I’m blue (again)…

I’m beginning to think that blue should be my favorite color. Or maybe least favorite. I’m not sure.

A few months back, I ended up with blue hands for a week after some yarn that I’d used bled extensively. I finally figured out that toothpaste is the key to cleaning up over-dyed hands. Just give the hands and fingernails a scrub using an old toothbrush and some toothpaste and voila! Clean hands!

Today, I had another blue episode.

I was getting ready to teach the Computer Club when one of the sixth grade teachers came in and asked if he could use the color printer to make some invitations for the sixth grade graduation. This is something that I know to be a yearly tradition, so I said yes. Then I remembered that the blue toner cartridge was low and would probably start streaking pretty soon. So I pointed the teacher to the toner cartridge and said, “Change the toner cartridge first, and then you’ll be good to go.”

Now, this teacher is one of the most tech savvy in the building. He used to be a US Air Force pilot and understand more about computers than many of our other teachers put together. He certainly knows how to change a toner cartridge, so I’m relatively sure that the events that were to follow had little to do with him. I could have changed the toner, and the result would have been exactly the same. I’m absolutely sure of it.

The printer is an old one, a Lexmark 1275 that I’ve been nursing along all year. It is older than many of the students that we teach. Sad but true. Unfortunately, public schools don’t have money growing on trees, and we rarely have the funds to replace anything that isn’t completely broken. The printer grunts and groans, which freaks some people out. I’m used to it though. I know that the paper jams occasionally and that the printer says that the jam is in the top of the printer when it’s really in the tray. I know that occasionally it stops printing for no particularly good reason and that the way to bring it back is to shut off the power, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back on. I’m used to dealing with all of its idiosyncrasies, but I never expected the trick that it was about to play.

I started teaching the Computer Club as the teacher changed the toner cartridge. I noted out of the corner of one eye that he had left the lab briefly and returned a few moments later with a hand vac. He bent over and vacuumed something up from the floor. I was impressed. Most people make a mess and could care less. I just filed it away under my “gosh, that’s a good person” header in the back of my mind and went on with my teaching.

As the end of Computer Club approached, I noticed that the teacher returned. He was pressing buttons on the front of the printer. I assumed that he had, as many do, hit asked to print one hundred copies and then discovered a really embarrassing type-o.

As the last of the kids left the room, he looked over, now totally frantic. “I need you over here. NOW!”

When I looked to see his problem, I couldn’t stop laughing. He had about 40 copies of the invitation printed, and almost every last one was covered with bright blue dust. Not just a little blue smudge here and there. It was everywhere on the print-out.

I reached over and turned off the printer, then opened it up to see what was causing the “blues”.

There was blue toner everywhere. On the cyan toner cartridge. On the other toner cartridges. On the rollers, all around the inside of the printer, on the fuser. Everywhere!

I couldn’t help but laugh. The look on the teacher’s face was priceless, one of those moments in life when I really wished that I could take a memory and hit a “print” button so that everyone else could see what I did!  (Sadly, I had no camera available, so I don’t have any pictures of the incident at all.  Such a pity!) The poor guy looked mortified. “I don’t know what happened.” By now he had a box of tissues and was trying desperately to wipe up the toner. (It was like trying to use a small square of toilet paper to clean an elephant’s butt!)

I went over to a cupboard and pulled out a little computer vac and started cleaning too. Unfortunately, the more that we cleaned, the more the blue mess seemed to multiply. There was blue toner all over the inside of the printer. Some had dropped down into the paper tray. It was on the table, on the wall, on the carpet.

When I took the toner cartridge out and put the old one back in, blue toner came pouring out of one end of the new cartridge. I took the toner cartridge outside and tried to blow the dust off with canned air. Every time I blew on the cartridge, a blue cloud went “poof!” into the air, and then more poured out of the cartridge.

We tried to use the canned air to blow some of the dust out of the places in the printer that we couldn’t clean with wipes. Big mistake! A cloud of blue dust blew out of the vents on the sides and back of the printer. By now, the teacher was laughing too. (I think he was finally over the initial shock and fear that I was going to kill him for messing up the printer.) I started teasing him about how, since this sixth grade class claimed to be the coolest class ever, maybe he should consider doing a special “blue grunge” invite for the class of 2013.

We finally got the lab and printer area back into a shape that would not send the maintenance crew screaming into the night, but I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to get the blue out of the printer. It’s still quite a mess.

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to file a problem report with the district techs. “Toner cartridge exploded inside printer. Please advise.”

Oh, and that toothpaste thing? Works great with toner too! Thank goodness! I guess it’s true that everything happens for a reason.

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