By Rick Reynolds
I’m quite sure my computer wants to kill me.
My work laptop has one of those security devices that reads your finger print before loading your files. Every single workday for the past three years, I’ve carefully swiped my forefinger across the little window and the damn fingerprint reader summarily dismisses that I am who I purport to be. It’ll play with me a while, saying I swiped too fast, too slow, too soft, or too skewed—before it outright accuses me of identity theft. After 10 tries, it will flash “Security Breech!” Once it decides you’re a security risk, no amount of finger pointing will succeed for 45 seconds, presumably to give it time to calm down. It does everything but point out that I’ve dribbled coffee down my shirt (it knows my wife does that).
So, after arriving at work at about 8 a.m., I must endure the indignity of swiping my index finger at every imaginable angle, at pressures ranging from 1 to 26O psi, and after all fails, presenting it with my middle finger in order to heat up the “dialogue.” Indeed, I am forced to pass my “digitus secundus” over the glass so many times, I’ve rubbed the fingerprint right off my fingertip. Thus, stripping me of my identity, it continues having its way with me.
I’ve even resorted to licking my finger in the hopes of making better contact, but a question mark/exclamation point prompt comes up questioning (I’m guessing), if I’m some kind of pervert. I’ve even tried to fool it by Xeroxing my other pointer finger, then flopping it and passing it over the glass—to no avail.
If I haven’t gotten into my computer by 9:30, I must suffer the humiliation of asking the IT guy to come down, for the hundredth time, to hold my finger to the reader, when, of course, it suddenly works. I’ve begged him to change the sensitivity of the security settings, but he tells me it wouldn’t work: the machine, flat out, doesn’t like me (literally and figuratively).
I have similar problems while driving with my Tom Tom GPS navigator. Madam Tom Tom, as I refer to the device’s voice, is always sending me down dubious routes, and when I opt to ignore her, an edginess to her voice becomes more and more apparent. A slightly annoyed, “Turn around at the next road,” I’ll hear repeatedly until she finally gives up and reroutes me around my “mistake.”
On a few occasions, when I’ve found myself on a cow path—two dirt tire tracks with grass in between—I’ve had words with Madam Tom Tom. I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve said to her—especially when, after making 15 lefts and rights on trails traveled only by goat herders, I emerge out onto a paved road directly across from the restaurant I’d been looking for. Then, once again, I must apologize profusely to Madame Tom Tom for my lack of faith and patronizing, misogynist treatment.
Despite my wife’s many strengths, map reading isn’t one of them, so she credits Madam Tom Tom with saving our marriage. As far as my computer woes, my spouse calls me a digital vigilante, or “digilante,” who seeks trigger-finger vengeance while operating outside the laws of binary logic.
I don’t know why I can’t get along better with my machines. Moreover, I don’t know why they should wish me harm. Sometimes I think it’s because I’ve purchased them discount at Amazon—or maybe it’s the free, 3rd class shipping that’s upsetting them. One thing is for sure: both my machines and I feel undervalued.
Chappaqua alumnus and 35-year resident of Chappaqua, humorist Rick Reynolds resides in southern New Hampshire with his wife, daughter,
and two dogs.