Why I Believe in Magic
M J Melneck
Sometimes very simple notions carry very complex developments. Technology will fail, while Magic carries neither a performance warranty nor an actual expectation of its delivery. There once were no color laser printers, nor were there 2400x1960 pixel color scanners to render the logo on a golf ball razor sharp when its photo (shot from beyond the moon) is blown up to the size of your house—that’s when this begins. Before Bluetooth and Blackberry and wireless routers and that entire catalog of things many people now can’t live without—that’s right—in the Dark Ages a few days after the discovery of fire—there were actual tablets of lined paper, and #3 Eagle Mirado pencils. I preferred the 2A Mephisto, but can’t find them anymore, and so have learned to cope.
Writing with tablet and pencil immediately followed writing on a cave wall with the end of a burnt stick. A series of short leaps, though quantum ones, brought us through quill pens and “fountain” pens, to ball point pens, to the manual typewriter and carbon paper sets (the reader may now silently wonder, “How old is this guy, really?”). A wide carriage Olympia SM-9. Southworth bond—50% rag when you could afford it. Oh, the electric typewriter came along, but it was like cheating somehow. I believed that if you couldn’t feel the letters on the back side of the page, you weren’t working hard enough.
I became a pen/pencil junkie, then a typewriter junkie, and yesterday—yesterday it all came crashing down around me. Were I a drinking man…
But not so fast. I bought my first computer to get to a printer. I could so easily ruin the last line of a page I’d typed several times already, and even my friend Ed Doctorow can’t send in sloppy hard copy. You understand.
And so I morphed into a computer junkie. Not an addict, just a tinkerer whose eyes occasionally glaze under the spell of a new advance in the contraption somewhere beyond the keyboard. Computers are like motorcycles—no matter how big or fast your first one is, within days—weeks at the most—it isn’t enough.
Our home is wireless (encrypted to keep the cruisers from parking in the drive and using our access), and broadband. Every night I pray to the broadband angels to go faster, ever faster. But yesterday morning at about 6:30, the router spit, sputtered, let loose the banshee howl we expect in the deepest, darkest part of the forest—and died. OK—the howl was me. I pulled the network cable out of the router and plugged it into the laptop. Problem solved (my wife is out of town and doesn’t need access to the router). But within 30 minutes the DSL modem, apparently riddled with survivor guilt over the router’s demise, gave up its own ghost. Technology failed. I WAS REDUCED TO A DIAL-UP!
The half-life of PVC (read: the rate at which virtually indestructible plastic pipe decays) is, I once read, 38,000 years. Coincidentally, that appears to be the exact speed of dial-up after you’ve spent a couple of years enjoying broadband. In self-defense, research is critical to my work—I’m not IMing or whatever that disastrous medium is.
I did not have a cow. I did not do the hissy dance. I simply called upon my belief in magic. Magic might work, or it might not. But you have no right to demand of it the delivery of all things bright and beautiful. I took the router to my friend Scott, who will either fix it or get me a new one. The ISP will send me a new modem. In the meantime, that being the last 48 hours, I’ve read two darned good books.