Friday, March 24, 2006

A Conversation with My Father

My father pointed to the old computer sitting on his desk in the back office of his car repair shop.

"Hey hotshot," he told me, "why don't you use some of those computer skills you have and set-up an accounting system for the store?"

I looked skeptically at the computer. It was under a dusty, translucent plastic cover that was brittle and had small tears in places. The monitor casing looked jaundiced and yellow. The keyboard felt crunchy, clacking heavily as I pressed on it. A few keys stuck briefly before rising back up slowly like dough. The number 5 was unresponsive, like a tired hooker.

I turned it on. It had Windows 98 on it at least. I thought I may have had to work from a DOS prompt.

I wasn't really thinking that I could set-up an accounting system for my father. I was only here in the Philippines for a ten-day vacation. I figured I would putz around the house, do some light housework like replacing lightbulbs or filing my nails.

"Dad," I said, "there is no way I can set-up an accounting system in the few days I have left here."

"Why not?" He asked, "I sent you to college to study computers. You do this for a living for a big American corporation and you can't set this thing up for your old father's shop?"

"It's not that easy," I tried to say calmly, even though I was already losing my cool. "First you have to upgrade your computer, buy an accounting software, configure it and then learn how to use the system. Even if I set it up, you'll have to key in all the transactions."

My father had an idea that 'using a system' meant that all he had to do was turn on the computer and it will do everything for him. My sixty-three year-old father knows nothing about computers. He thinks all computers are like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since it's 2006, he's probably thinking a computer can do just about anything short of sucking his cock.

"If you can't do it, then the computer is useless," He said curtly. "You may as well throw it away."

I felt stung. I felt like he was saying that I am useless, he may as well throw me away.

I hated that computer. I felt like my father held on to that old computer long enough just to use it in this conversation. I had an old ThighMaster in my room, couldn't he have used that as a metaphor instead? At least that was really useless.

I slowly burned. If I had some carrots and potatoes, we could have stew in a few hours.

On the TV in the corner of the office, a local newscaster reported that in the southern part of the Philippines, torrential rains caused a landslide to bury an entire village. In minutes, an elementary school filled with 250 children and their teachers were buried under boulder and rock and twenty feet of thick, heavy mud. 1,500 villagers were reported missing. The scene cuts to a couple of emergency rescue workers holding back a grieving woman from running into the muddy field where the village used to be.

All around me, people stared at the TV set, horrified at the tragedy. I was horrified too, I'm sure, but it was buried under an overwhelming numbness.



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My father once taught me to Walk Like a Man

This is part of a series of posts about my vacation in February of '06 in the Philippines. Read the rest here:

Part 1: The Long Way Home
Part 2: Starvation
Part 3: Fake Plastic Food
Part 4: My Old Room
Part 5: Autopilot
Part 6: Jetlag

Part 7: A Conversation with My Father
Part 8: Archeology
Part 9: A Conversation with My Mother
Part 10: Redeye
Part 11: I Carry Your Heart
Epilogue: Fun with Fake Poop

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