Stepping into the hotel, it was like being dropped into a truly alien world. Nothing shiny, no excess of glass and marble. A simple dark wooden reception desk, a clerk in black with a white vest. A bow upon approaching. Your room is simple, no internet, a single light on a small desk. A tatami mat in the corner. A hard wired phone. And you know, in the distance, the Daibutsu awaits you in the morning. Here there is no CNN International, nothing that isn’t Japanese. Your computer is essentially useless, a fax machine in the office for emergencies. And the nearest business center, sorry closed, is in the city. The Internet is coming soon, they promise . But on your morning run, as you catch your breath on the step outside the Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, a deer comes up to you and licks your face and you know this morning Daibutsu is smiling.
I feel like I ought to be
living in Texas again
for everything, they say,
is bigger in Texas, and you
don’t argue with a Texan.
So much in my life is bigger now,
a computer monitor that would
pass for a moderate sized TV,
with font so large a single page
fills the screen, and the tablet
the size of, but thank God
not the weight of, a phone book,
(if you are under 30, look it up),
to read books and news since
libraries don’t carry large print books
(look that up too, probably)
at least not books of poetry.
But thanks to modern materials science
the lenses in my glasses don’t
yet look like Mr. Magoo’s (yup,
one more thing to look up,)
at least not yet.
First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August 2022
At some point in each call
to a customer service representative,
or worse still technical assistance
which is a painful oxymoron
in and of itself, I pause and wonder
how the conversation might go
if I could reach through
the ether of the phone
and grab the script.
Would the voice on the other end
suddenly become attached
to a person, ripped
from its computer home?
Would that person engage
in pleasantries for a bit
before telling me that I should
go to the website where
I will inevitably learn that
there is nothing they can
or will do for me? And why
is a call to my local doctor
garbled, but my computer
voice in India is crisp, clear
if never fully intelligible?
There will, I am certain, come a day when I will need to do nothing. My computer and my apps will know what I want, will obtain it without asking, will expect my thanks when it arrives, even if they are incapable of understanding what thank you means in a human world. They already plague me with offers and suggestions, if I liked that or even looked at it, I must like this. And they do it with a certainty that only an algorithm can possess. They know me, or so they are programmed, for they cannot think, and they cannot begin to imagine how fickle I can be, or what that term even means. But I know Jeff Bezos won’t give up without a fight. At least if there are a few more billion dollars to be made.
I have it on good authority,
supposedly, that the internet
will not he the death of me.
I have my sincere doubts, and
regardless, it has turned my world
on its head more than a bit.
In high school and college
I knew that a thick envelope
was an acceptance, a thin one
a letter telling me this or that
Ivy League school had a large
number of qualified candidates.
And as a poet, a thin letter was
acceptance, thick a return
of my work to trash or recycle.
Now both worlds are driven by
computer generated emails, and
I know the computer rejecting
my work in a kindly, if grammatically
inaccurate email never understood
the subtlety of my imagery at all.
The phone is again ringing,
and the odds say it is someone
who wants to extend my warranty
on the car I no longer own,
or to lower my credit card interest
though I never carry a balance,
or to help me fix my computer if I
just hand over control to them.
I won’t answer this time, almost
never do unless I know the caller
and want to speak to them,
robocalls, despised as they are
do provide a convenient excuse
not to speak to the long lost friend
who only needs a short term loan,
or the charity always wanting more.
Many want the government to act,
to ban or limit these calls, and I
agree, but be prepared to answer
when I call about the money you promised.
It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.
The key, he knows is to eliminate the impossible. Once you do that what remains, no matter how improbable must be the truth. Holmes, as it comes out might have been right. Oliver Wendell was, but how can you know when you’ve eliminated all impossibilities? Doyle (Roddy perhaps) would note that improbabilities can look a great deal like impossibilities, but may nevertheless prove to be the truth. We could enlist Watson’s superb mind, but we know just how possessive Gates can be, and it could swing shut on us at any moment.
You set a record today,
five blue screens,
and finally there was
no rebooting, and even the tech
at her desk in Bangalore
could not figure out
the error message
and politely gave up
promising your replacement
won’t have these problems.
There’s a whole new set
of crashes and lockups
waiting in the box
down at Staples,
she didn’t bother to mention.
The screen, a shade of blue you have come to hate,
stares back at you defiantly.
You expected something like this,
though there is never good reason for it.
You check your calendar and clear
the next two days of all non-critical items.
You adjust the chair carefully, for it
will be your home for countless hours,
and you only wish that you could drink
before 5 PM or invoke the “it’s 5 PM somewhere” rule,
but you know your tolerance is limited,
less so in situations such as this,
so you dig in for the long haul.
You know this won’t be the last time
you will face this problem, only the current one,
and you know in the end it will be fine,
so you suppress your anger and frustration
and prepare to do battle, yet again
with the seeming evil demons of Microsoft.