By Teddy Allen
“Sir, I’m sorry, but we don’t have you in our computer.”
Can you hear worse news?
You can — “Sorry, we’re out of bacon” — but it’s a short list.
Such was the case this week when my friend Shine Broussard called a government entity about something governmental.
“We don’t have you In our computer,” he was told. Cold words to hear in person, colder over the telephone.
“Now I’m out here with the gnashing teeth bunch, out here where the sun doesn’t shine,” Shine told me. “No program. No starting lineups. No jersey numbers. ‘Not in our computer.’I’m on an island with the lepers.”
If you’re ‘not in our computer,’ you are a non-person, is what you are. These days, you have to be in the computer. In a lot of computers, actually. You might be in your dentist’s computer, which is good when a molar won’t behave, but being in your dentist’s computer won’t help you a lick if a kidney wants to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Then you’d better be in your urologist’s computer. Now. Today.
There was a time when you didn’t need to be “in our computer.” There was a time when people knew your voice on the telephone, or trusted to some extent that you were who you said you were. Those days vaporized with vaudeville.
Then you had to be “in our files.” A lot of trees died for those files. If you wanted a Social Security check or a driver’s license renewal or a copy of your transcript, you had to be in the files.
Now the files are “in our computer.” You are in our files and in our system if you are in our computer. And if our computer says you aren’t in there, well, you can’t argue with our computer. Forget that a computer is only as smart as its programmer, as energetic as its power source and as efficient as the person who typed you “in” to start with.
It’s the computer, bud. Don’t argue with it. You might as well try to win a spat with Aunt Ethel about how to cook greens or shell peas or do the jitterbug or read your Bible. Good luck with that!
So if you’re not In The Computer, you’re out of the loop. In a fix. Up a creek. Down the river. Out of luck. In a jam. Between a rock and a hard place. Out of the picture. Off the radar.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but we don’t have you in our computer.” (That’s just one frantic, lonely step removed from the hazy “I’m sorry, but our system’s down” No-Man’s Land. If the system’s down, you might as well call in the general and tinkle on the fire because the game, my dear friend, is over.)
I can imagine the computer people talking on their break. “Some poor guy called and wasn’t in the computer. I mean, come on! Idiot…Haha. Hahahahaha….!”
Makes you jealous of people who are “in.” Things are easier for the in’s among us. But how did they get in, anyway? Being “not in” makes you feel like those people Hunter S. Thompson wrote about in the Gonzo Papers, people who chase something they’ll never so much as sniff. Missing. Back-ordered. No teng .Vaya con dios. Seeya!
But do you really want to pay the price for ins-manship? First-born child? Life savings? Moe Bandy record collection? What do I have to give up? And here’s a question: What if you get in and you can’t get OUT? There’s you a pickle.
Such are modern times. All the more reason to hope that when I meet St. Peter, I’m in the computer and the system’s not down.
(Originally ran August of 2010, when all the computers seemed hot and angry … )
Contact Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org