My laptop computer has been going all passive-aggressive on me, recently. For a while, I tried to ignore it. Sure, it was slow, but so what? I’ve gotten kind of slow, myself. That doesn’t mean I’d want anyone replacing me with somebody faster.
So, I pulled some little tricks to cope. I’d brush my teeth, say, while the computer took its sweet-ass time turning on. I’d read the newspaper while it decided to change websites. I rebooted it frequently, just to give it a little jolt. I tried a tuneup program my computer-savvy friend Paula suggested. I complained nonstop to my husband.
Time passed. My computer got slower, I worked on my attitude of being in the now, I lectured myself on learning patience. I began to notice that, instead of brushing my teeth while it warmed up, I could probably read most of a novel, instead. The thing is, I hate thinking about computers; they’re supposed to make my life easier, not harder, right? I have better things to think about.
I emailed my friend Paula and Cathy, my web guru. What to do? Paula told me to junk my PC and get a Mac. Cathy told me Macs were overrated; they had some kind of bogus mystique she just didn’t get. I should only buy a Mac if I wanted to waste some money, she announced.
God, I hate it when my friends don’t make my life easy by agreeing with each other. So, I talked to my husband to break the tie. Well, of course, he wanted me to get a Mac. He loves going into the Apple store and hanging around and buying new gizmos. He told me a Mac would do all kinds of razzle-dazzle stuff that would completely transform my life, even though I told him I don’t need razzle-dazzle, for God’s sake, I just need a computer that works at something faster than glacial pace.
Naturally, this was very disappointing to my husband, who hates being reminded of what a low-tech person I really am and how paltry my computer needs are. But he recovered his buoyancy when he realized we’d need to get my computer looked at by some neighborhood computer hotshots.
“You can use my laptop while yours is in the shop,” he said.
This is where I made my big mistake. Casually and for no particular reason, except to make conversation, I asked him how old his laptop was.
“A year old,” he said confidently.
That didn’t make sense to me. I knew I’d borrowed his laptop two years ago when I went to visit our daughter in Boston. It had proved to be a fateful trip, since my husband had gotten all huffy when he’d thought I’d lost the computer battery, like it was a federal offense or something.
“It’s got to be at least two years old,” I said.
He stopped walking in the middle of the sidewalk and I could see the color drain from his face. “You’re right,” he said, clearly aghast. “My laptop has got to be — what? — two-and-a-half years old.” He said this in much the same tone he would use talking about Stonehenge or the Magna Carta. Tales from the crypt of time!
“Well, that’s not so old,” I said quickly, trying to undo the damage.
“Two years old,” he said, still horrified. “I’ve got a computer that’s more than two years old.”
We continued to the repair shop, where a couple of high-tech geniuses added power or ram or some damned thing to my laptop that makes it run smoothly and quickly. It didn’t cost nearly as much as a new Mac.
Which is just as well, since I now know what my husband’s going to get himself for Christmas this year. There are a couple of lessons here: Your computer is only as old as you think it is and I’m as slow as my pre-repaired laptop when it comes to keeping my big mouth shut.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about why I don’t buy Christmas presents