My life partner in crime has taken me out to the woodshed over the inconsistency he perceives in my blog. There’s the title, and the posts. He “wonders” if I’m really still writing about my neighbors; haven’t I gone too far afield? It’s metaphorical. Maybe it wasn’t at the outset, but we grow, we grow. Now I see how my neighborhood need not be bounded by Central Park or any other physical landmark. My neighborhood is anywhere I identify with. So, you other purists out there, hold that thought.
In that vein, I’ve acquired, it seems, a whole gaggle of new neighbors. They’re members of an organization you may have heard of – Toastmasters. After many years of gentle but relentless suggestion by three of my dearest friends, I decided to put my toe into the room where people, in a range of esteemed professions and across a wide spectrum of ages, come together to enhance their public speaking ability. I am – genetically perhaps – a devout coward when it comes to talking to strangers…unless it’s within the confines of my office, where I’m already in a power position. This fear of speaking has been with me as long as I can remember. Going to the corner grocer, when I was a nine-year-old growing up in Brooklyn, was always fraught with dread and a desire to run away, far away. The only reason I didn’t abscond was that I knew if I did I’d be dealing with many more unknowns and I would be called upon to encounter even more of my fear.
Back in the present, I’d made several visits to a midtown chapter of Toastmasters, aptly called Roughriders, and the day of my official induction had finally arrived. With profound ambivalence I showed up, received my congratulations and agreed to uphold the tenets of the group. When I sat down, I felt good. The people are fascinating; I need to overcome my fear; and today would be another day for me to observe: I would certainly not have to give any kind of speech yet.
The first part of the meeting is devoted to something call Table Topics. One member is assigned the task of creating a theme for the day and specific thematic elements, which will be thrown out to his or her choice of members, to be discussed for about two minutes. It’s a fully extemporaneous exercise and, from what I’d seen, people are miraculously able to think on their feet – often very amusingly – about an obscure word, an unexpected juxtaposition of issues, or anything the Table Topics Master of the day can come up with.
This day, the subject was the “road not taken.” I’m not totally sure that’s what it was, I was going in and out of focus as a consequence of just having become a member. No, truth. I live a great deal in my head, so sometimes I miss the details. But, the first person was asked to speak to the issue of where would he bring a guest: to a local food chain or to the best restaurant in town. I listened, feeling really glad I was not one of the lambs who could be led to slaughter this day.
Next topic: if asked, would you sing the National Anthem at the World Series…and then I heard my name. Oh yes, I was it. In this environment, I had already observed the degree to which there is no where to run, no where to hide.
Something took hold of me – and, despite what I would have anticipated (or bet good money on), it didn’t feel like fear. If I had to describe it, I would say I was immediately thrown into the present – or what we used to call “this moment of now.” I rose, I talked without stammering or any umm-ing. I must have said something funny, because there were some laughs. It went on and on. I have no inner clock which tells me when two minutes have passed, so I kept checking the timekeeper’s color-coded card. It was still green. Was that good? Did I need to go on? Was it okay to stop now?
I was aware of a cliff ahead – the one where I could no longer think of anything to say. The one where Jackie Gleason (this is an old reference, to be sure) would say “hamma hamma hamma.” I put on the brakes before the precipice and sat down. Then the fear kicked in. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I thought I might be having a coronary. At my age, it could happen . And then the trembling set in. Full body. It lasted for many minutes. This now felt like the near death experience I would expect to have. What had they done to me? What manner of sadism was at work? Why pick on the unsuspecting new girl. I looked around. There were no malevolent gazes, just sort of pleased, accepting looks on faces – and smiles of atta-girl. Okay. So, this was trial by fire. I was still breathing, but not by much.
One of my most valued relationships is with my computer. It’s my source of knowledge, one of my chief means of connection to the outside world, the recipient of my thoughts and words, and just an endless means of exploration and relaxation. So, when it was attacked by ransomware last week , this was a crisis of traumatic proportions.
Some evil-doers have found a way to invade the system and threaten to destroy all documents unless a ransom of 500 bitcoins is paid. I checked just now; one bitcoin is worth about $344. That comes to about $172,000. Nice ask. By the time my IT guy got involved, every file, every photo, my email, were unreadable, seemingly corrupted for all time. He worked for many hours, finally restoring most of my beloved documents and photos and reconstituting my email. Thank GOD! I was saved.
Not so fast. It seems that no matter what you do, this Cryptolocker virus will never leave your computer. I got a second and third opinion and all agreed. The computer had to be trashed and files cleaned up and transferred to a new machine. WHY? I whined. Don’t take my computer from me. PLEASE! I implored. Deaf ears all around. I’ve now been whining and imploring, occasionally cursing or crying, for days as I attempt to adapt to the dreaded IMac which I finally broke down and bought. I’ve been a PC person since my first computer, and I never wanted to transition. But the chorus of “you won’t get viruses on a Mac” had finally beaten me down.
I’m standing firm in the “hate” part of what may one day morph into a love/hate relationship.
I want my old computer back. This new one is killing me.