A man finishes his shower and pulls aside the curtain to discover that he and his entire bathtub have been transported to a far away land.
I don’t remember exactly when this was; it was some years ago when a comet was in the skies. One evening I walked up the street of my neighborhood with my binoculars in hand, to try to get a better look at the comet from the cul-de-sac of the street. There were fewer suburban trees obscuring the sky there, and for a few minutes I got as good a view of the comet as I’d had that month. As interesting as the view of the comet itself — a broad, faint white trail extending some large measure across the starry night — was the unique feeling of standing in a neighborhood in the quiet of a night, regarding the scene without any care to the day to day activities that would usually warrant my being there. The street doesn’t usually serve for such moments, and as such, one feels very much like a visitor outside of time. It was as this pleasant, timeless feeling was full in my body — a feeling perhaps too strong and real for me to bear — that I nervously felt I should return to the mundane world, so I lowered my binoculars and started to walk slowly back up the quiet pavement, each soft step returning me to the safe world of the expected. It was then that I heard faintly behind me the screen door of the nearby home open up, and heard the soft plea of a young girl saying “wait… wait, don’t go.”
The girl, or young woman I should say, was the daughter of the family that lived at the street’s end. Her name was something about the desert — Mesa? Autumn? Sedona? I knew it was a name that evoked the great southwest, and though I had never met her, I always hoped that the name her parents had given her had somehow predicted her more gentle poetic, introspective soul. This may sound silly to anyone not raised in the northeast, but the northeast is such a cold, impersonal part of the country, a place of intellect and heartlessness, that to even hear a neighbor is named after the amber hues of the painted desert brings a sense of refreshment and peace to my heart.
I’d never met her, but only knew she was a few years younger than I. I was in my twenties, she’s have been in her late teens, I suppose. Perhaps it was this age difference that led me to what I regret:
I regret that I kept walking.
She may have assumed that she hadn’t made it out through the screen door fast enough …for all I know, she was dissapointed and blamed herself for not being fast enough. Or maybe she knew I’d heard her, and forever wondered what was wrong with her, or with me.
All I know now is that I missed, purposefully missed, an opportunity to meet someone who I had known to consider someone of interest by the sheer simple act of having heard her name. There is no epilogue to this story; merely once I walked past her when she was outside of a convenience store at which she was evidently getting some summer work, and I saw in her a flicker of recognition (probably not from that night; simply from recognizing those who live on the same street) and not knowing whether to say hello as a neighbor, or hello as a stranger.
I didn’t know which, either. And so by default, a stranger.
UPDATE: I want to clarify that recognizing the above event as something I regret was an incredibly positive experience. The story may be sad, but my recognition of this lost opportunity feels like I’ve been given a rare opportunity to see the error of my ways, so that I may perhaps realize a different outcome if a similar situation ever arises.
Thanks to Mac computers, our consultant can’t send our business files unless we lead her by the hand (explaining how documents are supposed to end in “.doc”). Thanks to Macs, she can’t zip files. Thanks to Macs, the first floor office provides Mac-formatted floppy discs that can’t be read by anyone (except other Mac users…except even Macs don’t use floppies anymore). Thanks to Macs, we have colleagues whose word processing documents aren’t even in Word. Thanks to Macs, my boss has a printer that doesn’t work with his computer’s “run time environment.” Thanks to Macs, perfectly good CDroms aren’t always recognized on Macs. All these wonderful things brought to you by the idiots at Mac. Thanks Mac for helping modern businesses have primitive problems.
Mac — or Apple; are they still called Apple? You hardly ever hear them called that anymore, maybe they changed their name to Mac? — Apple should become a firm which designs the “look & feel” of systems. Because the “look” of their operating systems’ interfaces are lovely. They appreciate the nuances that make reading and writing on a computer as elegant and nifty an experience as it must have been when people wrote with beautiful feathers. But for the love of God, they have got to stop selling their computers to a public which simply does not understand that what they do on a Mac is not compatible with 99% of the rest of the world.
All the problems mentioned above can be fixed. I can buy a program to make Mac floppies readable on a computer. I can buy a different printer so my boss will be able to print. I can urge our consultant to buy software that can zip files. I can continue to explain to Mac users that they need to have documents end in “.doc” if they hope to email the files succesfully. I can do all that and more. BUT I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO. The folks at Mac have effed up the whole idea of making communication seamless.
If Mac advertised their products as being likely to cause problems, that would be fine. But they don’t. People buy the Macs because they have pretty cases, a nice illuminated fruit logo, and an excellent-in-appearance interface. And then they are left wondering why no one can read their files. It’s a terrible disservice to everyone, particularly to businesses who have to take Mac users by the hand and explain to them why they are having problems, and how to get around them. And always there is the feeling that the Mac users don’t really believe that they are the problem. But the fact is, they are. Mac is a niche computer platform that works well with others in that niche – all twelve of you. But for reaching the rest of the world, they are a serious obstacle. I am tired of having our office have to take time and money out of our business day to get around Mac users problems.
Got one passable pic of my boss (he’s prefer I call him my colleague, but I bow to his advanced degree) Dr John Mack being interviewed for television (see August 4 entry “Defending…”) today, but mostly I was just staying out of the way while listening to the interview take place. This was the first time an interview with Dr Mack was recorded in widescreen/HDTV (or some high resolution system, anyway), and was the first time in several years that Dr Mack has agreed to be on tv. By my jaded estimation the interview turned out excellently; I heard several answers that were not his standard interview answers (and that is pretty much how I define a succesful interview — if the interviewers manage to elicit new answers from Dr Mack, they’ve succeeded. Good questions cause good answers).
Our participation in this program is now essentially done. For some reason I find this really dissapointing. I suppose my feelings are because we now have no part in the creative process of seeing the program take shape – unlike with the documentary film Touched where the film company was renting an office in our own building, affording us the opportunity to watch them work their wonders in the editing room. Here, in contrast, we will simply find out in early 2005 how this production company did. So there’s a sense of a part of ourselves, a sacred part of our lives, has been left in someone else’s custody. It is a sense of absence I am feeling. Like dropping off a baby with foster parents and not knowing how it will be raised.
Truly as I sat listening to the two producers interview Dr Mack and other guests I heard several paragraphs or clusters of sentences which I would select as “outstanding” and use in the finished piece if I were in charge, but of course I am not in charge.
Looking around at what I am in charge of, I have to say I am a bit let down. Our company is having extreme financial hardship, dependent as it is upon donations and donations being hard to come by in a ruined economy. The problem with a company that is a 501c3 nonprofit, dependent on others, is that you are dependent on others — meaning we are constantly riding a wave up and down, unable to sustain any regular activities due to the down-dips.
My interest is in educating people in such a way as to create a ripple effect that will enhance the advancement of our culture (help it to rise to the challenge of new information). Since that doesn’t seem to be something that can be done much at my place of work (due to the down-dips) I feel I could do that through writing — not the dashed off, badly spelled stuff you see here in the blog, but something much more carefully prepared. So I feel sad that I do not have an opportunity to do that (but at the same time, fear that the one realistic opportunity to make time to write — unemployment — would be short-lasting and very terrible to my health).
Ever notice how the worst things in life are also the best funded? General Electric, the Republican Party, you name it — if it is destroying the environment, or destroying people, chances are it is very well funded. Odd, that.