Friday, September 21, 2012

Toner Bomb

I work with a woman; let's call her Stella.  Stella was using one of our fax machines when it ran out of toner.  She retrieved a fresh bottle of toner from the supplies cabinet, gave it a little shake, and installed it in the machine.

The machine said "I am out of toner.  Give me toner."  Stella said "I just gave you a bottle of toner."  The machine said "Give me toner or I will not perform any further duties."

Stella reasoned that that particular bottle of toner must be faulty, so she retrieved a different bottle from the supplies cabinet, gave it a little shake, and installed it in the machine.  The machine said "I am all out of toner.  How do you expect me to print anything for you when I don't have any toner?"  Stella said "I have just given you a second, brand new bottle of toner.  What more do you want from me?"  The machine answered "I must have toner, woman.  Give me toner or give me death."

Stella retrieved the third, and last, spare bottle of toner from the supplies cabinet.  As indicated on the instructions, she gave it a little shake and installed it in the machine.  The machine said "Why do you deprive me so?  All I ask for is a little toner so that I can do my job.  Do you delight in my empty cartridge?  Are you mocking me?"  Stella said "I promise you, I am trying to give you toner.  Can't you acknowledge the new bottle I just put into you?"  The machine wouldn't answer her.

Stella, according to her version of the story, then presumed that she must not have shaken the bottles of toner with sufficient vigour to activate them.  She removed the third new bottle, replaced the lid firmly (she claims), and then shook it very vigorously.

The lid flew off.  The plastic dispenser under the lid also flew off.

A huge plume of super-fine toner dust exploded into the copy room and spread out like a mushroom cloud.  Stella froze.  The haze of particles swirled lazily, and slowly began to settle.  Stella paused for one moment, in the evil inverse of a well-shaken snow globe, and then ran from the room.

Due to the laws of aerodynamics, a considerable amount of black toner cloud was sucked from the room into the hallway, in Stella's slipstream.

By the time the dust cloud had settled, there was a big, BIG mess.  Toner all over the floor, the walls, the surfaces, the copy machine, the papers that were spread out on the file cabinets.  The layer of toner under the epicentre of the explosion was thick, splashed out in an uneven star shape, as though there had been an actual fire that had burned its mark into the floor.

Of course it was my responsibility to deal with the problem.

First I called the technician that services the machine.  He said he'd get there as soon as he could.  (That turned out to be 2.5 business days later.  Nice service, guys!)

I also called the guy who runs our cleaning service.  He said "Hey, no problem, I have a shop-vac with a HEPA filter.  We'll have you ship-shape by tomorrow."  (You can't use a regular vacuum to clean up a big toner spill because the fine powder will sift through the bag into the motor and break it.)  I felt extremely relieved to learn that he could help me.

I came in the next morning and the room looked exactly the same.  I called the cleaner and he said "We had a little problem with the shop vac.  I think I have another one in storage. I'll try again tonight."

At this point I was desperate to get the situation cleaned up.  The mess in the hall was getting tracked all over the office, and we were missing the use of the copy room.  You can't sweep toner (it's too fine) or clean it up with water (it turns into black paint), so I did the only thing I could think of.  I went to the store and bought a 32-pack of Swiffer (TM) dusting cloths.  Then a co-worker and I put on masks and rubber gloves and went down on our hands and knees to Swiffer the floor.

We used up the 32 dusting cloths in pretty short order.  We managed to clean up a little less than half of the mess.  My mask wasn't very well-fitted.  I had a sinus headache that evening, and I sneezed toner dust for a few hours.

Thank heaven, my cleaner's second shop vac did the trick.  I arrived the next morning to a perfectly clean copy room.  Apparently I needn't have bothered with the Swiffers.  However, in case you ever run across a similar situation, they are pretty handy at picking up toner.  I just wouldn't recommend them for the scale of the explosion in my particular case.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

It is obvious that the Fax was set to "Evil" and planned this whole event.

DarcKnyt said...

And the fax machine?! What of the fax machine?! Is its insatiable lust for toner at last satisfied? Was it all a cruel prank to make Stella look like a fool?! WHAT?!

Jameil said...

O_O & ROTFL @ both of those comments!! I shant have anything funnier to add. Well done, you three.

DarcsFalcon said...

ROFL! Spark, you told that story brilliantly! *applause*

Now go unplug that machine before it instigates the answering machines to riot! :D

Glad all is clean again in Sparkland and I hope your sinuses are all clear now. :)

Granny Annie said...

Forget the swiffers. The employee who caused this disaster should have had to lick up the toner. Those cartridges are expensive and after the first one failed, she should have gone for help. I just hope she wasn't needing to make copies of her favorite cookie recipe to hand out at the office.

(You are a much better manager than I.)

G. B. Miller said...

I rank that little fiasco right up there with mine about loading paper into a copier.

But you tell yours a thousand times better than I do.

I can see that the kingdom of the copier has successfully repelled the invasion of the miscreant army of toner.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Dang! That must be it. I'd better get out the user manual and figure out how to change that, a.s.a.p.

DarcKnyt: When the technician finally arrived, the fax machine acted like nothing unusual had happened. "What? Toner? Of course I have toner! Look, this bottle is full! I don't know what they're talking about." I would not care to speculate on its motives. It probably reads my blog.

Jameil: Thanks! :-)

DarcsFalcon: *takes a bow* :-) You're right, I'd better be careful. There's a large copy machine sharing a room with that fax. If they put their little electric brains together I hate to think what they could accomplish.

Granny Annie: LOL at "lick up the toner". Poor Stella! Nah, she suffered enough. Her favourite pair of red pants was ruined, and I think she's going to have nightmares about that day for the rest of her life!

GB Miller: Look out for that toner army. They can infiltrate any opening that isn't airtight. They'll float through silently and before you know it, they're everywhere!

Jenski said...

Aw. Poor Stella. I'm trying to imaging other ways to pick up toner. Tape? Saran wrap? Thank goodness for HEPA filters. Hope all that toner has cleared out of your head!

LL Cool Joe said...

My main concern was the fax machine. I wonder what that says about me.

Poor Stella. I'm just pleased the story had a happy ending. :)

Lynn said...

Maybe that employee should be kept away from the toner. :)

wigsf3 said...

Ain't it feel good to be a gangsta.