I'm not a control freak. I just think you should think like me.
Note: This really happened.
It was one of those inspired writing sessions, where I had an idea and a level of annoyance that made my throughts race. I thought Washington was suffering from a selective amnesia, and I kept hearing politicians, talking heads, and media outlets using phrases like “never before” or “not in the history of” or “the first time such a scandal has.” Dramatic declarations, in stern voices and lowered eyebrows, wrapped in logos and even theme music on the news shows. And I’d watch and start to get riled up until it occurred to me that the very same “never before’s” sounded awfully familiar.
And sure enough, from mismanagement at the VA and the shameful treatment of our veterans (an issue for decades), to tragic fatal attacks on US Embassies, to negotiations and prisoner exchanges: they’ve all happened before, under Democratic and Republican administrations, in some cases going as far back as the Civil War. Followed by accusations, press conferences, and resignations, and then congressional hearings held (or not); recommendations made (or not); and down the line bills vetoed or passed, and funding and manpower was allotted to solve the problems (or not). I read, wrote, cut, pasted, and rewrote, working through the afternoon until finally I was sitting in darkness and the computer was the only light in the house.
What’s with this collective amnesia? Isn’t it the responsibility of everyone in the news media to remember the past, to connect the dots, and to dig deeper than a “no administration in history” headline? Don’t stories deserve a background and context, so that maybe real progress can be made? And wouldn’t that be the best way to honor those most affected by these issues: the men and women of the military, the diplomats, and their families, who put their lives on the line for our country? And for the last line I used the famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill that was actually said first by the Spanish philosopher George Santayana: “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I got up from the desk, took a long slurp of water, repositioned the iPad and looked at the essay one final time. (I have to admit it: I admired the sheer elegance of the document, my text in bold and the references in italics, so that when Cat did her fact-checking she’d see that I’d used reputable sources, not quotes from a blog.) And as I reached to hit the “send” button, the piece vanished. It was gone. For a second I thought the pages had slipped underneath but there were no pages to slip. I checked the files, the browser, the documents, the “drive,” and every place where it should have been backed up and it wasn’t anywhere. Six hours of googling “what happenes if a document disappears” and nothing. Nothing. I searched for earlier drafts, to see if I could reconstruct even a part of what I’d written, but all I could find were the things I’d cut from the final document. It was gone. I was crushed.
Just then a “beep” let me know that a friend had posted something on Facebook. I checked to see what it was - a friend wanting me to “like” their page. Fine. And I clicked over to my page and saw that “what’s on your mind” box. I knew what was on my mind. I typed furiously about my idea, and the excited rush of writing and researching, and the bold and italicized text, and the “when it bleeds it leads” headlines with no background, and how the whole document disappeared and why? Why are computers like that? Why couldn’t the nerdy guys with crust in the corners of their mouths who came up with this system figure out some stop-gap way of saving things so you wouldn’t lose them? And how sick I was of what seemed like a glut of new TV series telling the stories of those crusty-mouthed fellows, the future Silicone valley dudes, and how if women were more involved in technology computers would of course be more user-friendly. I changed screens for a second to check the spelling of “Silicone,” switched back to my Facebook page, and my “what’s on your mind” box was gone. The rant was gone. The description of how my essay was gone in the cyberspace wind was gone.
I was done. Spent. Gritted my teeth, took a picture, said some mean things about Apple and Facebook, and closed the computer. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In future, I will write on a legal pad.