Fans of the late Johnny Carson will remember “Stump the Band.” For those of you who don’t remember a time before cell phones, Johnny Carson used to host The Tonight Show. He would challenge members of the audience to name a song no one in the studio band knew. This is how I learned all the words to “The Cow Kicked Nellie in the Belly in the Barn” (didn’t do her any good, didn’t do her any harm).
Enthusiasts of magic exhibitions — all four of you — will recall audience members trying to stump the magician who would try to guess their age, their weight, what card they were holding, or why they had agreed to be a guinea pig in the first place.
Now showing at our house is a sick version of these two entertainments. It’s called “Stump the Computer Guru.” It usually goes like this: Marla opens computer. Computer refuses to work. Marla calls Steve. Steve gives computer a firm talking-to. Steve emerges victorious.
Then, last week, there occurred an odd variation. Marla opened computer. Computer refused to work. Computer not only refused, computer became defiant and displayed a hitherto unseen dire warning about loss of data, loss of memory, or loss of life. Something along those lines. I, as noted, had never seen this particular screen before. But — and here is the salient point — neither had Steve.
After making the dreaded “hmmmm” sound, he deployed the usually-reliable Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Unfortunately, nothing was controlled, nothing was altered, nothing was deleted.
In these types of situations, and by that I mean situations in which you are rapidly running out of ideas and battery life, it is important to keep a calm head, an open mind, and a sense of cooperation. It is important, but not likely. “What did you do?” he asked in a voice that did not — did not — convey an open mind nor a sense of anything but disgust at my ham-handedness. He was calm, though. After all, it wasn’t his computer that was threatening to implode.
What I had done was what Steve had been reminding me to do for years. I was trying to back up my hard drive. Oh, the irony of my using a remark like “back up my hard drive.” I had to ask my friend Laura (whose computer has never even considered defying her) if that is the actual correct computer-lingo phraseology. I had successfully completed this back-up task a few times and was feeling pretty confident about the process. Then the message of doom appeared and here we are.
Steve and I know what is coming. Given my history with computers, everyone reading this newspaper knows what is coming. (Cue horror film sound track … duh-duh-DUH) We are in for a delightful trip to the computer store. Weeping and gnashing of teeth are in the offing. Once I get to the computer store, yet another predictable chain of events will occur. I will be dragged kicking and screaming into the store. The techno-guy will start asking questions and making recommendations based on my “needs.” What he doesn’t know is that mainly I “need” to get a computer that acts exactly like the old one right up until the minute the old one went on strike. Next the techo-guy will see me looking like a deer in the headlights. How can I supply an answer if I don’t remotely understand the question? Following this, Steve — may his shadow never decrease — jumps into the void and acts as interpreter. He speaks in computer-ese to the store person. Then he turns to me and with elaborate gestures and monosyllabic words explains what is being considered.
Soon, they are talking about me, around me, and over me as though I am not there. They discuss what is best for me. They discuss how my ability to adapt to something different. They discuss the likelihood of success. I am humiliated and fascinated all at the same time. It is like being a five-year-old at the hospital having a tonsillectomy performed. Only more painful.
The writer resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.