Cybernetics-wise, for me, it has been a trying week.
First, my printer packed up. I tried the usual tricks – logging off, rebooting, shutting down, starting up, plugging, unplugging. But when I tried to print out various works-in-progress they merely joined a waiting list. I needed a seven year old child to help me navigate through various menus but I didn’t have one to hand. So I gave up and phoned the help desk.
I have written a novel, working title, “Click, Double-Click”. You may infer that computers play at least a cameo role. I have an uneasy relationship with these contraptions. I have sympathy with the Luddites who took sledgehammers to the cotton looms at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. I’m often tempted to take a sledgehammer to my hard drive. Instead, I attended an anger management class. Virtual, of course; that is to say, it was in my own mind. I learned to walk away. I entertain the notion to walk away for ever. I call it my “Innisfree Impulse”. It’s a deep, nostalgic longing for a simpler life.
The help desk sorted my printer. In fact they administered a rather over-exuberant purgative and it leapt from its constipated inertia and started, unbidden, to churn out endless reams of A4. I felt like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Then everything – everything – froze. I got back on the phone.
“Hello you are through to Erin (not her real name) may I take your postcode?”
Then, an impossibly erudite question, something like, “Have you got doubledigit PDQ eclectics on your hyperspace cookieblog toolbar?” I panicked, I tried to bluff. “Ye-es.”
“You don’t have a clue what I’m talking about do you?”
I had to admire Erin. She had endless patience. She realised pretty quickly she was dealing with a digital half-wit, and offered to take over and sort the thing out remotely. It’s rather spooky when the cursor starts to dance around the screen of its own volition. You have invited a poltergeist on to the premises. Pretty soon, kitchen appliances will start to fly around.
At length, Erin made a diagnosis, some sort of autoimmune pathology deeply embedded in the antiviral package. “There’s a problem with MacPherson.” (not her real name; she pronounced it ‘MacFierce’n’. I’m going to take out MacPherson. OK?”
“Sure.” I was sanctioning a contract killing.
“You can always put it back later.”
“No, no. MacPherson’s history. MacPherson’s toast.”
During the execution of the hit (I should say MacPherson’s up and running again and thriving; no apps were harmed in the making of this blog) there was something hilarious going on down the phone. Was I being mocked? No, a charity mugger was trying to extract £3 from Erin for a tombola in Rotherham. I asked if that was where she was phoning from. No, Sheffield, just down the road. It might have been Khartoum for all I knew. It was a moment of rare human contact. If the word “Kafkaesque” means anything, it must refer to our isolated existence in a dehumanised world. Don’t they make cutlery out of steel in Sheffield? Or is that all gone, one dark Satanic mill supplanted by another.
She beat the chugger down to £1. And sorted my computer. Erin, I’m deeply grateful. But I’m not done with my Innisfree Impulse. I’m with Yeats on this. “I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”