December 2015

In Which I Went to War (with office supplies)

This morning I had a near-death experience. An attempt to print Etsy orders for my file became, and there is no other way to put this, toothy. Allow me to set the scene:

It is roughly 2010 or 2012. Student-age Francesca gets some paper in Staples. It might not be Staples. The paper may have been purchased by a parent. The event is hazy, uninteresting in every way (partly due to my regular use and purchase of paper, partly because who the hell remembers 2010).

Francesca soon realises that this ream of paper, although normal to the outside world, is not normal. It is cheap. Very cheap. Probably less than 80gsm. This is not a problem; good paper is expensive and although I make a point of recycling and reusing scrap, I am not about to relegate an entire pack of white A4 to the scrapheap without printing it first.

Some time later I change my mind. The paper is good for nothing but handwritten notes, and only then if you use a very light ink. This is because it is so thin that four out of five times it enters my printer, my printer chews it up, tries to spit it out, chokes and needs to be rescued. Over a few lacklustre attempts to print homework or coursework or whatever I deemed worthy of printing in 2010 or 2012, I realise I should have forked out for the decent stuff. After all, I will always recycle it.

The cheap stuff is folded into my box of uninteresting stationery supplies alongside plastic wallets, white envelopes and sugar paper.

That’s the back story, ladies and gents. Fast forward to 2015, where you will find my stationery supply box mostly unchanged. In the Great December Clear Out (see previous posts), I rediscover the cheap paper. Dimmed by time, my memory of its assault on my printer is tinged with an element of ‘well it couldn’t have been that bad’. Plus, my parents no longer buy me office supplies. I would be an idiot to ignore this discovery.

Turns out I was an idiot to take notice.

Having spent two or three or five years folded in a box, it’s not only thin and nasty but is also ill-equipped to go through my printer anyway. I’ve had a few near-misses in which I’ve un-jammed the printer and put the flat-ish paper back through. It’s turned out okay – I’m the only person who sees the files, so a few teeth marks add more charm than unprofessionalism…

This morning we went to war. Two Etsy orders needed filing. Easy. Did two last week no problem. Maybe today the paper was experiencing the wrong time of the month. Maybe the printer was.

I had to use tweezers to get bits of paper from the bowels of the printer, and switch it off to get the cartridges to realign and loosen up the shreds that had caught… unfortunately realignment happens more quickly than it looks, so my hands were chased by tiny ink cartridges as they whizzed from one side of the printer to the other, angrily grinding at the paper I was trying to remove.

My cheapness I very nearly sent my printer to the great office in the sky. I’m glad I didn’t, because I can’t afford a new one any more than I can afford posh paper, but my lesson has been learnt.

I will use the crap stuff only when I have flattened out the giant crease that runs through it, and I will only ever guide it through my printer while singing a lullaby and, possibly, praying.

I think I may also up my overheads goal on Patreon, because there is a chance my printer won’t survive this – or if it does, I never  want to buy such thin paper again.

I probably will, though. The saga continues.


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