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Computer Hell

by Rose Madeline Mula

Remember how "they" told us computers would change our lives? They would eliminate paper—no more file cabinets. (Ha!) They would save us time. Less drudgery, more leisure. (Double Ha!) They would make us more productive. We would demolish mountains of work in minutes. (Hysterical laughter.)

Since owning a computer, I am ashamed to admit that I have used so much paper, I personally am probably responsible for the decimation of an entire forest somewhere in the world. After my first system crash, I became compulsive about printing out everything. Yes, I back up my files electronically; but who's to guaranty nothing will happened to my back-ups?

However, though I've become an environmentalist's worst nightmare, I am the economists' darling. I can take credit for contributing to the increase in sales of office furniture because I have to keep buying file cabinets to house all my printouts. Soon I'll also boost real estate sales because I'll have to move to a larger house. No room here for any more filing cabinets.

And the manufacturers of printer cartridges have me to thank for their booming profits. I go through cartridges like a kid through a new box of crayons. (The crayons are much cheaper.)

What is so time-consuming are not so much the things I do on my computer but, rather, the things I try to do that don't work. After fruitless minutes (okay, okay-hours) of trial and error, I call tech support where, after pressing numerous menu choices I am, of course, put on hold, the limbo of the damned. I have been subjected to more canned music in the last couple of years than the majority of sane people (i.e., those who do not own computers) hear in a lifetime. And when my call that is so important to them finally connects me to a live techie, my troubles are not over. Oh no, my friend, in many cases they have just begun. Consider the following actual conversation I had last night (okay, okay—at 3:00 AM) with tech support:

Me: I'm having a problem downloading pictures.

TS (no, no—that means Tech Support, not what you think—but actually your assumption is more accurate): I don't know about that. I never downloaded nothing (sic).

Me: Well, can you transfer me to someone who does know?

TS: No. Everyone else is busy.

For this I waited on hold for 23 minutes?

The time wasn't completely wasted though. I played computer Free Cell solitaire while waitingand after I hung upfor probably another hour and a half. I'm addicted. Are there any 12-step programs for that?

I take back what I said about the stuff that works not necessarily being time-consuming. One application works too well. E-mail. You can't kill it. It just keeps proliferating. I am now on the address list of every computer owner I've known since I was two years old. I've decided it's possible to have too many friends, despite what Mother always told me. These friends send me messages. I thank them. They thank me for thanking them.It's an unending loop. As for the jokes that keep making the rounds, enough already! I just don't have the time for all this entertainment. I really should be attending to some serious stuff—like trying to figure out how to stamp out spam, especially porn. I never search the net for anything even slightly risqu (I swear!), but somehow my E-mail address has found its way to the purveyors of messages with subject lines such as "Pictures of Hot Nude Teen-age Girls." Like at my age I need to be reminded how grotesque I look by comparison.

But my problems are insignificant compared to those of my friend Joan who just bought a new computer—one with more bells and whistles than a calliope. She wanted to be sure she had all the latest enhancements that would enrich her life (cue hysterical laughter again). Her computer has ten times the features of mine—and a hundred times the headaches since problems increase exponentially with each additional application.

Yes, "they" were right. I can truthfully say that my computer has changed my life. Actually, I now have no life. No time for one. Gotta keep on top of that e-mail and all the other stuff on the web. I got up at 6:30 this morning. It's now 2:00 PM, and I'm still sitting at the keyboard-sleep deprived, undressed, unshowered, bed unmade, newspaper unread, and unreachable by phone since I can't afford a separate line for this electronic monster which has me in its grip.

Help! Stop me before I boot up again!

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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