I Just Slew a Dragon

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

A friend and I used to discuss troublesome issues in our lives. We called them our “dragons.” Dragons are problems can only be dispatched with exceptional effort and resolve.

Few problems qualify as dragons, which is good. Most of us handle routine problems with routine efficiency.  Alas, some problems are a lot nastier or complicated than others.  Some of us have anxieties that prevent us from addressing certain issues forthrightly. Sometimes problems become entangled with side issues. Throw some procrastination into the mix, and what could have been a baby problem might grow up and begin belching enough fire to qualify as a dragon.

Examples? You don’t gain street cred as a dragon killer for beating a head cold, but beating cancer will earn you respect with anyone. Overcoming any addiction would surely count. The friend referenced in my opening paragraph slew a dangerous dragon when she escaped a marriage that was destroying her soul. From what I’ve read, the nastiest dragon Barack Obama faced down in his two terms as president might have been nicotine.

My most recent dragon should have been no big deal. Last September my computer emitted an electronic scream, seized and died. I had expected that. Computers typically remain healthy and functional for five to ten years. My fifteen-year-old computer was clearly living on borrowed time. I had prepared by backing my data files, although I could not back my applications.

I bought a replacement computer loaded with Microsoft’s Office, a choice forced on me because that is the only way I could get Word, the word processing app I’ve used for thirty-four years. Office costs $70. That is probably reasonable, although it irked me to pay for a suite of ten programs just to get the one program I use. But Microsoft enjoys something like a total monopoly on basic Windows business software.

Microsoft inserts a feature in the Office software that causes it to shut down unless users can prove that they have paid for it. To validate my purchase, I peeled back a piece of tape that covered the confirmation code. The tape ripped the cardboard beneath it, destroying the middle six numbers of a code of about twenty numbers. As it was designed to do, my software soon froze rock solid. I could not create new documents nor could I edit the many files already on my hard drive. Every time I turned on my computer, a niggling message from Microsoft reminded me I had not validated the purchase. As if I could forget!

Worse, there was no way I could contact Microsoft. The company recently eliminated its customer service office. Microsoft now directs customers with problems to some internet data banks that supposedly answer all questions. Of course, the data banks say nothing about what to do when the company’s own security tape destroys a validation number. I learned there are many businesses claiming they can help customers struggling with Microsoft apps. Those businesses didn’t want to talk to me until I shared my contact information or subscribed to their services. Then I’d learn again that my particular problem could not be resolved by anyone outside Microsoft. And nobody inside Microsoft would speak to me.

Over a span of seven months I spent many wretched hours dialing numbers and writing email pleas for help. The shop that sold the computer to me clucked sympathetically but told me to take my complaints to Microsoft. Members of a group called “the Microsoft community” kept telling me it would be easy to fix this issue, but none of them could provide a phone number that worked. While I could have purchased the software again for another $70, the rank injustice of that was more than I could bear.

I finally learned about a set of business applications called LibreOffice, the top-rated free alternative to Office. It is open source software, free to everyone. But people who put their faith in free software often get burned, for “free” often just means that the true price is hidden. I worried that this software would not allow me to edit all the documents I’ve created over thirty-four years of writing with Word. And—silly, silly me—I kept hoping I could find one friendly person in Microsoft who would thaw my frozen software. So I dithered for weeks.

Last week I took a deep breath and downloaded LibreOffice. It loaded like a dream. LibreOffice’s word processor, “Writer,” is friendly and intuitive. Ironically, I like it quite a bit better than Word. With it I can edit all my old Word documents, and I used the new software to write this post.

That particular dragon is dead, kaput and forever out of my life. Other dragons await my attention, malodorous tendrils of smoke curling up out their nostrils. I did not triumph over Microsoft, as that smug firm never even knew it had a conflict with me. Still, I celebrate the way this all ended. When we slay a dragon, the most significant accomplishment might be that we, however briefly, have triumphed over our personal limitations.

