Chirps & Beeps

Chirp. Beep.

These are the sounds I hear on an early spring morning. The first – chirp – signals the coming of spring. The second – beep – signals the crashing of my computer.

Chirp, Beep: the bittersweet sounds of a pre-spring morn. The nascent chirps ring through the air infrequently. The beeps arrive with Concorde-like speed and dire incomprehensible written warnings: “Exception: CM_OFFSET_ OUT_OF_RANGE. Offset 18575 632, range 0.” Or worse yet, “Fatal Error.”


Do computer programmers have any bedside manner?

Don’t they teach the brilliant number crunchers at MIT the fine art of letting one down easily? Couldn’t the little boxes that pop up onto my screen say something like this: “I’m sorry, there’s something malfunctioning, but if you call our customer service number we’ll be glad to talk you through it. And don’t you worry, your computer will be fine for years to come.”

Just imagine going to the doctor with a cough and returning with the diagnosis “Fatal Hacking: System Destroyed.”

When I call my computer genius friend on the phone, he calms me down by letting me know nothing is lost. When I beg him to come over, he says he’ll be here shortly. But this being the Vineyard, “shortly” translates into two days.

While I wait, the chirps and the beeps harmonize, which means that spring is tantalizingly near and that the film that I have been working on for three years is sitting idle and will soon become the film I have been working on for four years.

People have starting asking when it will be completed. I explain that it is being held hostage by a misbehaving computer whose last cryptic ransom note read: “Not Mac2winsafe!!!”

I am convinced that if I lived in Boston or New York, my computer would sing only sonatas, and on the rare occasion it emitted a beep, my computer genius friend would show up immediately.

The main problem with my urban-bliss, grass-is-greener-in-cities-with-very-little-actual-grass-at-all scenario is that while the beeps disappear, so do the chirps. And so I find myself weighing beeps against chirps. How many beeps equal a chirp? How many outweigh a chirp? Is there a beep-to-chirp ratio that completely suppresses the urge to flee the beeps at the expense of losing the chirps?

This beep-to-chirp problem is a relatively new one in the annals of Vineyard life. Advances in technology have recently made it possible to edit low-budget, independently produced films
in remote and rural areas. This winter the Martha’s Vineyard Independent Film Festival showcased a number of works by people who successfully survived all beeps and no doubt enjoyed many chirps while making their films. Filmmakers can now live on the Island, edit all day, break for dinner, return to their film, and lose the night to strokes of creative genius – or, as I choose to
do – spend the days logging the long list of errors that my computer rattles off to me, as if it is composing the great American novel.

Chirp, Beep.

Chirp, Beep.

Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, Chirp.

Is it really spring?

If it is, I’ll happily let the beeps chirp on.