me and understood.

“I won’t take you to recycling. Promise.”

Then… it stopped. A light flashed that said, “Please load more paper.”

Not a freakin’ chance! It shut off again.

Well, at least I had the pages I needed. I picked up page one. It had a typo. I headed for the liquor cabinet.  


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