Helen Lundeberg, "Enigma" (1937)
Helen Lundeberg, Enigma (1937)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

July 10, 2003:

We had a COO who made frequent sales trips to potential partner companies. She was on the road typically three days a week, and every two weeks she'd require a new laptop. Hardware damage.

These machines weren't just broken, they were trashed. We once sent one of her busted hard drives out to see if the data could be recovered. The tech told us, "I've never seen a drive this mangled."

It was a mystery to us what was happening. There was speculation, and eventually a departmental pool. One bet was that she was throwing them out hotel room windows the way rock stars smash TV sets. Another was that she was dropping them down elevator shafts. A third, that she ran then over with her rented cars. Probably the most popular version was that she beat them with her bare fists, enraged: this seemed to many of us to best map to her personality.

One time she took a junior manager from Marketing with her on an out of state trip. We gave her a brand new laptop, probably her sixth or seventh. The young manager was a bit overawed to be alone with her for two days. "Look out for our laptop," we told him.

Nobody was surprised when it was returned to us smashed and useless. "Get me another one," said the COO. We saluted and did as we were told.

Life became impossible for the poor junior manager. He very obviously had been ordered to secrecy. ("Omerta!", you could picture her shouting.) People hounded and harried and harassed him relentlessly. He would slink in through the back door to avoid the front-door gauntlet; we'd find him and confront him in the parking lot. He was surrounded and pestered in the lunch room. We'd follow him into the restrooms. We wanted the answer. When he finally cracked, it turned out nearly everybody had been at least partly right.

Infuriated after an unsuccessful meeting, she first tossed the machine onto the ground. Then she kicked it around the room with the points of her pumps. Then she threw it against a wall. Then she threw it into a trash can, then she emptied the trash can onto the floor and smashed it with the can. Finally she rolled over it while sitting in an office chair.

We nodded. That'll do it.

The COO sinks to her knees, bangs her head rhythmically on a computer room table. "It's working!," she says, "It's working!", as though all along she'd had no confidence in her own plan.