Humor by John Christmann

Computers: A Love Story

A cartoon computer monitor with open arms

There can be no better feeling than hurling an uncooperative piece of electronics out a window. It must satisfy our most basic human desire for revenge.

Oh yeah? If you are so smart, how can you be so stupid? That’s what I would say as I watch it smash into pieces on a cold and uncaring sidewalk that has no use for technology.

The other day, as I struggled to think of something to write, my new computer monitor went to sleep indiscriminately and would not awaken from its dark-screen slumber. In true Catch 22 fashion, I couldn’t start fiddling with system settings because there was nothing to see on the screen but my own perplexed reflection.

So I did what most calm, thoughtful people do when their systems inexplicably stop working. I swore at it.

Then I shutdown the computer.

Reboot. It is the ultimate “go to” fix and now a permanent metaphor for fresh starts in our age of technology. Personally, I think rebooting is the modern equivalent to opening the hood of a car and staring cluelessly at a disabled roadside car engine. It makes us feel better for trying and occasionally works.

The monitor comes to life. I fixed it!

Thirty minutes later it goes to sleep again. I am all for saving power, but this is way more green than I want my monitor to be. Reboot. Sleep. Reboot. Sleep. There is definitely something wrong here.

I know there is a perfectly rational explanation for this failure which makes sense to some computer geek somewhere. And there is no doubt some scary system software fix posted on the internet by people way smarter than me.

But at this point I would much rather just throw the thing out the window. I don’t want to disrupt my creative energy flow to be a cold, logical IT person at the moment. Even when I don’t yet have any creative energy flow.

But fixing an illogical and poorly timed problem is ultimately what I must do. And the only thing satisfying about researching the problem on the Internet is seeing the number of posts by people who have the identical problem.

It makes me feel that I am not alone in the universe.

Not surprisingly, most of the desperate Internet posters seeking help also want to throw their monitors out the window. Because apparently it is a known bug without a fix, peculiar to my particular computer equipment.

My older son, home from college, hears my colorful anguish from across the house and wants to help. He is much more compassionate, thoughtful and patient than I am. These are truly admirable traits which he no doubt inherited from his mother.

“It’s this damn computer monitor,” I say angrily.

This?” he says resting his hand gently on the top of the screen.

And as if by magic the stupid thing bursts to life revealing a few Microsoft Words of a story that is both not started and not finished.

Wait! What did you just do?”

“Nothing. I touched it,” he says. And then after he realizes his sudden prowess, smugly adds “Your welcome!”. My son also has a keen sense for milking the moment, maybe the only trait he inherited from me.

Thirty minutes later the monitor goes to sleep again—the only sign of life a small glowing power button.

I lay my hand on it and when it doesn’t respond, I violently shake the worthless piece of junk without result. So I call him back and dare him to fix the monitor again.

He does. He puts his hand atop the screen and it awakens from whatever non functioning state it was in.

I can tell he is surprised as I am, though he doesn’t admit it. “Your welcome” he annoyingly reminds me again before leaving.

Thirty minutes later the screen goes dark. I grab hold of the top of the monitor and close my eyes as if praying to the all powerful technology gods. Nothing.

Now I am seething, but too proud to call him back. I NEED an answer.

The cat jumps up on the desk. Its tail brushes the monitor and the screen instantly lights up.

Now I want to throw both the monitor and the cat out the window.

Why? I ask myself with a sense of despair that is wildly disproportionate to the event.

The answer is obvious. Electronic devices are people too! They just need a little compassion. A reassuring hand. A warm embrace. A conversation with the living. I ask myself, when was the last time I hugged my computer?

The answer: never.

Thirty minutes later, after I finally had a topic of human interest to write about, the monitor again went comatose.

With great self control I gently rested my hands around the base and held the grossly inanimate thing in my hands as if it was something to be cherished. My monitor flickered. Then went dark. Then flickered again.

And then miraculously, it rejoined the illuminated.

Which was a good thing, because while my hands were grasping the monitor the window was open.