Don’t scare the computer!

Kurt Vonnegut never succumbed to the word processor and the internet. To the end of his days he wrote longhand and mailed his submissions by dropping them into the corner postbox instead of his email server.

Well, not all of us are Vonnegut, and while I’d like to have his strength of will, the fact is that I now do almost all my writing on one or the other of my two computers, and almost all my submissions by email.

This is why I became so upset yesterday when both of my computers – or rather, the same word processor on both computers – refused to let me make a grant application. The application itself will be submitted by mail, but I wanted to prepare it using the document provided by the Ontario Arts Council, which, theoretically I could fill in on my word processor.

The Windows version simply refused to let me put the information in at all, claiming that I wasn’t allowed to alter the document. It also wouldn’t let me make a copy to alter, even though it teasingly asked me if I would like to do that.

After some swearing and fuming, I switched to the Linux machine, the laptop. Here the word processor was more accommodating. It let me fill in the form and also append a brief publishing history and a synopsis of the work I’m trying to get funded.

Then I hit “Save As”, filled out the file name and – the whole damn thing disappeared as the word processor crashed. When I restarted the program, it said it was going to recover my documents; all it gave me was the blank application form. Two hours of work had gone where the woodbine twineth. You’d better believe there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, and quite a bit more swearing.

Then I called my geek, aka husband, and wailed and gnashed my teeth at him, too. (It was he, after all, who had assured me that this program was better than the one I’d learned to know and tolerate.) As far as I was concerned, a word processor that sometimes destroyed work should be taken out into the back forty and shot. A computer with such a word processor on it was an electronic rock.

The upshot was that David came home and reinstalled my old word processor. It was very sweet of him, although I’m sure there was also an element of self-preservation in it. When he left this morning to return to work, he said to me, “Now, don’t scare your computer, okay?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Oh, you know,” he answered, “the computer says, ‘here’s this strange form, and I don’t know what to do with it and she’s – oh, no, she’s, she’s getting – AUUUUGGGGHHHHH!’ And then it panics and throws everything up in the air. Try not to scare it again.”

The thing is, I know he’s right. A program will misbehave for me, but when I show him what I did that put the bubblegum in the gears, it does exactly what it’s supposed to, just because he’s there.

“I’ll try,” I said.

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