‘Is there no end to your talents?’ They were words of kindness, after I had had unveiled my latest creative masterpiece. As flattering as the remark was, there’s no getting away from the fact there is a very real, unambiguous answer. The answer to the question ‘is there no end to your talents?’ is, without any fear of overstatement, “yes”. Yes, there most certainly is. That end arrives suddenly like a sheer cliff drop to oblivion the moment that anything remotely practical arises.
It was purchased as a matter of necessity. Changed circumstances meant that a new printer was required. After days of research, I made an informed decision and, between lockdowns, went out and bought it. As silly as it may sound, the fact of choosing, purchasing and collecting the printer felt like an achievement on par with, if not scaling Mount Everest, then at least getting to base camp in a shopping trolley whilst blindfolded and juggling.
Having achieved the near impossible by purchasing the printer, I then completely lost my mind altogether and unpacked it. This, it must be said, is totally out of character for me. It’s quite common for me to buy something and leave it in its box – which I consider to be its natural environment – for some considerable period. Gleaming and new, the printer sat there looking perfect. ‘Stay gold, Pony Boy’, I whispered under my breath as I began to clear away all the packing materials that had, moments earlier, been cradling my printer. What I couldn’t do, however, is print anything. That’s because I hadn’t taken that final step and set it up.
Once upon a time, setting up an appliance meant taking it out of the box in which it came and plugging it in. Simple, but brutally effective. Things are so very different now, with a tertiary qualification in engineering being if not mandatory, then at least highly desirable. Despite the fact of describing itself as ‘wireless’, there are still wires to be plugged in. This is often followed by a short voodoo ceremony in which the gods of the Internet are summoned through the art of interpretative dance and, possibly, a goat sacrifice.
Now that I think about it, summoning up the Internet gods involves a ceremony almost identical to the one in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’, which explains why the instruction manual recommends wearing a fedora when assembling.
I put it off for as long as possible until the unrelenting gaze of necessity wouldn’t permit me to leave it any longer. Taking a deep breath and putting on my fedora whilst humming the entire John Williams’ score, I got to work.
It’s not so much a lack of interest as it is a paralyzing fear of failure. What if I try and can’t figure it out? Lockdown is much like outer space in that no one can hear you scream. But not only did lockdown mean my emotive outbursts were for naught, it prevented me calling on more talented family members to come and help me out. I would have to use a radical mix of ingenuity and rat cunning. Like MacGyver. Indeed, to set this printer up I would need to go the full MacGyver.
I looked at the instructions. I stared out the window. Then I looked at the instructions some more. Things clicked into place. There was a whirring sound. I pushed a button and a display panel lit up. Then I printed a document. I stood in awe as the page slid out from the machine. Like a child, I eagerly snatched at it before reading a short message that said, ‘Nice work. Love, MacGyver.’
I was overjoyed. I felt like that monkey in 2001: A Space Odyssey who’s just figured out how to use a bone as a tool. It probably helped that I was playing ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ by Richard Strauss in the background. Mind you, if I get up tomorrow morning and find a giant monolith in my living room, I’m going to be quite put out. Unless, of course, I can hang my washing on it. Then I won’t mind so much.
I’m mindful there’s more than one perspective here. From the point of view of those who made the printer, they think they’ve dumbed down the process to the point that a blindfolded Chihuahua could do it. Whereas, from my perspective, assembling the printer is a technological triumph on par with putting a man on the moon.
With the printer connected, it felt like a moment if not in the evolution of humankind generally, then at least for me. Putting it together isn’t really an act of technological brilliance but about overcoming the fear of failure. Everyone, I think, has a wireless digital printer in their lives somewhere. That thing they never get around to because the fear of not succeeding is simply too great. But I am living proof that with patience, encouragement from MacGyver and the music of Richard Strauss playing at an almost obscene volume, that anything is possible. For me, it’s about moving on to the next challenge. Which, in this case, is in the living room, sitting in a box. It’s a television I bought when the old one decided not to work anymore. Just let me find my fedora first.