The Bollard’s View

Cat bones by bonfire, or, a holiday tale

For every door opened by an advance in technology, a hidden trapdoor is created somewhere. 

A case in point. On Nov. 8, Election Day, the Apple computer in my home office started getting, as Peavey might say, fritzy. The screen was unstable, icons would break up, and eventually the machine would just freeze. 

An adaptable monkey, I figured out that after turning the computer on and off five or six times, the thing would work for a few hours before shitting the proverbial bed. But then I open my mail program and it acted like all 400 or so old messages had just arrived that day, Monday. Again, it was Tuesday. It needed a professional fixin’.

To make a long, boring story I’ve already told too many times short, it was a bad logic chip, the manufacturer’s fault, covered by warranty and now rectified. However, during the week’s time I was without the primary tool of my trade, this technological wonder, I fell through one of those technological trap doors and suffered the horrors that await any like fool below.

“No problem,” I reasoned that first day. “I’ll just update the Web site from the art directors’ place.” And there I was, election results in hand, writing the story from Sean’s computer. The TV was on so I could catch the statewide results, but curiously, the local network was replaying its 6 p.m. evening broadcast. It was after 10. This was an early sign of bad things to come. 

The next day I awoke ready to report, write, edit, design and update more stories. Here in 2005, all these tasks can be accomplished with just two tools: a phone and a computer. At the art directors’ place, I had two excellent computers at my disposal. I also had a phone. Unfortunately, it being 2005, it was a cell phone. I’d borrowed it from my wife. (The art directors, being art directors, don’t have anything as antiquated as a telephone. They’d just as soon tap out a telegraph as pick up a receiver.)

I don’t own a cell phone for two simple reasons: it sucks to talk on one and it sucks to listen to one. Oh yeah, and the third thing: it sucks to try to push all those tiny concave buttons. 

Why are cell phones so small? What kind of circus freak has a mouth and an ear close enough together to talk into and hear one at the same time? 

How convenient these disposable pieces of crap are! You can use them anywhere, provided the thing’s sufficiently charged, and you’re in an area with coverage, and you’re not driving under an overpass, and you’ve been paying the triple-digit monthly bills, etc. And even when all these stars are in alignment, the voice on the other end still doesn’t sound as clear as it would through a land line.

How many times has someone told you they got a new cell phone but can’t call anyone with it — or avoid calls from creeps and creditors — because the new phone doesn’t have the name-and-number combinations they programmed into the old one’s directory. I know there’s now a new device that enables you to transfer this data between phones, but in the time it takes to figure it out, reprogram all the other stuff and hit all the right mini-keys in proper order you could have earned three college credits at USM. 

Anyway, my problem stemmed from the fact cell phones are too small to scrunch between head and shoulder. That’s how I type and talk at the same time – again, adaptable monkey. I could have held the phone to my ear and typed with one hand, but I’m barely fast enough with two. Or, I thought, I can scribble notes with one hand while holding the notepad in place with my knees, or a small vise, or nevermind.

This quandary vexed me for a couple days. Then my simian brain had a breakthrough: a headset! Yes, that would solve the problem: buy a headset that plugs into the cell phone, freeing both hands to type! Brilliant!

Now, where’s the hole in the cell phone this headset will plug into? Is this the right hole? How big is this hole? What kind of headset must I get to fit it? Will I need an adapter? Where’s the owner’s manual? How much are headsets? Where do they sell them for a non-rip-off price? Would I ever use this thing again? 

I could feel myself sliding. This planet spins so fast and its axis is so wobbly that maybe tomorrow, or maybe in 10,000 years, the magnetic poles will reverse and we’ll all be gnawing cat bones by bonfire. 

These thoughts overtake me at such moments. Another day or two passed without progress.

By then, my computer was back from the shop. I called people, giddy, receiver in hand. I typed, I talked — we finally have new News. 

I guess the lesson here is technology can be a wonderful thing, but like most things, it’s best used in moderation. Thanks for your patience, and have a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t get me started on powdered gravy.

— Chris Busby

Chris Busby is editor and publisher of 
The Bollard.

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