Waiting for the other shoe to drop

by Ogi Overman

Those of you under 35 or so likely don’t remember the comic strip Li’l Abner, much less the character with the unpronounceable last name, Joe and a-bunch-of-consonants-with-no-vowels, who always had a dark cloud hanging over his head. Likewise, those of you not blessed to be an Andyphile would not recognize the name Henry Bennett, the poor schlub who, thanks to Barney, got tagged as the Mayberry jinx.

Unfortunately, I know them all too well. Lately I fear that I’ve taken on their dual persona. It seems everything I touch turns to that word Bush uttered to his lackey Tony Blair into a live microphone. (In case you missed it, it ain’t “shinola.”)

Yep, either I’ve become a jinx or am one of those people who is wired wrong, whose electromagnetic waves cause things to break down for no apparent reason. Maybe I’m Powder in reverse.

This latest episode of calamity can probably be traced to one of those lightning storms that rolled through about a month ago and zapped my eMac in my office downtown. I subsequently finished the column I’d started on another machine and somehow managed to misspell Bill Burckley, a name I’ve written dozens of times over the years, not only throughout the column but in the headline. Mr. Burckley was less than amused.

But then, two days later, still working off the Dell at home (since they don’t make eMacs anymore, it would cost more to fix it than it’s worth) I crashed it. We got the Roadrunner guy out a couple of days later and he said it was beyond his scope, so it now sets idle in the corner.

Two dead computers in four days can be rationalized as the vicissitudes of life – for most people. But for me it was only the beginning of a three-week nosedive into a technological and mechanical abyss.

For starters, the air conditioner went on the fritz. For a day and a half, with temperatures in the nineties, we suffered. I kept a bucket of ice nearby to wipe Janet down with cold towels, as severe heat virtually paralyzes people with chronic-progressive MS. That, and a couple of fans, probably kept us alive.

Recently we switched cell phone carriers to Cingular, which has turned out to be even worse than the previous company, Verizon. Janet’s phone won’t allow her to call out from inside our house, which makes it virtually useless. She needs to keep it within reach at all times in case she falls, but if she has to go outside to make a call, what good is it in an emergency? The company insists that it should work, all but accusing her of lying. Finally, after at least a dozen complaints that yielded no results, they did allow her to cancel her service but insisted that the contract stipulates that I must keep mine until August 2007.

Then the AC went out again. This time the man came right out, which was good, but after he left we realized he’d only fixed the fan, which was bad. At least the circulating air kept the temperature around 82 until he could come back the next day.

But then the completely unexpected happened – our phone went out. Not the cell, the land line. It took a full day for the Roadrunner man (we bought the bundled phone, internet and cable services) to get there. He did make it out that evening and was able to fix it, but a whole day without phone service is not what we bargained for.

Meanwhile, Charles, my boss here at YES! Weekly, was kind enough to let me borrow a MacMini they weren’t using. Kenny, staff graphic artist, gave me a monitor, and I still had my eMac keyboard, so, voila, I was back in business.

Not so fast, Bucko. This little Apple hard drive is about the size of a cigar box and is supposed to purr like a kitten. But this one’s purr turned into a growl and then a roar and finally a gurgle. It freezes up, regardless of the program you’re running, kicks you offline as soon as you get where you’re going, and makes you restart every 10 minutes or so. And when you do, it saves your work to an earlier version, wiping out everything you’ve done since the last restart, even if you’ve saved it.

Forgive me if I feel somewhat abandoned through all this. Janet worked for Time Warner for 17 years, and now we’re seriously considering dumping the bundled Roadrunner services and going to DishNet, Bellsouth and Netzero, or something comparable. Plus, I’ve been a confirmed Mac user for 20 years, yet I broke down and bought a Dell this week. And so far it’s working like a chaarrmm*b%u$#@s*h%<}s^7U%c/&k{s$....

Ogi Overman can be reached at Or can he?