The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
Symptoms of life
By Daniel Will Harris
I'm jealous of my wife's computer. She spends more time with it than she does with me. Sure, she knows how to press my buttons, too, but lately the computer has been getting more attention than I have.
Of course, she turned to her computer because I was already spending too much time with mine. She'd call me for dinner and 45 minutes later I'd emerge from my office (which she calls "the hole") thinking just five minutes had passed. She couldn't understand it. Then she got a computer and now she understands and does it herself. If I dare ask "What's for dinner?" I'm lucky to get an answer in 45 minutes. And we have popcorn for dinner more than really seems necessary.
Sometimes I have to e-mail her downstairs to get her attention. At one point she took her computer to bed, but that was simply too much. Now she just has it on the sofa while she watches TV, which is fine except when we're watching TV together and she's glowing brighter than the screen—it brings a new meaning to "she has that special glow."
But I can't blame her—I understand all too well. My computer is more than a machine. It's a tool, sometimes a faithful friend, other times an evil nemesis. Sometimes a window to the world, other times an escape from it. Virtually always mesmerizing. It's not nearly as smart as my wife, and doesn't smell as good, but it does what I say more often.
I'm aware my computer is not alive (in the traditional sense). Since it's yet to recognize itself in a mirror, it probably can't pass for sentient. Still, it has all the symptoms of life. It puts out heat. It makes noise. It responds.
I know how to turn it on. It lights up when it sees me. It's always there for me. It does what I ask, more often than my wife (who is editing this and would have cut that sentence out if it had bothered her). I can communicate with it using touch alone. It informs me and nags me. Assists and confounds. Helps me focus and distracts me. It knows my secrets and does my bidding. It puts up with me, puts out for me and gets put out with me.
Yet like all relationships, this one has its share of pain. Sometimes we have difficulty communicating. At times we even seem to speak different languages. Occasionally I can't understand what on earth it's thinking. I ask it to do the smallest thing and it acts like it's an ordeal. If I'm upset, it just freezes, my electrical current conflicting with it. Often it just seems to ignore me.
And lately it's started to hurt me. My hand started aching from years of moving the mouse. It's done this to me before, and usually a few day's rest and a wrist-brace get me over it, but this time it wouldn't go away. It moved into my arm, my shoulder, and then into this muscle I'd never even known existed that ran up my skull and ended in a little knot at the top of my ear. And did the computer show any sympathy? No. Come to think of it, that's also like some people I know...
I bought a wrist brace—you know the kind—it's beige and looks a little like an medieval instrument of torture. Badly designed, with Velcro and badly sewn edges that worked like sandpaper against my skin. I took it back. The computer, apparently repentant, helped me find info on the web that lead me to www.smartglove.com which was far more comfortable and helpful (but has yet to answer a single question I've posed to it, so I do wonder just how smart it is).
Next, my computer helped me find a mouse-substitute, a trackpad like the kind on laptops. I find it natural and comfortable to move the cursor just by pointing with my finger. The last time I tried to install one, it caused my previous computer to have a total nervous breakdown. This computer suggested a USB (the relationship-saving-port) one that just plugs in and works, no drivers. Now I can use any finger to point (depending on my mood!). It's helping my hand heal, and the computer enjoys accessorizing itself.
So we're back on good terms—for the time being, at least. Come to think of it, my wife would probably enjoy a little accessorizing herself. I think I'll turn off the computer now and go press my wife's buttons.