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David Russell

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Oh My Aching Back October 17, 2000


by David Allen Russell  

And by the way, you can buy my books on Amazon.com.

It was getting dark and my back was aching from sitting at the computer all day editing my new book for the publisher, when my finger slipped and I hit some key I didn't intend to hit, and suddenly the entire screen went blank. I tried to restore it but the back arrow wouldn't do it and the screen froze. My mouse would not move anything and neither would key strokes, so I hit control alt delete and a window came up saying "end task." I clicked on it and another window came up asking me if I wanted to exit or end task. I clicked on End Task and it returned me to my Desktop. Unfortunately I hadn't saved my hours of editing to any file, so hours of work were down the tube. Boy! I was pissed off. Hours of work, a sore back, and the thought of it was making smoke come out of my ears. For just a moment I thought about the axe I had in the garage and how much fun it would be to just kill the frigging computer and go back to my old typewriter. Life was much simpler then.

Scientists had predicted that the computer would make our lives simpler and give us more free time, but I was thinking of the college where my wife worked. Four people had done the payroll for the entire place for years until they put in $200,000.00 worth of computer equipment. Now it took thirty people to do the payroll and the checks were often late and wrong. They had to set up another department and hire more people just to handle correcting the mistakes. But I fumed and imagined the world of the past. Suddenly, I heard the soft drop of mail through my front door slot, and thought it might be a good time to stretch my back and go see what the post person (we can't say post man anymore because it might hurt some woman's feelings) might have brought me. Maybe it might be good news, a check from my publisher, or a letter from one of the kids wanting to borrow some money to get an ear pierced, or a new tattoo. So, I got up, stretched, and walked to the hallway to retrieve the mail pretending that is was Xmas, and expecting good news, money, or maybe even a letter telling me I had won the lotto. It is always fun to get mail, and my spirits were high. Positive thinking sometimes sends messages out into the Universe that turns positive thoughts into positive reality. I was hoping.

A bill from Shell oil for my gasoline for the last month. Double what it was the month before. Not because I drove more, but because the oil companies had raised the prices to an all time outrageous rate. Well, they needed the money, they said, because the Arabs were cutting supply. Bull puckey. With hundreds of tankers out on the ocean and all the tanks and pipelines in the United States full, at the old price, they went ahead and put the new price on the old oil and were stealing billions from John Q Public because it was election time and the Senate and Congress were taking a break, and they could get away with it.

There was a letter from some credit company telling me I was pre-approved for thousands of dollars and all I had to do was mail the card back. I looked at the fine print.

$38.00 late charge if you missed a payment by a millisecond, they had the right to raise the rate any time they felt like it to 30%, and there was a yearly fee, even if I never used it.

That one went right in the trash right after I ripped it into several million pieces.

A card from my telephone company telling me that I could get a cell phone free and for a monthly fee of only $14.95 I would have 500 minutes a month with no up front fee, and no

cost for the phone. Well, that sounded pretty good. I'd like my wife to have it just in case she ever broke down on the freeway, or was in any kind of trouble, so I decided to call the 800 number. After all, it wasn't even going to cost anything to call them and it was my phone company and it said my credit on this deal was already approved. I dialed the number.

"Thank you for calling your phone company. If you wish to hear this message in Spanish, press one. If you wish to hear this message in English, Press two" I pressed two. there was a slight delay and then another voice came on the line. "If you know the extension of the party you wish to speak to you can dial that extension now. If you are calling about billing, press one . If you are calling about repair service, press two. If you are calling about adding an existing line, press three. If you are calling about canceling your service for any reason, press four. If you are calling about installing new service in a house, press five. If you are calling about service for a business, press six, if you are calling for any other reason, press seven, and if you are not really sure why you are calling and don't have a button phone, stay on the line and one of our representatives will assist you. If you wish to hear this message again press seven." Well, one thing I was sure of, and that is that I didn't want to hear that message again, but at the same time I was absolutely certain that I didn't want to listen to all that gobbledegook again, so I pressed seven. There was a click, then music, and then a voice saying, "all of our representatives are helping other customers at the moment. Please stay on the line and some one will help you in the order in which you called." That damned music again. I didn't like what they were playing at all, and longed for the sound of a real person to talk to, but after a few moments I got another recording. "Please stay on the line. Your call is very important to us and one of our representatives will be with you soon." More of that stupid music. Diddledee, diddeloool, diddledee. Music for morons. Morons like me who was sitting here with a phone to my ear, like some punished child waiting for momma to come say the punishment was over and I could come out of my room now. And to make matters even more crappy, I had to pee. But, I had a lot of time invested here, so I crossed my leg, bit my lip and waited through three more of those "Please stay on the line" messages, and finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a pleasant voice answered. "HI, I'm Cheryl. How can I help you?" It was a sweet voice but I knew she was lying. All those girls on phone banks call themselves Cheryl. Her real name was probably something like, Hortense Brocksgtein, and the phone bank manager told her, "We can't have you using a name like that. Call yourself Cheryl. It sounds more romantic. More sexy." and, Hortense said, "Okay" because she didn't want to get fired.

"Cheryl," I crooned in my best Ricky Martin imitation, "I got this flyer about the cell phone special and…." She interrupted me immediately, not wanting to waste much time with me, but she was nice, in her very charming and unobtrusive Cheryl voice saying, "Oh, that is in our Los Angeles office."

"I'm in the Los Angeles area, Lake Elsinore," I said, losing my Ricky Martin facade" Where are you, Cheryl?"

"Oh, I'm in Salt Lake City. You need to call our wireless services office. They are in Los Angeles. That number is toll free. Do you have a pen or pencil?"

"Yes I do, Cheryl."

She gave me the number and I wrote it down, then said, "What is your real name Cheryl?"

"Thank you for calling your phone company," she answered in that sugar sweet voice, and then disconnected. I thought of calling her back, but I knew I'd have to listen to that damned string of recorded messages again, and besides, she was probably just one of a hundred girls manning the phones and I'd probably get someone else if I tried. Instead I dialed the number she gave me for cellular service in Los Angeles. It answered after two rings and I heard, "Thank you for calling your phone company. If you wish to hear this message in Spanish press one. If you wish to hear this message in English, press two." I pressed two. there was a slight delay and then another voice came on the line. "If you know the extension of the party you wish to speak to you can dial that extension now. If you are calling about billing, press one . If you are calling about repair service, press two. If you are calling about adding an existing line, press three. If you are calling about canceling your service for any reason, press four. If you are calling about installing new service in a house, press five. If you are calling about service for a business, press six, if you are calling for any…. I HUNG UP. and went back to my computer to finish editing The Masked Driver novel. Of course I had lost it all with one mistaken stroke, but it occurred to me to try and see if I could restore it. I clicked on the START button in the lower left corner of my desktop screen, then selected FIND. A window came up and on the list was a place to type in the name of my missing editing job. I typed in Masked Driver.doc, then clicked on search. On the screen I saw the files rotating as the search began, then it stopped and listed my Masked Driver.doc as being in a TEMP directory. I right clicked on the name and it took me to the TEMP directory. Once there I clicked on the title of the document I was editing and another window asked me if I wanted to delete it or restore it. I clicked restore and it came right up. Then I clicked on file, save as, and saved it in My Documents, in the novels folder. I was a pretty happy camper by then. I didn't get the cell phone, but I saved a half days work. Maybe the computer was better than the old typewriter after all. Anyway, I was tired and it was time to watch TV, relax, and have a well deserved beer.

David Allen Russell www.allenpublishing.com

Email Russwrite@excite.com

 

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