Calhoun’s Cannons for The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA
For October 26, 06
Ah, how seductive they all are, those bells-and-whistle modern conveniences. How easily they can seduce and then enslave. How simple is the slide from New Toy to Indispensable Companion to Unrelenting Master.
It all began Saturday morning as I sat working at my computer and heard clicking noises coming from the hard drive. You never want to hear clicking sounds coming from your computer, especially not on a Saturday morning.
The clicking noises were followed by The Blue Screen of Death, followed by The Black Screen of White Type That Defieth All Understanding, except for the terrifying realization that the time for comprehension is past and it is now time to turn off the computer and STEP AWAY FROM THE MACHINE!
Then ask the question: Why do computers seem like pets who only get sick when everything’s closed and so make you gamble on the decision, Is this really, reeeeely serious, requiring a very, very expensive trip to the emergency clinic? Or can we all just limp along until Monday?
In my case, the answer was, “Monday,” and so The Teacher arrived and The Lessons began.
First, of course, I had to realize that the high-pitched shrieking that was filling the room was actually coming from me and that the Hubris of Denial -- This can’t be happening to me! I have important things to do, papers to read, people to contact, columns to write, blogs to blog, the game’s afoot, events are unfolding, gotta keep current, stay hooked up, plugged in --was only going to be answered with: Bwa-hahahah. It is and you don’t. Deal with it.
Next came the valuable realization that this hooked-up, plugged-in dance was nothing more than a pathetic addiction. And that the unsettled panic I was feeling was only the withdrawal symptoms of a Busyness Junkie. The Dealer is down. Call rehab.
Worse yet was the insight of just how much this machine has, like Pavlov’s Dog, conditioned and trained me to change the very tempo of my life. An early riser by nature, I was now given a chance to see just how subtly the seductive whisper of the computer has been pushing my wake/work time back further and further into the silent dark hours of the morning. Psst, whispers the machine in the middle of the night, no time to waste. Time to get up. There might be something important, something new in your in-box.
There rarely was, of course, and after several days of no in-box at all, came the humbling realization that Life Goes On just fine without me being in the loop. By this time, I was clear headed enough to know with certainty that even when Steve Vandagriff, The High Tech Paladin who rode to the rescue, finished his work on the ailing hard drive and I could once again drop in, boot up, log on, the very first response from The World would be: You were off-line? We didn’t notice.
Finally, for me, the most oddly comforting Lesson of all was to realize just how easy it is to lose an e-life --letters, columns, documents, records, beloved photos -- all gone in the blink of an eye. There, in high-speed e-form, is the foreshadowed glimpse of our human condition: It all goes.
Paper burns, photos fade and crumble. Our technology cannot save us. One failed connection and all our data disappears in a blink. And the tail-chasing, high-tech futility of “saving” anything becomes comic as our e-memory storage systems remain astonishingly fragile and grow obsolete even before we take them out of the box. Betamax, anyone?
And like our machines, our flesh and blood software can fail spectacularly as well, even on a Saturday morning. A bit of stuck plaque and it’s the Blue Screen of Death. Or simply add the accreted dust of age and the system slows and falls away. Was I ten or twelve when I tumbled off that horse? What was the name of that cute boy at the dance? I’ll never forget. Now, where did I put that photograph? What did you say your name was?
It all goes.
So, for now, with the Blue Screen Blank, there is nothing left for me to do but pour a cup of coffee, and in the quite hours of the morning, listen to the slow, soft scritch of a pen on a blank piece of paper. Starting over in down time.