Trina Machacek: Unpredictable predictability

Trina Machacek

Trina Machacek

One thing about predictability. The sun will come up after the night passes. It’s nice to have that knowledge. That a new day dawns no matter what. As I and many of my more “mature” friends say, “I got up and saw green not brown.” Meaning we are still kickin it. Yes, the sun coming up is knowledge that is unquestionably predictable.

The unpredictable predictability of sun-up is not knowing exactly what will be between my face and the rays of the sun. There are things in life that seem to come between me and what my desires are. I don’t think I am alone in this. OK here’s the story.

Many Christmases ago I got a new IBM Selectric II electric typewriter. It had so many bells and whistles I know I didn’t ever use all the things it could do. I was ecstatic. Not that I was going to use it to write for pleasure. No, it was for business. I was OK with that. It was going to make my life so much easier than using the green manual Remington typewriter that I had. I still have that little bugger. This new baby had a correction button! Oh, be still my heart. But! Yes, an auto correct “but.”

I still had to be careful when using – OK this will date me – carbon paper. Yes. Carbon paper. Just one step up from the mimeograph machine. You of a certain age can still smell the ink on newly-run blue and cool pages, can’t you? You are my people. You must tell your “youngers” of the mimeo machine. Well slipped on some ink there didn’t I?

My new office partner was set up and I was off to the races with it. It was a dream really. My fingers itched with all I could do. I used that machine for letters and forms and billing and yes it had a name, Fingers. Come on I am a girl; doesn’t everything need and have a name? Well Fingers and I went through many, many ribbons and correction tapes. Then? Computers.

Over time Fingers and I were together less and less. Oh, he was an ever-present presence in my offices as I moved from one office space to another and one business to another with my other half. But over time the computer took over many tasks that Fingers and I had tackled together. For the past several years Fingers has been set up and plugged in out in an office that I only use for storage now. Until last week.

I needed Fingers to create a sign-up sheet. One that if I was as good on my computer as I was on my old friend Fingers the typewriter, I could have zipped out in no time. But I am not as computer literate as I should be, so I grabbed up some typing paper, a.k.a. copy paper and headed out to say “Howdy” to Fingers.

On the walk out to the old office I admit I was kind of giddy about getting to sit in front of my old friend and make a new form.

It was cold and dusty, and I uncovered the gray plastic as I sat down in a chair that needed the wheels oiled as it was hard to scoot up in. I know my face was smiling as I flipped the on switch and the machine beeped the three familiar beeps and the lights on various places lit up and blinked and the electric carriage moved left as the type set wheel spun. Oh, it was like I’d never seen a computer before. I was ready and knew just the settings I needed. Then unpredictably but after 8-10 years predictably…

The carriage that’s down inside the machine stuck over to the left. The paper feed didn’t feed the sheet of paper I put in the paper slot. Space bar didn’t space things forward. Tab button didn’t tab the carriage over. Keys didn’t produce a click of any letters even though there was no paper because, well the paper can only be brought around the paper wheel electronically. Fingers was sick. Really sick.

So, as a girl, I did all the girl things. Turned Fingers off and back on. Unplugged and plugged him back in. I “gently” tapped all sides and top. Lifted the “hood” like any mechanic would. I even changed the three AA back-up batteries that had been in there since who knows when. I even thought of giving a few shots of canned air. You know like mouth to mouth. But nope. Fingers is dead. I mourn for that plastic part of my life. I mourn for all the plastic I leave behind as I move forward.

Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her books are available anywhere you buy books or email her at to buy signed copies.


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