The elapsed time indicator on a simple software tool has caused software engineer Bruce McLeod to develop a morbid fixation on the inexorable march of time, obsessively pondering his inevitable demise and the eternal nothingness that will follow.
McLeod, 42, created Activity Reminder to alert him when there was prolonged inactivity in his Remote Desktop session. The application detects mouse or keyboard activity, either of which will reset a timer. After five minutes of inactivity, and each minute thereafter, the application will generate increasingly strident alert sounds, prompting the user to provide input to ensure that the desktop does not lock.
“I work on at least three computers simultaneously, sometimes more, and my laptop, which I use for email and messaging, was always timing out and locking the desktop. It’s old and choked with security applications, so it takes a long time to reconnect. It’s just annoying, so I whipped out this little utility in like ten minutes to play sounds to remind me to click to keep it (the Remote Desktop session) alive”, McLeod explained.
The application also displays the number of seconds that have passed since the last user activity was detected. It is this seemingly innocuous feature that has caused the previously well-adjusted man to become obsessed with his mortality and unavoidable fate.
“It (Activity Reminder) worked perfectly for the problem I was trying to solve”, McLeod continued. “I’d be working one of my other monitors, I’d hear the chime and just click on the other screen and it would reset the counter.
“One day, the Activity Reminder window was on top, and I kept looking over and would see that the elapsed time was always over 300 seconds. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d never get that time back, and I couldn’t stop thinking that thought every time I heard that sound. Some days, I have literally clicked away thousands of seconds. Rationally, I know that’s only a couple of hours, but the cumulative effect is demoralizing. I work hard and I’m very productive, but really, does what I’m doing matter? When I’m on my deathbed, will I look back on all these years and wish I had done it all differently?”, McLeod asked rhetorically, getting up suddenly and excusing himself, wiping tears from his eyes.
The distraught man, who is employed by Synerco, Salem’s leading synergy firm, composed himself after a few moments and continued his remarks.
“I guess this experience has taught me how precious every second of every day is, and that when my time comes, I don’t want have any regrets. Don’t get me wrong, I like my job, but I know that I have to live every day to its fullest and pursue my dreams, no matter how farfetched they may be.”
At press time, McLeod was reportedly sobbing in the fetal position next to a dumpster following a particularly merciless and relentless heckling during Open Mic ‘n’ Dollar Draft Night at Chuckles Comedy Club.