A Case of Geek Squad Irony

I sat hopelessly at the deathbed of my computer, as it sputtered and gasped its final, profound words:  INTERNET EXPLORER HAS STOPPED WORKING.  Windows tried to cushion the blow by telling me that they were supposedly “checking for a solution to the problem,” but I was skeptical.  Too many times in the past, I had fallen for that glimmer of hope that just maybe the computer was actually going to fix itself.  Now I knew it was only a euphemism for “We’re just flashing this message right now to stall for time. No one is actually working on your problem. We are not even going to think about you while we gorge ourselves on buffalo wings down at Curly’s Bar & Grill.  Good Luck.”  Or something like that.

I watched the tiny ellipsis flash across the screen and waited.  When my computer screen froze, I knew it was too late – rigor mortis had already begun.  I tried to throw it life support by desperately pushing buttons.  The only sign of life in the room was the faint buzzing of a fly, an eerie reminder of a poem by Emily Dickenson.

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air

Between the Heaves of Storm

I thought I remembered the last two lines of the poem, but I had to look it up to believe it.  The irony leapt off the page and bit me like a rabid raccoon. It seemed the poem was actually written by Microsoft:

And then the Windows failed, and then –

I could not see to see.

It was a peaceful death as the screen faded to black. Then I did what any high-tech person would do.  I shut off my computer and went to bed.

In the morning, I hit the power button and pretended that the whole ordeal never happened.  Clearly I had entered the “denial” stage of loss.  When I was greeted by the Screen of Death, I grabbed my laptop and the kids and headed off to visit the Geek Squad.

I was a little disappointed when the two young men behind the counter were actually trying too hard to resemble computer geeks.  When I walk into McDonald’s, I don’t want to see men dressed in kilts.  I don’t even expect to see radios at Radio Shack. Yet these men seemed to flaunt their geek pride, as though their pocket protectors were badges of honor.

One man (whom I’ll call Elmer since his skin was whiter than kindergarten paste) gave me the Inquisition:

“When was the last time you backed up your files?”

“I’m not sure, let’s see…Armstrong had just landed on the moon, and…”

Why hadn’t I backed up my files for so long?  I guess I just never believed this sort of thing would happen to me.  If I had known my computer was going to die, of course I would have saved all of my files the night before.

We’re never truly prepared for these moments.  It’s why Jesus had to warn us to “be ready.”

Matthew 24:42-44

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

If everyone knew the exact moment of Jesus’ return, the day before would be predictable.  People would be scrambling to tidy up their lives, making sure everything was perfectly in order for The Master.  Instead, many people will be caught off guard.  Oh!  Jesus, if I had only known when you were coming, I would have changed…

By the grace of God, even though my hard drive had died, my files were able to be saved.  My laptop would be away for a few days undergoing repairs.  Elmer just needed to enter my information in his computer, but it wasn’t working.  His manager came to inform him that their computer system was down, and everything would have to be done on paper.

“The Geek Squad computers are not working?  And no one can fix it?” I asked incredulously.

Elmer was pensive.  “Yes, um…I see the irony here.”

As I left the building, I could barely see through the massive cloud of irony that hung over the place.  I was not exactly brimming with confidence that they were going to be able to fix my computer.

In all, I survived ten days without a working computer.  I could not check news, weather, e-mails, or messages.  I felt disconnected, but my kids could not understand why it was upsetting to be unplugged from the world.  All they knew was that Mommy was suddenly more available, and there was no competition from a machine for attention.  Instead of a laptop, I had my children on my lap.  I was out of touch with the world and more in touch with God and my family.

When I got the call to come pick up my restored computer, we all felt disappointed.  The fog of irony has been thick around here lately, but at least now I can see through it enough to focus on protecting the more important things in my life.

Don’t Save Your Files on Etch A Sketch

It’s somewhat of a miracle that I can move my fingers over some keys, click some buttons, and WHAMMO!  My precious thoughts, which once rested securely under a blanket in a private corner of my heart, are violently exposed and thrust across an invisible web and broadcast to the world within nanoseconds.  Or hours, if you have dial-up. But it wasn’t always so easy. 

Since the beginning of time, children have been the driving force behind technology.

An early form of writing was cuneiform, wedge shapes carved on clay by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.  But ancient mothers were driven insane by the fact that their toddlers would get into the clay and leave fingerprints all over the furniture.  Plus, those little pieces of primitive Play-Doh would get stuck in the rug, impossible to remove.

Another ancient form of writing was hieroglyphics, which the Egyptians carved in stone.  But this was too tempting for a toddler to chip off tiny pieces of rock and put them in his mouth.  And what parent had the time or energy to hammer out entire pictures, when they couldn’t even get their kids to go to bed?

Then came papyrus, an early form of paper invented by people who were tired of lugging heavy stones in their backpacks.  Now you had to deal with children and ink – not pretty. 

With each improvement of paper, parents realized with horror that paper serves one purpose for a small child: ripping.  Like the time I entered Nate’s bedroom and discovered most of his books shredded, a giant snow pile of words now gathered in a white heap.

Stone hieroglyphics were looking pretty good at this point. 

I thought the Etch A Sketch was a clever invention, with little opportunity for mischief.  It seemed fun in my childhood, but my children’s whining brought me back to reality.

 “I can’t make anything but STAIRS!  Aaaaagh!”

I desperately wanted this device to work, since there was nothing to rip, swallow, stain, or destroy.  But my kids had a legitimate complaint. Unless you are a brain surgeon with impeccable fine motor skills, this toy should be called Etch A Stair.  Zig. Zag. Zig. Zag.   Do you need to draw a person?  I hope he has a square head, ’cause that’s all you’ll get!

The typewriter was wonderful until you made a mistake and had to fix it by typing the same mistake all over again.  Talk about reinforcing a negative.  Assuming you ever completed a paper, if your child found it and decided to eat it for a snack,  you were doomed.

The best invention of all was the computer.  Even if your child breaks your laptop into a million pieces and uses the remains for Tinker Toys, you can save your files on an external source.  With the internet, you can send your ideas out as a permanent constellation in Cyberspace. 

Which brings us to the Bible.  Nothing can ever destroy God’s Word, not even your small child.  There are enough copies in circulation on paper to be safe, but even if every copy in the world were destroyed (and it could happen, if the toddlers of the world form a coalition), it is still on files, software programs, and external hard drives.

Isaiah 40:6-8

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord stands forever.

Etch A Sketch can be erased and paper can be ripped, but only the permanence of God’s Word can survive a rambunctious toddler.  In a way, God asks each of us to keep a set of backup files, saving his Word in the indestructible memory of our hearts.