Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




"Hey, DOSBox!"

McDonald's, North Napa, California, USA

September 8, 2019



This essay, "Hey, DOSBox!", is the nineteenth in an open group on Possibility:

Systems programming by Kevin Parker

Distributed by Command Technology Corporation
SPF/Professional version 5.0.4
word processor, utilities
Systems programming by Peter Mierau

Distributed by MicroPro International
WordStar Professional release 4.00
spell checker
Legacy softwares circa 1984


In spite of my computer legacy, I'm not big on tech. Really. It's costing us our humanity. And we've barely begun realizing what it's doing to our children's brains. But with that said, one of the great conveniences tech affords me is I can put myself in inspiring settings, write, then upload my work to the internet from wherever I am.

Sometimes I'll write at home, sitting at my writing table in front of the large window looking out onto the cattle pasture. Sometimes I'll take my laptop with me when I drive people to our local wineries. While they're inside tasting, I'll be in bucolic environments writing. Sometimes I'll drive myself to nice places with gorgeous hilltop views, and sip something cold while I flesh out a new essay. Sometimes in the morning I'll take my laptop with me to our local diner, and get myself set up at the cramped counter, somehow making room for my laptop, my Denver  omelet, and various jams, jellies, and cuplets of half-and-half  while I try not to elbow the diners on either side of me. Sometimes I'll treat myself to a gourmet restaurant, choosing a table in a corner away from the distracting chatter, where I write and eat. And sometimes I'll write and eat at McDonald's. It's probably true to say that only a well-heeled few come to gourmet restaurants (whose sophistication I do have an occasional penchant for). But the world  comes to McDonald's. So it's actually an inspiring place in which to write.

OK, so I'm in McDonald's with a tasty chicken-something sandwich, sitting at a table, laptop open next to paper towels galore to wipe the dressing off my fingers before I type, and this guy, a McDonald's employee, comes shuffling along, looking down, sweeping the floor, collecting trash. He gets closer and closer to me. Soon he's right next to me. And that's when he looks over at me typing, is quiet for a moment, then pointing to my laptop screen, asks "What's that you're using?".

I'm not your run-of-the-mill Windows user. I started programming in 1969. I've trained the computer staff of hundreds of the Fortune 1,000  companies and others. These days my preferred computer is an IBM  (International Business Machines) / Lenovo laptop because as a friend says "Buy the best and cry only once.". It runs Windows because that's de rigueur. But my preferred apps  (especially my word processor, utilities, and spell checker) predate Windows by decades. They're programs I installed about thirty five years ago which I've never upgraded ("If it ain't broke, don't fix it."). Some of them are legacy IBM mainframe computer softwares adapted to run in Windows. Those in the know, call them "green screen" softwares because of the characteristic green (or white) on black look of their fonting. I run them as DOS  (Disk Operating System) apps on my laptop. They're indispensable, my most frequently used tools. I explain it all to him as he stands there holding his broom.

"But they're so old!"  he says, "how do you make them run in Windows?". Now look: the guy may be a floor sweeper in McDonald's, but that's a pretty damn intelligent question  for anyone to ask. I'm now interested in him as an interested person. "There's a freeware  called 'DOSBox'" I tell him, "it's a window ie a box  in which DOS programs execute so you can run legacy softwares in Windows.". Now that's more than enough technobabble  for anyone to absorb if they have no computer background. He nods his head, mutters his thanks, and goes on his way, sweeping, collecting trash.

About a month later I'm back in the same McDonald's with another same tasty chicken-something sandwich and paper towels galore and my laptop. I'm working on my latest essay, watching the other patrons and the staff at work when suddenly I see him, the same guy doing the same thing: sweeping the floor, collecting trash. I call out to him "Oh, Hi!". He looks up from the floor, sees me, and then the light goes on and he yells out, a joyful tone in his voice, "Hey, DOSBox!"  (he obviously remembered) and comes over to say hello and shake my hand. I ask him how's he's been, and he proceeds to mesmerize me by relaying what he's been up to. He says he's been taking computer courses in the evening. He's been studying to be a network engineer. He says after we spoke last time, he saw (quote unquote) "something else is possible for my life"  other than sweeping McDonald's floors.

"Wait!" I said flabbergasted, "what did you just say?". "I said I'm taking computer courses in the evening" he said. "No, after that.". "I said I decided to take computer courses in the evening after we spoke last time.". "No, after that.". "I said I saw something else is possible for my life other than sweeping these floors.". "That's it! How did you know 'something else is possible for your life'?"  I asked, incredulous. "Oh, I got that when I was talking with you last time" he said, almost dismissively.

I was reeling. I remember our last conversation. I remember it well. And the word "possible" wasn't uttered. Not once. Yet he got possibility anyway?!  Wow.

I for one am loath to try to explain the miracle of possibility. Even if I could explain it, it's unlikely my explanation by itself would do anything to make real possibility available. Possibility isn't a doing  - even if getting possibility may result in a new doing. Rather possibility falls out  of (ie is a concomitant of) transformation. It's this way of being that communicates possibility more powerfully than explaining it ever could. Possibility isn't gotten through explaining: it's gotten through osmosis.

When he registered to take evening computer courses and earn his network engineer certification after our "DOSBox" conversation, he confirmed something about the nature of possibility: it's generically human, not personal. And primarily it's a way of being with Life, that communicates it. Explanations are of but secondary import.



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© Laurence Platt - 2019 Permission