The RemembeRed memoir assignment this week, from Write on Edge, was to recall those early memories of being online. But there were two catches: Do not use the phrase “I remember…” And no laundry lists. Try to focus on one small memory. And since I missed the link up, again, I took a little liberty with the word count.
“I can’t believe I waited until now to start this paper,” I thought loading a backpack with my Sony Walkman cassette player, tapes , books and a loose-leaf spiral with a few scratchy notes.
“Well, maybe I can believe it.”
The weekend had too many friends and retail hours to be very productive. Monday morning loomed ahead. I didn’t have a computer in my dorm room,and it was much too late to crash at a friend’s house. The computer lab was my only choice, a side of campus I had been avoiding for weeks. I vaguely remembered where it was, somewhere in the communications building, I think.
The double doors stood ominously. I kept my eyes forward, took a deep breath, and pushed them open. The squeaky hinges announced my arrival. For a Sunday night, the room was pretty full, heads bowed silently over keyboards, tapping out thoughts. A low whispering buzz, mixed with the hum of the machines, hovered over the room. Florescent lights reflected brilliantly off the white tile, bouncing around rows and rows of white tables and steel legs, surrounded by white walls. There were no windows, making me even more anxious.
I sucked in another deep breath, spotted an empty computer and slunk in to the chair. As I threw my bag on the floor, I noticed that the guy sitting next to me looked familiar.
“Hey, do you live in my dorm?” I asked.
He looked up slightly and said, “Yeah, I think so.”
It took me a few minutes to figure out how to log in to the computer. My school I.D. was buried in my purse and I didn’t have my number memorized yet. The professor’s instructions were crumpled and torn. I smoothed them out on the table’s edge and clipped them to the paper holder. Eventually I had Word open and began the painful process of writing a paper about the romantic elements in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Thank goodness I actually liked this book.
Hours passed before I finally had something worth turning in to my professor. The last set of instructions said to email the paper as an attachment to the teacher. Email an attachment? How the hell was I supposed to do that?
I looked all over the computer for some kind of email icon. Nothing. All this work and now it was stuck on the !@#$%^&* campus computer. I could hit print and send it to the printer. Maybe she would take a hard copy of my work instead. I could plead email ignorance, which wouldn’t be far from the truth. How do you even get email? Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails was causing my brain to pound even harder, so I turned off the cassette player and glanced over at the students to the left and right of me. Their screens displayed some sort of database of messages. Luckily my dorm-mate was still there too.
“Hey, ” I whispered, “how do I get email?”
Thankfully he was very sweet and showed me how to set up a student account through the university. It only took a few minutes, but I had to write a long list of notes to remember how to get back to it and check any messages.
“Wouldn’t calling be easier than this sh*t ?” I half joked.
My next task was to send this attachment thing. Again, not a clue.
“Hey,” I whispered again, “what’s an attachment?”
After I finally typed my email to the professor, attached my paper and hit send, I could finally relax. Mission accomplished. I packed up my bag and pushed my chair out.
“Whoa!” said my new friend in surprise,” Aren’t you going to save that?”
“What do you mean, Save It? It’s on the computer.”
“You can’t leave it on the computer. Someone could steal it and turn it in as their own, or they could delete it and you wouldn’t have any other copy of it in case the email doesn’t get to your professor.”
“Oh,” I sighed.
This whole computer thing was starting to piss me off.
I needed a floppy disk, and apparently should have been working off my disk the whole time, but of course I didn’t think to bring one. He pointed to the vending machine filled with multi-colored floppy disks, but I didn’t have any cash on me either.
I smiled sweetly, “Couldn’t you just put it on your disk and I could get it from you later?”
He smiled back, slid his disk into the machine and hit Save As.
Perhaps the computer lab wasn’t such a scary place after all.