The Dreaded Blue Screen of Death


This is a poem I wrote in 2002 for my college creative writing class.  The professor hated it.  Most other people love it, or at least don’t hate it.  I’m pretty sure that’s a metaphor for college education, in general.

The Dreaded Blue Screen of Death

The archaic din of white text superimposed upon a black screen is no more.
The blinking curser and the cryptic jibe,
“Syntax error,”
have receded from the much-coveted position of
“operating system”
into the subcutaneous untreaden cave of
“MS-DOS Mode.”

Upon the release of Microsoft’s 1995 crowning innovation,
the new “Windows” operating system,
fully equipped with tranquil desktop themes
and a myriad of cheery, sound-coordinated pop-up menus,
people around the world rejoiced.

No more will the unconscionable
Config.sys errors
of yesteryear interfere with the high-profile,
high-fidelity
file management systems of modern times.

The gratingly irritating beeps
and infinite lists of “Bad commands” or “Filenames;”
the stubbornly unbootable hard-drive has given way;
techies around the world groaned
for they knew that the days of horribly stubborn operating systems had ended,
and their jobs as the unapproachable gurus of the Great OS
would soon cease to exist.

But there was hope.

For the dreaded Blue Screen of Death has been replaced
by the Gray Window of Frustration.

Woe be
to the unsuspecting user who
dares check
the internal workings of his system—
who dares click on

Control Panel > System > Performance

the windows popping up—
cascading”—
presenting him with that
forty-two billion dollar grin of approval,

and the user,
piles of driver disks and small papers on the desk in front of him,
stares,
with half-closed eyes
at the messages:

Compatibility-mode paging reduces overall system performance.
Drive C is using MS-DOS compatibility mode file system.

Noooo!
say his unflinching, half-closed eyes.
Briefly,
he reminisces about the
real operating systems of old.
He thinks,
why did they have to make this thing so dang user friendly?

The “Default”
green desktop stares back at him,
unaware of its error.
He stares for a moment longer
at those two
insolent messages,
and at the five-cent euphemisms–
the kind that make this operating system
the most widely used operating system in the world–
and explain why his computer is running so
DANG SLOW!

The stuttering CPU fan blows hot air
out of its overworked medium tower.
Glaring light from the ceiling fan reflects
in the dark window behind the computer.
He stares, dazed, tired
at the clock on the Taskbar.

I should have hired a techie,”
he murmurs as he futily replaces the yellow driver disk
with yet another version of the software.
He restarts the hardware installation program.

Windows will now search for any new Plug and Play devices on your system.
Your screen may go blank during this process. This is normal.

One pulsating vein highlights his greasy forehead
as he clicks the Next button.

Please wait while Windows searches for new Plug and Play devices.

For a few fleeting moments the hard drive activity indicator flickers its compliance.
Mother board resources, mother board resources,” he chants,
in vain hopes of coercing the stupid machine into subjecting itself to his will.

For the next five minutes there is no activity.
His limp fingers grope around on the keyboard for those three familiar buttons:
CTRL+ALT+DELETE
.

The End Task window doesn’t appear.

He sighs as he presses them again.
Then chuckles, reminiscing,

as he longingly smiles at the familiar blue screen in front of him.

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