In a fit of rage against technology, a rage which is common to many, but often has reason to be described anew, I recently threw the TV remote across the room. This incident reminded me of a conversation I’d had on the phone with a very young man acquaintance. He’s so young that he thinks everyone should be having fun all the time. “I just want to come and shake you until you laugh and feel better,” he said.
This sentence reminded me of what happened with a computer-guy. Although I hate computers I had to buy a MacBook in order to have my manuscripts typed and emailed to me because I can’t type. I‘d handwrite and fax them to the typist and she’d them fax them back. I‘d correct them and fax them back to her. This would go on and on. Fax machines are a kind of hell. I ‘d get messages saying, “I didn’t get page three, seven, nine, twelve.” So that’s why I got The Thing – a computer-book or whatever they’re called. At least it’s not attached to the wall and I don’t have to sit at a desk. And it was beautiful to look at – -all the BBC newsreaders had them. I figured if they have them, it must be okay. Because I’m an Anglophile and Anglophobe at the same time. I love the eccentric-beyond-belief-absurdly-funny British journalist Richard Quest, who used to read the BBC financial news. He did it with great gusto and misplaced enthusiasm for the dullest financial facts. If I met him he’d probably be mean to me in that polite way the English have. I mean the ones brought up in the upper class and upper-middle class. Not Paul McCartney or Ricky Gervais.
I never took any lessons or learned how to use the computer. All I knew was how to get the weather and order vitamins, because one thing worse than using a computer is going from store to store looking for a certain vitamin.
There was only one computer-guy who could fix Apple-Macs. And he had to travel an hour to do it. The others did PC, whatever that is. When my computer didn’t work as expected, no one warned me that this computer-guy was a fifty-five-year-old, overweight, effeminate, married makeup artist. He came to the appointment all swathed in black– a big black over- shirt and several long black scarves. In conversation he described people by their hair: “Her hair was all one length.” His own hair was in a teeny platinum blond crew-cut, and he had gigantic bulging shiny green eyeballs.
The next time I called him to tell him what the computer was doing, he said, “You sound so sad, I just want to throw my arms around you and give you a big hug!” A hug from this guy was unfathomable– even the thought of it made me feel so much worse.
At our second appointment, he became enraged that I didn’t know what the Command Key was. Command-A. Or Command-P or Command whatever. “That’s not how you do it!” he said. And, “You don’t click there – click on the blue!” To mean: “I can’t believe how ignorant you are!” He had come to fix something minor. Probably the cure was to unplug and re-plug, but I ‘d forgotten because I hate anything to do with those hideous wires and plugs.
So, this guy-– we were in an outer horror-tech- room, not inside the house proper—suddenly dared to put his hands on my shoulders, and say, “You’re so tense!” Whereupon he speedily moved his hands to my neck and cracked it with a swift, powerful twist.
I said, “Please, don’t ever do that.”
He took affront and said, “I know chiropractics!”
I said, “I don’t want to be a paraplegic. I just want you to fix the computer.”
“I know what I’m doing!” he said. He was even more offended.
At one point he said, then screamed, “I can’t fix that!”
Finally he left in a huff of some kind.
Later that day he left a message to excuse his behavior by saying that he was hypoglycemic. Then I remembered that on his first visit he‘d mentioned he’d had extraterrestrial experiences. That should have tipped me off.
Julie Hecht is the author of four books. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and Harper’s, and she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship