Monday, February 28, 2011

The Tinfoil Hat

Sometimes I wonder if those people who go around wearing tinfoil hats for protection from some unknown, mysterious "them" might not have something.

I have no doubt whatsoever that my computer is fully aware of both my inadequacies and my frustration level, and that it takes deliberate advantage of them whenever possible. You may see this as paranoia. I see it as irrefutable fact. What other possible explanation can there be for this morning's incident? To wit:

To the left of my computer screen I have what is known, for reasons beyond my understanding, as "the Dock" on which are put "icons" of those programs most frequently used. I have 16 of these little icons at the moment. The one I most frequently use is a tiny file folder titled "Documents," through which I access all my writing projects. This morning, as I was trying to "open" it (I love these quaint technological terms), it vanished. Disappeared. One instant it was there and the next, when I put the cursor (where that name came from is also a total mystery) over the little folder icon and left-clicked (I'm on a roll with computer terminology!) to "open" it, as I do no fewer than 50 times a day, the little folder disappeared. Why it disappeared, how it disappeared, or where it went when it disappeared are, like probably the majority of other things in my life, not for the likes o' me to know.

This same thing has happened before, and when it did it this time, my immediate reaction was the same as it has been every other time something happens for absolutely no discernible reason: I completely come apart at the seams, panic, blubber, curse myself, the computer, and the fates, and then develop a total mind-freeze so complete it prevents me from remembering my own name.

Whenever I have a computer problem I cannot handle (which is to say every time I have a computer problem) my first thought is to call my friend Gary who, with the patience of a saint, drops whatever he's doing and comes over to extricate me from whatever mess I've gotten into. Inevitably, he will resolve the problem with one tap of his index finger on one key.

When some semblance of normal functioning returned in this morning's crisis, I tried with all my might to remember what had been done the last fifteen times to put the little folder back in its place on the "Dock." And I remembered! All I need do is go to "File" and then "Open" and then...well, a whole lot of other things which will eventually bring up, somewhere and somehow, the little Document icon. Then, all I had to do was click on it, hold down the cursor key, and "drag" it over to the Dock! Which is exactly what I proceeded to do. And the instant I took my finger off the cursor key, the file icon disappeared again.

Thinking there was the most remote of chances that I might possibly have done something wrong (I know, hard to imagine, but...), I did the "File"/"Open"/Whatever routine again. Found the folder icon. Placed the cursor on it, held the key down and dragged it to the Dock. Held it there to be sure it wasn't going away. Released my finger and it instantly disappeared again. Tried it a third time. Same result.

Applying my lifelong principle of "If at first you don't succeed, give up," I gave in to desperation and called Gary. (There has to be a special place in heaven for long-suffering best friends.) He dropped what he was doing and came over, sat down at the computer, went to "File"/"Open"/Whatever. Placed the cursor on the Document folder, held the key down, and dragged it to the Dock. Released his finger and there the Document folder icon stayed. Well, of course it did! He did it, not me.

Listening patiently to my pathetic insistence that what he did was exactly, exactly what I had done, he struggled not to show that he didn't believe me for an instant. Getting up from the computer without a word, he left.

I stared at the computer. It stared back. I was sure I could hear it snickering.

I am now going into the kitchen to make myself a tinfoil hat.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In the meantime, you're invited to visit my recently-revised website at, or drop me a note at I'd love to hear from you.

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