Transfer of Data
By Jane MacDonald

I have this nice friend named Elizabeth. She's an Episcopalian. Altar-Guild type. So neat she makes me feel like I'm dressed like a bum every time I see her. Pillar of the community, hostess of note. Unblemished, nay, sparkling, reputation. About forty and beautiful. A little daunting, in fact, to the likes of me.

Well, she calls one morning about a month ago, we chat about the last school board meeting. Then she mentions her old computer has gone all funny. It has a copy of some do-gooder outfit's annual report in it, among other things, that she wants, but the diskette drive won't work. It's an old laptop, 100 Pentium, so she bought a new one a year or so ago and pretty much forgot about that one. But now she wishes she could save the stuff off her hard disk, and she can't. What should she do?

I tell her, of course, that she can buy a new diskette drive. She's checked -- it costs too much. So me, I say bring it over, I'll take a whack at it. She's in no hurry, so it just sits by the door for a couple of weeks.

Then a few days ago I get pissed off at whatever I'm doing, so I plunk the machine down on my desk, fire it up, and she's right--the drive doesn't work. I ponder for a couple of days. I don't like it when these little bastards won't do what I want. Then I find on the Web a program for computer linking, figure I'll do it that way, download the program. I connect the whole thing up, slap a plain old CD-R into my burner and I'm off.

It takes me about two hours to transfer everything that even looks like it might be worth saving. But I'd better check the new disk to make sure it has on it the stuff it claims it does -- that's because I'm compulsive, but I don't screw up much, so that's a Good Thing. I start opening files, systematically. First folder is AmiPro -- I told you the thing was old. There's her report -- it opens fine in Word Perfect. Looks boring to me, but it's all there. Some research data for something in another file. I go on down the line -- everything's good. I'm really pleased with ol' Jane, the computer maven. Elizabeth can stick this disk in her new computer and she's back in business.

Last folder to check -- "Worthless." Odd name.

Top sub-folder says "E-Mail." Hell of a lot of stuff for "Worthless." Several odd folders. "Garbage." "Junk." "Stuff." "Things." What do I know? This is one organized babe, maybe I forgot to mention that, so I figure she keeps a lot of stuff I wouldn't bother with.

Open up "Things." Open a file. Looks like a saved chat session. Well,
well. Hadn't figured she'd be the chat type.

*BettylouG: Hi, sweetie, I'm missing you awfully.

HunkJ: I'm reaching out right through this screen and
feeling you up good with my big paw.*

Oh, my! My friend Elizabeth, Bettylou? HunkJ? Feeling up? Have I got
the wrong computer? I read on.

*BettylouG: Waita minut--takin off th friggfin bra. Better. OOOOOOH!

Waita minut indeed! I'm absolutely floored. I don't read people's private mail! I'm the soul of discretion. I'm the most honorable person I've ever heard of. But Elizabeth? Bettylou? She's even got an Episcopalian hairdo!

But what if this thing quits about four paragraphs down? Gotta make sure everything she wants is here, don't I? I'm not actually reading her mail, I'm just checking to make sure everything's perfect. I hate doing a half-ass job. I'll read just a bit further.

I do. It takes about half an hour to make sure it's all okay. Then I close the file and sit there in a daze. Oh, my! I pick up a few pieces of printer paper and fan myself with verve. Temperature declines minutely.

Better check the other folders, just to see they've all come through.

"Garbage." The next folder. Click. Well, shiver me timbers! All *.jpg. It says 63 of them.

I just open one to make sure all is well. Nice picture of Elizabeth, looking very Episcopalian. Close it. Try the next: HUNKJ.jpg. Well, well. Nice picture of HunkJ, I guess. I had thought maybe he's her husband--he goes out of town a lot, and maybe they chat while they're apart. No. No, indeed. HunkJ is not Elizabeth's husband. HunkJ looks like they got the name first and made him up to fit it. Like some anchor man, except you can see brains when you look in the eyes. Black shirt, black jacket, black tie. Up to the minute last year's anchor-man style. Close the damn thing, for God's sake!

HunkJ2.jpg. Oh! Close it quick. Well, make sure it's the same guy--it is. No suit, though.

BettylouBeach.jpg. Eyes don't really pop out, do they? That's just a figure of speech. No, it isn't. They do. Mine do. Jaw drops, too. I'm nothing but a big cliche. It's Bettylou, okay, but if you just look at the face, you'd swear it was Elizabeth. Then you look down a little to the first place a guy would look and, well, you know, she's not properly clothed. I have to check the rest of those pictures, of course. Sometimes photos, in particular, get screwed up when you transfer them from one computer to another. I think. WallyM isn't bad if you don't mind a little gray hair at the temples. FrankD is another dish. Where do those guys come from?

Check the other three folders, too; I'm nothing if not conscientious. These digital cameras must have really good timer switches.

Finally finish, go upstairs and take a good cold shower. Get out, get dressed, sit on the bed a minute thinking. Strange notions go through my head. I don't even *think* about possible blackmail schemes. Nor about printing out a few of those pix and giving her a quick look at them while I sit there and laugh my head off. Well, you know me, I'm nice, I'd never have any such ideas.

Then I call up Elizabeth:

"I managed to get all your files off that computer, Elizabeth, just thought you'd like to know. All on a nice CD-Rom." She's thrilled, I say it wasn't much trouble, and so on. She offers to pay for the stuff I bought, I say forget it. She insists and we arrange to have lunch the next day so I can give her the disk. Then I say:

"Oh, by the way, what are you going to do with this computer?"

She's gonna give it to "Laptops for the Poor." I get the address and tell her I'll drop it off, no problem. Then I say:

"Oh, yeah, I'll erase everything on that disk for you, too, before I give it to them. Wouldn't want strangers reading your reports, even poor ones." She thanks me, we firm up the lunch arrangement and hang up.

Then I go downstairs and put that computer in the bottom drawer of my desk, the one with a lot of spare manila folders and stuff in it. Nobody ever goes in there. After all, I might find an even more deserving charity to give it to.