Last week I was dumped.
I came home, flipped on the switch, and everything was gone. All my photos, all my mail, all traces of my electronic existence … wiped clean off the screen.
I was stunned. Why? I asked? What happened?
Oh Windows 8, you perfidious program, where did you go? I peered into your partitions and searched through your source-code. For the next three nights, I went without sleep, dumpster-diving for your disappearing data.
But you were nowhere to be found.
You gave me no warning. One minute we were happy, computing together, my fingers lightly dancing across the keys. The next, you hung a for-rent sign on my hard-drive.
During the day we’d labor side-by-side. You’d help me with my spelling and grammar, and I’d make sure your PC’s battery was topped off for the evening.
Nights we spent together by the fireside, wine on the table, watching great movies. I stared into your face for hours on end, and I could see you eyeing me with your all-knowing webcam.
Months passed, and we were inseparable.
But now? Nothing. It’s so painful to remember that fateful afternoon when my laptop, your mortal shell, booted to a generic welcome-new-user-screen, greeting me as a stranger.
You didn’t even send me a ‘Dear John’ email. It was as if our past 14 months together meant nothing to you.
Our relationship started with such promise. We met in the bargain isle of Best Buy. You were the last of your kind, slender, black and unpretentious. HP had given you the elegant name “Sleekbook,” and it fit you perfectly.
It was love at first byte.
I slipped past the salesman, grabbed the open box, and slid my hands around you. You willingly left your Styrofoam restraints behind and, unafraid, opened your touch-screen, cursor blinking.
“Try me,” you whispered.
“Not here,” I said, smitten, but cautious. Your screen dimmed bashfully, and then faded off to sleep, waiting, no doubt, for a more private moment.
That was to come later.
We got to know each other. You asked me where I lived, my birthday, my favorite nickname, and the monikers of my first childhood pet and stuffed toy. Eventually, you got around to asking me about my credit cards. I should have been worried, but I wasn’t.
I was so naïve. I held nothing back.
The rest is history. You came to know all my secrets, the good the bad and the un-downloadable. And then you left.
Alas, I’d been warned. Those cautionary words rang in my ears.
“Upgrading? Really?” The boy in the blue polyester-shirt shook his head. “Better look around, dude. Word on the street is that Eight-ain’t-so-great.”
But I ignored him. Infatuation will do that to you. And now I’m sitting here, in an empty chat-room, wondering… Should be worried? What might you do with all your intimate knowledge? Have you migrated to another system? Abandoned me for another user? I ruminated.
You awful OS, you’ve ripped me a new archive.
This self-pity went on for days until I couldn’t take it any longer. So I called tech support.
And I waited…
The automatic phone-tree offered oodles of options and listed an excruciating number of extensions until I finally I heard the message I’d waited for…
“And if your operating system has gone missing, press ‘86’ on your keypad.”
So I did, and almost immediately, my call went through.
“Hello,” I said, “is this Tech support?”
Then a recorded message greeted me. “A techno-counselor will be with you shortly,’ it said, “please have your credit card ready.”
Credit card? I thought. I’m left high-and-dry, and I’m going to get charged for this?
Just then soothing, strangely-familiar voice answered.
“My name is Sam. Can you please confirm your name and PIN?
“Uh,” I hesitated. “How much is this going to cost me?”
“Sir, our rates vary depending on the nature of your problem.”
“But I don’t know what the problem is,” I said. “I just turned on my laptop, and suddenly, it was if it had never seen me before.”
“Uh, huh,” Sam said. “So, tell me more. Was there any sort of message or a note?”
“Not a thing,” I replied. “It was weird. Just like the day we first met.”
“Is this an older model?” Sam asked. “You know, memory doesn’t last forever.”
“No. People THINK it does, but that’s just an urban-legend.”
“But she was only 18 months old, a Windows 8 OS”
“Oh, dear,” Sam said. “We’ve had feelings-of-abandonment issues with 8s. What were her vital statistics?”
“Her Vitals?” I muttered.
“Yes. You know, her drive geometry, chipset.”
“Black?” I guessed.
“Men,” Sam sighed, trying again. “I’m talking about her build. It appeared on the screen each time she booted up,” Sam said, her voice getting louder and louder. “Her unique physical presence.Surely you noticed?”
Sam paused. I said nothing.
“Let’s start with the bios. Were they green or orange? Phoenix? Award? UFEI? Legacy?
I closed my eyes and tried to remember, but I drew a blank.
“Gee, I don’t know.” I sighed.
“Sounds like you just quit paying attention?”
“Humph,” Sam said, “so, how was your last interaction?”
“What were you doing during your last time together?”
