Sunday, August 22, 2010

Machine pranks

It all began when I woke up: my computer was whinging that it needed the anti-virus software updated. So, knowing that can be a tediously long process, I decided to run the update while I showered. Expecting the machine to hum and moan for at least the next 15 minutes, I was surprised when it declared itself finished before I could get the water hot. A second look at the screen, however, revealed that my connection to the internet was down, crashed sometime during the night.

Hubby reset the router while I wallowed in the hot water (yay! no broken water mains or hot water heaters this day!) and when I came back to the computer, the update ran without a hitch. But the dead router but was a harbinger of things to come.

While Hubby performed his morning ablutions, I got dressed...we had errands to run and we like to do them before the roads and the shops and the parking lots get crowded. Because Joburg rolls up its sidewalks at 6 pm (or earlier) each night, working people are forced to do their shopping on weekends...when many shops close by 2 pm, and many are not even open on Sundays. As Hubby emerged from the bathroom, I was picking up my new Blackberry with which I am not yet fully familiar...and the phone was dead. Thinking the battery was flat, I plugged it into the charger but nothing happened. Hubby, who has a fine engineering mind and is much better and sussing out machine failures than I am, took a look at it for me and decided that the machine had been turned off. Once returned to life, I noted that the battery was not even low, and since I keep the keypad locked and don't even know how to turn it off, it's a lead pipe cinch that I was not the one who gave it an overnight rest...which leaves the question, how did it get turned off?

Naïvely, we headed out to do the errands, not thinking the router and the phone were warnings of things to come. That they might have conspired together, being in the same room all night while we slept, blissfully ignorant of their machinations, did not occur to us.

I did not come to the conclusion that it was a conspiracy, however, until I realized that the rebellious machines in my bedroom, both of which are wireless enabled, had transmitted their evil vibes all the way out to the car. In the boot was a colourful bag with a clever toy for a little boy who was celebrating his first birthday that afternoon. We set off on our first errand, to locate a certain fabric shop reputed to stock a large selection of shwe shwe, an African cotton fabric, that I want to use for dining room curtains in our new house. Now, South Africa is not plagued, like California, with a horde of youths who think listening to offensive music played at eardrum bursting levels from their cars is an inalienable right. Oh, we do have a few of them, but they are few and far between. So, a couple of kilometres from home we pull up to a red light and I hear very faint strains of music...rather similar to a calliope. I look around for another car...or even a business...that might be broadcasting the sound, but can't pinpoint anything. But definitely, the source of the sound is not one of the cars around us.

At the next robot, I hear it again...and still no offender in view. The third time I asked Hubby if he heard it too (I'm old, my eyes are giving out, why not my hearing as well?) and to my surprise, he did! So, now we were both looking for the source, unwilling to believe we were experiencing a shared hallucination.

The music was not played for a while, then it stopped, only to start up again rather randomly. Sometimes it would start at a traffic light, sometimes when we went over a bump, other times when we cornered. Obviously it was somehow connected to our car as the sound seemed to travel with us. Because it was not a recognizable tune, however, we couldn't pinpoint the source. The radio was off (we checked) , our phones were silent, we had no other noise-making gadgets on our persons or in my handbag, and before long, locating the source of the noise became an annoying imperative.

We entered the freeway to musical accompaniment and as we merged into traffic, a merry--but unfamiliar--little tune faintly teased us and then Hubby said "The toy!" Sure enough...the sound had to be the toy...there was no other possible source. But that brought up the question of how it got activated. Hubby has been driving my car all week, the toy has been there since last Saturday and it has been dead silent that entire time. What happened yesterday that it mysteriously activated, the very same morning that my phone just as mysteriously turned itself off?

Unable to bear the now almost constant serenade from the backof the's an SUV, so the boot is not a separate compartment...Hubby pulled off the freeway, parked, and went to the back to silence the offending beast. Somehow, after an entire week of quietly riding back there, the toy had turned itself over so that the front of the thing was face down and every time it was jostled, its "Try Me" button was pushed, activating the sound! Mystery solved, and we got back on the road to find my shwe shwe fabric.

But it didn't end there. We went to the pharmacy to refill some prescriptions only to find that the medical aid (insurance) had failed to tell the pharmacy that my one diabetes medication was covered 100% and they wanted to charge us for it. We declined, knowing that we have a letter at home, emailed from the medical aid, authorizing this medication as free (as required by the government). We told the pharmacist we would return the following day with a copy of the letter.

Well, the printer had other ideas. Located in the bedroom and sitting on a small table beside the router, it refused to function, telling me repeatedly that it was engaged in printing another job and I, foolish and imperious creature that I was, just had to wait in the print queue until it was done. Unfortunately, there was no other job, it was not printing, it was just sitting quietly on the table next to the router, its green lights glaring malevolently at me. It was then that I realized that the Blackberry, router, and printer were members of an evil wireless triad, out to take over the world...or at least our household.

But we foiled their dastardly plan...Hubby turned the phone back on, rebooted the router and shut down the printer and restarted it, and they have resumed their roles as our obsequeous servants...for now, at least. But we will be watching them closely from now on...


  1. How do they DO that? I have similar situations with the neighborhood animals - usually all the same day, too. Norine

  2. My mother is convinced that technology has little elves that reside within--and that they (on a whim) create their mischief so we humans don't get too uppity.

    I think the elves may have been involved here, SV! Just a hunch!

    Glad you are up and running again! I've been thinking of you and hoping your cataract surgery went well (did you have it by now--I'll check any posts I might have inadvertently missed). Also hoping that your move will finally be settled--I know you've been dealing with a lot.

    Take care, my friend--



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