Twice Upon A Time Oct21


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Twice Upon A Time

And Then Some

A non-fiction complaint by Beverly Mosier

My husband my son and my grandson all say it can’t happen.  That no matter what I say, my computer does not have a mind of its own.  It cannot make decisions or have an opinion, it only does what the operator drives it to do.

Well! Excuse me… but I disagree.  My computer not only has opinions, it has unreasonable opinions and acts upon them without me doing anything that should result in the various and unexplainable actions which it takes on its own.

I have been writing stories on it for years and I can give many examples of the computer taking things onto its own abilities, I suppose I can’t call it hands, for if it was something done by hands, the blame would fall back upon me for these odd results, which I didn’t want and certainly didn’t need, but that computer stepped in somewhere and somehow changed things. And for a machine it is very talented but often misguided, I must say.   

For example I have about forty five stories of different subjects and lengths that I can send to another person whenever I want to.  That list contains maybe twice that many more, meaning half, forty five stories or subjects I don’t want or need.  

I have tried forever to delete them and make the list shorter and thus easier to find the thing I may need any given moment. However the computer apparently doesn’t allow that.  It seems to think, there’s that word “think,” that everything may one day be important.  To whom?  The F.B.I.?  The I.R.S.?

Certainly not to me, or I would not be searching for the route to delete them.  I gave up and ask the Grandson who had hooked the thing up for me n the first place… What turned out to be a wonderful gift from the lot of them back when I didn’t even know I needed or wanted one of those curious things.  I had not yet mastered my cell telephone.

In fact to change the subject a second or two, when I went with my husband to stand around bored, while he chose his new Cell-phone from the 109 that lined the walls of the shop, a salesman approached and I asked him if he had one that did what I wanted and nothing else.

“He politely asked what I wanted.  So I explained so even a salesman could understand, I want a phone that I can carry, so in an emergency I can get help and someone important enough to have my number can call me.  I don’t want anything else…no camera, no message taker, no texting, no games, no news, and no sports…nothing else!

How can I explain his look?  A mixture of disbelief and horror mixed with disgust as he said very simply for a man selling such complicated items, “There is no such thing!”  He left me for a much more appreciative patron.

But I was talking about my computer trying to rule my life.  Okay so that may seem a bit harsh for a machine only wanting to help me when it senses I am going wrong.

How else can I explain last month when I started a new Fairy tale for the parents to read to their children.  The parents are my fourteen Grandchildren plus their spouses, and the little ones are by lucky circumstance our thirteen Great-grandchildren, who are not yet married fortunately as they are still either measuring their ages in months or their school class grade in single digits. Even so they seem to like, as a group, to hear stories that have children with their same name doing fun things. So I write one or more into each Fairytale.  Then I E-mail them to the various parents so they can have them I-pad handy to read at will.

So as I was saying, I was busy writing one.  I had about five or six pages going when 

right in the middle of a sentence the entire thing disappeared… poof!  Just like that!  My instinct was to push the undo spot, that curly little arrow that lets me change my mind about something,  But No!  The computer didn’t seem to like that story, because it was gone.  Totally gone!  I looked everywhere that can be looked into, but there was no sign it existed.Okay so it was only five puny pages I could start over, but it was the principle of the thing.  I had ideas about where it was going and I didn’t give the computer the right to delete it.

The kid who put it all together for me when the group wanted to surprise me for my Birthday, was showing me everything he thought I should know, he pointed out a small black box to one side that was my protection for anything that got lost.  It was a… you know, the thing that backed up everything, as I worked, if I left it plugged in, which of course I did.   So I wanted that thing to give me my five or six pages back.  So I closed up and waited for one of my geniuses to visit and show me what to do.  My husband didn’t.  But that was because he had his own and they were very different.  Isn’t everything?  I swore that I was only tapping the letters on the keyboard when it happened.  It was something the compute just wanted to do.

Well no genius could figure out how to get my work back,  And they tried…three of them.  They all agreed it was gone. I must have done something! So I started another story and actually finished it in twenty pages.

