The Return of the Printer Mal Diablo

Selben and Soda had gotten a two-month contract working on some IT projects at a company through an old contact of Soda’s. Soda was locked away slaving away as a code monkey. Selben could still chat with him during breaks, but otherwise was mostly on his own. He spent his time working on whatever needed to be done…typically things the other techs did not want to do.

Today, Selben was working with HardwareGuy. He was unpacking new desktops and setting them up in the computer lab to be configured. Selben was about to take the empty boxes out to the recycle bin when he heard a familiar voice talking to HardwareGuy.

HardwareGuy: What can I help you with?
Whatif: The printer by conference room two is acting up. I sent in an email, but nobody has replied. It’s been two days.

Selben thought he heard the faint words whispered, “Mal Diablo,” from several nearby techs.

HardwareGuy: Mal di… Er… No problem, Selben can check it out.

Selben peered around at the piles of boxes that rose up to his head and wiped the sweat from his brow. Yup, definitely heard it.

Selben: No problem. What’s it doing?

Whatif held out a stack of papers. Selben took them and saw they appears to be gibberish—words smashed over other words, and some were even upside down. It was pretty unreadable.

Selben: Okay, let’s check out your computer.

They walked down the hall, passing inspirational office posters like “Passion, what drives you?” with a stick figure staring at a pencil. Reaching the door to conference room two, Selben found the printer, as well as overflowing recycle bins, and made a note to empty them along with the cardboard later. He restarted the printer, and reinstalled the drivers, and tested the results.

Whatif picked up the documents and found they still had the same issue. Selben tried a generic driver but got the same results. He then opted to try printing from his own machine. Same issue, so he tried using the identical printer by conference room one, and that worked fine.

Clearly the issue was with Mal Diablo, so Selben approached his fabled foe. He glared at Mal Diablo, which stared back with a happy green light, claiming all was well. He did a test print from its button panel. Clunk, clunk pvvvtt! The page shot out, again the text was garbled as if written in tongues.

Selben sighed and returned to his desk to email the other techs to inquire if they had encountered the issue before. They only offered the same basic suggestions he had already tried. HardwareGuy and one of the techs poked at the printer as well, but Mal Diablo wouldn’t budge. It kept spewing out more and more gibberish.

Selben was told to contact the vendor. After being walked through the same troubleshooting steps that multiple people had already tried, they offered to send out an onsite tech within a week. A sign was placed on Mal Diablo the printer saying to not use it, or your documents would be cursed ruined.

Printer traffic was diverted over to the matching printer by conference room one. Selben returned to his normal duties and hoped the printer tech would be able to figure out the problem.

A few days later, the tech arrived spent several hours of troubleshooting. He concluded a part would need to be ordered. The tech had never seen the issue before, and was skeptical about his own solution, but it was the best anyone had come up with yet. Selben suggested it was a curse. The tech only nervously laughed and said he would be back in a few days.

Two days later

The printer by conference room one started doing the exact same issue! Selben spent the better part of the day on the phone with the vendor and dragging any free techs over he could find. Everyone was stumped.

Selben took a late lunch. A pile of the cursed papers sat next to him, tormenting him. The wretched and cursed gears of Mal Diablo, churning and grinding, wouldn’t leave his mind in peace. Soda plopped down next to him with his own lunch and started complaining about the program he had been working on and how annoying it was.

Soda: It’s so similar to +CodingLanguage but won’t do cross-platform. They should just start over—it’s a mess!
Selben: Yeah, I’m not doing great either. I’m having issues with Mal Di… er, one of the big printers.
Soda: Did you check the basics? Also, my wife is making pies in her cooking class!

Selben was intrigued by pies, but fought the urge to respond, knowing Soda’s game.

Selben: Yeah, the vendor ordered parts. The second matching printer has the same problem now too. What kind of pies? (Dang it!)

Selben held up one of the pages, showing Soda. He started rambling about caramel apple pie, strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin chiffon… while looking over the cryptic scrambled pages that had been printed out.

The next thing Selben knew, after being pulled from a haze of pie-filled thoughts, he and Soda were standing in front of Mal Diablo.

Selben: Huh… What?
Soda: The drawer, open it.

Selben leaned down and opened the paper drawer. (When was the last time he had added paper to this?) He reached in and pulled out… A page covered in text?

Apparently, in an attempt to recycle, Whatif had been taking discarded papers from the recycle bins and reloading them into the large printers. Presumably thinking the printer would somehow know to pick the correct side to use…or that it would magically clear the page before printing? Selben wasn’t sure.

When the whole office had been switched to the second printer, it had quickly run out of paper. So Whatif reloaded the printer with used paper from the recycle bin. Once the used paper was replaced, the mysterious printing issues were resolved.

Selben still couldn’t explain Soda’s powers of distraction (or maybe teleportation?), but Soda did bring him some pie the next day!