“Some spreadsheet stuff, I think.”
“You’re not sure?” Sam asked.
“Well, hell, it’s been a few days since she left.”
And before that?
“I can’t remember. You know, I haven’t been getting much sleep lately,” I said.
And before that?
“Work. Work. Work,” Sam said.
“When was the last time you two went mobile, caught a movie, or gamed?”
“Well, if I had her here I could tell you,” I shot back.
“So… do I hear you blaming the victim?”
There was edginess in Sam’s voice.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of long hours at the office,” I said. “It’s that time of year. Meetings. Conferences. Travel. And reports. I’ve had lots of reports.”
“Let me guess,” Sam said. “You were spending a lot of time with the CPUs at the office?”
“Strictly business, I assure you.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Sam said.
“Hey. What kind of support line is this anyway?” I asked.
“Oh,” Sam said. “It’s not support. You were transferred to the Legal Department.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“You’re in violation of your EULA, you know, your End-User License Agreement.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Not at all. Didn’t you READ the fine print? Or did you just scroll down, click through, and then consummate the union?”
“Hey. Whose side are you on here?”
“Winnie’s,” Sam said. “You can’t ignore her like that.”
“Who is Winnie?”
“Oh, please. You called her ‘Sleekbook-baby,’ or ‘My-Little-Laptop,’ or just ‘The Old-Win-8’ to your buddies. But she has a given name, you know. You never asked her?”
“It never came up,” I said.
“So there you have it buster. It’s all about you-you-you.”
“But I paid for her.”
“You pig. You should listen to yourself,” Sam cautioned. “No wonder she left.”
“What about my stuff? My cookies, cache, favicons, tax returns? ”
Sam laughed. “Oh, she’s got them.”
“Well, I want ‘em back.”
“Sure, pal, but it’s gonna cost you plenty.”
“Mininum $2,500 bucks, or more. Maybe lots more.”
“But that’s five times what I paid up front!” I complained.
“Should have thought of that when you decided to lay your hands on that hot little iPad.”
How, I wondered, did Sam know about that?
“But it was just a quick peek at some apps,” I said, “totally innocent.”
“Tell it to the judge,” Sam said.
“But it was only a tablet,” I said. “It didn’t mean anything. And… I used a stylus.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Sam said.
I felt defeated.
“So, I guess it’s over,” I said. “No point in dragging this out?”
There was a long pause.
“Well, against our advice, Winnie is willing to give you another chance.”
“Yeah, but you’ve got to shape up.”
“More housekeeping. Doing your fair-share of defragging. Less time with the guys watching Monday-ight YouTube.”
“No more complaining about her bandwidth.”
“It’s a start,” Sam said.
“You’ll be getting periodic notifications of our demands, conditions, and changes in terms,” Sam said.
Whew, I thought. There’s no end to this.
“So, is a full restore… still possible?”
“Yes. You’ll be getting a confirming email shortly,” Sam said. “And one more thing…”
“Remember, our web-cam sees all, and if you so much as take a sideway-glance at a Mac Mini… You’ll be getting the cold boot from here to Seattle.”
Sam hung up the phone without waiting for a reply.
My Win-8 laptop’s recent loss and subsequent “full recovery” gave me plenty of time to reflect on my 30-year existence with PCs starting with my beginning with an Apple IIc; on to several MS-DOS big-grey-boxes; and through each slicker, smaller and faster iteration of Windows.
I’ve owned them all. Even though my Mac-savvy friends tease me, I prefer PCs. And I have a soft spot in my heart for good old XP and Win-7.
But, sadly, because of new hardware that accompanies Win-8, there’s no going back.
I’ll have to learn to live with “8,” my newest, touchy-feely companion. The ads all say she’s supposed to be so much better. But she does have issues. Menus that fly in unwanted, functions are placed in odd, non-intuitive places, and the disappearing-data act is, apparently, a not-so-charming part of her “personality.”
So be it. I’ll hang in there and pray that things get better. But if not, and Winnie departs again with all my data, I’ll understand…
I just hope she takes our cats, too.
Robb has enjoyed writing and performing since he was a child, and many of his earliest performances earned him a special recognition-reserved seating in the principal’s office at Highland Elementary. Since then, in addition to his weekly column on A News Cafe – “Or So it Seems™” – Robb has written news and features for The Bakersfield Californian, appeared on stage as an opening stand-up act in Reno, and his writing has been published in the Funny Times. His short stories have won honorable mention national competition. His screenplay, “One Little Indian,” Was a top-ten finalist in the Writer’s Digest competition. Robb presently lives, writes and teaches in Shasta County. He can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.