It was time to E-mail it to the families who had the two names I used in the new story.  I saved it and left the Word Program to go to the E-mail.

Everything was set up and ready to put the story on as an attachment.  But going up and  down the list I couldn’t find it listed,  If I can’t tap the name on the list of stories, I can’t send it.  I went back to Word and there it was.  Just to prove it I tapped, Print, and out came the whole twenty pages.  So the story exists but the computer must not like it and has refused to list it so I can send it from the E-mail program.  My husband got involved and tried a few things, like just trying to type it in on the E-mail program.  It simply responded with a message that it was an unacceptable name,  

So that was it!  Mr. Smart Computer didn’t like the name I chose. Well fine! I’ll just name it something else.  I went back to Word and wrote, “Save as”, and a different name.  It accepted it just as I recalled it did the first name also.

Back to E-mail and the attachment list.  It was not there.  We typed that name in and it was with the same message.  It didn’t like that name either.  Four names later and none of them going automatically to the list in alphabetical order, I threw in the towel.  It could not have been the name.  And I assure you I will never be able to take all of those spare names off of the Word list, any more than I can get them onto the E-mail list. The computer must have a change of ,something deep inside, and put them where they put everything I have ever written, except that one single story, now saved under five different names and not even one made the list.  

I printed out three copies to give to the two names used in that story and put one with the stack of those I have collected, so as to have one copy of each.

But, am I making a big mistake?  Should I not even send out a story that the computer doesn’t like?  Does it know something I don’t?

It occurs to me that the computer is like a little kid.  They both know more than we think they do.  

For example:  I went with Bob, my husband, to a huge Computer Store and found a stool to one side to sit and wait for him to be allotted one of the store’s young, always very young, “Geniuses”  for technical help.  As I sat and looked around at the store crammed with people standing at the dozen or so tables equipped with electronics available to try the new models, I became aware of how many were barely old enough to see over the table edge.  

Very young boys and yes, girls were intently, and adeptly, pushing buttons and making decisions, actually choosing what Tablet or P.C. they liked best.  

A Mother paused beside me pushing a stroller which held a small boy maybe just almost one year old.  His eyes were taking in the activity with eager interest.  His Mother sighed, and spoke to me.  “That’s my boy over there.”  I saw one of the very short kids standing on tip-toe to see what he needed to know and punch keys for information. 

“He’s choosing what computer he wants for his seventh birthday.  I don’t know anything about them. but he tells me exactly what he thinks he wants. So what can I do?  I have to let him choose.” 

My eyes went back to the baby in the stroller.  He was up on edge trying to see it all.  I told the Mother.  “I think this one is also choosing what he wants for his First Birthday.  I imagine as soon as he can talk he will tell you.”   She laughed as she watched him, watch his brother so intently.  

“Kids today seem to be born with computer active brains.”  She decided and I agreed. I have observed the instinctive actions of many very young children lately.  Living at the beach as the Grandmother of the young new Parents, gives us many advantages many other Great-grandparents don’t get to enjoy, as all ages love the beach.  

The toddlers who are too happy tossing stuff out of the toy box to complain about being left behind with us are interesting to watch. When infants, who have just discovered walking, begin to explore, if they see anything that is small and has buttons on the front, they pass up Mickey and Barbie to get their hands on that interesting little item.  They then begin to punch the buttons. If music comes out they dance on unsteady legs, if a voice speaks they put it to their ear.  Sometimes it has a wider result like the T.V. goes on.  They then sit down and watch as they punch until something colorful and fast moving appears on that screen.  The interesting thing is… they just know that it does something and they are not afraid to find out what that something is and to attempt to control it to their own satisfaction. I watched one baby pick up his mother’s phone when she left the room and begin to poke.  He found a game and sat down at my feet, where I saw him begin to play the game. It didn’t really matter what he punched.  If he got something right the little flat box cheered and he laughed and if he was wrong it booed and said better luck next time. And he kept looking for the results whichever didn’t matter.  I didn’t yet even know that a simple little telephone had games.

