Technologically Challenged

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Technologically Challenged

Technology enables man to gain control over everything except technology.” –unknown

Harvey had been lied to all his life.  Growing up, his parents had waxed on about the inventions of the world making his life easier.  “Just you wait”, his dad had said.  “There will be countless advancements that will increase productivity.”  For the last ten years of school, the message had been echoed over and over.  “Learn to master this equipment now”, his teachers and professors had demanded.  “If you figure these computer systems out you’ll be better off.”  Harvey shook his head.

Bull, he thought to himself.  Bull and malarkey.

Harvey always harbored suspicions that the electronic world was out to get him.  The day so far only perpetuated that notion.  First off, Harvey’s wristwatch had failed to wake him up.  When his sleepy eyes finally managed to pry themselves open, they were met with a blank screen.  Despite the expensive watch’s claim that the kinetic movement of his body would power the timepiece, the clock had died.  Harvey scurried out of the house, not taking time to shower or eat, and just managed to beat the bus to its first stop.

He was a little rushed, but Harvey felt that he could still make his breakfast date on time.  However, a mile down the road, the bus was forced to stop.  The overhead power lines specially created for the transit system had been knocked down in the evening’s storms.  The bus driver was therefore required to stop the bus, get out, unlatch the feeding mechanism from the lines, drive the bus past the damaged section on gasoline, stop the bus again, reconnect to the city’s power grid, and then continue service.  Harvey hoped that this would be the last unscheduled stop that the bus would have to make, but he would soon find out how wrong he was.

Two stops later, the bus came upon a disabled man in a wheelchair.  Perhaps a regular metal wheelchair would not have been any grave concern, but this was a deluxe wheelchair.  The behemoth that transported the man from place to place might as well have been a sports utility vehicle.  Its mammoth wheels with studded tires barreled onto the bus’s ramp when it was lowered.  The multi-battery operated chair lurched back and forth at the controller’s slightest gesture.  Piercing chirps resonated whenever the one-man RV moved so much as an inch backwards or to the side.  It came as no surprise that the wheelchair was too heavy for the lift.  Upon hearing a grinding sound, the busload of people groaned.  The exertion that the electric system had undergone had frozen the ramp in its current position.  The driver tried to lower it, close it; he even got out and jumped on it.  The driver turned the bus off, toggled the switches; nothing worked.  Since the bus could not move forward with the door open, all the passengers were asked to wait until a replacement bus was available to carry them.

Finally, after Harvey had survived riding on the next vehicle, which had been unavoidably crammed full with the double load, the man arrived at the café.  He had ended up being fifteen minutes late, but he hoped that Rosalind would have the patience to understand.  He looked around at the different coffee tables outside.  They appeared to be oases of calm.  Harvey wanted to sit on their padded seats, sip a latte, and watch the frazzled world go by.  Instead, he found himself pacing back and forth.  He leaned against a planter which once housed a tree, but now served as an oversized ashtray.  He looked back and forth for any signs of his breakfast date.  They had been talking about coffee for weeks and he was wondering if he had ruined his shot with the woman by being too late.

Finally, twenty minutes after his arrival, Harvey pulled out his phone and called up Rosalind.  Her mumbled voice was just barely audible.  Through barely comprehensible tones, Harvey managed to decipher what the woman was trying to say.  She had apparently been kidnapped to a work party that had gone late into the night.  She had sent Harvey an e-mail from her phone cancelling their breakfast date.  However, due to the service coverage in the bar, the message might not have sent.  “Either way”, Harvey commented, “I only check my e-mails in the afternoon.”

Giving up on any pleasantries occurring before work, Harvey hopped on another bus and headed to work.  The bus worked perfectly.  There were no expected stops.  Harvey dared to believe that perhaps technology was on his side.  Then someone from the next bus depot joined him.  Seated snugly on the bench seat next to him, a woman listened to music on her phone.  She wore earplugs, but Harvey would never have known the difference.  Every note, every word, was completely discernible as the tune blasted towards his eardrums.  He closed his eyes and tried to block out the blaring noise.

