The Tragedy of the Comma.

I found that I was actively avoiding using the printer in our office at work. Because of a comma. I’ll explain.

When I send something to be printed, it goes over to the communal printer. So I rock up to it and press the appropriate buttons, at which point it prints the document (I cannot fault the printer on that count), while displaying a short message. The message is the problem. I think it should’ve said “please wait”. What it actually says is “please, wait”.

I know that many of my fellow humans wouldn’t find that worthy of any attention at all, but to me, by the presence of the comma, my printer has just gotten rather emotional. That inserted pause reveals a rich backstory: “Please, oh please, kind Sir or Madam, wait”, the printer conveys, “Please, I am doing everything I can to perform efficiently and to your satisfaction, but I, too, have limits. I am sorry I cannot perform my duties more rapidly, or at least present you, who are so kind to me, with some modest entertainment while you wait. But please, please, do not walk away. Do not depart, frustrated, and leave me out here alone in the corridor, for it is but the work of another moment. Please, won’t you stay here and share with me this short while? This fleeting moment of our existence? Please, wait.”

I can’t bear it. Today I had a pretty lengthy double-sided job, and just seeing that “please, wait” as the printer frantically hummed, nearly reduced me to tears. The service technician for the printer was not receptive when I voiced my concerns, and next week I need to print out an entire annual report. In colour.

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