Saturday, November 28, 2009

Henrietta Pennypacker

This computer nearly went flying through the window!
Last week I returned home from a three-week trip to western Washington . Three weeks is a long time for me to be away. I looked forward to catching up on all my email. I greeted my house, turned up the heat, checked out my back door to see if the snow drifts were still piled high (affirmative), pulled on my jammies and turned on my computer. It greeted me, welcomed me home, rolled over and died.

I am of the generation to whom a computer is a many splendored thing, a vast incomprehensible mystery, a holder of secrets, and I intend to keep it that way.

My son says, “Oh Mom. It’s just a tool.” Easy for him to say. He is a systems engineer whose life revolves around this mystery of mysteries. In fact, last fall my son gave me a new computer. He told me mine was getting old, but he did not have time to transfer my files right then. He said he’d get to it when he visited next summer. So I now had a new computer which was not programmed to work. I had an old computer which just went belly up. My son, my computer guru, patron saint of the microchips, was 900 miles away. And summer was a distant dream. What was a mother to do!

Reluctantly I realized I would have to go local for this one. After a series of phone calls, I resorted to my tried and true method, the one I use to choose horses at the races: the hat pin. I knew my chances of picking a winner was better than at the tracks. I hovered over the yellow pages and struck. I zeroed in on a firm in Havre. I lugged my two computers to my van and drove.

Enter computer store with first computer. Enter computer store with second computer. The nice young technician at the desk said, “We cannot do anything with this one. It does not have this authorized sticker.” She points to a colorful sticker on the new computer. She points to the naked top of my old computer. She doesn’t even know what I want and she is already telling me it can’t be done. My heart sinks.

I gather my courage. “My son built this computer especially for me,” I explain. “It died. All I want is for you to transfer my files onto the new computer, the one with the authorized sticker.”

She looks at me suspiciously. I have visions of her pushing the button beneath the desk to alert the FBI, the CIA, and the Border Patrol who will convict me of somehow having unauthorized material without the special identifying sticker. I imagine I will spend the rest of my life in a place where I will have no need for a computer.

I resort to my last line of defense: tears. I offer to call my son so he can explain and hopefully post bail, if necessary.

She consults with another nice young technician from the back room. They speak in whispers, peek around the door frame at me, and appear to be snickering. In the end, they agree to accept my contraband. Gratefully, I leave my two computers in their capable hands.

Today I am gleefully getting acquainted with my new computer. She’s a beauty. I expect she and I will have a long and happy relationship. I decide to name her. I never gave a name to my old computer, although a time or two, I called it a name. But that was only under extreme duress. My new computer has the initials “hp” on the front. I lean toward naming her “Henrietta Pennypacker” or maybe “Honey Pie” for short. Whadda ya think?

Sondra Ashton

Havre Daily News: Home Again

April 2, 2009