The Passive-aggressive Imp

In the 1980s, I was among about a zillion public school teachers introduced to the promise of CAI–Computer Assisted Instruction.

When computers replaced the classroom teacher, as they eventually would, students would learn gladly, each at his own pace. Discipline problems would  disappear, because there would be no dissonance in the new student-teacher relationship. Computers were neutral. There would be no personality conflicts, because computers had no personalities. They neither took offense nor gave it. There would be no frustration, no irritation, no anger, no unhappy track record, no grudges, no bias, no impatient sighs, no rolling of eyes, no gnashing of teeth, nothing from either student or computer to upset our little CRT-filled Edens.

In other words, as soon as the teacher withdrew to the sidelines and left teaching to the expert, all would be well.


Fast-forward to 2014.

For the past hour I’ve been trying to register for a week-long writing class–The Damned Rough Draft, to be specific. I belong to the sponsoring organization. To receive the member discount, I must enter my user name and password.

I don’t know my user name and password. I didn’t know I had a user name and password. There is a hazy slip of memory that might touch on receiving something like that, perhaps written on the back of the new card. But during a recent purse purge, a handful of cards were relegated to a stack somewhere that isn’t a memory at all.

So I emailed a friend who was engaged in the same pursuit. She had figured out her username and suggested I follow her pattern, fill in my possible username, and click Forgot Email.

I did. I entered my email address and requested the password be sent to my account. Clicked Okay. Nothing. Started humming in hopes of keeping my blood pressure down. Clicked Okay again. Clicked many, many more times. If I’d found a student clicking away like that, our personalities would have conflicted immediately.

I clicked some more.


So here I sit, frustrated, irritated, staring at the one thing standing between me and my precious Damned Rough Draft, this laptop, the portal through which the wonky registration page enters my sight. And I think, Computer Assisted Instruction, yeah, right.

Because I don’t care how neutral this machine is supposed to be, I’m as irritated as all get-out with the damned passive-aggressive little imp. And although I’m tempted to stay here and click click click, just to let it know I won’t be beaten, I shall give in and go to bed.

Because the tune I’ve been humming through this ordeal is “If I Had a Hammer.” And if I don’t get out of here, I shall be overcome by temptation and write a whole new verse to that song.

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12 thoughts on “The Passive-aggressive Imp

  1. I used to have a little program called Stress Reduction. You could choose a hammer, a blowtorch, a paint gun, and other things. You turned it on and it destroyed your monitor with satisfying sound effects. It was VERY fun to click on that hammer over and over and shatter the screen until it was unreadable. Then I hit Escape and returned to the real world and the real monitor.


  2. I feel your outrage, Kathy. I feel like you do on a regular basis. I have changed recently from just blaming the computer; these days I blame the Apple Corporation. This has added a whole new dimension to the scope of my outrage: when I was a girl, Apple cared about us creatives, but these days they keep changing things and as a consequence, things go wrong. It is rubbish. And if I had a hammer…..


    1. You are correct to expand the blame to the Apple Corporation. I blame everything on Microsoft. Especially spellcheck. Their latest crime is Windows 8. I liked 3.1, 3.11, 95, and Vista (I’m the one person on Earth who thought Vista was okay). But with Win8, they have gone too far.

      What stops me in my tracks is the realization that when I was a girl, there wasn’t an Apple at all. Art Linkletter used to do matchmaking with Univac on his evening TV program, but that was the only computer in my life. Oh well. Time passes. At least I get a senior citizen discount.


  3. Hello, Kathy. Technology, and computer assisted instruction is not the be all and end all. Thank God. Still we must opperate in this world. Currently, education is plagued by high stakes testing which is trending me to insanity. ” How long will I have a job?” is the question. When will my skills be outsourced? I am grateful I live in a tiny rural community that still values real live teachers in the classroom. Computers do not give “high fives,” do not receive hugs well, project no facial expression, or body language. Computers, Ipads, and other devices bring information to our eyes and finger tips. They do not bring wisdom, nor speak life and love. I pray administration and school board continue to remember our amazing instructional efforts along with the parenting roles we fill. 🙂 Crossing my fingers you will soon resolve your registration difficulties. 🙂


  4. Hello, hrobertson. Yes, registration went through. The next day. Computers are necessary for education now, the Internet is necessary for education–but they’re also virtual and addictive (I can play Poppit for hours) and isolating (seen anyone with a smart phone lately?). But the same thing can be said of TV. I have a feeling you’ll continue to have a job. No one can outsource creativity and love.


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