Three stops later, Harvey was at work.  He ran off the bus, accidentally pushing a few people as he went.  He found himself standing in front of the elevator doors.  Much to his chagrin, the only set of stairs was alarmed.  They were only to be used in case of emergency.  So it was dictated that Harvey stand with the huddled masses waiting for the arms of the elevator to take in the down-trodden working class.  Harvey heard the familiar ding, watched the shiny brown doors open, and stepped to the back of the elevator.  He knew to expect a long wait.

Sure enough, the elevator stopped on the second floor.  Then it ceased moving long enough to deposit fellow building-dwellers on the fourth floor.  After that came the fifth floor, the seventh floor, and the eighth floor.  Harvey closed his eyes and tried to ignore the ads that were displayed on the monitor above the button panel.  It was as if the elevator knew that he was a captive audience until the thirty-seventh floor.

Twelve minutes later, Harvey arrived at his office.  Before leaving work yesterday, Harvey’s boss had stated that he would be unreachable.  There was a closed-door meeting, complete with phone conferences and presentations, which simply could not be interrupted.  However, he assured Harvey that everything he needed for the day would be waiting in his e-mail.  Harvey turned on his computer, dreading the list of things that his demented boss thought could be achieved in one day.

Just as his monitor warmed and lit up with electric-life, Sara came along.  Harvey did not know what Sara was supposed to accomplish for the company, but he knew what role Sara relished most.  Sara liked to be the dispenser of information.  It did not matter if Sara was talking about the newest work initiative, the names of the recent hires, or what Bob from accounting did over summer break.  Sara simply wanted to spread news.  Harvey had never seen a memo or phone call that could compete with Sara’s speedy delivery.  There was no successful way to keep secrets from this woman.  Harvey tried to ignore her, but that only made her that much more interested in impressing him with the latest news.  Therefore it was absolutely no surprise when Sara clawed her overly manicured hands into the top of Harvey’s cubicle walls and stood on tip-toe to convey her wisdom.

“Hey Harvey, how’s it going.”  The woman did not pause for a reply, and Harvey knew well enough not to attempt one.  “Did ya hear about the computers.  It is really quite sad.  All the internet lines are down.  I guess there is something wrong with the sever.”

“Server”, Harvey corrected.  “It is called a server.”

“That’s what I said”, Sara glared back through her grandmother pink-glasses.  Harvey had seen uglier frames before, but never on a person’s face.  Most visually repellant frames had the decency to stay on the spin rack in the stores.  Sara was the only one that actually gave them a chance to show their hideousness in public.

“Do they know when the server will be up again?”

“Oh, it won’t be until later.  They told us that we should just assume it’ll be out all day.  I guess there’s some sort of power sugar that got knocked out by the storm or something.”

“Surge”, Harvey corrected.  “Power surge.”

“Right, that’s what I said”, Sara replied.  “How’re we supposed to get any work done?  I mean, I’m an important person in this organization.”

Harvey gathered a few files and held them in his arm as he stood up.  “I’m sure you’ll manage to be just as productive today as you are on any other day.”

Leaving Sara looking confused, Harvey headed to the back hall.  He knew a secret.  Over an inter-office bowling game, a maintenance man had taken Harvey into his confidence.  They were located so high up in the building that the fire alarms were largely overlooked.  Someone had taken the liberty of disabling the door sensors.  Harvey had not directly asked, but the way the maintenance fellow talked and winked, he knew who had taken that liberty.  And today, it was going to be Harvey’s key to freedom.

Harvey opened the door, made sure no one saw him, and climbed the last two flights of stairs.  He opened the door to the roof and breathed a sigh of relief.  No one else was about this early in the morning.  In the summer elaborate parties were hosted on the roof.  Railings had been installed and there was even an awning attached to the access stairwell.  Around lunchtime, a crowd gathered to have lunch and enjoy the view.  But today Harvey was early enough to be the only one around.

He breathed in the fresh air.  The skyscraper was on the edge of the city.  From his spot, Harvey could see a few buildings around him, but mostly it was the ocean that filled his view.  The overnight storm had cleared away nicely.  All the scenery had been wiped cleaning from the wind and rain.  He found a dry chair, sat down, and pulled the files from their folders.  He sat, looking at paper copies, resting in a seat with no controls or buttons, and read by the sun in the sky.  This, Harvey felt, is how simple it is supposed to be.

