Thursday, August 27, 2009

Trouble With Machines

“Hey Lyd, it’s Yos, how you doin’?”
“Okay, how are you?”
“All right, all right. You at home?”
“I’m driving, I’m almost home.”
“Listen, call me when you get home, I need help to email a picture…I need to send a customer a photo of a machine.”
“I’m pulling up to the house now, are you in front of the computer?”
“Okay, let me just turn the computer on, give me a second. I’ll call you back in a minute.”
“Okay, bye.”

She turned off the car and opened the truck’s door. The residential road was quiet and dark, she had parked at the slight curve in the road beneath a large pine tree, her usual spot. On her right was the large barren hillside that led to a row of houses a couple hundred feet above her, to the left of the parked car was a row of houses that were mostly dark. Though they were far apart, a couple street lamps illuminated the road with their yellow light. She crossed the empty street and walked along the side of the house. Her eyes adjusted to the dark space in between her house and the neighbor’s on the right. As she approached, she kept her eyes fixed on the space beneath her neighbor’s stairs, looking for movement. It was only a couple steps from her path and in the dark, she always felt a couple seconds of vulnerability while she waited for the motion sensor to flip on the side light. Always slightly paranoid, she looked into the shadows, looking for lurkers with knives…men who had studied her daily habits and determined the best place to hide and wait. As usual, no one jumped from the shadows and she pushed the latch of the wooden gate. It opened to a backyard of concrete. Here too, it took a couple steps for the motion detector to register her movements and here too, she looked to the corners along the left side of the fence, near the towering eucalyptus trees just beyond the fence to the farthest point of the yard from where she stood. A couple seconds later, as she walked towards the door, light above it flooded the yard and there was no one hiding; the shed was undisturbed, the trash cans stood as they always did. She walked to the door and she fumbled with her keys for a moment, looking through a dozen to find the correct one for the top lock. She turned the key to the right and then put the same key into the bottom lock, turning this time to the left. She pushed on the door with her foot, a habit she had recently developed, and the door opened. She found a different key with help from the light, she pushed it in and turned it to the right. The door opened and she was assaulted by the usual smell of an indefinable source. It was a smell she had noticed her first night in the small studio, not entirely unpleasant, but slightly perfumed and foreign and definitely not coming from anything she had brought. After months of cleaning and incense, its source was still a mystery, perhaps coming from some of the building supplies, but maybe a smell filtering in from the garage that shared her wall. She flipped on the light, closed and locked the door and turned on her computer. As she waited for the computer to light up, she lit a match and ignited a gas burner on the stove. She filled her small orange pot with some water and set it upon the circle of flames.
The computer was ready. She picked up her small red cell phone and she dialed the numbers.

“Hey Yos, it’s me.”
“Hey Lyd.”
“You use yahoo right? To send email?”
“Okay, are you looking at the page right now.”
“Do you see where it says ‘compose mail?”
“Okay, click on that.”
“Do you see where it says, ‘attach files’?”
“Click on that.”
“See those five lines and it says ‘browse’ on the right?”
“That’s where you need to go look for the pictures. Where are the pictures?”
“I put them in a memory stick.”
“Is that still attached to the computer.”
“Okay, go to ‘my computer,’ do you see the little icon for the memory stick?”
“Are you sure it’s attached? Because you need to copy the pictures from the memory stick to the computer. They’re not in the computer automatically, you need to put them in.”
“Ahh, I see. I saw them in here yesterday. I don’t know where they are now. Let me see.”
The line was quiet while he pressed buttons.
“What are you doing now?” she asked.
“I’m just looking.”
“I don’t know…ah…no…maybe…no…
“Are you sure they’re not in a section called ‘my pictures’? Did you look in there?”
“Yeah, give me a minute. Ahh, let’s see….maybe…no….ahhh….
Silence again.
“I saw them in here yesterday.”
“Did you see them in the camera or in the computer?”
“I saw them in the computer.”
“How did you get the pictures from the camera to the computer?”
“I put them in a memory stick.”
“You put the memory stick into the camera?”
“The memory stick is the camera.”
“This particular camera is a memory stick, it has memory.”
“I know cameras have memory, but…”
“This particular camera is a memory stick.”
“I don’t see how you could get the pictures from the camera to the computer without a cord.”
“It’s a memory stick.”
“What do you mean? Where is the memory stick?”
“Forget the memory stick! I saw them in here yesterday!” He stopped talking and started clicking tabs in the computer.
“Do you understand that just because you hook up a camera into the computer, with a memory stick or with a cord, you still need to copy the pictures into the computer itself. When it’s hooked up to the camera, it’s just like borrowed information, it’s not inside the computer yet”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Let me see…..”
“Do you really get it?”
“Yeah. It get it” he said in a dismissive tone. “Okay…maybe….”
She held the phone partially away from her ear, trying to let the energy of frustration roll through her.
“Hey, hold on a minute” he said.
She heard him on the other line… “hey Mike, how are you?” He sounded a little far away. “Hey look Lyd, I’ll have to call you back.”
“Yeah, bye.”

She closed the phone and suddenly remembered the water she put on earlier. The water was boiling rapidly and she turned off the flames and dunk a tea bag into the pot directly.
She felt a bit like a prisoner. She needed to do some other things in the house, but didn’t want to be interrupted with his phone call, so she waited. Cleaning some dishes that were piled in her sink, picking up a couple clothes she had left on the floor. Fifteen minutes went by. She picked up the cell phone again and called him.

“Are you still on the phone?”
“Yeah, listen, don’t worry, I think I can figure it out myself.”
“Okay, bye.”

She felt a bit frustrated, suspended in the air when she was ready to jump. So that was what it felt like. She recognized the part her father was playing. She had played it many times before. Not clear, not listening, unable to take advice instead of doing her own thing. Stubborn and proud. She sipped her tea. A part of her felt like she had just wasted her time. Another part felt that she had just been held up to a mirror, her exact actions illuminated for her in sharp relief. A photo of a machine. She could see it clearly and study it. If she chose to pause long enough. If she chose to look. If she chose to work with what she saw. So simple and yet so hard to grasp. Step by step, no matter how simple, no matter how small. She sipped again from her tea and wondered how long it would take for her to forget.

No comments: