I originally sent the following email to my son, Evan, who is an IT engineer and usually helps me (translation: bears with me patiently) on my myriad of computer issues over many years. He speaks the language of all things digital and electronic, whereas I speak English. I had this perplexing missionary problem and feared losing my whole computer which is where all my various materials are accessed, so I only called on him when I was desperate. I share this with you who follow our missionary journeys because, even though it is about computers (sort of), it does give another perspective on work in the field for today’s’ missionaries. I also share it because on all things computer, I am another generation – I can find my way around, but don’t  speak the language, and…I have no shame at all admitting it.

Dear Evan, my son, my son,

We are leaving this morning to return to Bugembe for a day of meetings and rest, then on to Tororo.

I must confess something to you that I fear will only go further to prove to you that your old dad is over the hill concerning all things electronic. It pains me terribly to do so, but here goes…I just don’t want this hanging over my head!

You remember I was having a terrible problem with my laptop, upon which all my teachings and Powerpoint presentations are stored. Something was causing the mouse to center itself in only one place on the screen, no matter what program I was in. I could not use the mouse to navigate my computer at all. With every movement the cursor was immediately drawn back to the center like some kind of weird science-fiction gravity well thing – maybe its a digital black hole. I was very much afraid that my computer either had a virus of some kind or was in the process of crashing, and here I was in Uganda, very far from reliable computer repair resources.

I emailed you about the problem and you listened lovingly and suggested some things for me to do. Your

suggestion that it sounded like a sticky key on the keyboard happened to be right on. I started tapping all the keys close to the mouse pad and all around just as you had suggested, and darned if it didn’t help a little. The behavior didn’t stop entirely but kept returning. So, encouraged, I got a flashlight and was carefully examining the keys to see if some sticky matter had gotten onto the keyboard by some accidental and insidious means, even though I am always very careful not to have liquids or anything sticky of any kind whatsoever around the computer. As I carefully and painstakingly analyzed the condition of each key, wondering if I could pull the keys off one by one and clean each one then reattach them as I have seen you do to keyboards, my eyes drifted inevitably upward to the CapsLock key.

I have had a terrible time on this computer with my typing fingers accidentally straying just a teensy bit past the “A” key and turning on CapsLock in the middle of typing a document,  so suddenly everything is in capitals causing all matter of frustration, retyping and Christian colorful language. I had researched (make that “googled”) and figured out how to turn off the CapsLock function, but when building Powerpoints and spreadsheets and other programs, I often need CapsLock, so that wasn’t the best solution for me.

So being the very creative over-the-hill 70-year-old guy you know so well, I came up with a plan. I folded a small piece of duct tape over to form a small ridge about a quarter-inch high, then carefully taped it to the CapsLock, overlapping the Tab key. You know, when a digital solution doesn’t present itself, create an analog work-around, back-yard- mechanic-style, old school jury-rigging. This tape created a little barrier for my typing fingers and prevented me from continually accidentally turning on CapsLock in the middle of a document. I was, and I know you are now rolling your eyes, so proud of myself two years ago for inventing this simple little non-digital device to solve an annoying problem I was having on the mission field.

So, what do you think smacked me in the middle of my forehead as I was agonizingly examining my keyboard to find what in the world could possibly be causing my keys to stick? Did I inadvertently spill something onto the keyboard? Maybe it’s just the Ugandan dust that covers everything here and the keyboard needs a good cleaning. Maybe something very small has gotten wedged underneath a key, causing it to stick.

Then my eyes fixated on that piece of gray-silver tape across the CapsLock and Tab keys. There was an eyes-meet-across-the-room moment of startling recognition. My face must have turned bright red because I could feel the blood rushing through my face and prodigious scalp and then slowly draining away to nothing as I stared at that piece of tape, enlightenment dawning in my deer-in-the-headlights brain.

I confess: once again, as so many times before, pilot error, pilot error! It was I, and I alone. I have shot myself in my own foot yet again. Mea Culpa!! How can I ever admit this to my patient and long-suffering son, the computer engineer, whom I was begging across 12,000 miles of distance,  a missionary crying out for succor from someone to help him find a solution to the mysterious problem my computer is exhibiting? Oh, the shame, the shame!

Needless to say, I pried off the tape and cleaned up the keys and, I know you won’t believe this, but the problem was instantly solved!

Anyway, I decided the best strategy is just to come out with it honestly, bite the bullet, fall on my sword, humble myself and admit all of it. So now you know everything. Oh, that feels so good. I am so relieved to finally have THAT OFF MY CHEST. OH, DARN THAT BLASTED CAPS LOCK!