I decided then that his Great-grandma, Bev, should learn a few things. As they say, “Better late than never!”   If I plan to live to 100 and I do, I have fifteen more years to enjoy all of those machines I have been ducking for almost that long already.   

I may even have a talk with my computer and make it tell why it doesn’t like my new story.  If it is something I did.  Please let me know what that is.  Is that too much to ask of a machine? I do not think so because I know that it can talk.

Late one night, well after midnight, I was writing on a story, just because my mind block had opened up and inspired me to carry on from where I had been stopped for lack of an idea about what to write next.  

As I wrote in the very quiet early morning atmosphere, which is the very best time for that sort of work, because others are sleeping so no one telephones or rings the door bell while you are thinking.  

Suddenly a voice broke the silence.  I jumped as it was a deep unexpected man’s voice.  Not my husband’s or anyone I knew.  I turned anxiously toward the door then the windows to try to locate what strange man had spoken or even entered my room unannounced.  The voice was husky sounding like that black fellow with the perfect enunciation, who narrates half of the shows on television.  But I didn’t see anyone and no one was speaking, So I calmed down from the heart stopping surprise and as no one was here, began to cautiously write again.  Now where was I?   

That was when I realized that the voice came from the computer.  After each word I wrote the voice spoke again saying exactly what I wrote.  I stopped to make sure and looked around, but face it, only the computer knew what I was writing and it was telling me what I wrote as soon as I wrote it. Very firmly and with authority it went faster if I did and stopped when I did.  I stopped to look over the key board.  What could I possibly have hit that told the computer to tell me what I wrote after I wrote it.  I couldn’t find anything labeled ‘repeat’ or ‘say the word’… nothing.  No one teaching me to use this machine mentioned that it could talk, if it wanted to.  I did not, as far as I could tell, accidently or purposely, asked it to do so.  But I now know it can.  It just never has again… never.   I would really like to hear it another time, if only to try to think of the name of that fellow it sounds like, but it has not. 

I guess it just never wanted to.  Maybe it was something about the early morning silence that caused it to get bored and just start talking.  But now that I want an answer to why it does not let me send my one story on the E-mail, when everything before and after does, I may just ask it to speak to me and explain itself. 

If that fails I will wait…oh a week or two, then ask one of the toddlers to tell me.   A couple of them are very early talkers. 

Like Isabella who walked in at age two and sat down beside me and said with a happy smile,  “Let’s have a conversation.”  Then this weekend that family came to visit because their parents wanted to see our granddaughter, Mackenna, their cousin, who has been living in New York, where she is a lawyer, 

Isabella’s little sister, Victoria, at eighteen months, walked in the front door first and seeing Mackenna, a new face, she asked, “Do I know you?”  

“I’m Mackenna, your cousin.”  Was her reply.  “Oh, I’m Victoria.” She announced as she proceeded to head straight for our familiar old toy box.  She may be inviting me to have a conversation any day now. Then I can ask her about my computer.  Because I have noticed  that every time she visits, I find everything with a push button has been worked or is working… the empty dishwasher, the music box clock… the piano lamp.. the Microwave… and the Sparketts water dispenser.  She can’t quite reach the Coke Machine, yet. 

Later, that afternoon, she had gotten a bit cocky for a baby who had not yet reached the “terrible twos “ so her Father told her she might have to sit on our, Timeout Stool”, a cute little wooden stool that looks like an hour glass that runs for five minutes with the result that any child not minding had to sit there until the sand ran down.  

Hearing her Father threaten that punishment, Victoria got a big smile and said very proudly,  “Oh I can do it myself.”  Then she went to where I had pushed it and tugged it out, turned it over to start the sand, and climbed up on it.  One must respect a child like that. 

It must be the push button life that makes them so self sufficient.

I can’t help wondering what strange new things their generation will find in their future that will make them feel as though they are now falling behind the curve.


By Beverly Mosier, October 2013