Illustration by Jan A. Igoe
Technology is a wonderful thing, as long as you never forget that computers hate us. They may play along, acting like allies, but they’re just waiting for the right moment to gobble up the 15 projects your boss wanted yesterday and send them to Mars.
My computer is like my car, which I know how to drive. But that’s all. Sure, I've memorized the important stuff, like which side the gas tank is on and how many tires work best (usually an even number). Also important: Neglecting to close the moonroof causes hurricanes.
Computer-wise, it’s the same deal. I can use lots of programs, but I have no idea how the mysterious box they live in works. Most of my fellow females were also born without the brain lobe that reminds them to clear caches and defrag whatchamacallits.
Take Alexis, for example. She has a doctorate in some 15-syllable thing, which means her family forked over a lot of money for a framed certificate that proves she’s not dumb. She’s a highly capable, self-sufficient something- or-other, not prone to hysterical fits unless she’s getting ready for a national conference when her computer stops in its tracks. (I’m telling you, they know when to pull this stuff.)
Yep. Out of nowhere, Alexis’ computer demanded to know who she was and what right she had to put her grimy fingers on its keyboard. She realized it was after some obscure password she hadn’t used since the last time she walked her dinosaur. The top-secret phrase resided somewhere in her computer’s evil brain, which refused to access itself. For years, Alexis endured a rocky relationship with the ungrateful box. While she worked to buy faster modems and all the bandwidth it could chug, that computer rested comfortably on its digital duff, sprawled out on her king-size desk. Never once—not one single time—did it say “thank you.”
She’d done everything in her power to keep it happy. Alexis supplied all the latest software, while it sat around getting loaded. She nursed it back to health after every malicious virus. (Computers never admit exactly what they've been up to when they cruise the Internet, but they’re always catching some communicable disease.) Anyway, a lesser woman would have kicked the binary bum out years ago.
Desperate, Alexis called our weird, somewhat scary coffee-shop acquaintance, the Inter-nerd. She hated to admit defeat, but this situation clearly called for a male in black-rimmed quadri-focals who still Brylcreems his head and speaks fluent Geek.
The Inter-nerd considered her plight for roughly two seconds and responded, “Zabag>809qobzlock??wonZebboofenDing. Then hit ‘enter.’”
And just like that, the blue screen of death vanished, and she was saved. The whole thing was highly suspicious. As you know, most women were not designed to read instruction manuals, even the ones that might spare them from digital disaster. (Please note the term: MAN-ual.)
When you’re battling insomnia, computer manuals have their place. And cantankerous computers may behave better knowing they are about to be smacked upside the monitor by a deranged female who happens to be brandishing one. Beyond that, women and manuals don’t socialize.
There’s one small consolation: Computers are a lot like buses. Five minutes from now, the one infuriating you will be obsolete, and you can get another one to take you where you’re going. Then you can tell your ungrateful ex-computer where to store that password.
Alexis found it very gratifying.
Jan A. Igoe's computer recently was hospitalized for several weeks, causing her to pick up a rock and scrawl this month’s column on a cave wall. Write her at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.