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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Key(board) to Success

Some days, being “the computer guy” at the office isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

(I’m not sure what it’s cracked up to be, exactly. No one I know has ever cracked it up, to the best of my knowledge. So I don’t know what to compare it against, really,

But some days, it just isn’t.)

I had one of those days today, when one of the guys in our group came by my office, computer equipment in hand, and informed me: ‘I don’t like this keyboard. I want a different one.

Now, never mind that I in no way qualify as a keyboard expert. I tend to order the machines for the group, and replace the occasional cable or walk a CD-ROM over to a user, but hardware’s not my bag. Too much chance to cut myself or get scraped or to fry my delicate inner motherboard by licking the wrong wire or something. I’m happy to leave the heavy hardware lifting to the rocket scientists and bomb squads, the way nature intended.

Also, I don’t know the first damned thing about ergonomics. I could understand if he’d said the keyboard was broken — I’ve sacrificed my fair share of perfectly innocent input devices in a bout of impotent frustrated desk-pounding, too — but instead he said he just didn’t like it. As though it could somehow be optimized with carpal massagers or wrist flexor recombobulators or an arm rest sanctioned by a licensed chiropractor shaman.

“I’ve banged on more keyboards than an internet porn addict with no hands.”

These are not things I know about. You’re talking to a guy who slumps so far in his chair, I keep hitting the space bar with my chin when I chew gum. I have vertebrae so maladjusted that my ribs have gotten together and staged an intervention. And I peck away at computers all damned day and night — any computer, and on whatever equipment’s available. I’ve banged on more keyboards than an internet porn addict with no hands.

So this guy coming to me saying he doesn’t ‘like‘ his keyboard — I don’t know what the hell to do about it. I’m a programmer, Jim, not a doctor. Go steal somebody else’s, is what I wanted to tell him. Blast it with a blowtorch until it curves the way you want. Swap some keys around. Have a party, dance a jig, build a big August Dvorak effigy in the parking lot and scamper around it chanting, ‘Qwer-ty! Qwer-ty!‘ ,for all I care.

But no. I’m “the computer guy”. I’ve got to do better than that. If only for the sake of appearance.

So I asked him what was wrong with his keyboard. He said, “It’s these number keys over here. I don’t use the number pad, but I keep accidentally hitting them when I type.

I suppose it’s plausible. I mean, I’ve used keyboards like the one in his hand and had no problem keeping my grubby little paws on the keys I targeted my grubby little paws to tap. The number pad is way over on the right, well away from the letters and common punctuation in the soft chewy center of the layout.

But who am I to say? Maybe the guy just has incredibly stubby little tuna-can fingers, and everything’s a challenge. Maybe he presses four elevator buttons at once, shakes hands like an octopus, and looks like he’s balancing a can of soup on his fist when he flips you the bird.

(Nah, he’d have flipped me the bird by now. The guy’s fingers must be normal. I’d have noticed.)

More likely, he just spilled water or soda or Pabst Blue Ribbon all over the keyboard, and now he’s trying to cover his goof. Or he’s an internet porn addict with no hands. Something to ruin an otherwise good keyboard, and then ditch it because he doesn’t ‘like’ it.

Still, the faster I swapped out his keyboard with out asking any uncomfortable questions or staring at his mutant stubby sucker hands, the sooner I could go back to whatever other pointless and demeaning thing I was doing before this ordeal started. So I walked the guy over to our ‘hardware stash’, and pulled out a replacement.

Here you go, bud. Barely used, and with no number keypad. Just plug it in, and you’ll be back on your way to–

Oh, no. I can’t use that one.

Why? What’s wrong with that one?

Well, the keys are too close together, for starters.

I looked at him, nonplussed. I looked at the keyboard, whose keys were spaced… I don’t know, next to each other, like every other fricking keyboard I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I looks at him again. I blinked. He didn’t go away. I blinked again. Still there. So I caved:

Okay… I guess. Well, let’s see if we have an extra lying around that you like.

The next ninety minutes were like a nightmare fairy tale from Charlie-locks and the Three Touch-Typers. This keyboard is “too thin”. That one is “too long”. “I don’t like the look of those F-keys” on that one. Now the words on the caps lock “are rubbed out and smudgy”.

One after another, the keyboards came and went. Too loud, too soft, too hot, too cold, not enough porridge crammed under the space bar — none of our extras were good enough for Sir Types-A-Lot and his precious princely fingers. Finally, he peered over my shoulder and said:

Hey… that one looks pretty snazzy.

You mean the one connected to my computer?

Yeah — she’s real purty.

Okay, fine. Let’s trade keyboards, then.

So we did. I unhooked my device, wrapped the cable around it — it was either that, or his neck — and handed it over. I don’t care much what sort of keyboard I use, so why not let the picky bastard have his toy? He grabbed it and toddled off back to his cubicle, strutting with his new prize like a magpie in a shiny foil hat.

I picked out the closest extra keyboard, plugged it in, and started tapping out an email. But something didn’t feel quite right. It was skinnier than my other keyboard, and sort of wobbly when I pressed down on the left-hand keys. I figured that would bug me after a while, so I ditched it and pulled another replacement off the pile.

Only this one had a sticky ‘D’ key. And I wind up using ‘d’ an awful lot in sentences. As in, “I’m the Doofus who gave away his keyboard to some whiny Douche just now.” Just for instance.

So I grabbed another. And another. And another. None of our spare keyboards worked quite the way I wanted — and some didn’t work at all. Without knowing it, I’d seemingly given up the last viable keyboard on our entire floor. In desperation, I reached for the keyboard the guy brought in; the one he didn’t ‘like’.

As I pulled it over, some gooey translucent liquid oozed out from under the space bar. It might have been hair gel. It may have been Elmer’s Glue. It could have been congealed lemonade, for all I know, but I didn’t care. I stopped touching the keyboard and went for a long, long, long lunch break. Right after sand-blasting my hands. And desk. And eyes.

When I came back, I picked a defective keyboard at random, plugged it in, wrote a note to the cleaning staff requesting the “super duper disinfectant treatment” on my desk, and took the rest of the day off. Assuming they hit it with the Comet and napalm overnight, I can sit there again in the morning. But I’ve got nothing good to type on.

Now I think the whole thing was a charade just to part me from my keyboard. Or to gross me the hell out. So, you know, missions accomplished, soldier!

And I know that if I ask for my keyboard back, PickyBoy won’t play ball. I’m sure my old keyboard types like a dream, clacks like a soothing slow cargo train, and caresses the fingertips with velvety-smooth sweet nothings. How do I know this? Because she used to be mine.

I’ve decided my only recourse is to steal my keyboard back. Tomorrow evening, after another day of suboptimal input device malaise, I’m going to sneak into his office and take back what’s rightfully mine.

And don’t ask what I’m going to leave dripping on his desk. Turnabout is a keystroke of genius, don’t you know.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “The Key(board) to Success”

  1. e-man says:

    I almost feel like I gave you the idea, but maybe not. Hilarious, really. The one of the god of the computer is inspired to real recent life as well?

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