Thursday, March 22, 2007

Virtual Grief for a Cyber-Buddy

Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum, dum. The previous was a phonetic representation of a funeral dirge, not adjectives describing a line of eleven people waiting overnight to buy tickets for “Dukes of Hazzard – The Musical.” The funeral dirge was played in honor of my trusty laptop computer which went to cyber heaven this week at the oh so young age of five years old. It surprised me how hard I took the news. Technology has always been a fun thing, but I thought I could take it or leave it.
I am content with four channels on my television. I am usually patient enough to cook without a microwave. We went without an answering machine on our phone for months until a friend became frustrated and bought us one. The best example of my technological indifference has to be my cell phone. The one I have at the moment has been mine for eight months. I have received sixty phone calls. The phone keeps track. I don’t. That works out to seven and a half calls a month. My most technologically advanced friend relies on his cell phone like a philodendron relies on photosynthesis. Seven and a half calls an hour would be slow, like glacier moving across Norway slow, for him.
There are some things I know how to do to “clean-up” the computer a little bit. I clicked the proper icons to start the defrag process (see I know some computer jargon). I then parked myself at my desk, staring at the little bar with the label stating 2% complete. I remained motionless as it stayed at 2% complete for about nine minutes. This would be followed by a short rock back in my chair and a glance at the heavens in gratitude when it jumped to 3% complete. To my family walking by and checking on me (over the next few hours) it appeared I was sitting shiva for a deceased family member. It looked like any second I would break into a Hebrew chant imploring some sort of mitzvah from the Moses of Microsoft. This, in truth, was as likely as any of my computer skills making a difference.
I think I was taking it hard because my computer is one of the only things in our house which I can call mine. As any husband and father can understand sharing is a matter of everyday life. From sharing a sip or three from my bottle of pop to a favorite t-shirt being turned into a nightgown for a little girl, dads share most things. I don’t mind sharing, but it didn’t seem to go the other direction very often. Think about it. If my wife pilfers from my closet no one at the store will bat an eye. On the other hand, if I wear her new culottes and wedgies I will find myself embarrassing my family all the way back to colonial days on the Maury Povich Show. I have already embarrassed my wife because I just implied she has culottes and wedgies in her closet, which are about thirty years out of date (she does not).
After I tried the few things I knew how to do as my computer choked and gasped, I called my sister, who works on computers for a living, and got a prognosis from her. Then Seth, my technologically advanced friend, took a crack at it and declared it most likely a goner. My next step was something like organ donation. I took the computer (or in its present state, the very heavy rectangular Frisbee) to a computer whisperer to get some files and things removed like a liver and a kidney for the organ bank.
Alan, the computer psychic, was most encouraging. He went right to work dissecting and re-connecting the hard drive. As is the case with most guys good with computers he was an adept multi-tasker. He answered the phone as he was working with my computer cadaver and began to help another customer. At least I assume he was helping someone, because all the information he was spouting was as coherent to me as a group of sailors leaving a Shanghai waterfront bar at four in the morning. This is what was said: “Your IP address and your sonic wall may not be interfacing this could cause the little pixies who run the printer to declare war with the tiny hamsters in control of the power supply which usually means the Grand High Vizier of the Operating System gets ticked off and moves to the Bahamas,” or words to that effect. I could be wrong. My mind started to wander.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Driving through the generation gap

I am fully aware that I am on one side of the generation gap and my children are on the other. This past weekend that gap was illustrated over and over again causing me to think of it as less of a gap and more of a chasm, an abyss, a disparity larger than the difference between the number of people who have been informed all about Anna Nicole Smith’s life and death and the number of people who wanted to be informed about Anna Nicole Smith’s life and death.
As a birthday present my oldest daughter, Emilyjane, wanted to take a trip. So 8:00 AM Friday we packed the minivan. My first observation wasn’t so much a generation gap but rather a gap between the genders. The plan was to return home less than 48 hours after departure. I had one bag which was about the size of an overweight dachshund. Each of the three girls had bags and extras which made the minivan necessary for cargo, not just for comfort.
The first leg of the trip was a little on the short side. We went three blocks to get yet something else from one of the girl’s houses. I do not know what we needed, but I didn’t feel the need to ask, discretion being the better part of parenthood. We had been on the road a total of eighty-five seconds so when we stopped it only made sense that all three girls piled out of the van to go to the bathroom.
This trio of girls is a group any parent would be proud of, but I still don’t understand their behaviors. The first thing I noticed was symptomatic of the birth order theory of personality. One girl is an only child and proceeded to fall asleep as soon as we started rolling. It was obvious being an only child she thought it was natural to sleep on top of whatever, or in this case, whoever, was handy. My daughter is the oldest of three, so she thought it was only natural that she not be slept upon. The last girl is the baby of three children so she thought it was par for the course to have someone sleep on her. I guess it all worked out in the end.
As a father I have become very adept (or as the kids would say, I have mad skills) at closing my senses to what is going on in the back of the minivan while driving long distances. This was put to the test when it came to the radio stations the girls preferred. I had to resort to my i-Pod to keep from pulling my rapidly graying hair out of my head.
Let me give you examples of the different tastes in music and see which side you are on. My earphones were playing Sammy Davis Jr. singing “Begin the Beguine.” Here is a snippet of the lyrics: “What moments divine, what rapture serene, Till clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted, And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted, I know but too well what they mean.” Here are words that tell of love lost, words which paint pictures, words which require having scored above a 6 on your SAT’s to understand. Now a short description of what the girls were tuned to. I do not know the artist (and I use that term loosely), but it sounded like the defensive linemen from the entire NFC North were calling out the words, rather than melodiously interpreting them. These men were saying “Walk it out.” They proceeded to say it multiple times. How many times? Take the number of times any reasonable person would repeat any one phrase and then multiply by seven. You’d be close.
I was traveling with three teenage girls so of course part of our time was spent in a mall the size of a third world country. We had been inside the building, maybe three minutes, when a fully uniformed member of the Tulsa police force approached the girls. I was about five paces behind which was preferred by both them and me. The police officer asked the girls where a particular store was located. This made sense to me. If you want to know where something is in the outer reaches of the universe you ask Stephan Hawking. If you want to know the lay out of a mall you ask a teenage girl. I was about to step up and say we were from out of town so we couldn’t help, when all three girls turned and pointed to exactly where the police officer wanted to go.
It was downright eerie.