Sometimes I feel so isolated and alone. No one else I know loves WordPerfect. I hear other people talk about using Word, and I feel left out. They shout, “Word!” and smile and laugh along with them, but all the while I’m secretly staring at their F-keys and thinking how great it would be to reveal their codes.
Oh, I’ve tried converting. But it never feels quite right. Word insists everything be done a certain way, and I feel strange and uncomfortable letting it examine my hard drive.
In the old days, WordPerfect was accepted, even condoned. Entire corporations used it exclusively. People openly exchanged tips on how to create macros. Touching a mouse was considered sissy. Then along came Word. It was nothing overt at first. Word just quietly showed up in new computers, beckoning to new users because it was free, while WordPerfect still cost money. Then it became more and more demanding. It took over offices, and then entire corporations. It forced everyone to convert or die. And then, once it achieved this superiority, it stopped coming free on new computers and started tithing.
These days the entire world is built around Word, which makes life difficult for me. It’s illegal to use WordPerfect at my job, which has a Microsoft contract. I secretly tried uploading WordPerfect to my work computer once, and within hours, an IT person was on the phone demanding to know what I was doing. She was understanding, and said she would keep the incident to herself if I removed the offending program She even said I might be able to install WordPerfect on my own external hard drive and quietly use it that way as long as I kept quiet about it. IT wouldn’t ask if I didn’t tell.
In public I act like I have a relationship with Word. I send my editor and agent Word documents, and I use them at work, but it’s all a sham. Secretly, in the closet space of my hard drive, I’m dressing up my sentences and paragraphs with WordPerfect code, where they sing and dance and sparkle beneath my fingertips. But before they go out in public, I’m forced to strip all that away and put on the dull, plodding facade of Word. The conversion never works quite right–spacing comes out uneven as a bad hem, fonts dangle off the page like lost earrings. My copy editors whisper about it behind my back.
I’ve tried other options. Open Office didn’t want to be exclusive. Rough Draft kept slapping me around. Google Docs pushed for too much involvement too quickly. Werdsmith was just weird.
Only a few of my closest friends know the truth. They offer tea and sympathy, but they don’t really understand how it feels to be born this way. They go home to their happy little computers that are perfectly compatible with everyone else’s computers and their children who love Word as they do. What really hurts is when my mother calls me for help with her own Word program. I want to shout that I’m a proud WordPerfect user, but she’s from a different generation and wouldn’t understand.
Sometimes I lurk in dark corners of the Internet, seeking other WordPerfect users. They’re few and far between, and always reluctant to give their real names. We use screen names like ALT-F4 and CORELBOY87. Occasionally my anonymous email drop receives a short, shy message with uneven lettering, asking if I want to exchange multinational symbols. My mouth goes dry and my fingers hover over my keyboard–never my mouse–as I wonder what to say. It might be a trap, or just bait from a Corel-curious Word user with a wife and documents. Or it might be another lonely soul looking for companionship in the cruel Word world.
I press DELETE and run back to my Corel closet. Maybe someday I’ll brave the slings and arrows of Microsoft Word and occupy the Internet. Until then, I still have my F-keys.
–Steven Harper Piziks
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