Annals of Employment: PC Load Letter 2.0

Today I had to submit a financial form to the office. I work remotely, so I couldn’t just fill it out and drop it by the finance person’s office. The question was: how to get it there?

The form was an Acrobat PDF. Nowadays, many of these can be filled out as forms onscreen and then printed or emailed or faxed, making them easy to fill out and easy to read. Not this one. So the problem was: how to get it to the office without driving 50 miles in heavy traffic?

As I realized what was necessary, a tear rolled down my cheek.

I printed out the document and filled out both pages in black pen. Then I took them to the scanner/printer device at the other computer. I scanned each one in, which had to be done separately. The first go scanning them in greyscale produced an illegible grey smudge like a 1980s drugstore copy machine. I redid it at 48-bit RGB color and the greyscale document came out right. What the…?

Now I had two scanned-in .PDF documents, each one half of the previous .PDF document. I used Adobe Acrobat Pro to combine these into one document so that I could send it as one fax.

Now it was time to fax. This involved connecting to the other computer and using its modem as a fax printer. It should be simple, but it rarely works the first time. It’s never clear how to find the modem/fax/printer in the first place. Decisions about long-distance prefixes and area codes have to made by trial and error. Feedback from the computer sending the fax is almost nonexistent. To make the whole thing perfect, I was doing all of this over a wireless network.

Because of these things, the promise of faxing over the network with ease is a cruel lie. I walked back and forth at a ratio of five times per page trying to see the status of my fax, hear the fax modem dialing, figure out if it had been sent, etc. The first go was a failure because I’d been given the wrong fax number. The second try vanished ambiguously from my computer, but showed as “sent, okay” on the machine actually attached to the fax modem.

I decided that it had been sent, and fired off an email to the recipient, because of course anything can and will go wrong with the fax on the other end: paper jam, paper loss, toner failure, and inexplicable failure to receive a document or notify anyone that a problem has occurred.

Finally I sat down with relief to do some actual work. This was not to be. From the other room, I could hear an insistent beeping. Perhaps the fax modem hadn’t hung up? Sometimes they decide to stay on the line and one has to manually kill the connection.

I went into the other room to find the fax modem trying manfully to send the first fax, the one with the wrong number. I called up the dialog window to see fax jobs and deleted it. I went back to my desk. Three minutes later the beeping started. I marched into the other room and once again deleted the job. This time I stayed and watched. The same thing happened three more times.

Looking at other system preferences in desperation, I had to unlock one with my administrator password. A light suddenly shone upon me, and I saw the problem. Administrator privileges were required to remove a fax job. Sure enough, after I’d proved I was entitled, the fax job stayed removed. The system never told me that I wasn’t permitted to kill the bad fax without admin privileges: it just cheerfully removed and reinstated the bad fax job, forever.

Now I’m back at my desk, waiting for the email saying the fax was never received.

If anyone has extra peacock plume pens and pots of India ink, I’d be grateful for a loan. I have parchment and papyrus already.

13 thoughts on “Annals of Employment: PC Load Letter 2.0

  1. Our current expense report system is a mixture of suck and non-suck. They got rid of the need to send in most receipts, except for hotel bills, and things over a surprisingly large dollar value.
    The ones that still have to be sent in, like hotel bills, require that we print out a special cover sheet from within the (java) expense report app, and use it to fax the receipts in — wherein they are converted to images, and a link to said images is mailed to us to verify receipt! The special coverpage includes a helpful barcode to facilitate this.
    They were originally going to also allow electronic submission, but only if you sent it as a multi-page TIFF file. This apparently didn’t work out and soon after release we were told to stop using this. I think that I once tried this, by faxing the documents to my electronic fax box, wherein I then e-mailed the resulting multi-page tiff to the specified address.


  2. See, this is why I am no longer technically savvy. It just doesn’t pay. I used to be the techie in any office I worked in. Now I just smuggle stuff home and give it to and, with big, saucer like eyes, ask him to please tie the shoes for the goblins in the machines or whatever bit of tribute they want and make it happen for me. When he does, I am careful to heap praise upon him for his techno-studliness.


  3. E-Fax
    I make my work pay for e-fax. This helps a little, but there is still the sticking point of having to use a scanner to scan the PDF printout. But, once scanned, you can upload it to your account and fax it electronically. The part that is really cool is that you can have someone else fax you something and you get it as a PDF.


  4. e-fax
    1) Note to myself: always turn off “dialing rules” and key in the number, with the “1907” or “1818” or whatever before it. Abandon all hope of using the “address book” function or Faxclippy or the WWWWizard or whatever.
    2) I knew Tom Goes To The Mayor was going to be brilliant
    when episode two starts out with someone saying
    “I just wanted to see if you received my e-fax. I can come back later.”
    3) When someone says “print this, fill it out, and fax it back”, I print it out, fill it out, scan it, upload it to a temporary and secret URL on my site, and email them that URL. If they can’t figure out how to print a JPG fullpage in Irfanview or something, or even just drop it on MSWord and zoombledygooble up the “figure box” and hit “print”, then I will say bad bad words to them.


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