Monday, March 24, 2008

More Harm than Good

When I was heading off in a futile search for sleep yesterday in the early afternoon - my cough allowing for very, very little rest at all of late - I mentioned to Dad that the front window wouldn’t stay open.

“Do you think I should just get a new one?” I asked, exhausted and already moving toward a bed. He was examining the window carefully when I left, peering at the mechanism and locks and springs. What followed was zero rest for me and a great deal of drilling and pounding and swearing from him. I eventually got up and stumbled down the hall, blinking rapidly and telling myself that some people could tolerate just a few hours of sleep each night. I was not dying. I would be able to sleep for hours on end once again after the cold loosened the grip it has in my chest.

“So the peg needs to go in the hole and then we need to pivot to get the other side in,” he explained, already moving the window and leaving me to clutch at one side while I tried to figure out what his plan was. After being scolded more than once for allowing something to slip out when it should have stayed in or pushing when I should have pulled, I hissed at him that I was sick! Then I contemplated coughing directly on to his bald head as he knelt to peer at his project.

“I’ll do it myself,” he finally said, exasperated.

“Good,” I clipped the word short, even more frustrated than he. “I think you should put it back and leave it alone!”

I flopped on my loveseat and tugged my laptop toward me then continued to glare across the room.

“He’s going to break my window,” I reported to Friend via email, who was safely at her house across town.

“Oh, now he’s tearing up the walls around the window,” I wrote. “And he won’t stop!”

So I watched, torn between irritation and fascination, as he struggled and swore and eventually got the pegs in the holes and pivoted the other side in and the springs functioning properly so the window is good as new.

Then he went to fetch spackle and paint to fix the gouges he put in my walls, afterward wandering the house with his little paintbrush to find places to touch up, proud of and pleased with his afternoon’s work.

Later that day (which was yesterday), I sat at my kitchen table, a bag of potatoes in front of me and knife in my right hand. I attempted to replicate Mom’s smooth motions to remove the brown wrapping from the white chunk of carbohydrates, frowning when I saw that I was reducing the object to a fraction of its former self by taking far too much flesh with the peel.

I’d never make it in the military, I decided, since I heard somewhere people have to peel potatoes there. I also am startlingly stubborn and lazy, and I don’t think they like that. I tend toward following only the rules I think are wise and should apply to me. And I only work for people who are kind and patient - I don’t like to be yelled at or reprimanded. Oh, and running is hard. Why not just put a dog on a leash and stroll wherever I’m going? So much more pleasant.

Dad joined me in the kitchen and watched curiously over my shoulder as I worked.

“I’m not doing very well,” I noted, and he shrugged before saying he thought they looked fine.

“I’ll help,” he announced, and set about trying to find a peeler in my utensil drawer. “This is a cool spoon,” he reported, turning to show it to me and I nodded. “Hey, a slicer! For pizza!” He sounded so impressed that I asked him if he wanted it, but he declined.

“Is this a peeler?” he asked, turning to show me an item.

“That’s a corkscrew, Daddy,” I answered, hoping he was kidding. “For bottles of wine.”

After a few moments of, “This measuring cup is dirty. I’ll put it in the sink for you,” and “A garlic press? Cool - let’s use it!” (which was followed by a comically crestfallen expression when I announced I had no cloves of garlic), he found a peeler and sat next to me to mangle his own population of potatoes.

Mom joined us not too much later and silently viewed the scraps, picking one up that held a great deal of potato attached to it. She raised her eyebrows at me while I tried to look innocent. Then she looked over at Dad, diligently carving out an eye of the potato with the pokey end of his peeler.

“Why don’t you work on the vegetables, Katie?” She finally suggested, shooing me toward some broccoli. She set to work on the rest of the potatoes, peeling them quickly and neatly and letting Dad use the larger chef’s knife to cut them into chunks and drop them in a pot of water.

“We tried,” I told her when she was looking down at the pile of scraps, my work clearly identifiable from her own. She just shook her head and affectionately smoothed my hair on her way to the trash.

Still later, I blinked at Friend who sat across the room. We’d had dinner - fish stuffed with crab and peppers and cheese, creamy potatoes and a cheesy vegetable casserole - and my parents had gone to bed while Friend and I worked in the living room. She glanced up from her laptop, perhaps sensing my panic.

“I installed a new version of [specific software with funny name] because one of my functions wasn’t in the old version I was using. Then it wouldn’t work because it was missing some library.”

“Some library?” she asked gently when I stopped to cough.

“Yes! So now SSwFN (specific software with funny name) won’t work at all! And I use it all the time! So do I need more updates? And of what? This is so not good!”

What followed was much downloading and installing and moving around of files. This was, of course, interspersed with gasps of horror and prayers that my laptop wouldn’t just up and die out of exasperation with me - preferring the sweet release of death rather than my excessive manipulations and additions to its file structures and libraries.

Friend, bless her, tried to help with command lines and suggestions though it wasn’t her problem at all.

“It doesn’t work!” I finally cried. “Nothing is working and I’m breaking it and this is so bad and I don’t even know if I can restore it to the former state of mostly functional but without this particular feature because it’s now all kinds of fucked up!” I paused, looked at her, and said, “And that command line doesn’t work.”

Friend must be accustomed to working with emotionally overwrought and mentally simple folks because she started over. “So you’re in a terminal window,” I nodded and said something about X11. “No,” she corrected gently, “a terminal window.”

“From the application called Terminal?” I asked, blinking at her.

“Yes,” she replied. “When I said Terminal, I meant use the application called Terminal.”

“Oh,” I replied, “I did not know that.” When she continued to look at me, I ducked my head and smiled sheepishly and said something about being very sick and sleep deprived.

I finally took a break, thought about something else, and came back to what I’d broken. Instead of just glancing at documentation and message boards before rushing off to try some random thing in a hasty yet intense attempt at repair, I read the whole thread. I typed a line in the Terminal window, waited while things downloaded and processed and installed, and told Friend it was fixed now.

“Yay,” I said weakly before stopping to cough.

“Sure,” she replied, wiping her nose since we are infected with the same disease. “Congratulations.”


Amanda said...

Yeah, I've done that many times before. Just ask Dr. Man. Sigh. But I'm glad that things worked out well in the end and hopefully you'll get more sleep tonight!

ce4460 said...

What a wonderful writer you are. What a joy. I'll be back to read more.

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