'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
CONTROL-ALTERNATE-DELETE MY SANITY
Iím having a serious love-hate relationship right now with computers. On the one hand, I love the way computers have increased my productivity. With a computer I can write and edit much more quickly than with a typewriter, and after I run the spell-check function the final product almost appears like I know what Iím doing.
(Actually, I bought an expensive software program last year called ďColumn-Rite.Ē I just type in my name and a topic, and the computer writes the column automatically for me. But please donít tell the editors at the newspaper or they might not pay me.)
At my real job, we use computers for everything now. All of our quotations, sales orders, and shipments are done with computers. We also use email and the Internet to communicate with our suppliers and customers much more rapidly and efficiently.
But on the other hand, I hate the way computers have total control over everything. If the computers donít feel like working properly, everything comes to a grinding halt. (And donít tell me computers are just inanimate machines and have no feelings. I know perfectly well they do, because I can often hear them talking about me behind my back. Theyíre mischievous little snots, and they purposely decide to lock-up, or shut down, or spew nonsensical data at the most inopportune moments.)
Whatever increased productivity might be gained by using computers is more than offset by all the maddening frustration. As the Bible clearly says, ďWhat does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his mind?Ē
The past couple of weeks have been positively gruesome in my losing battle with technology. The computers at work have been especially buggy. Programs suddenly freeze up; important files mysteriously disappear; the printers work only half the time; and we regularly lose our connection to the Internet. And no one knows why.
To make matters worse, last year I was appointed as our companyís official computer trouble-shooterónot because I particularly know anything special about computers, but because I failed to attend the meeting where they picked someone for this non-paying, do it in your spare time, responsibility. Let this be a lesson to anyone tempted to blow off a boring meeting.
The coup de gr‚ce (French for ďcontrol-alternate-deleteĒ) occurred a few days ago when my laptop computer died. Without so much as a cough or a complaint of a headache, it just died. The coronerís report called it a massive hard drive failure. The machine was dead before the screen finished going blank.
At that tragic moment, every single thing Iíve done for the last two and a half years ceased to exist. All my files, all my programs, all my notes, all my email correspondenceógone forever. I think I may have backed up some key files recently, but Iíve been too distraught to look into it yet. Do you know what itís like when thereís a sudden death in the family and you go around in a dazeósigning papers you donít even look at; talking in a detached monotone with everyone; telling the funeral director, ďYes, I suppose $14,000 for a casket is reasonableĒóbut youíre not really paying attention? Well, thatís what Iíve been doing the last few days.
Iím writing this column right now on a borrowed computer, and many of the keys are in different locations compared to my old dead computer. Each time I want to move the cursor back one word, I accidentally delete the entire paragraph. My blood pressure reading must be off the chart right about now.
I hope the editors donít mind if I start sending my column to the newspaper via the U.S. Mail rather than email. And I hope they donít mind if itís scribbled in pencil on yellow-lined paper. I know it will cause extra work for them, but if I donít get away from computer frustration for a while, my return address will be the State Psychiatric Hospital.
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