I'm happy to tell you I'm feeling a little better now. I've had some
time to try and piece together what actually happened during that terrible
dark incident on Monday. I'd like to come to terms with it and move on. The
folks here have been very understanding and very encouraging. There was
even some talk today about letting me go back to work at the Mercury News
someday. I don't know how you and the big bosses feel about that . . .
I realize now that I was in denial on Monday. Looking back now, I know that
memos were sent, meetings were held and contingency plans were in place.
But, like a proud homeowner whose dream house lies in the shadow of a volcano
or on the edge of an earthquake fault, I could not come to grips with the
enormity of the terror I faced. I couldn't bring myself to think the
I knew the office remodeling and the move from old cubicles to new would
bring stress to my life. But when I came in and found my new desk on Monday
morning, when I saw that Compaq Prolinea 5100 sitting there next to my
trusty old Macintosh, I just blanked. My first thought when I saw the
flashing DOS prompt was: ''This is a TOOL OF THE DEVIL. AND IT IS IN MY
OFFICE. SOME TERRIBLE MISTAKE HAS BEEN MADE.''
Howard poked his head over the barrier and saw me quaking violently.
''Just type 'WIN' and you get Windows!'' he chirped. What I understood this
to mean was: ''Just fondle the tool of Satan and electronic Beelzebub will
chew your ears off and suck out your cerebral cortex!''
Thanks to some intensive meetings here, I'm ''in touch'' with those
feelings, I ''own'' them and I understand now that I mis-heard Howard.
Still, there it was: Windows 3.1, complete with a full complement of
Windows applications and utilities. The Fate Worse Than Death. The Darkness
That Blots Out the Rainbow. The Plague of Bill Gates.
It had finally befallen me.
Now, boss, I know I wasn't the only one in that room to feel some anxiety
that day. Even non-Macolytes who had grown used to the Merc's old
proprietary command-line setup were exhibiting classic
white-knuckles-on-the-keyboard syndrome. These new Windows boxes were the
only way into the editorial system, a bed of hot coals between us and our
work. Techs and systems czars large and small swarmed over the room, moving
from cubicle to cubicle like trauma surgeons in the triage area of a very
bloody battlefield hospital. It was all they could do to keep the walking
wounded walking and the moribund from feeling too much pain.
If I live a thousand years, I won't be able to forget the cries of the
dying. ''TCP/IP not initialized!'' ''Software trap PC 0773!'' ''They've
taken off my back delete key!'' All the techs could do was murmur words of
comfort and move on. ''There, there, be brave. Just double-click on the
commands help . . . Easy, son. You'll pull through. Here, bite on this
Windows tutorial in your main window . . .''
Of course, there was a training session. There's always a training
session. To a Macolyte, a hardcore adherent of the Rainbow Covenant, this
was like handing out Band-Aids and Valium to a person who's just had her
legs blown off! I ask you: Will any amount of training fix scroll bars that
just aren't quite right, windows that aren't quite right, file names that
aren't quite right? Will training fix the evil that is ''Program Manager''?
OK, deep breaths, deep breaths, go to the safe place, the safe place . . .
I don't remember all that much after that. I remember getting really
dizzy and feeling as if I was looking at that Windows desktop through a
long black tube. I remember asking a couple of co-workers ''So, where's the
garbage can?'' and being told there was no garbage can in Windows. The
folks here who have seen my intake report tell me that when I was brought
in, I was still mumbling ''I want the garbage can. I need the garbage
can. I want the Finder. I need the Finder.''
I'm sure that with enough time, I'll be able to fully recount what
happened and move, as they say in group, ''toward closure.''
They don't let me wear my boots here, just soft hospital slippers.
Still, if you get a chance to visit (visiting days are Sundays and
Thursdays) could you bring my boots anyway? I have this nagging feeling one
of them may still be stuck in the Compaq monitor. That's the last place I
remember seeing it when those security folks came for me.
Well, I have to go now. The orderly is telling me it's art therapy time
and they're very big on punctuality. If I get there promptly, I can usually
get one of the PowerPC 8500s loaded with Photoshop. If I'm late, Nurse Amy
usually makes me use a IIvx with KidPix. I hate KidPix.
They don't have any Windows machines here, boss . . .
YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE: Each new technology we
choose to adopt has the potential to enslave us. The personal
telecommunications devices so dear to us - pagers, laptops, cell phones -
are, to my mind, the most pernicious threat of all. You just knew it was
only a matter of time before two of these electronic leashes would become
tangled, right? CompuServe has just announced a new scheme to allow members
to receive e-mail via pagers. Now, if you really need to e-mail
JoeWired@compuserve.com when he's away from his terminal, you can send mail
to JoeWired@mobile.compuserve.com and know he'll get it virtually anywhere.
The service costs CompuServe members a $5 registration fee. Unless pager
service is through one of three firms partnered with CompuServe, the
service also costs an additional $4.95 a month and 25 cents per message.
(See GO PAGER.) Users can elect to limit message length, number of messages
and when they receive the forwarded e-mail. (Imagine the poor sap who
doesn't bother to set the parameters and stops midway through an
orgasmic-great ski run only to receive 20 kilobytes of the infamous ''MAKE
MONEY FAST'' chain letter.)
INFORMATION, PLEASE: Amateur sleuths looking for old
friends and lost loves may wish to dial up the new Switchboard service. The
free directory, at http://www.switchboard.com,
features 90 million white-pages listings culled from phone books across the
United States in a format searchable by name, city or state. This should be
a welcome supplement to Four11.com, CompuTrace, the ProCD Directory Search
and all the other on-line meta-directories. It should also give the pricey
CD-ROM-based phone directories a run for their money.