I miss free printing.
Over the past month, I’ve been thinking about all the things I won’t be able to do or have on a regular basis now that I’ve graduated from college, and now that I’m not living in a dorm.
College life provided a very convenient situation for me. Everything I needed was within walking distance (so long as you didn’t mind walking five miles, which, to be honest, I only very rarely did), and if it wasn’t, there was a train station literally right next to my building and I could take a trip into either Brockton or Boston whenever I wanted. Or, maybe not whenever I wanted, since the MBTA is hilariously unreliable, but close enough. I could always get a hot breakfast on a Sunday morning. School campuses are microcosms of the wider world beyond them. The majority of my friends were all in one place. This was ideal.
But the thing I think I miss the most is the free printing.
It’s hard to explain the significance of having free printing available until you’ve had it and then, suddenly, find yourself without it. I own a printer, but the problem with inkjet printers is that they’re garbage. I don’t say this as an elitist who looks down on inkjet printers merely because they’re not laserjet printers; I say this as someone who can fix printers, who had a job printing at a copy center and would frequently have to figure out how to troubleshoot and fix machines in the middle of jobs. I hate inkjet printers because the ink frequently dries out (forcing you to go and buy another sometimes $50 cartridge to put in the machine). I hate inkjet printers because they’re not ideal for large-quantity jobs (which, if I’m trying to make chapbooks or figure out exactly what cases I want my mock trial students to use, is kind of important). I hate inkjet printers because they will, inevitably, break, and they’re a pain to fix.
So I do have a printer, but it doesn’t work as anything better than a large scanner. It might work for faxing, but it’s not connected to a phone line, so I don’t know.
The obvious solution would be to get a job that doesn’t question the volume of printing that I may or may not want to do, but since whatever job I get is most likely going to be teaching, that feels like it would be wrong. Public libraries, for a good reason, do not have free printing; it isn’t in the budget, and if they did, there would be plenty of people who would abuse that right. I could go to Staples, but I’d rather not since I know their prices and I know how it works and to be honest, I can do what I want with a print job better if I’m doing it myself.
That leaves getting a new printer, which means money for both the machine itself as well as ink or toner and paper. There are a lot of things I want to print and edit hard copies of, and I think that a printer is a good investment for any writer. I like marking things up with a pen and telling myself what to do better.
The school printers, of course, weren’t actually free, and I recognize that. It was built into the fees that I paid in order to stay on campus and live in a dorm. That said, I was paying as much for printing over 100 pages of submissions that needed edits during the spring semester as I was for printing a few papers during the fall semester. It might as well have been free, since they never actually itemize everything that your money goes to in a meaningful way. They also weren’t free of flaws; it was annoying when the printers broke and were kept locked away from student access, since I knew I probably would have been able to fix whatever issue, and it was annoying when the printers ran out of paper, and it was annoying when they were broken for several days at a time because nobody from IT came to fix them.
That said, what I wouldn’t give to have it right now.