We'll jump off that bridge when we come to it

I recently changed my computer's desktop background to a color photograph of one of my favorite structures, the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was a photo I plucked off the Internet, shot from the waterfront to show the full sweep of the grand orange bridge. A sunny day. A few sailboats nearby. When I put the photo up on my screen, the image stretched slightly, softened, so it looked like an oil painting.

Ah, an inspiring backdrop for my workday. Probably an important metaphor there somewhere. I'm crossing some bridge in my career. Or, I'm connecting two worlds, the everyday one and the virtual one in my computer. Or, I'm bridging between real life and art, trying to--

Then I noticed where all my desktop icons had lined up. The four icons for my latest project were midway along the bridge, in midair, apparently leaping to their deaths.

Now there's a nasty little coincidence. I spent the next few hours fretting over omens and lemmings and my new book. Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore, and I changed the desktop to a lovely airbrushed photo of a chimpanzee dressed for the office. Better that my icons be spattered all over the chimp's suit than plunging into San Francisco Bay.

This story illustrates a number of points about work in the Computer Age:

1) Somebody's got too much time on his hands.
2) Superstition ain't the way.
3) Nothing's funnier than a chimp in a necktie.
4) We spend so much time with our computers that something as basic as the desktop background can affect our moods. There's a reason for the cheerful daisies and colorful reefs displayed in every cubicle farm in America.

Changing desktop backgrounds is so last decade for most people, but not to me. I am extremely low-tech. I'm the kind of computer user who doesn't want to change anything, ever, for fear it will somehow break the machine.

In the past, I'd pick a standard, pre-loaded image for my background and leave it alone for months, maybe years. Sure, I might tire of climbing that same scenic mountain day after day, but why take a chance, messing with it?

My latest computer makes it ridiculously easy to steal -- I mean, reproduce -- background images from the Internet. Now, my desktop is a revolving art gallery. Landscapes and seascapes and cityscapes. Ansel Adams and Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh. Snow-covered peaks and pale flowers. Surf and turf. And, always, that wry chimp in the suit.

The revolving images reflect my moods and how well work is going. Sometimes, I want to be inspired by a sculpture or a skyscraper, some great thing man has made. Other times, I need to get away, and I'll resort to a secluded beach. If the background changes frequently, it's a sign that I'm goofing around in Google Images all day instead of getting any work done.

I'll probably stick to a single image for a while. Bet on the chimp.


poodleland said...

Couldn't you have just moved the icons out of the way? Then they wouldn't be jumping off the bridge and no bad omens!


Too late. Once something like that's in your mind . . .