Thursday, 16 August 2012

A pink peg, a broken mouse

It's after dinner and we sit, side by side, on the sofa. The TV is on in the far corner of the room; its black surround holding in the twenty-two men who are chasing a ball round a bright green pitch.

We sit side by side, each with a laptop carefully placed on our laps; neither of us really watching the football, both of us glancing up every now and then, one of us sighing regularly at the idiotic commentary. I'm trying to write, tapping away at the keyboard, cursing the tiredness that makes me press the wrong keys. I press and delete, type on, backspace, type, delete some more. It's not til the end of a paragraph that I realise there's something wrong.

I want to move up the page, to change an early sentence, but I can't. The small square pad that moves the cursor, is not responding to my touch. I try again, press harder, move my finger faster. Still nothing.

"My mouse has died" I wail. The cat gives me a glare and I'm not really sure if its my wailing he disapproves of, or my usurption of his mouse-killing responsibilities.

"Turn it off and turn it on again" suggests Philip and there's something in his manner that reminds me of a tired IT technician, sick to the gills of his incompetent workmates.

I press the power key and hold it down until all the lights go out, then I press it again to bring the computer back to life. "Turn it off and turn it on again" I mutter, and suddenly I see myself fifteen years ago, sitting in a small office not far from Waterloo station.

The computers were notoriously unreliable back then, it was a common occurrence for them to go down for hours at a time. My office-mate still kept a pile of Memo sheets on the desk, her faith in the power of writing-in-triplicate undiminished by the promise of e-mail.

But I had a better plan; callously and deliberately I befriended the quiet Canadian who worked in the IT suite next door. I made a point of always popping my head round the door to say hello, always finding time to have a chat. I knew, whatever problems the rest of the building was having, my computer would be the first to be fixed.

I never really wondered whether it was fair. He always seemed happy to talk to me, quite content to drop whatever else he was supposed to be doing to follow me back to my desk and make sure all was right with my technology.  For a while, I didn't even notice that he was finding reasons to stop by even when the IT was fine. I smiled when he started turning up with a bag of doughnuts every Friday morning. I teased him about his sense of dress, made fun of his boring shirt; it seemed a clever and witty thing to do.

One day I picked up a small pink peg from my desk and clipped it to the end of his hideous tie, laughingly suggesting that was all he needed to look his best.

Later that week, I came back from lunch to find him in my office, crawling under the desk, running his hand over the carpet. Seeing me, he jumped up quickly and backed towards the door, his face turning a glowing red. "I've lost it" he mumbled "I can't find the pink peg."

I'm not sure I've ever felt so ashamed. I knew what I'd done with the chatting and the teasing; I knew why I'd done it. And I know that when he looked at me, just before he left, he knew it too. A few weeks later I heard he'd got a new job.

I never saw him after that and I haven't thought of him in years. But tonight, I'm reluctant to ask Philip to help me fix the laptop. So I press the power key once more, turning it off and turning it on again. All these years later, there's a small part of me hoping that I might yet cancel out my thoughtlessness, fix more than just a faulty mouse.


Nari Dean said...

We've all done it and I hope that we've all eventually felt guilty and ashamed because of it.

Otherwise, we might turn into one of those other types. The ones who go through life spreading artificial sunlight before them to ensure that they receive the best of everything upon entry. Never caring that they leave those they have used burned and wilted in their wake.

At least, you aren't one of them. Take heart in your guilt, it makes you worth knowing.

kenju said...

Kind of a rough lesson. I am reminded of a comment my nursery school (age 4) teacher wrote on my year-end report: Judy is able to cajole her classmates to put away her toys and clean up her messes, especially the

"As We Speak" said...

Oh, you are not the only woman to use her "feminine wiles" but, you are of the few to feel any guilt.

I really enjoyed your post or was it really a confession of sorts?


Anonymous said...

This old granny lady used to take little treats in to the IT boys every so often for the very same purpose...they knew it, I knew it, it worked and that was all that mattered. I'm sure by now, he's forgiven you. You just need to forgive yourself.

Bill Dameron said...

Well, I am one of those IT boys, IT Director actually. We are all very much aware of the measures people go to in order to get priority service. And you may be surprised to learn that it is not just the women....

Jacksquatch Detangled said...

I remember making a very sarcastic comment to a girl when I was in High School and the look on her face was that of total humiliation. Weeks ago, I was talking to my daughter about it and telling her how bad I felt about it, but then went on to say "She's probably forgotten about all of that; even though I haven't."

My daughter replied, "We never forget things like that."


The Elephant's Child said...

Ouch. Recognition that we have done wrong is one thing, finding the ability to forgive ourselves is often a whole different kettle of fish.

Joanne Noragon said...

Life's lessons. This was a hard one and I'm sure you learned it well. On another level, those IT guys knew their worth and climbed up the salary ladder by jumping jobs.

Philip said...

I know who you mean. The curious thing is, he's sort of memorable. Yet not one who you think should be. Of course the fact that he liked you makes him a man of very fine taste.
You capture in a couple of lines the exquisite pain of such situations. Alive with possibility. Then not. Unlike him, I didn't take no for an answer.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I was right there in the scene experiencing his humiliation and your embarrassment. I can remember a number of embarrassing moments and, sadly, still feel my heart begin to race after many, many years. I guess that's the human condition (or the female version of it).

Linda Myers said...

I'm trying to make up for the things I said back then by being extra kind to those around me now.

Pat said...

Ouch - I'm feeling the guilt prickle - after all these years - but all I can tell you is that I got my come-uppance in spades.
Lesson learned.

Anne said...

I know how embarrassing these things can be. Done a couple of things I'm not particularly proud of myself. But I try to do better by doing acts of kindness to random people on some days hoping it will finally go back to those people I've wronged. And though it may not, helps me feel better despite myself.

Hillary said...

Wow, Sharon...Philip said it best.

I think we have most of us played that game and those of us with heart have felt like you did.

But the way you took us all back to our own mistakes, the way you gave that Canadian gentleman such soul...well, I can't seem to get out what I want to say, but I am so impressed with how you economize your words. What some of us would spend pages trying to illustrate, you did with just a few short paragraphs and did it so

Shea Goff said...

At one point in the story I was hoping we'd find out his name was Phillip and it was how you two met.

Silly romantic, I know.

DPR said...

Move on Sharon. He will have done.

Indie Fashion said...

SO informative. thanks