Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Technical Difficulties

It's really unbelievable how unsettling computer troubles can be. A couple days ago, a black border showed up out of nowhere and starting dancing around the cursor on the screen of my beloved new Mac. I grew increasingly upset and anxious, desperate even, as nothing I tried succeeded in making it disappear.

The black border drove me crazy on general principles, but it also alarmed me because I seem to recall that random geometric shapes appeared on an old laptop of mine before it died a punishing death several years ago. Punishing for me, that is, because the laptop took with it over 10 pages of freshly written material for my first book. To this day, I'm certain that the lost pages were better than the replacements I came up with. The incident also turned me into an obsessive backer-upper. When I write large chunks now, I typically email them to myself and store them on an external jump drive - all this in addition to the backup that automatically occurs on my external LaCie Time Machine, which has to be the coolest system there is. Everyone who knows about this compulsive storage thinks I'm insane, but I'll be damned if I'm ever again going to struggle through the crushing processes of grieving, failed reconstruction and, ultimately, less satisfactory rewriting.

Anyway, the black border on the Mac. After I failed to solve it on my own, I Googled the problem. This usually works like a charm, but evidently I used the wrong search words because the results weren't helpful. Then, I called Apple Tech Support and got a guy who apparently had marbles in his mouth. He ran through his standard Tech Support Script with me ("I already rebooted." "Yes, ma'am, I understand. Please shut down your computer and then we'll turn it back on."), all to no avail. He kept telling me to do things that took time, then muted the phone while he was waiting (to "help" another customer? to ask questions of someone who actually knew something about computers? to trade stocks?). Whenever I told him the time-consuming function was finished, he started talking again without unmuting his phone, so I heard silence until I said, "Hello? Hello?" Then, he'd come back, pretending nothing was amiss. ("I'm here, ma'am.") This happened at least a dozen times.

After 45 minutes of inserting discs and doing scary behind-the-scenes things to my computer, all of which had no impact whatsoever on the black border, my patience, never my strongest suit, was at an end. When Marbles instructed me to drag a bunch of things to a new place, then was bewildered when the computer wouldn't let me do so, I decided he and I were finished and called the only IT guy I trust - my son. He was at work, but I knew he'd get back to me ASAP with a solution. Sure enough, he did. We had a lot of guests over the weekend, one of whom had inadvertently pushed the buttons on my computer that activated the Universal Access feature - thus, the black border to highlight where the cursor was. A simple click to turn off that feature and, presto!, the border disappeared.

Both my original agitation and my relief were out of proportion to the actual events, but I couldn't be more delighted that the problem wasn't really a problem.
I would have thought less of my Mac had it developed a mysterious computer ailment within its first six months. Like my father, who considered a car to be ruined once it required any sort of repair, I don't like intimations of imperfection in mechanical things. I much prefer to think of them as perfect, wonderful, and not on the brink of disaster.

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