Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Oops (01/14/10)
TITLE: Man vs. Machine
By Kate Oliver Webb
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“Just as Mary entered the walled city,” Sebastian taps out on his laptop, “she was met by…”
And he hears the sound that turns to ice water the blood that flows in every computer user’s veins: “BLIP.”
The cursor blinks at him silently. He presses the space bar. Nothing. He presses the backspace. Nothing. Taps the enter key twice. The cursor continues blinking silently. Gimme another “blip” at least, Sebastian thinks, beginning to panic.
He tries the old “three-finger salute” (ctrl-alt-delete): nothing but a blinking cursor and silence.
Sebastian isn’t a computer whiz. He’s a creative type, and all creative types know that technology exists either to aid their creativity or to frustrate it thoroughly. Sebastian believes (read: hopes) his Word program was set to automatically back up every…uh, 10 minutes?…uh, 30 minutes?...yeah, that’s right, he’s sure now, every 30 minutes. Right? Uh…15 minutes?
He glances again at the page. He no longer sees the cursor. Uh oh; this does not look good.
Sebastian stands and paces in front of his desk, rubbing the back of his neck. He leans over the chair and gingerly reaches for the mouse. He carefully moves it around on its pad. He clicks the left button. Clicks the right. Nothing moves.
He doesn’t want to just turn the laptop off; what if it doesn’t come back on?
His mind is hopping from idea to idea: Who can I call? Is the warranty on this thing up to date? What if I lose everything I’ve got on that stupid machine? I don’t think it likes me.
He sits back down in front of his laptop. What to do, what to do?
As happens when catastrophes strike, the man’s mind begins to think of the worst. My address book--gone. My two books, my “works in progress”--gone. No, no…I’ve got them on disc. Okay. My GAMES!! Oh no!
His thinking has now reached critical mass: he decides to lay hands on the offending machine and pray for it.
At the end of his prayer, one eye blinks open and he looks--in vain--for the cursor. And closes both eyes again, with a groan.
He decides a break is in order. He’ll grab the Model T of story-writing (a pencil and notebook) and finish his Challenge entry, being confident that when his laptop is again working, he can re-create the part he wrote before the “blip” occurred.
He makes coffee, and while the fragrant liquid drips into the pot, he sits at the kitchen table and writes out his notes.
Then he thinks: why didn’t I turn off the thing before I made the coffee? Then it could have “rested” or something--thinking of course that after that he would turn the laptop on again and it would be miraculously ready to receive his creative input.
He drinks his coffee, and deliberately takes his mind away from his computer, his Challenge entry, this house he’s sitting in. He’s away now, on the cross-country ski trail he enjoyed at Christmas with his wife and kids. His body relaxes as he gets into the imagery.
Calmer now, he goes back to his desk, and sits facing his nemesis.
“Well,” he thinks, “what’s the worst that could happen?” He reaches out and deliberately turns off the power switch, sits back in his chair and waits.
For the length of time it takes him to hum one song (in this case, an old, old hymn: “’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”) he ponders his next move. Then he deliberately reaches again for the switch, and turns his laptop back on.
He watches lights flash, hears the hums, the little musical ditty indicating the machine is coming to life. Everything looks to be happening normally.
Small moments later he has reopened his Word program and found his Challenge document, and sees it open to the exact spot where he heard the “blip.”
“…her cousin Elizabeth’s servant.” He finishes his entry with a couple more paragraphs.
What happened? He isn’t even wondering about that. He knows from experience that not every “blip” has a bad ending. Trying to figure it all out would just give him a headache. If the next “blip” turns out bad, so be it.
Oh--was I supposed to tell you what happened with his computer? Oops.
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