Once upon a time, I had a conversation with Daisy, in the garden at San Francisco’s Zazie restaurant, which I doubt she remembers (wine). Daisy is a fellow writer and literary denizen of Cole Valley with a penchant for football culture. It was a distinctly writerly conversation – actually, a nerdtastic moment – about how the Select All/Copy/Paste hotkey combination was so – well, hot.
It was a beautiful evening. Daisy was seated in the garden at Zazie, with a friend, rounding out the corners of her meal with more wine. I was working at Zazie, but I couldn’t resist making time for Daisy. She was always one of the sunniest misanthropes in my corner the neighborhood, really owning her humor, swaying through Cole Valley like a wildflower – or a wino – in a lush expanse of breezy sunlit grassland. Zazie’s garden lights were already on, twinkling as the gloaming deepened, and Daisy and I got to speaking about – surprise – writing.
“There you are writing,” I said, “you want to copy text from somewhere on a web page, but you need to lose all the formatting, the fonts, sizes, spacing, color, etc.” Oafish chat fodder, I know, but I geek out sometimes. I was sure to fall on my face.
“Yeah,” she said, maintaining the momentum of the dialogue. “Select All, then Copy/Paste into Word.” Ever so slightly, my eyebrows skipped up for an instant. She’s still interested! She finished my thought. It was kinetic. “Then you Select All one more time in Word,” concluded Daisy, “and unformat the text in Word.”
This, if you can believe it, was the way Daisy used to do it. That was before me.
Daisy and I flirt, like everybody flirts. But we don’t flirt like people who are actually trying to fuck one another (in the friendly, sexual sense, that is – not the sense that an Ex might fuck you by financially undermining you for spite), because people who are trying to fuck one another (in the friendly, sexual sense, that is) don’t talk about Microsoft Word to get to bed.
Sitting in the silky dark of early night, Zazie’s garden lights glinting off of our wine glasses like fool’s gold, the heady wine ruby rich and garnet deep, I pointed out to Daisy that unformatting in Word often entails its own long chain of hotkeys, for bolds, italics, colors, fonts – you get it. By this time, her friend had entirely checked out of the conversation, not even listening in the hope of making a relevant interjection.
“Yeah, but you can use the mouse,” she said, over another sip (gulp) of wine.
“You’re still pressing a lot of buttons,” I said, and took a sip (gulp) of wine.
“Why muddle around with all of that unformatting in Word? It’s not elegant enough,” I said. (I wish could tell you it was the wine talking, but wine – though it has “nose” and “legs” – does not have “mouth.” Way to go, Suhail.) I paused to drink, letting the word “elegant” float over the wine, then hit her with my finale: “Open Notepad, disable all formatting – you only have to do it that once – and paste into Notepad. It washes off all the formatting in one fell swoop.”
“Nice,” Daisy said, looking at me like I had a shot at the title. She lifted her wine glass to her lips and imbibed. In retrospect, I am inclined to think that was the first moment Daisy actually believed I was a writer, and sex was now plausible. “Then you only have to Copy/Paste over to Word,” she finished the thought again. Geek-o-rama.
“And all the formatting’s gone, yah, all on the same original hotkey combo. Pressing fewer buttons less times for the same results.” I confirmed.
We smiled. I was stimulated, actually feeling visceral satisfaction, because this obscure and repetitive gesture which I use in the solitary recesses of my writing time, when I’m moving web copy back and forth between the web and a Word document, was actually making sense to someone. What’s more, she was learning from it! Faint voices of revelry from Finnegan’s next door reached my ears in the garden. I drank more wine.
“But I’ll go you one more,” I continued, raising my index finger. “When moving it out of Notepad, Cut instead of Copy.”
“No! Wait-? Why?” (Gulp.)
We were totally connected, but it wasn’t getting sexier. Somehow, that night – and I’m sure it has happened to many of you – our flirt had no fuck. We actually wanted to speak about this banal subject together, for its own sake? Don’t get me wrong, Daisy’s got a fine figure and a caboose that is hard to look away from, but something else was happening that night. Nerds were in congress.
Besides, I don’t follow sports like Daisy does, so she could never love me. In fact, compared to Daisy, I don’t follow sports at all. With her love of football, and my apathetic disregard for football…well, it would never work out. But there, in that sumptuous moment of our wordsmithing spirits, we were into hotkey combos and it felt good.
“That way,” I replied triumphantly, “the untitled Notepad you opened will remain a clean, active work slate. Next time you paste into it to wash some text, it will already be blank. No Select All-ing to paste over any text left behind.”
“I like it,” she nodded. “Saves a lot of button presses over time.”
We both leaned back, relieved and comfortable, holding our wine glasses. It was too good to be true, but it was true, and ever so ephemeral. We shared a moment of contented silence surrounded by the ambient glow of the tiny lights and the supple, red trumpet vine blooms. That night was the closest Daisy and I ever came to sex.
I like to think, perhaps because of that night, Daisy now uses the Notepad-oriented Select All/Cut/Paste combo more often. Maybe she even occasionally remembers me during an idle flash of neurons while she presses a keyboard hotkey. For me that night, Daisy was planted into a twilit and uninhabited nook of my brain’s rooftop garden, swaying all the while.