Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Pleading Computer Insanity

I'm working on getting a draft of my book to three people by the end of the week.  I see that people are still looking at my blog, despite the fact that I have pretty much abandoned it while writing. Mea Culpa. Here's a chapter to whet your appetite, I hope. 

            The fact that Noam is a self-proclaimed technophobe is one of the first things he divulged about himself. Many times since that confession he confirmed his belief that all technology, in all situations, is not fixable, nor is any document retrievable. He also insisted that if something could go wrong with anything mechanical or technical, it would go wrong. He wanted nothing to do with finding solutions, because to find a solution, he had to care, and he didn’t care about technology. Years ago, he'd found a way to redirect a substantial stream of water flowing from the gravelly, rutted road above his Cape Cod cottage so it would bypass the property and flow toward the pond below, so I knew he was capable of solving puzzles if he took the time to focus and think them through. When he found himself in what he categorized as a desperate situation, he took desperate measures, like when he called Theresa Tobin, the MIT librarian, at her home one night because he was having trouble accessing a journal in the MIT library system. Theresa helped him retrieve the journal, but before they hung up she asked him if he knew what time it was. He’d had no idea it was past 1 a.m..
            Noam was convinced computers and printers and anything technical, motorized, or battery-powered, even electric staplers, conspired to torture him. Coffee makers, washing machines and dishwashers, garage doors, cars, subscriptions, his phone, and his GPS were also culprits. When I tried to show him how to change the date on his watch one afternoon, he walked away waving his hands over his head, shouting, “Don’t bother, I don’t want to know!”
            While answering emails in his office, Noam was accidentally kicked off line, and became frustrated trying to figure out the logic behind the new Outlook Express program. “You have to be crazy to understand this new email system,” he groused from his office. “The people they designed this for are insane. The people who do the designing are insane.” I asked him to step away from his laptop for a few minutes and let me look at it in peace to figure out how he had managed to get himself kicked offline, but he kept pacing next to me, and in less than a minute, he was back at it. 
            “It’s hopeless. Just shut it off. Close it. Forget it. I have plenty of other things to do. Assaf will look at it with me tonight, and we’ll get it working. This program is designed for people without any logical sense.”
            Noam and I didn’t know what the red x on the bottom right of his screen indicated, but we assumed it had something to do with his not being able to get online. I did know how the x probably ended up there – an accidental flick of his finger hit a key at the wrong time, sending his computer, and him, into a tailspin. I finally walked away and sat at my own desk, trying to throw myself off line. I did the hokey pokey and I turned myself around, but no matter what arbitrary keys I hit, I was still able to access email and the web. I sat next to him again in the afternoon and tried to toggle him back online, with no luck. Then I noticed that the red x sitting in the lower right hand corner was gone, and I told him he might be back online.             
            “No, I don’t think I am. The fact that the red x disappeared only means one of my accounts is online, maybe my home account. Just forget it. Let’s close up the computer and forget it!” When we tried to close the computer up, the red x appeared again.
            As an aside, Noam once received an email asking to have a book signed. At the bottom was the Yahoo sign-off, 'Do you Yahoo?' Noam printed out the email and drew a circle around 'Do you Yahoo,' with a note to me saying, "Tell him I don't know what he's talking about."

            Assaf took a look at his computer that evening before dinner, and he figured out that when the red x had disappeared, he really had been back online. Noam just hadn’t been able to believe it, so he hadn’t even tried. By his logic, he would have had to be insane to believe it. I should have insisted we just try to open his email, but he was frustrated and insistent, and I doubted myself - I thought maybe I was missing something. Plus, when he was exasperated with computers, I just had to go along with his annoyance until he put the problem back in my – or Glenn’s - hands. Or, if he happened to have dinner plans that night at Irene and Assaf’s.


  1. Bravo, Bev! Can't wait to hold your book in my hands.

  2. I'm so glad you share these stories! Thank you so much.