Paul and I got each other a new printer for Christmas. A Kodak 5250.

We bought it at Staples before Christmas, but they had to order it. I would arrive after Christmas.

Which was fine; we had a full house for the holiday, and couldn’t have made it to the desk to print without stepping on gifts, plates of hors d’oeuvres or miscellaneous O’Neills.

We received the printer the day before we were to leave for a week in Paris. Paul set it up.

Throughout our life together, I have always set up electronic gadgetry–not because I have outstanding skill in that realm, but because, unlike my husband, I read directions. So I held my breath while he programed the printer. Then I installed the drivers on my computer.

He printed a picture from his iPad, using the printer’s WiFi function. Et voila! We shut it down, packed our bags and left.


A few days after we got back, I turned the printer on and attempted to print something. It made printy noises to no avail and told me there was a paper jam.

I opened the door to clear the jam. There was none.

I tried again. It told me the computer and the printer weren’t communicating.

Maybe it was the paper, which was thick and stationary-ish?

I pulled on my boots and slogged four blocks through the snow to Walgreens, and bought a pack of HP printer/copier paper.

I fed it to the printer and tried again. Again, the faux jam. Again, the printer snubbed the computer.

It must be Paul’s fault, I thought. I checked the settings on the printer. They were perfect.

I changed the ink cartridges. Jam, jam, snub.

I de-installed my drivers and downloaded new ones. The printer just glared at the computer, its WiFi light a malicious ice-blue.

“This printer is F**ked,” I told Paul.


I called Staples the next morning. A woman asked when we’d bought the printer. I told her it was a Christmas present. Did I have the receipt? I assured her I did.

“Bring it in,” she said.

It was raining; icy spears of sleet beat the snow into slush and turned the streets into rivers. We packed the printer in plastic bags, hustled it out into the morass, down the street to our car. We slewed off to the Coney Island Avenue Staples. We parked, climbed a desiccated snow bank, and dragged the printer down the flooded block and into the store.

I set it on the counter. Drip, drip.

A 14-year-old Staples tech glanced at it. “What brand?”


He scratched a pimpled cheek. “You bought it when?”

I told him.

He pointed to a sign on the counter titled Staples Easy Return Policy. “Too late. You had two weeks to return it.”

It had been two weeks and four days.

“What can we do?” Paul asked.

“Buy HP–we service that. But you didn’t, so call Kodak. Maybe they’ll send you a new one.”

We lugged the computer out into the rain, up the block, over the snowbank, into the car, back to the apartment. I hung my sopping coat on a chair and grabbed the phone.

I called Kodak. After ten minutes of Your Call is Important to Us, I was speaking to Sunil in New Delhi. I described my printer’s woes at length.

There was a pause. Then he said, “You say you have a paper jam?”

I described my printer’s woes very, very slowly.

“And this error message–it says you have a paper jam?”

I sighed.

Under Sunil’s guidance–with the help of an instruction manual that told him how to work with Macs–I de-installed my drivers, downloaded and re-installed them. Jam, snub.

I downloaded firmware, whatever the hell that is. Jam, jam, jam. Snub.

An hour passed.

Then it printed. One page, crooked and crumpled. Then it jammed.

“Please take off the back door and see if there remains orange tape there or above the paper tray,” Sunil said. His tone added, Stupid American woman.

Oh, Paul, I thought. Tell me you didn’t leave orange tape–

There was none.

We tried again. Jam, jam, snub.

Sunil put me on hold. My phone battery died.

I answered his call-back on our spare phone. “My supervisor has one question,” he said. “What paper do you use?”

I told him I was using HP printer/copier paper.

“Please try it with Kodak printer paper,” he said.

I ground my teeth. “Hewlett-Packard is excellent paper, not some off-brand,” I said, my voice rising. “We both know all these papers are made in the same factory in China. You want me to throw on a raincoat and drive to Staples and buy a pack of Kodak paper? Come on! If this machine is so temperamental I have to hand-feed it Kodak paper–”

“Yes, yes, They all come from the same factory.” Sunil was the very soul of rationality. “Still, Kodak printers should be used with Kodak paper.”

I grunted something that must’ve sounded dubious–or perhaps threatening–and he quickly added, “However, Kodak is willing to send you a new printer…”

I gave him my address and hung up.

He called back. “I cannot make your address match the records,” he said.

He had written Brookine instead of Brooklyn. He made the correction and hung up.

He called again: The address still didn’t compute. He had inverted two numbers in the zip code.

I stayed on the phone while he entered the data. No luck. He had misspelled Avenue. He made the correction.

We hung up–for the last time, I hoped.


I glanced at the clock. It had taken me two hours and five minutes, two phones and four calls to convince Kodak what I’d realized the day before:

My new printer was F**ked.