In college, I had three major enemies:

- Hangovers

- The applied sciences

- My HP Stylus CX200 color printer

While I’m sure I could tell an encyclopedia full of stories regarding hangovers or the applied sciences (some done simultaneously) today is not that day.

To save you the schematics of my devil printer, I’ll just tell you that it had five different cartridges and if the magenta ink ran out, you still couldn’t print black and white. And despite being made by Hewlett Packard (who I thought was a common manufacturer) the cartridges were nowhere to be found. I have to imagine that Hewlett Packard slept with Mrs. Canon and now the entire printer world has blacklisted him and all his products.

So that is where our story begins. I ran out of ink for my printer (or more likely, I had run out of ink months before and was only now frustrated enough to buy more.) This quest was a two-day event. Lets start with:


I went to college in a small town in Appalachia so if you were going to go “downtown” to Wal-Mart or… Wal-Mart, it was an adventure. Knowing that I had an afternoon’s worth of fun ahead of me, I enlisted my good friends Mike and Jess to tag along.

Now I understand that for most people a Wal-Mart trip isn’t exciting, so, I’ll summarize.

“Went to Wal-Mart, enjoyed some people watching, considered buying camo to fit in, disproved theories about women growing facial hair, walked through the computer department, didn’t find my ink cartridge, left in a huff.”

I sat in Mike’s car saying to my counterparts “See! I told you they wouldn’t have it! Nobody does!” as if they had, at some point, refuted my claim (they didn’t). Like a true sidekick, Mike said “Lets go over and try Staples.”

“We have a Staples?!”

“Yeah, it’s right across from the Ruby Tuesday.”

“When did we get a Ru – Hot damn, this place is turning into a regular metropolis.”

So we pulled up to the office supply superstore that is Staples. I told my team “Just wait in the car. I’m gonna run in, even if they have it, I’ll be back out in 2 minutes.”

Like any courageous action hero in the third act, I had to go this one alone. I entered the Staples and saw a greeter standing inside the door. Many people bitch about greeters, saying “What a stupid job. I can’t believe they pay someone for that. You’re like a clown with no makeup. Etc.” I prefer to apply those criticisms to the guy who puts my ticket in the machine at the parking garage. I, for one, like the greeter because they make you feel welcome and happy. However, on this fateful Saturday, the greeter and I looked at each other and she said nothing. Just stood there. I walked past her thinking to myself “What a stupid job, I can’t believe they pay you for that.”

You can imagine how the rest of this went. I looked in the ink aisle, didn’t find my adulterous cartridge, and left. I exited the store and saw my loyal compatriots look at me from inside the car. Very quickly their faces turned from curiosity to outright laughter. They could see that I was empty handed.

This was day one. For those of you thinking “What the hell? Nothing happened, you couldn’t find your ink cartridge, whoopdie fucking do.” I agree with you. Unfortunately, I needed to tell you that story in order to tell you the story of what happened on -


I woke up the next morning to my phone ringing. I was no doubt hungover (I had turned twenty-one three months prior and was still celebrating) but I answered it anyway. It was my friend Mike, from Saturday’s expedition. He opened with this:

“The police may be coming to your house soon.”

Well good morning to you too. See, Mike doesn’t drink so he doesn’t understand that the only thing my hangover wanted to hear less was a five-piece brass band in my bedroom or “Drew, your mother’s here.”

I grunted and allowed him to continue. Mike explained that his license plate number had been called in as the getaway car involved in a robbery yesterday. I quickly looked around the room to see if I’d stolen any traffic cones in my drunken stupor the night before (a common occurrence in my college days) but found nothing. Turns out, the manager from Staples had told police that an early twenties male, in a tan jacket with brown hair and a red three-day beard had walked out of the store with an external hard drive for the price of on-the-house.

I was blown away listening to the incredibly accurate description of myself and this woman’s complete ignorance towards how long it takes to grow a beard.

Shortly after I hung up with Mike, the police called. The officer invited me to come to the station to talk. By invited, I mean, he said that if I could be at the station by noon, he wouldn’t be forced to pick me up in a squad car. Being both an innocent and law-abiding citizen, I agreed to meet him. And then abruptly shaved off my beard, borrowed my roommates black jacket and considered bleaching my hair.

When I met with the officer, we’ll call him Officer Fife (because that’s the TV policeman I find him nearest in qualifications), he explained to me the woman’s statement. The manager at Staples claimed:

- She was first tipped off to me when I walked in and did not say “hi” to the greeter. Then I walked to the section that sold external hard drives, grabbed one, put it under my jacket, and walked out of the store. She followed me out to see my friends laughing in elation at my apparent success. She then took down the license plate and called in the crime.

My immediate reaction was: “it’s the greeter’s job to say ‘hi’ to me! What kind of a greeter is only there to react to being said ‘hi’ to?!” Officer Fife was not amused. I sat there realizing that her statement was the only evidence presented. As it stood, there was more empirical evidence proving creationism and that exists within religion: a discipline that doesn’t even believe in or require evidence. I was raised on CSI and other one hour crime dramas, so in my mind there was no way I could be convicted because I was 70% sure I didn’t ejaculate on anything in the store. And that’s the only way to get busted.

All the same, Officer Fife informed me of my enemy’s demands. She would drop all charges if I returned the hard drive by the end of the day.

“So, if I’m guilty of theft, I have the ability to get out of this scot-free?”


“But since I’m innocent, and thus, possess no returnable hard drive, I’m screwed?”

“Presumably, yes.”

As impressed as I was that Officer Fife knew what the word ‘presumably’ meant, it became clear that someone here was going to have to do some actual investigating and it wasn’t going to be the officer. So I started asking questions.

“Well wouldn’t the security device at the front of the store have gone off?”

“Those don’t actually work. They’re just for show. Ya know, deterrence.”

“Effective. What about security cameras? They sell them for Christ’s sake, don’t they use them?”

“They have them hung up but they don’t actually record.”

“Deterrence. Right. Got it.”

Now that I’d figured out that stealing from Staples was a breeze as long as you say ‘hi’ to their greeter, I had to drop my hard-boiled crime approach of evidence gathering and resort to the much more primal strategy of:   “I didn’t do it! She’s a big fat liar face!”

While I shouldn’t have been surprised, this line of discussion actually appealed to Officer Fife who raised his eyebrow in consideration. After a wonderful tennis match of –

“I didn’t do it!”

“She said you did.”

“But I didn’t!”

“But she said you did.”

I realized there wasn’t much left to say and Fife and I went our separate ways. I called my parents and told them all about it. Shortly after, my father called our lawyer, even though I explained that logical reasoning was lost in this case and we’d have more luck appealing to Officer Fife’s mother or just baking him an apology cake.

A few days went by with my lawyer dealing with the street tested police force of Southeastern Ohio (if you’re not drunk or cooking meth, they’re really out of their element) and I was just waiting patiently. After hours of debate and thousands of dollars in legal fees, I got a call.

Officer Fife had decided not to pursue the case because he ‘didn’t believe’ the woman from Staples. THAT was the ruling. I had sweat bullets for days, hired legal counsel and began paperwork to change my name to Rajeesh and the whole thing was resolved with “I don’t think I believe that woman.”

I never thought I’d say this, but that day, my life was more pathetic than an episode of People’s Court. At least in that show there was some sense of true justice. They had evidence, a gavel and a voiceover. Ya know, real legal stuff.

Now you know why I break into a cold sweat at the discussion of ink cartridges and why I am so insistent on going to Office Max.

- dc


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