TALKING WITH TECHNOLOGY: A JOURNAL

 

Mark Pendolino

October 19-2004

     
  (PAGE 3)    

Photo Courtesy of upallnightmusic.com

 

 

Pulling an All-Nighter Without the Booze: Yet Another Microsoft Word Mystery

The Dreaded Phone Call

I fell into a deep, disturbing sleep.

I began to dream of phones ringing. Cell phones buzzing. It felt like I was bludgeoned in the head when I finally sat upright and realized my phone was actually ringing. It was 7:00 am, and I was nearly delirious.

My salesperson was both sympathetic and panicked. He couldn't open the file. Holy crap.

I immediately ran downstairs and cranked up the laptop, waiting as it ran through its overwrought, necessary procedure, all the while keeping my colleague on the phone. He was trying to surmise what happened while simultaneously trying to develop a backup plan. We had been working on this document for almost three weeks.

When I tried to open the file, for the first time on my work laptop, it gave me an unfamaliar dialogue box. Something to the effect of "Sorry, we can't open this file. It needs to be converted to something else. What were you thinking? You're an idiot. An asshole. Ha ha! You stayed up all night for nothing!"

It literally sneered at me. So much for the great conversation.

I struggled to understand why it couldn't open the file. Again, it had to be the difference in Word versions. But I thought the newest versions could always open older version files! I raced back to the home computer. It opened there, it was fine. I could send from this computer, but would it do the same thing to my colleague? He had the same system setup on his work laptop as I had. It seemed inevitable.

Then he suggested the absurd.

Something that I've done before that has worked. But it works for no apparant reason. There is no glaring reason why it would make a difference. "Try copying the whole thing and just pasting into a new file," he said. OK.

I did just that. Frantically. Checking to make sure all of the margins and page breaks and headers and footers and graphics and styles were still intact. It looked alright on the home screen. Time to transfer to the laptop and pray.

Wouldn't you know it, the file opened with no problem. There were some inaccuracies in the newer version - some bullets weren't lining up, there were strange breaks in text, but I was able to quickly fix the obvious. I kept my colleague on the phone as I quickly scrolled through all 168 pages of the Demon Seed. I was hopeful. I kept him on the phone as I cued up another email with the new file. I waited on the phone until he received the message (it took some time - but dammit, I wasn't going to wait for another phone call). Incredibly, he was able to open the file. It worked. And in an instant he was rushing for the nearest Kinko's, trying to make the proposal deadline.

 

Aftermath

I went back to bed at 8:30 am. I was delusional. I dreamt of flashing cursors and big, blank Word documents - daunting, haunting, laughing. I woke up somewhere around 12:00 noon. No hangover, just grogginess.

The interaction I experienced this night was one of frustration, but also one of admiration. True, there was nothing of any substance in my conversation with the computer. It didn't allow me to do what I wanted to do. It didn't listen.

But in retrospect, it made me realize the inadequecies and unpredictability of communicating with technology. It also made me realize the incredible abilities we have to instantly overcome them. And, although my interaction with technology itself was troublesome, it was the technology itself that allowed me to communicate with my colleague in the wee hours of the morning - transferring large documents through airwaves and accomplishing a seemingly impossible task. And hopefully that same technology will help us win that project!

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