The twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and my thoughts go back to the days when I first began to use a computer for word-processing.
What an expression, word processing. No longer the business of writing but the business of processing words, as if words were like sausages on a conveyer belt in need of packaging.
I can see it in my mind’s eye.
My husband makes sausages. He takes a lump of pork and minces it till it turns into a lumpy pink sludge then adds herbs and spices.
Next he forces some part of the mixture into the top of his sausage maker, brand name DICK, and screws down the lever that forces the mince into thin stockings of sausage casing made out of cow gut lining.
He squeezes a quantity of mixture into a gigantic sausage and finally cuts it off in over size lengths that he then sections into sausage length strips tied with a butcher’s string.
My husband lets the sausages sit in the fridge for a day, then Cryovacs a small quantity, usually in batches of three or four sausages, and finally freezes them until use. Most of the sausages he gives away to friends and family, and some we take out and defrost for barbeques.
My husband’s sausages taste better than the ones we buy from the shops. We know what goes into them.
Word processing on the other hand requires other ingredients like the mind behind the machine to turn them into something of value.
Twenty-five years ago I looked at computers in the same way as I had looked at cars another ten years earlier when I was still young and believed I would never need to drive one.
My husband would be in charge of all things car related. I could simply be a passenger.
Whether this attitude held me back I do not know, though it took me several years in my early twenties to get my driver’s licence.
I was phobic about driving, one of my driving instructors told me. He took me out for lessons in his turquoise coloured Datsun 180y and every time I stepped inside his car I needed to change my shoes.
These were the days of platform heels, shoes that gave an extra three or four inches in height.
Those were the days when a driving instructor put up a yellow learner’s plate on his car and he could charge a fee to help someone like me learn to drive.
It took me three attempts to get my licence.
The first time I failed to stop for a man who had walked across the driveway with a wheelbarrow.
I can see him still this man hunched over his red barrow intent on heaving his load from one side of the road to the next.
I could not bring myself to stop. There was too much to synchronise: the getting out through the driveway in a non-automatic car with clutch and gears, which I needed to coordinate in order to start and to stop.
I had just managed to get the car out of the parking lot but needed to stop too soon. I managed to slow back to first gear and hoped the man would get past soon enough for me to go on driving but my instructor slammed on his secondary brakes to spare us all the horror of my car running into the man with the wheelbarrow.
The examiner failed me on the spot.
The second time I went for my licence I managed to get out of the driving zone and onto the road. I was then able to negotiate my way through several streets under the examiner’s instructions, but by the time it came to parallel parking my nerves were frayed to the point I could not manage to synchronise the required number of full turns of the wheel to get the car into place.
Once again I failed.
On my third attempt I managed to drive through the streets of Oakleigh without any mishaps, but once again on the hill that runs up to the Chadstone shopping centre after I had managed a handbrake start and brought us back to the flat I could not negotiate my way into a parallel park through the two marker flags the instructor had set in place.
Too much reversing and I could not get my mind into position, but this time the examiner took pity on me and granted me my licence after all.
‘You’d better practice your parking’, he said some thirty years ago.
Yet to this day I cannot parallel park. I can reverse into spaces from an angle. I can reverse out of driveways. I can reverse into a parking space that is parallel if there are no obstacles in front or behind, but I cannot squeeze my car into a narrow space between two cars on the side of the road, despite my instructor’s urge that I practise.
My husband and now my daughters have volunteered to teach me, but something inside leaves parallel parking a gap in my experience that I do not want to rectify.
Another wall that has yet to fall.