Elevator of Terror

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Elevator of Terror

Linus knocked on the door and gave himself one final check.  His polo shirt finally seemed to be free of cat hair and the dress shoes he had had since college looked respectable enough.  What were the odds that she would want a good look at his shoes?  He heard movement in the hotel room and swallowed the nervous lump in his throat.  He heard the sound of the lock being turned and took a deep breath, sucking in his gut and hoping that his chest was puffed out.  When the door opened, Linus’ breath was immediately taken away.

Standing in front of Linus, in all her glory, was Brenda.  The two had met in a wedding yesterday; she was the maid of honor, he was the best man.  Linus had given a rather amusing toast and had convinced Brenda to share a few dances with him before the event had ended.  It had been the best possible first impression Linus could have made.  He had been wearing a tuxedo, he was charming, and the lighting had been just right.  He was drawn to Brenda, especially her height.  She had regaled him with stories of going to college on a basketball scholarship and he could see why.  With her heels, she was an inch or two taller than Linus, but with a sense of grace about her.  Her pixie-cut brown hair framed her round face just right.  She lived in Florida and had just the right amount of sun freckles dotting her nose and cheeks.  Linus knew they lived across the country from each other, but he asked her for a date regardless.  Now, upon seeing her attire compared to his, he wondered if hadn’t squandered the first impression he had made.

“Hey Linus”, Brenda said.  “Thanks for picking me up.”

Linus only nodded as he took in her appearance. Brenda wore black flats and wearing a tennis bracelet was Brenda.  But Linus couldn’t take her eyes off of her dress.  It wasn’t the length; it was the fit that surprised him.  It was a typical dress that went down to the knees and had a modest enough cut up top.  However it clung to every curve in her admittedly pleasant physique.  Every muscle, every curvature of her body was on display.  Linus tried his best to pick his jaw off the floor and look her in the eye.

“I’m ready if you are”, she offered.

“Oh, yeah”, Linus replied.  “Sorry, it’s, I, well, you look stunning.  I feel bad that my attire isn’t quite up to yours.”

“I think you look fine”, Brenda said as she walked up to him and put her hands on his chest.  “I like polo shirts.  And, can I let you in on a secret?”

“Sure”, he said.  He was grateful for anything that might resemble a conversation starter.

“I only brought this dress with me on a dare.  For Jackie’s bridal party we were all told to bring our sexiest dress.  It was jeans, my bridesmaid dress, or this.  I hope you don’t mind.”

“No, I don’t think I could possibly mind in the least.”

“Okay then.  Shall we?”

Taking up Brenda’s prompting, Linus offered his elbow and she linked elbows with him.  “So did you wear flats in case I wanted to feel taller?”

Brenda laughed.  “No, I didn’t think my white dress heels from yesterday would match.  Like I said, I only had so much attire to choose from.  I didn’t know how long the girls and I would be out and I refuse to wear heels for too long, you know?”

Linus did not know.  He pushed the button to cue the elevator and it graciously came to their floor scant seconds later.  He offered the door to her, watched her walk in, and then he stepped inside himself.  Linus pushed the lobby button and marveled at how slowly the elevator moved.

C’mon Linus, he thought to himself.  You’ve used up the attire conversation.  She gets it, she looks good.  Think of something else.  You can do this.  You’re charming enough; just pick a topic and form words.  Words that make a sentence would be terrific, but any words will do.  C’mon.  Any time now.  Seriously.  You get how she’s fidgeting with her bracelet right there?  You see that?  That’s a bad thing.  That signals boredom.  You might want to say something.  Or you could just stand here like a mime.  You always see mimes walking around with drop-dead gorgeous gals like her.  Oh no, wait.  You don’t.  Women want a guy who can carry a conversation.  It’s been ten floors.  Move it!  Linus was thoroughly regretting Brenda’s room being on the forty-second floor.

When the elevator reached the twenty-eight floor, an older couple came in.  Suddenly, Brenda started talking loudly and with hands flailing about in gestures.

“…so the guy is just lying there on the ground with blood pouring out of his nose.  All the while, I’m standing next to my husband, whose finger is still in the kitchen sink.  I’m wondering who this stranger is while at the same time freaking out about what to do about the finger.”

Linus was confused.  He looked at the elderly couple.  The sixty-something woman with a sparkly sequin dress hugged her husband closer while they both looked agog at Brenda.  Brenda had plenty more to say.

