Anyone who owns a Mac is familiar with the special feature called autocorrect. It's there to lure potential customers into buying this overpriced computer by assuring them that their misspelled words will automatically be corrected. It sounded good at the time until things got out of hand.
Autocorrect and I have been in a combative relationship for a few years now, and as relationships go, we're badly in need of couple's counseling. To sum it up, it's done me wrong, humiliated and embarrassed me by unilaterally and without so much as an apology, changed words as the mood strikes, and it strikes daily.
After a while, I could no longer ignore the glaring fact that emails, articles, columns and the manuscript of a novel all contained words I hadn't composed. They were altered enough to ruin my reputation as a writer by selecting words that were far superior to my usual MO.
I spoke with an AppleCare representative all the way from India, who assured me that "we" would get to the heart of the problem. He was so accommodating -- so genuinely empathic to my plight -- that for a moment I forgot I was even upset, as I got caught up in his delightful demeanor.
"Tell me exactly what happens," he said in a voice so soothing that were a couch handy I would have prostrated myself and regaled him with my entire list of neurotic complaints.
"Autocorrect changes words," I began, "words I personally select which express precisely what I want to say."
"Autocorrect knows best," AppleCare explained. "Autocorrect is designed to provide superior word choices. Whatever you think is adequate, it knows differently. We don't settle for mediocrity."
"Nobody tampers with my words. My words define me," I said defensively.
"You're very possessive. Not an admirable trait."
"I think I should have the final say, not autocorrect," I argued.
"With all due respect, Madam," he protested, "autocorrect's mission is to save our customers from themselves by assisting them in the creative process. We want our Apple customers to present their best sides. We aim for excellence."
"I like the originality of my words. I don't want anyone else tampering with them. It makes me feel insecure and reprimanded. I prefer being in charge."
"Ah, a classic control freak, obviously resulting from an unresolved childhood trauma. I can connect you to an Apple Support Counselor who will help you work through your issues."
"I want to cancel autocorrect," I adamantly mustered up the courage to say.
"Cancel? Nobody cancels autocorrect. It's part of the Mac package."
"You don't understand. I have people to answer to like editors, and others of that ilk."
"Our ilk is better equipped than ornery editors. Our ilk far surpasses editors' blue pencil changes."
"Editors enjoy making changes," I implored. "It makes them feel important. Autocorrect is interfering with my career. It's making editors' jobs obsolete. Just the other day, an editor deleted an entire paragraph of my work that he deemed inferior. It made him happy. Fulfilled. Special. Then autocorrect came along and made me seem smarter than I really am. That annoys my editor. Don't you see, It's all wrong?"
"Perhaps you're in over your head," he said. "Apple products can be a bit confronting and aren't for everyone. In order to handle the intricacies of a Mac computer, you need to be receptive to new technology."
"Are you saying that my MacBook Pro is intimidating me?"
"I'm merely suggesting that you might consider a more old-fashioned solution like a typewriter, for instance. A typewriter doesn't require autocorrect. All you need is White Out and a ribbon."
"Ribbon? I can't change a ribbon. That's why I bought a computer, so I wouldn't have to fuss with ribbons."
"So, you'd prefer staying with the Apple family?"
"Yes, I said, "but maybe you can equip autocorrect with a more user-friendly device. For example, yesterday it changed: `artificial' to `articulate.' "
"'It obviously thought `articulate' was a more suitable choice."
"But it mangled my sentence. Deflated my ego."
"You might want to take a writing course," he suggested. "Or, see a shrink."
"Don't be insulting. I know what I'm doing."
"Then you should appreciate a word like `articulate.' "
"Where can I buy a typewriter ribbon?" I asked.
Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer, and her "In Other Words" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com or at www.judithmarks-white.com.