Saturday, January 14, 2012


I'm sure there's a metaphor in this, somewhere.

I've decided to polish and re-release a booklet I wrote in 1985. I don't have it in electronic format, but (thank goodness) at least I have a printed copy. My wife suggests that rather than retype it, I should OCR it. Now, I remember when Home OCR first arrived on the market. It was shaky and dubious at best, didn't really work well unless you were scanning things like old-style IBM-Selectric Orator type, and its output was always comically, and tragically, rife with errors. But I figured, it can't take as long as retyping, so why not go for it?

So I go to the scanner, which I (thought I had) carefully reconnected to the desktop computer weeks, if not months, ago. The scanner is not exactly in a convenient place, since I use it to photocopy and scan so infrequently (plus it was the only place I could install the bloody thing anyway, in a studio not that well equipped with "desk space"), and even before The Disease it'd have hardly been easy to get at. Over the course of several minutes I fight my way over to it, amazingly enough not knocking things over or hitting the ground. I push the "on" button.

Nothing happens.

I gently yank on the power cord, just to see where it runs. Oh dear, I think, it's going through the tangle of cords that connect to the ... oh crap... Sigh. Well, even before The Disease, that'd have been a flaming pain in the (fill in the blank) to trace and debug, so I figure, maybe it'd be better to move the scanner to another room and plug it into the laptop. I had done that successfully the last time I had a big pile of things to scan, it worked just fine, so... what the heck! Let's go for it!

More almost-disaster/would-have-been-funny-had-it-happened-to-the-Three-Stooges wrangling of The Device through the various cluttered-office-minefields surrounding the desk, and eventually I get it to the Other Room. I plug in the power supply—and its "power" light comes on. Good. (Whew!) I turn on the laptop, and sit surprisingly comfortably on the floor in front of the laptop, in the half-lotus position. That position has never felt this good before, I think happily. I push the scanner's "on" button.


Oh crap, I think. And then, suddenly it dawns on me... I've been pushing the wrong button. The "scan" button and the "on" button look a little too alike, and the "scan" button is far easier to see. And push.


So I push the right button, and power comes up just as I expected it would. I do the scans, everything works perfectly. And I'm actually enjoying sitting on the floor in the half-lotus position—whaddaya know, all this weight loss in my legs has actually increased some comfort, for once. Actually, it's really comfortable! I like it.

And then... I try to get up.

Repeat the near-disaster/near-Three-Stooges-esque part of the adventure. Eventually get up. Somehow manage to pick up the laptop, and somehow make it to another room, which has my favorite comfortable chair, where I sit to finish the job.

The OCRing worked perfectly. Fifteen minutes later, I have an electronic version of my booklet. I'm ready to do some editing/rewriting/re-desktop-publishing, and prep it for release—that'll be easily the work of several days, but it'll be (I expect) fun. I always have enjoyed writing.

OK. So here's where I'm looking for the metaphor...

I kept pushing the wrong button. Again and again. That's why the machine "didn't work." (Technically, it was working perfectly, since it's not supposed to turn on when you press the wrong button, but that's another story.) After I pushed the right button, suddenly everything was beautiful.

If I hadn't been pushing the wrong button, I never would have had so much enjoyment in the simple activity of sitting in the half-lotus position. (I've always preferred this of all the various "sits," but it's never felt as good as it did today.) If I had been in the original room, using the scanner in its original position, I would have had to do all sorts of "Am I gonna fall over this time?" picking my way around the edge of the desk over to where the printer was installed. And never would have experienced the simple joy of the half-lotus position.

So... the "mistake" created the blessing. Having not made the "mistake" would have prevented me from discovering something that was enjoyable—and in the process made the doing of my task significantly simpler—and being stuck in the original room would actually have caused me quite a bit of inconvenience. Discomfort. And maybe even danger.

Is this a M.S.-esque "blessing metaphor" or what?


Muffie said...

Robert, you always manage to find the positive in some rather hairy situations! Another 'gift' bestowed!

nicole said...

I think your right.. It could be a huge metaphor for MS. Where can I get the book?

Robert Parker said...

I'll let you know when it's ready!