I ink, therefore I am (in a panic)

I think most parents can relate to this emotion: It’s 9:30 on a school night. Your kid has finally finished that project that is due the next day. He hits the print button, knowing he is SOOOO very close to being done. Your kid heads to the printer to retrieve the work. And then you hear, “IT SAYS WE’RE OUT OF BLACK!”

At that point, you think to yourself many things. You think, “Can’t you print in magenta? We should have an ample supply of that?” You think, “Shouldn’t the printer give you some warning when it’s about to run dry?” And mostly you think, “Pretty sure this wasn’t assigned this afternoon, so I am just guessing you had time before THIS EVENING to finish it.”

Nonetheless, there are decisions to be made. Fortunately, when this hit our house recently, I made that decision easy. I had tried to print something earlier in the day and noticed that we were out of ink. So, I did the adult thing and went to the store and bought new ink cartridges. And I promptly left them sitting in a bag on the dining room table, when I probably could have installed them right then.

But I was still able to step in at 9:30 and be the hero. “Everyone calm down. I. HAVE. THE. INK!!!!”

And there was much rejoicing.

Fast forward about three minutes, and there was much of me, grumbling under my breath, trying to hold back words that should not be part of any student’s project work. I reached in the package of ink cartridges – a multi-pack, which costs about what the down payment on my first house was. Apparently, printer ink is made with unicorn tears and pixie sweat. I opened up the printer and saw the black cartridge blinking. I popped it out, ready to replace and win the day.

And then I noticed that the empty black cartridge was much thinner than the replacement black cartridge I was holding. I looked back into the printer. It apparently has two black cartridges, one big, one small. Fine. I’ll replace the small one then. I went back to my multi-pack. Cyan. Magenta. Yellow. Giant black. And that was all.

I have no idea why the multi-pack does not include the thin black, but I didn’t have time to waste. The store I got the ink from is across the street and was closing in about 25 minutes. In about 10 minutes, I was back home with the single black cartridge.

I opened it up and, of course, it was not the right one, but a second version of the thick black one. As I bolted down the stairs and out the door my wife said, “Where are you going?” and I merely hollered black something akin to, “BLARGGHHHEEHGHGHGLEEE!!!”

At about 9:55, after scouring the shelves, I found a multi-pack that had cyan, yellow, magenta and skinny black. Why the other multi-pack exists is beyond me.

Standing in line at the check-out, there was a guy behind me holding a multi-pack printer package. We nodded in solidarity.

I got home, installed the cartridge, and hit print. And the printer proceeded to tell me that magenta was out. I kid you not. I considered a lengthy rant about how I had most certainly NOT used up my magenta reserve, but instead just reached into one of my two multi-pack replacements and retrieved said magenta.

Once installed, the project printed quickly and we were in good shape. I now have an ample supply of printer ink. I am ready for the next student project. And I gladly await any surprise pitfalls. Bring it on, cyan.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike or at


Leave a Reply