Any dragons in your past that you wouldn’t mind mentioning?

32 thoughts on “I Just Slew a Dragon”

  1. I suppose the ridiculous amount of time it took me to finish my doctoral degree was a dragon for me. I allowed too many things to get in my way of working on it (marriage, child, Husband’s doctoral degree, moving, jobs) so that I almost ran out of time to complete it. It was a constant, heavy weight around my neck from 1987-1994. The freedom that I felt when it was completed was indescribable.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I should note that my degree program was one in which you did a Master’s thesis along the way to the Doctoral degree, and I began it in 1980. It took me until 1987 to finish my Master’s degree.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Speaking of dragons, I just found three headed, blue, Folkmanis dragon puppet in the basement that Husband thought he had lost. He needed it for a therapy session.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a master’s degree which I was pretty much forced to get. It means nothing and has never done me a bit of good, but my grad school adviser insisted that I pick it up. In the context of my article, getting a master’s degree was far from slaying a dragon. More like trapping a mouse that I then let go!

      There is a pattern of grad students delaying sitting for a degree test. There was a notorious case in my department of a guy who avoided sitting for the exam so long that one day his advisors literally kidnapped him–physically–and dragged him in to take the test. So you’re in good company, Renee.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I had been contemplating going back and getting a Masters, either when I retire or during furlough. . But having watched YA get through her masters program the last couple of years has dissuaded me. The new learning style of everything in groups and online discussions and shared projects is not even remotely to my taste. So I guess I’ll just continue my lifelong journey of self education.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My sister deserves acknowledgment for beating cancer. She had esophageal cancer, one of the cancers that frequently results in death. I was awed by the courage she showed. Among other things she did right, she educated herself on that cancer, learning as much as she could. She could not have dealt with that whole terrible chapter of her life better than she did.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Talking about getting your masters reminds me of mine! When I obtained my B’S in nursing I was informed I would have several years to obtain 26 additional credits to validate said BS. They could be graduate or undergrad courses. For 32 credits I could get a master’s so I went for it! It wasn’t difficult and I enjoy learning BUT it also required a master’s thesis. After going thru all the hoops and loops to produce that mundane paper I thoroughly quashed and idea that I would even consider ongoing for a doctorate. That was very freeing as it allowed me to study anything and anything that caught my interest for example,, everything from flying lessons, stain glass making or white water rafting. These other learning experiences have greatly enriched my life!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Thought you all might appreciate this story:

    Went to the truck this morning and could not find any masks; I’m sure I left masks in there just the other day.
    Did find them behind the seat eventually; one of the dogs must have knocked them off the center console. Drove to the gas station, can’t find my mask! I just had it! Like Steve said; where could it go?? It’s a truck cab! I look under the seats, behind the seats, in the door pockets… what the heck… I finally find a neck gator under the seat and I wear that into the gas station.
    Bailey jumps into the front seat and my mask is stuck to her butt by some burdock’s.
    Things don’t just disappear… something takes them.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. My dragon was getting out of my former marriage. This was accomplished through a combination of some support from friends, folks, and therapy; a temporary distance from Wasband where I was able to get clarity; and my ultimately being able to explain to Wasband my view of what had happened.The whole process took a year and a half or more, and yes, that freedom of being out from under the burden was memorable.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I have a current dragon I’m not sure can be slain.
    I’ve lived in the same apartment for 3 years. My neighbor was here long before me. In late March, my landlord informed me that other tenants were complaining about my loud TV. I didn’t think a whole lot about it because my hearing is getting worse and there was the possibility that I had the volume up. Then I got a note from the neighbor asking me to turn my TV down. I sent a note back apologizing and offering my phone number to let me know when the volume was bothering him. Received a text. He was hearing NBA basketball games at 1, 2, 4 o’clock in the morning. He heard the announcers and the substitution horns clearly. I informed him (landlord as well now that I knew who was complaining) that I hadn’t watched an NBA basketball game in years and the last basketball game I watched was when Ohio State was eliminated from the recent NCAA tournament (that game was played late afternoon).
    More texts followed. One came at 3 AM. I replied back that my TV had been off since 9 PM after watching an old Star Trek episode. He replied that I was lying and had just then turned it off. It took awhile for my landlord to investigate. None of my other neighbors hear what this guy is hearing.
    Some of my communications follow.
    “I hear your t.v. Wes turn it down i don’t see why i keep having to ask u I’ve been nothing but nice to u it’s 3:00 am wow”
    To the landlord
    FYI to eliminate possible sources of sounds. My TV was off at 9 PM. I watched old Star Trek at 8 until 9. It wasn’t on at 3 AM. I have no TV in my bedroom, so i did not fall asleep watching. I wear a cpap mask every night, so I’m not sleep walking.
    So this is not a question of volume but I can make myself available so that you can hear the settings and see the location of my tv.
    Is Penny hearing my TV? Her experience with the matter might be helpful.

