I admit to being excessively dependent on my computer. I say “excessively” because, after more than two decades of relying on a computer, without it I can barely write a grocery list. For example, I recently sent a friend a birthday card and my handwriting was so bad it looked like I was recovering from a stroke. I mention all of this because Sunday night my computer went haywire. And so did I.
After dinner (and a delicious dessert as it happens) I was working on a deadline for a “Snide World of Sports” column that ultimately ran in Tuesday’s paper. Suddenly, the cursor went from the sentence I was working on to the bottom of the page. I returned to my original spot, started to type again, and bingo I was back at the bottom.
Like a rational adult (or a reasonable facsimile) I tried to calmly analyze the problem. I held down the “shift” key and discovered that I could return to my original spot. It seemed an odd solution but it worked… temporarily. After ten frustrating minutes, I was in full-fledged panic.
I re-booted the computer over and over but the problem always returned. I even tried to work in other applications than “Word” hoping that I could eventually cut and paste and send my column in that way. No such luck. I was stuck. I have an old computer in the living room that I consider my “backup” for emergencies. This now qualified. Yikes!
Before I did anything more, however, I sent a quick email to my friend Danno, the computer whiz who has rescued me from many a tech issue. For his convenience (and mine) he set up a system where our computers are hooked into each other and, from his apartment, he can diagnose problems remotely. But this was 2 A.M., meaning the issue wouldn’t get resolved until morning, if then. Meanwhile, I was convinced my computer had been hacked!
Anxiety began to build as I turned on my old computer, which seemingly took forever. Then it dawned on me I don’t even have Word on this computer so I had to download that. And wouldn’t you know, I forgot my password to my email to get online. (On my main computer I have my password stored.)
Finally, a half-hour later, I began to work on my column. It was incredibly slow but I was making progress. Half-way through, however, I checked my email to see if Danno maybe gotten up early. He hadn’t so I sent another email describing the symptoms in greater detail hoping that would help in his diagnosis. (It’s a wonder I got the column done at all.)
After finishing Snide World, I sent it in to the Daily Press but, instead of going to bed, I returned to my main computer to see if there was any mail from Danno. Naturally, at that hour, there wasn’t, unless he sends emails in his sleep. So, I sent a 3rd and what I thought would be my final missive on the subject to Danno with even more details. (As crazy as I sound, Danno is, at least, used to me.) And yet I couldn’t go to sleep with my computer so dysfunctional.
With my high-powered flashlight, I got on the floor and inspected all the connections. I was desperate because the problem couldn’t have been that. I returned to my chair and turned the flashlight on the keyboard. I saw something that didn’t look right. It was a certain key that looked as though it was stuck. Actually, not just a certain key but the “PageDown” key. Uh oh!
So, if you’re as dependent on your computer as I am, there’s a morale to the story. Don’t eat cake near your keyboard. With a magnifying glass, I inspected the stuck key. I also got a very thin knife and scraped out some shmutz. (also spelled “schmutz,” Yiddish for “an unidentifiable substance, dirt or garbage.”) Actually, it soon became identifiable, as in cake crumbs from dessert! With a few scrapes the key was set free.
Looking back, that my computer kept sending the cursor downward might have indicated to a more mechanically adept or logical person the source of the problem. But, my anxiety of a deadline and no computer had sent logic out the window. (Which, at one point, I was thinking of jumping out of.)
In my final “apology” email to Danno, I quoted the late Gilda Radner from Saturday Night Live. Among her many and varied characters, Gilda played Emily Litella. Poor Emily was extremely hard of hearing and would misinterpret a key word or two and thus be very offended by Chevy Chase’s editorials. When an exasperated Chevy finally explained the correct wording, Emily would say rather meekly… “Never mind.”