“Then I remember back to an episode of t.v. that I saw where they say they can reattach a finger if it’s well preserved.  Or maybe it was a movie.  Remind me, Linus, was it in that spy movie that we saw a few years ago?”  Linus looked around, having no response for this question.  He shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  Anyway, I look all through the kitchen and find out that we don’t have any sandwich bags.  Not a one.  What are the odds, right?”

The elevator stopped at the sixteenth floor and a man in his early forties entered.  He took a spot in the front corner and closed his eyes and leaned against the back wall.  None of this gave Brenda any reason to pause her story.

“In the meantime, I hear the intruder is trying to get up.  I run back to Dirk’s side and try to get him off the floor.  He’s squeezing his finger in pain but he still manages to stand.  He looks at this man I’ve never seen before, and he tells him, ‘Guido, that’s my money.  I worked hard for it.’  This other guy, who I guess is Guido, just replies, ‘You don’t get it, Dirk.  You take three and a half million from the operation and don’t give us a cut, we’re going to take our cut from you.  The finger was just a first payment.’  I didn’t know what to do Linus, I really don’t.”  

“So what did you do?”  The man who looked so tired when he gotten on had woken up in five short flights.  He looked to Brenda pleadingly, wanting to know the rest of the story.

Brenda lookeds at him, fussed with her bracelet, and turned back to Linus.  “Anyway, I’m still worried about this finger I have in the sink.  What if gets all wrinkly like a raisin and the skin doesn’t match the rest of Dirk’s hand?  What if it falls down the sink?  How’m I supposed to get a finger out of the sink, Linus?  How?  I run to the living room, grab one of Dirk’s comic books, and throw it out of its bag.  Then I run back to the kitchen, fill it halfway with ice, put the finger in, and top it off with more ice.  Dirk and Guido had just gotten to their feet when I threw the bagged finger in the fridge.”

All eyes were locked in suspense on Brenda.  In any other room they’d be focused on the dress, but here she was the queen of the story.  Linus almost wished he had popcorn to excitedly nibble on while she continued.

“I tell them that I’m going to call the police, but Dirk won’t let me.  He tells me that the police are involved; that this goes up higher than I know.  The Guido guy pulls out a knife and eyes it while Dirk says something about ‘the government can’t be trusted on this’, or something like that.”  Brenda’s eyes flickered for a moment to the floor indicator lights above the elevator doors then she resumed her tale of horror.

“So there’s blood coming from Guido’s nose.  There’s a pool of blood where Dirk was standing, and as he’s holding his cut hand with the other hand, I can see that he’s gone with in the face.  He’s only seconds from passing out.”  Brenda grabbed Linus by the shirt collar and pulled him close.  She spoke in a whispered tone that the crowd in the elevator strained to hear.  “Dirk calls me over.  I lean in close.  He tells me, ‘There’s only one way out of this.  You’ve got to…’”

At that moment, the doors sent out a “bing” noise.  The mirror doors slid apart to reveal the lobby with its grand chandelier and old leather couches welcoming its guests.

“Oh, Linus, we’re here!”  Brenda was cheerful and pulled Linus out by the arm.  The three people that remained in the elevator hurried out.  They tried to remain subtle in how they followed, but Linus could sense them walking behind him.  “Where’s your car?”  Brenda’s calm demeanor was unchanged as Linus walked her to his vehicle.  The three others gave up and went about their night plans.

Linus opened the passenger door for Brenda.  She thanked him and lowered herself into the seat.  He closed the door, rushed to the other side, and nearly slammed the car door shut.

“So what happened next?  What about this former husband of yours?”  Linus didn’t know anything about a former spouse, but he wanted to hear the ending regardless.

“Oh that?”  Brenda laughed.  “That’s just my elevator story.”

Linus was dumb-founded.  Brenda’s attire was hardly the most engaging or amazing thing about her.  Feeling the ice had officially been broken; he put his hand on her leg and leaned in.

“You’re kind of fantastic.  You know that, right?”

“I like to liven people’s night up a little.  Who doesn’t like an exciting story?”

Linus turned the key in the ignition as he shook his head in small arcs from side to side.  He grinned and thought to himself, Best first date ever.

(Hollywood lore tells us that Alfred Hitchcock had his own “elevator story” that he used.  The idea just makes me want to hug him.)

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