A few Fridays ago I accidentally pressed something on my computer and erased my entire column.
I searched my files frantically, but it was gone — and to my shock my backup program wasn’t working. My whole column had vanished into the cyber-void — three minutes before my Gazette deadline.
Then suddenly, I remembered modern computer magic. I took a deep breath and pressed the Control and Z keys — undo — and my computer miraculously went back one step and undid whatever it was I’d done. Presto! — the column was back on my screen.
The “undo” key is one of the greatest things about computers — pressing it is a bit like time travel, allowing you to go back in time and undo your mistakes. I just wish I could use it in real life, too.
How often have I wanted to undo a bad tennis shot, or undo a dumb decision or undo wherever I stupidly put my lost keys? How often have I dropped something and wished I could … un-drop it?
Imagine if we could somehow undo things in life? You’d mistakenly drop a plate at a party, hear the crash — then press “undo” instead of fetching the broom. You’d hammer your finger instead of a nail — then press un-hammer instead of shrieking in pain.
Maybe you’d just blurt out something embarrassing, then un-blurt it before anyone heard.
Undo has bigger implications, too. Politicians are always apologizing for blurting out something they shouldn’t have, or sleeping or sexting with someone they shouldn’t.
Former Alberta premier Alison Redford would surely undo the $45,000 government flight for Nelson Mandela’s funeral and instead book economy — where she might find herself sitting beside Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin taking similar “undo” flights.
Conrad Black might undo that night he went back to his office and spirited away all his personal papers — which might undo his time in jail.
Rob Ford keeps apologizing for his mistakes, but then doing the same thing over. Instead of an undo button, he has a re-do button.
The people of Egypt did actually press the undo button on their Tahrir Square revolution to bring back the old military regime. But of course it’s not really undone — it’s like trying to un-break an egg.
U.S. Republican Governor Chris Christie would undo the schoolboy-ish closing of the George Washington Bridge that probably cost him the presidency. But Vladimir Putin doesn’t need an undo button — even on his computer — because he never uses it.
When it comes to undoing, I can’t help but think of the PQ these days. Would Pierre Karl Péladeau undo that fist pump he made when he declared his passion for sovereignty? More likely he’d undo the night he said “I do” to Pauline Marois and agreed to run for office.
Meanwhile, Marois would likely undo her passionate musings on the future of a sovereign Quebec, dollar and passport that convinced two-thirds of Quebecers she’ll hold a referendum to undo Canada if she gets a majority.
There’s only one way Marois can undo her mistake, which is to state categorically: “We promise not to hold a referendum in our next term — under ANY conditions.”
But that would enrage her party militants and undo her party.
Many what-if books have been written where characters go back in time and undo some decision that changed the course of history — like Neville Chamberlain surrendering part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler.
Or Fidel Castro being scouted but rejected by a U.S. baseball team. If they’d undone that decision and hired him, Castro might have had a career in the U.S. — and never led a Cuban revolution.
But these “undos” often just set off other chain reactions that bring unexpected new problems. Maybe Castro would have become head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, then moved into politics to launch a revolution in the U.S. instead of Cuba.
Of course, even in my ideal “undo” world you couldn’t undo every mistake, maybe just five a year — or we’d be undoing everything we did. “Marcia, undo my decision to undo my decision about Google stock. It’s up again and I want to undo not buying it two years ago.”
Maybe the best we humans can hope for is to somehow implant a pause button inside us, like those seven-second delays they have on radio talk shows in case someone says something unacceptable. Or those new email programs that delay sending your mail for a few seconds, or minutes — so you can undo them if you have sober second thoughts.
Which brings me back to the Quebec election. For the next two weeks, most anglos are hoping Philippe Couillard keeps his cool — and doesn’t say anything he wishes he could undo.
Republished with the permission of Josh Freed.