    Is it possible some TV is on below us? Sound can travel but I haven’t heard anything unusual in my unit.
    I would have to be deliberately causing Terry grief. Why would I do that now after years of normal relations?
    If his phone has recording capabilities, maybe have him record what he’s hearing.
    I don’t like putting you in a bad spot of possibly taking one tenant’s word over another’s but these are the circumstances.
    The landlord believes me but has offered few solutions. The management will be asking for emergency contacts.
    I bought a good set of headphones which I now use. I tiptoe 24/7.
    I sometimes feel trapped.
    I will NOT be buying a gun for protection but living next door to a troubled person is my dragon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Does your neighbor have Dementia or a mental illness. It might help to ask the police to do a welfare check on him if this keeps happening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t heard from him lately. Nor have I heard from my landlord except advice that I should have no contact with him. I’m growing tired of hiding out. This Monday is my deadline.


    2. Oh man, that’s the worst; you have my full sympathy. Wish I could think of something that might help in your situation, but if you’re dealing with someone who is mentally ill or unstable, all bets are off.

      Your situation made me instantly flash back to my days in Basel where my roommate, Annette, and I lived directly above an old woman. The building we lived in was owned and operated by the hospital where everyone in the building worked, so she was not just a neighbor, but a coworker as well.

      Annette and I would sometimes be sitting in our respective beds at opposite ends of our large room, reading or sewing, and minding our own business, not even talking, and still she’d complain that we were making too much noise. No radio on (we didn’t have a TV), no shoes on, not a sound; this old woman was hearing things. We offered to switch rooms with her, but she didn’t want to climb the stairs.The only way to resolve the issue was to spend as little time as we could in our room.

      Our room was identical to hers, and they were the two largest and nicest rooms in the building, but nobody wanted to live in the upstairs room because of her. She had worked and lived there for years, and most of the other workers, my roommate and I included, were hired on a one-year contract, after which most of us returned home. She was local, and it seemed to be her life’s mission to make life miserable for all these young foreign worker women with whom she was forced to work. At least we didn’t have to worry about her potentially being armed.

      I slayed that dragon by getting on my bicycle when my contract was up, and getting the hell out of Basel. Annette took the train.

      Liked by 5 people

  8. The scariest dragon I ever dealt with, by far, was selling my home and moving across the country. That was a dragon with six or seven heads, all equally dangerous. I mention this because when I think about that moment, I’m reminded again of the friendship and help so generously offered by several of you in the Trail Baboon bunch. Bless you.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. I can’t think of any dragons that I would like to accredit with having held me back or frightened me off. Mostly my impediments have had to do with my own inertia, which, to me, is less a dragon to slay and more a sort of a problem squirrel to be outwitted.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Funny that you should say that, Linda. I had more trouble with the image of a flattened roadkill racoon to conjure up the size of a missing skillet.

      Liked by 3 people

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