-Dedicated to George and Sara Deyal for their support.
By Tony Deyal
I have been a computer freak since the early 1970s when I included a piece of animation in my thesis. So when a few days ago I got a new computer, a Dell 16, the first thing I did was check out my Facebook page. To my astonishment the bold creature asked me, “What’s on your mind?” My mind told me not to pay the fresh computer any mind, after all a lot had been paid for it already. I replied in no uncertain terms or language, “Ms Adell, what I do with my mind is none of your business. I think you need to mind your own and not mind mine. A newbie like you has no right to ask a 77-year-old man what he’s thinking about, especially when he’s looking straight at your buttons and running his fingers all over you. This is the kind of behaviour that one can only expect from a Dell-inquent.”
This reminds me of the story of the rats that were under heavy manners from a new cat in town. A little mouse stood up and said, “If we tie a bell on the neck of the rat, we would know its presence and save ourselves by running away.” All the rats became very happy. They began to dance in pleasure. Suddenly, an old and wise rat said, “The idea is very good. But who will bell the cat?” Hearing it, all the rats became silent again.
I too remained quiet for a while. It took a lot of thinking to find an answer and my first thought came from Mark Twain who said, “I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week sometimes, to make it up.” I was so happy to get my hands on Adell that it was clear that between me and Mark, never the twain shall meet. After all, in this business of puns, funs and buns I also want to make my own mark. Up to this time I have a George and a Zubin but have not left a true Mark.
The good thing is that the new computer was the right one for me. While my desk was very shaky and would fall apart under the slightest pressure, this one was a laptop and I looked forward to having it hanging in there, where it belonged, and tapping away on the keys, knobs and shifts. I could even see the “Enter” on that keyboard and was ready to tumble.
I have always known that the best way to deal with issues of mind over matter was to look at the situation philosophically. In other words, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. However, in this case it did matter considerably. My other laptop computer lost a key from all the banging- the “E”-key of all things. This is the most used key on computers, and it could not take the pressure of all the other “e” words. Maybe it was overengineered or suffered from an attack of inadequateness. I had to press down so hard on the key that I got a pounding headache of a type I had never experienced before. Basically, I was catching my ASUS to compose or compile anything.
I suppose the dependence on a machine, especially something like a computer which costs a pound and a crown, is not healthy and I should consider going back to the thrill of the quill. Imagine me with a quill or bird feather getting my hands wet in ink. It reminds me so much of my early schooldays with inkwells on every desk and my dipping the long, black hair of the girl in front of me into the Parker Quink Ink. This got her blue vex.
Despite knowing that it was my way of expressing my love for her, she complained about me to the teacher who sent me to the headmaster who made it very difficult for me to take my seat in class for a while. I learnt that while talking sit is bad, doing sit is worse. Today is different because I am dealing with a machine and the ink is wrapped up inside her. What can I do except maybe tell her what’s on my mind?
But it is difficult, after so many years, to change your mindset. As John Milton wrote in his Paradise Lost, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a hell of heaven, a heaven of hell.” Worse, it was Satan who said this. And I wondered if I should proceed and say, like the wife who screamed at her husband, “You’re gonna be really sorry. I’m gonna leave you,” and he replied, “Make up your mind. Which is it going to be?” Again, Mark Twain came to my rescue with his advice, “In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities.”
When I read this, I am sure the computer told me, “Don’t mind he!” I then went looking for a sympathetic mind and found the untouchable Mahatma Gandi who made it clear, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” It might be that Adell had sixteen inches and no feet, but the computer cut off abruptly and it took a while to restart.
I used the break to put my mind to the problem. When I was young, my family used to “mind” or take care of goats, “fowl” chickens, and something that the great Lord Kitchener observed in his 1966 calypso, “Talking The River Bad.” It went, “Sit down on river stone and talking the river bad/ Is a thing we must stop here in Trinidad/ So you must run ‘youh’ mouth and just as you wink/ The river go comedown and you go get ‘nuff water to drink.”
This for me was always a major Caribbean complaint – basically “people running ‘dey’ mouth”. However, with the coming of computers and Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and all the others, the mining has got out of hand and further into mouth. Another calypsonian had also stressed the mind part with, “And the reason why, we can’t get no way/ We does talk and don’t care what we say, / We have good, we have bad/ Right here in Trinidad, but some will insist/ To be walking around mining’ people business.” Again, this “mine” over matters is very Caribbean.
At that point, the computer came back on, and I boasted, “Miss Adell. I have an answer for your question about what’s on my mind.” The computer started to rumble and stumble and then I heard a distant voice saying, as it went completely blank, “Never mind.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen playing a mind game on his male readers. He says that you’re losing your mind if you forget to zip your fly after using the bathroom, but if you forget to unzip it before using the bathroom, you’ve already lost it.