By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Today I’m embroiled in a dramatic love-hate relationship – with my computer. An hour ago, I was feeling a strong urge to open the second-story window by my desk and push this blankety-blank machine out while laughing maniacally as it crashes to the front lawn below.
I didn’t, mainly because there are squirrels in the yard and I’d hate for another living creature to endure more undue pain from this evil chunk of electronics. The computer has been misbehaving for weeks now, and I’ve babied it, crossed my fingers and scanned it for viruses, all to no avail. I was convinced my new printer was the culprit so I called the IT support hotline listed on the printer owner’s manual and talked to two guys on two different days, both of whom sounded like they were half a world away. The hotline guys asked me to jump through a few World Wide Web hoops so they could control my computer from their remote location. I was more than happy to let them take the reigns and deal with all the error messages that kept flashing nothing but garbled computer-speak.
After two days with two different hotline technicians working their remote control magic, the printer’s issues and error messages seemed to be resolved. But the computer was as irritable as ever – freezing up the moment I tried to return an e-mail or write a new document. I sat here and waited and waited and waited while that annoying little blue circle went around and around – indicating the computer was “thinking.” But all the waiting and thinking led to the most infuriating thing a computer can ever say to a person: “Not responding.”
Not responding?! I did not pay good money to have this infuriating black box tell me it’s “not responding.” So I responded to its lack of response by calling a computer repair service recommended by a friend. I was thrilled to find out he made house calls. He came and whisked the sick machine away.
And even though I’ve been frustrated with the computer for weeks now, I felt strangely sad when the gentleman walked out of my house with it. It was almost like he’d detached one of my arms and put it in the trunk of his car to take it home for the weekend.
It’s just a machine, I told myself, as I sensed the electronic void on my writing desk. I should be glad to have a few days away from the blasted thing. But its absence helped me remember better times, when things between us were good. Perhaps I’d been too hard on it. After all, it keeps up with my calendar and lets me send tons of e-mail all over the country without ever leaving my desk. It waits patiently while I struggle to find just the right word for an essay. It helps me edit photos of my kids and send videos of school plays to grandparents. It puts new songs on my iPod. It even sifts through an entire world of information in just half a second when I Google the words “pear recipes.” It really is a remarkable, incredible machine. I’m lucky to own such a thing.
So I anxiously looked forward to its return today, and I even wiped down my desk, keyboard and phone in anticipation of the “clean start” I’d enjoy with my beloved work companion. When I heard the doorbell, I ran to welcome the prodigal computer back home.
I asked the computer expert what had gone wrong so that I might prevent it from happening again. He said he’d found quite a few “corrupted files” during his investigation. I nodded my head as if I understood, but I’m not at all sure how my computer got corrupted, unless it’s been running around with a bad crowd or watching too much reality television. Regardless, I was just glad he’d helped it clean up its act.
It booted up and hummed along perfectly while the computer expert was here. An hour after he left, however, it relapsed. That’s when I started daydreaming about pushing it out the window to its untimely death. I love my computer – truly, I do – but it’s a conditional love. I love it when it works. When it doesn’t, I’d like to drop it off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote.
I called the computer expert back and reported the relapse, and he confirmed what my gut told me was probably a long time coming. I need an upgrade – a big one. From what I’ve read online, my current operating system is the Ford Pinto of the computer world. So this week my computer is getting a new operating system, and I’m going to get new Office software, too. I’d say it’s comparable to a heart bypass and a facelift all at the same time. By next week, I’ll be the proud owner of an overhauled technological wonder.
And if the upgrades don’t fix it, you can come pick up the smoldering pieces of it off my front lawn. Conditional love ain’t pretty.