Pauline Harte

Help! Columnist under attack from computers!

Pauline Harte · March 4, 1997

This is my first "official" column, so please bear with me while I settle into this spot and hopefully become worthy of that annual six-figure salary, a luxury company car, an unlimited expense account, a six-week paid vacation to The Signal's corporate-owned beachfront condo in the Bahamas and unlimited use of the corporate jet and yacht.

I've been thinking about ice floes a lot lately. Eskimos used to pack off a useless member of their tribe to an ice floe so that said useless member would drift off into the sunset clutching a couple of pieces of dried whale blubber, no longer a burden to the tribe.

Ice floes definitely seem to be an answer for housewives like me who have been home raising kids for an eternity and whose approaching obsolescence is becoming difficult to ignore.

I had just started packing up some freeze-dried whale blubber for the icy ferry that was methodically creeping toward the darkening shore of my obsolete life when I received a phone call from The Signal asking if I would like to write a weekly column. So I canceled my one-way cruise to oblivion, and here I am today, still clutching that sack of freeze-dried whale blubber.

A few years back I realized that the computer age had completely passed me by. This didn't surprise me because I detest and fear anything that would look out of place on "Little House on the Prairie." Since it didn't look like computers were going to go away I eventually signed up for a Computer I class so I wouldn't feel quite so outdated.

Mistakenly, I assumed that Computer I was the first logical step and arrived at my first class terrified but hopeful. I picked a seat and gazed into my computer screen.

My computer leered back at me with demonic malevolence, and I thought I heard it snarl. I knew I was in imminent danger of being sucked up into a swirling netherworld of a disintegrating black hole.

Teach was talking. "How many of you already know Computer I and want to go on to Computer II?"

Every hand was raised except mine. With narrowed eyes, Teach slowly walked down the aisle and stopped in front of my desk. "Are you hurt?" she inquired, her head snapping back and forth as she appraised the condition of my arms.

"Hurt?" I echoed, confused.

"Yeah, HURT. Are you HURT? Why aren't you raising your hand for Computer II?" she demanded impatiently.

Rivulets of sweat trickled down my shivering spine, and as I squeaked out my puny answer my face flushed with shame. "I haven't had Computer I and I don't know anything about computers and I forgot how to type."

My computer snarled in victory.

Teach loomed over me and was somehow mutating into the fearsome image of Sister Kathleen from second grade. I just knew there was a ruler hiding in there somewhere. I sat on my hands.

The Sister-Kathleen-thing icily remarked that I must have been on Mars for the last century.

"Well, where have you been?" she hissed with contempt.

Barely audible over the blaring din of the seething vortex that had taken control of my computer, I blurted out my startling confession.

"I haven't been anywhere. I've been a housewife!" There! I said it. The "H" word.

Raucous hoots of laughter erupted from my stunned fellow students. The Sister-Kathleen-thing backed away in mute horror, her hands groping the air behind her for the safety of her desk.

I bolted and ran. I vowed I would never touch a computer or keyboard again, and I've kept that vow even though we have two computers, two printers, a word processor and a FAX.

For years, I remained happily ignorant of anything with a keyboard. Now I am supposed to send my columns in, typed, FAXed or e-mailed, and the obscurity of an ice floe is starting to look pretty good to this computer-ignorant holdout.

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