CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

(01/28/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks? It's not learning new tricks that's tricky; it's being an old dog that takes practice.

Women know that men set their sights at certain levels. I'm a typewriter man and look at computers askance.

I love typewriters! I once worked-well, let's just say I was on The Payroll-where just about every day I wanted to punch out the boss. I took out my aggressions by banging on the keys of an old manual typewriter. I didn't produce much worthwhile writing but I didn't go to jail for assault either.

I thought I was on the cutting edge of technology when I moved up to an electric typewriter after I had gained retirement and a kinder, gentler touch. It was the 90s and I was using the latest technology from the 50s.

But I always had the feeling that if I found the right used typewriter it would contain all the words that would make me into a good writer, especially if the past owner had had such talent and if only I could punch the right keys to bring them out.

With yard sale typewriters going for five dollars or less I bought them by the dozens and always ended up disappointed when I tried each one and found that regardless of how I struck the keys I couldn't find good words. Some of them, I'm certain, were used by little old ladies to write recipes and some contained words suitable only for Harlequin romance novels. I could have made money with those, but I have standards even with an electric.

So, you might say I was forced into the computer age. Our son, a computer whiz at Ruby Hospital, set us up with a rebuilt unit. I declared that I wasn't going to touch the thing, but each time I passed it it seemed to taunt me with its Cyclops monitor staring blankly, the same look I once had in both eyes filled with higher education.

Lo, one day I turned the cussed thing on and began punching some keys. Next thing I knew I was online writing e-mail to people I hardly knew and wouldn't have otherwise reached out to touch type.

It isn't that difficult, I thought. But then came the day when out of the blue a warning appeared on the screen: I had performed an "illegal operation"! Scared the living heck out of me!

I took to my room, pulled the blinds down and expected the FBI to come busting through the door at any minute. When after several days the cops hadn't shown up I breathed a sigh of relief and found myself back at the keyboard.

Then came the second shock wave. A notice flashed on the screen that I had made a "fatal exception." What struck me most about this strange word construction was "fatal." I don't know about you, but to me fatal means pretty final, like in "fatal heart attack," which in turn means that you won't be feeding the chickens or slopping the hogs for a right smart spell.

Again, I lived to tell about it, and I have no idea what all this means. I just know that no typewriter has ever threatened me in this manner.

I suppose it all may be Bill Gates' idea of protection for his Microsoft company. That boyish innocent look of the computer nerd is misleading. He may be recording all of our transgressions on a giant computer in the Silicon Valley, draining California of all its energy. Then, if we ever cross him he'll pull out all the illegal operations we've performed, haul us before the authorities and we could end up with l0 to 20 in the slammer. I don't want to think about his attraction for fatal exceptions.

After I compose this stuff on my old Smith-Corona, alas, handicapped by the lack of talent of its prior owner-I will hand the copy to the Little Woman (5 ft., 3 ins.) who will enter it into the computer. With my record, I don't want to risk it as I've found that there is a mystery key which changes daily that when struck will send everything into the black hole of cyber space never to be seen again.

Some day when this hole fills up we're going to have worse problems with cleanup than with the toxic dumps.

Somehow, and I really don't care to know how, the Little Woman (5 ft., 3 ins.) will say some soothing words over it-once I thought I heard some strange utterances associated with voodoo-as I have a tendency to take Bill Gates' name in vain, and the writing will end up in Hur, Calhoun County. Just finding Hur is a miracle in itself!

I previously pondered in the fashion of Alex Bell and his telephone as to what God and Bob Weaver had wrought. I may not have figured the partnership correctly.

This is a Devil of a way to run a newspaper!


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