Originally posted August 27, 2010...
I’m writing today from Jon’s computer, as my laptop (unimaginatively nicknamed “Compy”) has evasive surgery in a dilapidated electronics store down the street which, in addition to laptops, claims also to fix beepers. That’s great because if I go back to 1994 in a time machine and someone needs to get ahold of me, my beeper will be in good working order.
Using someone else’s computer is like sleeping in someone else’s bed. It’s great consolation, to be sure, but a consolation prize nonetheless. It can be very comfortable and functional, but it’s not yours and it just doesn’t feel right. Plus you feel guilty about taking off your pants. Last week, when Compy suddenly flashed an ominous blue, then shut down forever, just as Jon was about to leave (with his computer) for Orientation Week at his school, it felt like someone had ripped one of my arms off. Being alone in my apartment is fine for the most part, but being alone without a computer to distract me makes me worry about robbers and bedbugs and non-downloadable television (it’s awful! Have you seen anything on network tv lately? Supernanny carries the weight she’s gained disciplining terrible children very well). Fortunately, my Mom was in town visiting this week so I was sufficiently occupied when I wasn’t working. But next time my computer breaks down, I may not be so lucky. Seems to me I have two options: irrationally hope that my computer never crashes ever again, or lessen my dependence on a flimsy piece of electronica, ostensibly useful for pornography and big yearbooks, that has clearly taken over my life.
Dream: Own a computer that never, ever breaks down.
Goal: Unachievable. Like cars and grandparents, everyone has a story of a computer breaking down on them and never coming back to life.
Plan: Back up everything, treat computers as gently as hemopheliac babies, and pray for luck.
When Jon’s laptop crashed some years ago, he packed up his memory keys, drove over to the university, took his smoke breaks outside, and just kept on working. Inexplicably, he had no sense of panic over the loss of his laptop. He said he’d just keep an eye out for sales and pick up the some cheapy sometime in the future.
“But this is your life!” I implored. “All your work, your articles, your research! Yes, you have memory keys, but you’re really going to just keep relying on communal office computers and drugstore laptops that cost two hundred bucks? You deserve better!” Of course, I couldn’t back up this position with any money or support other than whining, but he took it to heart anyway. He spent a good chunk of money on this computer here that’s served him well for many years.
But he’s a legitimate academic with degrees and everything. He drinks wine at parties and takes airplanes to conferences. I’m a compulsive Facebooker who takes the subway to Blockbuster. The hours I spend on the computer are devoted to watching people fail at things, downloading podcasts, and researching Laura Linney (I just have a thing for her). I really can’t justify the expenditure and time used on these stupid machines.
How these ventures could lead to the demise of not only Compy but my previous PC (christened James’ Compy) is anybody’s guess. After I took it to the dilapidated computer store, the proprietor with the mysterious accent called me a few hours later full of accusations. “What joo do dis machine?” he asked. “Dis never happen after one jear! Joo drop on floor? Hard drive is toast!” I honestly have no idea what he’s talking about. He said it was no software issue, nothing I downloaded or accessed online was a virus, but that I was simply wrecklessly abusive of Compy.
I find this really hard to believe. I mean yes, I’ve set a few drinks on top of it. Sure, I spilled coffee on it one time but I wiped it up super fast. And yes, it may have fallen off the bed after I saw that video of the smoking baby in Indonesia (how bad-ass is that kid?!), but is that enough to destroy it? And make me feel useless and abandoned? Apparently so.
“We’ll get it fixed or buy a new one!” Jon said. “Right now, today! Or as soon as I get back from Orientation. Or you do it while I’m away!” I hemmed and hawed, maybe at the end of September, I suggested, a three paycheque month. “Is it money? I’ll help you pay! Let me know how much it is, doesn’t matter, let’s get it fixed now!” Jon’s a generous guy, but worries more about money than I do, so I was really surprised at his offer, and not prepared to accept.
“What about your plays?” He countered, “What about your blog? This is the best thing you’ve got going! You’re just going to put that aside and wait for more cheques to clear from Blockbuster?” He drove it home. “You deserve better.”
He’s right. And as it turned out, I can easily afford the repairs this time. But it’s good to know he’ll be there next time, and that he treats the chance of the possibility of the maybe of my “career” as legitimately as I treat his. So I await repairs and blog on his computer while he watches The Bold and the Beautiful and smokes, and believes in me. As consolations go, there’s none better.