Sunday, February 13, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 9 - Cross Talk

One floor down from Sinclair, in the room directly below his, there was another
monitor which had the numbers “4 0 1” flash over the screen. The computer operator
looked at them quizzically at first and lifted his hands instinctively, then replaced them to the “home” key board position. A few stokes of the backspace key and it was erased. He had been working on the budget for several hours and figured it was time for a break. As he paused to save the work he had done; it reappeared on the screen, only this time he knew that his hands had not touched the keys.

“4 0 1”

“What the. . .?”, as he checked the coupling that hooks the key board to the main
processing unit. “ ‘ must be a short.” Looking at the rows and columns of numbers that he had entered for the past three hours, he began to check to make sure that all was as it should be. He paged the work a section at a time from the top; talking to himself in a rhythmic hum as if to mimic the mechanical noises that old time number crunchers made. His head began to bob as if he was manually striking the enter key pad; each row of numbers being matched to the log sheet.

“547.25, that’s right; 789.58, that’s right; 9145.25, thats right; 1 2 3 4, 1 2.
What’s this nonsense? Damnation, looks like the whole things gonna’ have to be checked and double checked.” He turned the computer off and shook his head, the corners of his mouth grimaced a crease deep into his cheek. He pushed back from the work station. “I was ready for lunch anyway”, he broke out of his momentary frustration attack long enough to remember that he was paid by the hour and picked up the telephone.

“Hello maintenance?; this is Starr, I’m up here doing some work on the computer in the Lab. This machine has something wrong with it that will need to be checked. Is there a way I can get it fixed or get another one to take its place so I can get the rest of this budget work done?”

“Okay, we’ll have it in this afternoon, what’s wrong with it?”

“It puts numbers into the . . .”

“No, just write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the screen. The guy who works on computers is gonna be tied up today and I only work on mechanical stuff; air conditioning, pipes and that kind of stuff.”, shifting gears, “ ‘don’t suppose you could tell that computer to change my payroll check? They keep paying me what I’m worth and my family can’t live on that little bit.”, letting out a muffled laugh.

“Ha ha, No problem, just so’s I have something to work with after lunch; thanks.”
Starr picked up his small brown lunch sack that had been stashed away in the sliding bin of the desk and left for the lunch room.