I have been sitting here in the living room, itching to get on the computer – and I mean that almost literally because I practically developed a case of hives while waiting for my turn while Kathy finished up whatever she was doing, That says something about my terribly impatient nature (it’s a trait that most of the Bergs seem to share) as well as my inclination to go overboard with the things I enjoy (yet another Berg trait). On the plus side, at least I’m a voracious book and newspaper reader, which forces me to separate myself from this device for substantial periods of time. In fact, I sometimes ponder how if our country’s power grid were to go down either from natural disaster or sinister attack, we have enough books and magazines around our house (if not enough candles) to keep us occupied and edified for the rest of our lives.
We may read books around here, but we aren’t exactly Little House on the Prairie either – and when things go amiss with our computer, it’s like we lost our running water. So when Kathy plugged in our external hard drive the other day in order to look at some of the 13,000 photos housed there and instead saw a prompt that said Device Cannot Be Read By This Computer, it felt like someone had driven a bull dozer through our living room window. That’s what it felt like for me, anyway, because for as much as I use the computer, I understand the computer and how it operates about as well as the typical 80-year-old understands their VCR remote. I am fine when things are working right, but when things go wrong my typical response is to run around the room shrieking with my hands waving in the air. Kathy tends to be a bit calmer than that, and most of the time can fix whatever is amiss. . . although in this case she sent up an S.O.S. to the smartest computer person we know, former voice student / now friend Mike McDonnell, who works for Walgreens in their tech department. He is incredibly smart about computers . . . and incredibly nice as well . . . and thanks to his intervention, we are back in business.
Mike picked up our external hard drive the other day to check it out – and we eventually rendezvoused so he could sit down with the drive and our laptop computer and get them talking to each other again. (We’re not sure what caused the spat, but things seem to be perfectly cordial now.) As we sat at a Starbucks in Waukegan, I couldn’t help but marvel at Mike’s facility when it comes to computers – and the sheer effortlessness with which he navigates this world. Not only does he know an amazing amount about how computers and computer systems operate, he makes it all seem absurdly simple, as though he were dealing with a sun dial or an abacus. And I suppose in the same way that some people might be in awe of how I can sit down and play every song from “The Music Man” in any key without a note of music in front of me, I am absolutely in awe of anyone who makes computers seem easy. (Heck, I’m in awe of Marilyn, the woman who does our taxes, and how she can carry on a conversation with us while separating the various copies of the forms – A for us – B for the federal government – C for the state government – collate them and staple them without missing a beat. Even I know that that’s not the hardest part of doing someone’s taxes- but it’s the only part of the process that I ever see, and that’s all I need to see to realize that someone else needs to do this for me.) Anyway, I sat with Mike yesterday and felt for all the world like one of of those primitive, prehistoric men at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, staring at that mysterious obelisk with wonder and incomprehension.
And to think that Mike grew up on a farm in Iowa, slopping the hogs. Actually, when I think of the most technically brilliant people I know- Jamie Wilson, Justin Maurer, my brother-in-law Mark – they all grew up in small towns or rural settings. . . which just go to show you that when it comes to this stuff, great things sometimes come out of small places.
pictured above: Mike at Starbucks, working with our laptop. By the way, for all of his technical brilliance, Mike did confess that he once accidentally erased all 14,000 songs that were on his computer. It’s nice to know that he’s human.