By RACHEL SAUER
Special to the SentinelI’d like to begin today with The Great King Kong Printer Crisis of 2008, which was not my finest hour.
Many of you can relate, I’m sure, to the wicked, terrible affront to all that is good and decent, otherwise known as the $35 printer.
It’s the stop-gap for when you don’t feel like schlepping to Kinko’s but need to print something innocuous like a recipe, say, or a spell to banish this evil, $35 demon back to the bowels of hell from whence it sprang.
It prints exactly one nice sheet, and everything after looks like a bug-smeared windshield.
Anyway, I needed to print something innocent and wholesome, I can’t remember what, but the Satan spawn on my desk wouldn’t cooperate. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers.
I tried re-downloading the drivers and then doing the whole uninstall-reinstall dance again. Heck, I even turned my computer off then turned it back on, the classic IT solution. No dice.
Nothing worked, my frustration mounted, and we’re talking MULTIPLE HOURS of my life lost to this font of all sorrow. I called customer service, but they were as mystified as I.
Finally, one error message beyond what a mere mortal can be expected to endure, the twig of my patience snapped. I unplugged the printer, raised it above my head King Kong-style, and hurled it against the tile floor. Then I picked it up and did it again.
My emotions were roiling, I might have been bawling, so I did the only reasonable thing I could think of.
Me: Hi, mom? I think I just had a psychotic break.
Mom: Oh, no! What happened?
Me: I threw my printer on the floor. Twice.
Mom: Here, talk to your dad.
She handed the phone to my dad, and I won’t share the details of the story he told me because it’s not mine to tell, but my dad made me feel 137% better. And his experience involved a laptop!
My point being, I don’t know if it’s just my dad or all dads, but I suspect there’s some sort of fatherly sixth sense that recognizes when their kid is ramped up to 11 and needs to be jollied back down to a five or six, and it’s up to them to make that happen.
In the case of my stupid printer, when I had reached a point of shame and regret that was a nauseating frosting on my anger, my dad sensed that I needed relatability.
I needed to hear that I wasn’t a genetically deviant rage monster, or even a rage monster at all. I needed to hear about my dad’s stupid laptop.
Just to clarify, this is different from all the times I was a legitimate monster and needed to be called out for it. That’s happened plenty, too, when I’ve been varying degrees of awful and my dad’s response could be boiled down to: Nope.
This is about a dad recognizing that what their kid really needs is to hear that things are going to be OK.
Here’s another example: I lived in China’s northwest Xinjiang Province during the July 5, 2009, violence in the provincial capital of Urumqi.
I didn’t actually live in Urumqi, but about six hours southwest of it, though the Chinese government’s response to the violence was to turn off the internet and phones in the whole province.
My poor parents heard about this as a top story on the news, and then couldn’t get through to me for a couple of days. When they finally did and I picked up the phone, the first thing I heard was my dad asking, “Are you OK?”
That did it. I was never in any danger, and it never occurred to me to leave China, but I didn’t realize how bizarre the vibe was in Xinjiang and how tense it was making me feel until I heard my dad’s voice and “Are you OK?”
“Yes,” I blubbered, and I can only imagine what my parents were feeling 13,000 miles away. But somehow my dad sensed that the thing I needed to feel OK was for him to ask me that question.
So, here’s a mostly enthusiastic shout-out to fatherly sixth sense! I say mostly because it’s also responsible for some of the times I got in trouble for lying about the cleanliness of my room or the dishes.
I’m sorry to say that dads just don’t appreciate nuance.
Rachel Sauer is at firstname.lastname@example.org and is definitely not still laughing about the time she, her brother and sister were so bratty that their flustered father told them, “You don’t get any lettuce for dessert!”