It's bad enough that I'm engaged in a power struggle with my tablet computer. Now I'm dragging complete strangers into the fray. I suspect it's just a matter of time before the two of us are featured in a police report that makes newspaper headlines: "Local tablet and area woman charged with assault after scuffle."
Well, I didn't start it. All I ever wanted was a tablet that would give me email no matter where I was, let me take pictures when I forgot the camera and allow me to search for the occasional song lyric. I would have been perfectly happy had my tablet not developed a little too much personality.
Not that "personality" is the right word. "Attitude" is more like it. Wanting to spell things its way and not mine is what I'm talking about, and not conceding gracefully when I try to correct its corrections.
You may consider this a minor, even laughable, matter, but that's because you've never dealt with a tablet that insists your name is Mango no matter how often you try to tell it otherwise.
"R, G, O," I type, and before my eyes the letters "N, G, O" appear on the screen.
"R, G, O!" I bellow.
"N, G, O," the screen responds. Oh, it's cool, this one. It reminds me of my sister, who when we were kids could drive me into a frothing rage by ignoring my, well, frothing rage.
"I'm going to pull down the shade," she'd say in a superior voice, and then she'd draw her hand down the air in front of me, as if she were pulling on the ring-on-a-string that window shades had in those days.
My tablet may as well be pulling down the shade too, the way it ignores me. The other day I typed the name "Applegate" onto the screen. "Applegate" is a clean-cut name if ever there was one, a name Jimmy Stewart would have been proud to wear in a movie, but my tablet chose to accept it as "appellate." And then it had the temerity to display a message announcing no one named "appellate" was listed in that directory.
"I didn't type 'appellate!' " I shouted. In real life, I promise you, I'm not a shouter. I'm a regular talker. Some would say I'm almost a low talker, to borrow from Seinfeld. My fifth-grade teacher thought I was an out-and-out whisperer, as she expressed seconds after I was elected class secretary.
"Well, when you read the minutes you'd better speak up!" she snapped. Clearly, she'd been rooting for another candidate.
She'd vote for me now, though, if she could hear me talking business with my tablet. "Just type what I type!" I yell. "Quit thinking you know best!"
Come to think of it, I wish I'd had the nerve to say something like that to my fifth-grade teacher, who did have an annoying habit of thinking she knew best. But never mind. I'm probably just engaging in a little displacement. It's the tablet I'm mad at, after all, not poor Mrs. What's-her-name.
The tablet had another heinous act of rebellion up its sleeve -- a sleeve it seems to have forgotten, that I purchased. I was reading e-mail on it recently when I yielded to the impulse to answer a message. I usually use my laptop for e-mailing, because a standard keyboard allows me to type, if not like the wind, at least like a good strong breeze. On a tablet, typing is hunt-and-peck at best, and sometimes the plink, plonk, plinkity-plonk that is tablet typing is like hitting the freeway at 12 miles an hour.
But I was comfy in my chair and in no particular hurry, so I plinked my way through a fairly expansive message to my sister and hit "send."
Three minutes later, a new e-mail popped up. The sender's name was unfamiliar, and the 11-word message instantly made my face hot. "I believe you have sent this to my address in error," the message said. It was signed "Best, John."
It was nice of John to send me his best, after I'd sent him the boring details of my boring life. But of course I hadn't sent him those details; the tablet had. I don't know how it changed my sister's address to John's when I hadn't typed it -- I'd just hit "reply" -- but my take-home is this: In our game of nefarious one-upmanship, the tablet is ahead.
"Oh, heavens," I whispered. My fifth-grade teacher would not be pleased.