Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I love me some Josh the Pilot, but I have a new boyfriend: Abdul*. Abdul and I spent an entire night together, on the phone, becoming very intimate about my computer.

Tops on the list of Very Bad Noises is the sound of your hard drive going, quote, “SCRAPEmoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan,” which is what mine did at eleven o’clock at night before quitting outright and ending life as I know it.

So I called the tech support hotline, which told me that it sounded as if my laptop had a virus, which meant I would have to pay a flat fee for help. I have a feeling that in the fashion of most college health clinics (“I see that your femur bone is sticking up out of your stomach. Looks like an upper respiratory infection!”) Dell now diagnoses 99.99999999999% of technical issues, including a post-mortem of a
computer recently hurled off a cliff, as viral-related.

They took $57 away from me. In exchange, I was presented with Abdul, who first suggested, Cingular-style, that I “email the support desk,” which… kind of difficult when the computer’s best current function is as a fifteen hundred dollar visual break between a Tinkerbelle photo holder and a Derby The Horse Beanie Baby.

“Is this Mary?” he said when he pulled up my account.

“I’m Mary Beth,” I told him.

“Mary, I will provide you with personalized attention to address your problem.” This is how I knew immediately that Abdul would fit right in with about 90% of the men of my past, in the sense that they rarely bothered to learn vital things about me such as my name either.

We began with The Official Engineer Solution For Absolutely Everything, Including Spontaneous Combustion Of Small Animals.

“Turn your unit off and turn it back on again,” he instructed.

This totally worked for the Mars Rover, but I pointed out that the computer was pretty much permanently off, and we began diagnosing (“Okay ma’am? What you need to do? Is press the little silver button? Marked ‘Start’?’). I managed to reboot, and Abdul, after running through a series of fixes (“Okay ma’am? Do you see little silver button? Can you press it again for me please?”) announced that it was time to reformat the hard drive. Which meant…

“This will erase everything on your hard drive,” he said. “Is this okay with you?”

The lesson plans, the stored passwords, the rough drafts, the two gigs of pictures of Gary “Remember Me?” Stevens streaking past the camera in a wide variety of horrible silks, all of the completely legally downloaded music… every last bit and byte, gone, gone, gone. No. This is not okay with me, Abdul.

“You can, of course, make a separate call for a flat fee at another time.”

Reformatting takes a while. There was a percentage counter on the screen that kept track of how far along we were, which, for quite a long time, was not very much. I set the phone down and lay down on the floor to read something soul-affirming and scholarly (Regency Romances Presents: The Diabolical Duke).

“What time is it there?” Abdul asked after a while.

“One AM,” I said sullenly.



“It is the middle of the afternoon here.”


(Thirty-second pause.)

“It is sunny.”

This call was exceeded in helpfulness only by a live chat I once had with HP, in which I was told to turn the computer off and then turn it back on again. The tech typed, "I will help you through this process and then we will reload the drivers." I cannot imagine his shock when, once I rebooted the computer, the modem connection was lost.



“How far has the system gone in reformatting, ma’am?”

“Seventeen percent done, Abdul, same as last time you asked.”


The duke remained fairly undiabolical.

“It is clouding up now. I think it may rain.”

“That’s funny, because THE SUN STILL ISN’T UP where I am.”

They say that hostages form bands of trauma to block out potential long-term psychological damage.

At twenty-two percent:

“Are you tired, ma’am?”

“Yes, but sometimes I fear that I am not living a purpose-driven life.”

Two more chapters went by.

“Ma’am? Are you still there?”

This was nice. I like having a man around who asks if I’m still around, just… because. Abdul was earning his $57 dowry.

I began to feel responsible for my end of the relationship, and softened into “When you/I feel” statements (“When you tell me the reformatting could take another forty-five minutes, I feel like rolling around in a vat containing very sharp shards of glass.”) This worked wonders for our affaire.

“It’s up to thirty-eight percent complete, Abdul!”

“Oh, that is very good, Ma’am!”

When at last the formatting was done, Abdul told me to reinstall Windows, which promised to take at least another half-hour, so you know what Abdul did? Abdul told me he would call me back! And then? He totally did!

I have to end it, though, much as I know I deserve a committed man with staying power who lives ‘neath the sun when the day hides its face where I live. But it would never work. I shudder at the thought of sharing parenting duties with a person who would stare at a sobbing daughter who has not been asked to the prom and instruct me to shut her down and turn her back on again.

Competent Official College Professor UPDATE: The students presented oral reports today. A quote: “I just threw up in my mouth a little. Is that going to affect my grade?”

*His actual name

it's finals week at:


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