Matinicus Island Tech
If you hear a crunching sound, it’s just my computer being dropped from a small airplane onto a ledge somewhere. I’ll get to why in a minute.
The routine in my home at this time of year is very comforting. Most mornings, my husband gets downstairs first, grinds up a handful of coffee beans, puts the percolator on the gas stove, starts the fire in the woodstove or, if it’s been cold enough for coal the night before, just adds a couple of sticks of the free spruce we burn (trees too close to power lines, aged for safety) and puts the coffee pot on that. He usually turns on Maine Public Radio in hopes of timing it right to get Altitude Lou’s forecast (unlike the dratted television, where the weather comes with commercials for bladder products).
All this as opposed to the summertime routine, in which I get up way before anybody else except the lobstermen, tie on some very sensible shoes, wrap my hair in a bandanna and start the cinnamon roll dough. Then proceeds at least eight hours of kneading, deep-fat frying, and a close professional relationship with refined white sugar. Coffee, when I’m working in the bakery, doesn’t come for about three more hours.
In our own defense, allow me to interject that this fresh-ground-coffee-and-public-radio bit should not paint us as too gentrified. Those trendy people you’re imagining don’t have to haul a bucket full of coal ash and clinker outside and dump it into the potholes in the driveway, nor do they do so in unmatched hauling boots and a Tony’s Doughnuts T-shirt.
Anyway, each morning we expect to turn on the computer, wait patiently as it goes through a few incomprehensible start-up dances, and click on a familiar icon to look at the weather radar (life on Matinicus means an unhealthy obsession with the weather report, as you have heard before). We then normally delete innumerable offers to refinance our male anatomy, check the TDS Telecom site for work orders, and perhaps peek at the Grand Canyon in the early dawn or the traffic in Newfoundland or somewhere else with an interesting Web cam.
This morning, into the otherwise pleasing routine was tossed a rather enormous monkey wrench. The computer commenced upon start-up to blink, flash, complain, rave, roar, screech, and threaten. Raging neon-colored alerts and the squealing of alarms resulted in cries of “ERIC!” up the stairs to our nineteen-year old son, still home from college. Not, as it used to be, because the mess was his fault (recalling the time the kids accidentally imported into our family computer the Purple Gorilla Who Would Not Leave) but instead because he is the Tech Help Desk.
We evidently had a massive infection, some sort of pile-up of electronic evils, a multitude of demons. This Legion of viruses (viri?), spyware, malware, worms, crumbs, ice in the fuel hose, clinker, busted-off gear teeth, and peanut butter on the vertical rectifier made sure that nothing whatsoever would respond to the helm. (That last one, by the way, with thanks to Dennis the Menace.)
The resulting fear and trepidation, gnashing of teeth, muttering and profanity took up the rest of the day. Eric worked, we paced the floors, calls were made, and most, although not all of our files were rescued. I myself would not have had the foggiest idea where to begin remedying the situation, and am grateful for those who do.
It took us parents some little effort, I admit, adjusting to the fact that our kid knows as much as the people From Away considered The Professionals. Hmm. He indicated that he knew what was happening, had fixed more than a few computers before, and this was looking ugly. “Call them anyway,” begged the parents. The voice of The Professional on the telephone told Eric to do what he already knew needed doing, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Or fast.
We never asked for a computer around here anyway. I supposedly need one for some of my work, but I wonder what would happen if my editors had to accept columns typed and delivered by the mailman. That might not go over well. Our patience with these miraculous machines is wearing thin, particularly today. Don’t tell me we cannot get by without electronics; I might just take that as a challenge. Paul still knows how to use a slide rule and I can bush-hog with a scythe. Gizmo-wise, we are not easily impressed. Eric has his hands full convincing us that the pokey software, old programs, and minimal services of our first unit are significantly inferior to what he and his sister use every day, and indeed, they are. As for technology, I will now do whatever he recommends. I wouldn’t have said that a year ago.
Not that the latest in programs will obviate all issues, though, such as the fact that on Matinicus, the Internet is affected by the tides. You think I’m kidding.
I did, by the way, mail in an essay once. I wrote it by hand at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, copied it out in neat print for legibility, asked for a photocopy at the Ranger Station, and mailed it from North Rim, Arizona (seriously), to the Rockland, Maine, newspaper for which I was a regular columnist at the time.
The upshot of this morning’s adventure is that we have lost all the old e-mails, including correspondence about engines, various friends’ change-of-phone-number notices, and, most importantly, a few humorous exchanges to which we refer from time to time as a palliative to the stresses of the day. All except for one, generated by my husband, which had somehow been copied over to me at another address and had thus escaped oblivion.
This, for those who ask, is what “us people” on Matinicus do all winter:
"Good Afternoon, Please allow me to introduce myself. I am the Right Reverend Mansard X.
Cricklewood, Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Obnubilation Church on
Matinicus Island in Maine.
I am in receipt of your e-mail offering to "Enlarge your organ!" We happen
to have a 1939 Aeolian/Skinner in need of enlarging. Specifically, we would
like to add several stops, including an Hautboy & Bassoon, a Quintadena
Celeste and a Vox Flebilis. We would also like to consider a Ludwigtone if
our budget allows. Can you offer us a quote on this service?
Any assistance you can offer is sincerely appreciated.
Eva Murray is beginning a chapter of the Lead Pencil Society on Matinicus Island.