Enabler's Anonymous -
A Non-Technical Spouse
by Dennis Ugulano
It's with great reluctance that I enter the dingy building and walk down the one flight of stairs to a small, lighted room. There is nothing impressive about the room. In fact, it is less than impressive. There is a lectern, a small table with some reading material on it and several rows of folding chairs. I've been to this room before, too many times. It's the monthly meeting of the EA. Tonight, though, I tell myself, it will be different. Tonight I will tell my story.
The meeting starts and I take my place behind the lectern. With a racing heart and a dry mouth I say. "Hi, I'm Dennis."
"Hiiiiiii, Dennis," the group responds.
"I'm Dennis and I. . .I am. . .I. . ."
"Go on Dennis, you are among friends."
"I. . . I am an Enabler."
"Tell us how it happened. Start at the beginning."
About 27 years ago, my gaze fell upon this cute curly haired young lady. Through an extraordinary effort on my part, I got her to say "yes" and we made plans to grow old together. There was a look in her eyes that I would not recognize until years later but, by then, it was far too late. It started very early, actually, the day we got married. We were married in the evening, so during the day we were just wandering around and came across a computer store. We went in and look around and asked a few questions. Yeah, neat things but I could see no future in them. Probably turn into an expensive coat hanger. My bride-to-be did not say anything. But I missed the look in her eyes.
A friend who was a computer repair person talked to us about a computer and even brought one over to the house. He tried to explain it to me, but my eyes glazed over after a few minutes. A few days later he took it home, as I saw no use for it. My wife did not say anything. But I missed the look in her eyes.
Life moves on. An heir is born and he is homeschooled. My "bride of only a few days" approaches me, and says we should look into getting a computer, which will help our son's education. Since education is high on my list of Important Things, I say, "Sure my love, anything for the education of our son." But I missed the look in her eyes.
Soon thereafter, a 486 with four Megs of memory is up and running. We all learned how to use it. I loved the word processor as it helped with my work. There is now talk of the Internet, "on line", "information highway", and since education was high on my list of important things, I dutifully said "yes" to all of them. But I missed the look in her eyes.
One day she informs me that we should have another computer, so we can all have more computer time. "Sure", I say, "I can save some money and we can get another one." She informs me that we can save a lot of money if she builds it. "Build a computer? Pshaw!! Only geniuses build computers and you are saying that you. . .?" Oh, my God! Where did that look in her eyes come from? How did I miss that?
Before long, her office is a computer workshop. There are CPUs, monitors, keyboards, motherboards, breadboards, all over the house. There are three working computers, not just two, and at least 40 or 50 carcasses all over the house in various stages of decomposition. Well, maybe not 50, but a lot. Soon, other words creep into the conversations; "router", "networking", etc. And, just like that, there is a router and a network in my house. Even the "etc." is up and running. High-speed Internet is next, and becomes a staple of the network. "Website" talk follows and 'how nice my model airplanes would look online'. Presto! I have a web site. That leads to Human Torture Multiplied Logarithmically. Most people call it HTML, I but I know what really it means. I take classes in HTML and can just hold my head above water. But HTML is followed by CSS. They say it means Cascading Style Sheets. Like heck it does! The only cascading done, refers to me cascading into the scrap pile of computer carcasses that litter her room and down the hall, as obsolete as our original 486. In fact, I think I was lying next to it. She says she doesn't like to throw anything away because sometimes parts can be scavenged from a carcass. I saw the look in her eyes as she looked in my direction, but by then it was too late.
But I play along. (Do I have a choice?) That's what enablers do. Things level out a bit and I settle down a little. She joins a PC Users Group that will start a series of events that will send me to the EA meetings. She does their newsletter and other cute little things and I start to relax. One evening she returns home from the PC meeting and she talks about a speaker for an Open Source Group. I thought that's what she had all of these years. I thought that when she asked for something, I Opened the checkbook and she had her Source.
So, one Saturday afternoon she goes to her first Open Source meeting as I lounge around the house, completely oblivious to what was building on the horizon. When she returns, I saw the look in her eyes, but at an intensity that I have never seen before. "They are just like me!" she gushes. The words pour out, faster than I can absorb them. "You have to meet these people!"
"Suuuuuure, I do, my love, reeeeeeal soon."
"Real soon" came the following week, when, are you ready for this?, I had dinner with them. Here I was, technically challenged, in a group of men and women with more gadgets on themselves than the Borg. There were these hand held devices that I'm sure could plot the course of stars, if the number of buttons, switches and levers meant anything. But what got me were the eyes. I had seen those eyes before. I had lived with those eyes for 25 years, and now I was surrounded by them. Except for the eyes, they all seemed normal. Unless you discount the language. I was pretty sure they spoke the mother tongue but I only picked up every 8th word. I sat in stunned silence as they conversed and all nodded in agreement with the one speaking. They all groaned when one told a story of a client's discombobulator that didn't bobulate when it was supposed to, causing a cascading (there's that word again) effect that brought mankind to the brink of destruction. Or at least that's what I think they said. Remember: I'm only picking up every 8th word.
I started going to the meetings with my bride and I learned some history. I learned about the Buntus. I can only assume they were from Africa, you know, like the Zulus. I learned the biggest tribe is the Ubuntus , with splinter groups called the Xubuntus and Kubuntus. One of the Buntu tribes, the Edubuntus, are the really smart ones. I never found out why. In a strange environment, one learns to observe and keep a low profile. Come on now! I was surrounded by Buntus! I've watched Tarzan and King Kong movies and know what these people are capable of! To be truthful, I never found any weapons or cooking utensils. But I have always been one to err on the side of caution.
After a few months of meetings and dinners, my bride told me about a national meeting that was going to be held in San Francisco. Why would I want to go all the way to SF for the national Buntu gathering? I was told that I could collect a lot of swag. SWAG? Now we're talking! Us Neanderthals know swag! I watch the Capitol One commercials and I know swag! So, I take a day off and at 5am head to the City by the Bay for a day of plundering and pillaging. At 10am I entered into their cavern and am dumbfounded. There are tall ones, there are short ones, there are wide ones, there are narrow ones. Some have no hair, some have enough hair to share with those follically challenged. Some were clean-shaven, some looked like ZZ Top. Here they were, all in one place, all carrying their swag bags and those electronic devices connected to various body parts. But they all had that same look in their eyes. That look that I had seen all of these years.
I went right to work collecting swag, following along behind my bride, stuffing swag into every bag I could get my hands on. There was a lunch break and back to the hunt. Run to this booth, speak a foreign language, collect. Run to that booth, speak a foreign language, collect. At about 2:30pm, I looked over at the love of my life slumped against a column and the eyes were only flickering. She had to consistency of butter left too close to the stove. The mind was willing, but the body had given up the chase. We bid adieu to the guys and SF and headed home. At 8pm I poured her shapeless form into bed and turned out the light. As my mind faded into the darkness, I hear the Buntus chanting in the distance: SSSSSSSS! Thump, thump, thump! Linux is coming! SSSSSSSS! Thump, thump, thump! Linux is coming. Run, Bill, run! There are no gates where we are going! SSSSSSSSSS!
That brings my story up to date and I thank you very much for listening. I have resigned myself to whatever fate lies ahead. I do know that I will join the Buntus and in my limited way, will support my bride as she progresses further and further up into the higher levels of Linux. Enablers do that. And as I said before, I am an Enabler.