And Ode to My Computer

On May 24, 2015, my computer died.

It had been working fine just the day before. “Fine” being relative for a computer that was eight years old, but it was still working. Technically.

My computer was a Macbook from 2007. Not a pro, just a Macbook laptop, the kind high schools in our area used to issue to students for free. I got it as a graduate present for finishing my Master’s degree. It worked great when I first got it, but after 8 years, it had slowed down quite a bit, as older computers tend to do. I couldn’t access some websites any more because they didn’t support my operating system. I was told by an Apple representative about a year ago that at some point the internet won’t even support my operating system and my hardware will only support two more upgrades. I was too attached to my computer to even consider buying another one. I decided to limit the damage by upgrading the operating system.

When my hard drive went caput last year, I took my computer to the Mac Store and spent $250 for a new one. My husband is still in disbelief over how much it cost, considering he uses Linux and can buy an entire computer for that much.

My Macbook was my closest confidant. I wrote my deepest thoughts on that computer, things no one else will ever read. But my computer knew. It knew everything. It knew my rough drafts. My fingerprints were all over them.

The asymmetric round stains on the keyboard where my wrists rested were mine. The glossy shine on the keys I used the most were mine. Those passionate moments when creativity was flowing and I typed fervently, my Macbook and I were one.

The truth is, I probably wouldn’t have purchased another computer if my Mac still worked. I was drawn to the Macbook after having viruses on several PCs that I owned over the years. I was ready, even desperate for a change. I remember the day I finally walked into an Apple store to purchase it. I was excited and nervous at the same time, like someone taking a big step in their lives, which I was at that point. I felt butterflies in my stomach.

“Black,” I said to the store clerk, trying to cover my excitement and the unevenness in my voice. “I’d like a black one.”

I remember holding the bag and my brand new computer inside of it against my chest like a newborn baby. I rode the bus back home, as I didn’t even own a car at that time. My Macbook was my most expensive possession. Every few blocks I compulsively checked the bag to make sure my computer was still inside.

I brought it home to my one-bedroom apartment and gently took it out of the box like a precious artifact. It was beautiful. I didn’t even want to take off the thin layer of foam encasing the computer like a well-fitted glove, the last barrier to actually touching the machine. I was as nervous and excited as a boy taking off the layers of a woman’s dress for the first time. Maybe they call it an “apple” because a new Macbook is as beautiful and tempting as the apple that tempted Adam.

Everything about it was pleasant to the senses. It looked, smelled, and felt… luxurious. Several years later, the New York Times would report how Apple contracted with Chinese manufacturers that callously used child labor and worked their employees to death, literally, to build their devices. It was, of course, awful, and I questioned whether I would ever buy another Mac. Talk about forbidden fruit. Then I wondered whether PCs weren’t produced the same way. It was a dilemma I didn’t want to face.

I decided that the responsibility lay with Apple’s management. I paid full price for my new laptop, a whopping $1500 in 2007, not including tax. If the millionaires in charge decide to allocate their revenues toward themselves rather than hold their contractors accountable for fair and safe labor practices, then that is on them. My husband, disgusted by both Apple and Microsoft, uses Linux, but I didn’t want a PC. I was in a relationship with Apple, and I felt comfortable in it.

The past several weeks I felt that my Macbook wasn’t keeping up with modern technology. I couldn’t switch between several open tabs as quickly as I once could and some websites had blank spots where page content should have been. No matter how many times I downloaded Flash Player, it never seemed to work. Videos kept stopping or not loading. The beach ball kept spinning. I was getting more frustrated.

Even though my computer wasn’t responsive, I remained loyal.

I didn’t cheat.

On the Sunday before Memorial Day, my computer died. I had just gotten back from a camping trip with Polina the day before and I was eager to get back to writing.

And then it broke.

My first reaction was grief. Then denial. Denial morphed into acceptance. And then, oddly, relief, because the suffering was over and the decision to buy another computer was made for me. This quickly turned to fear because of the additional expense.

There it was, a broken computer staring me in the face.

Then I had a thought.

How badly do you want this?

What?

How badly do you want this?

Badly.

[Silence]

I had been hearing advertisements for TD Curran on my local radio station the last few months. After looking at other places for used Macs, TD Curran gave me the best deal over the phone. Last Saturday, I strapped Polina in her car seat and drove to their store.

While Polina twirled her pink Princess Sofia umbrella in the spacious store, I looked at two used Macbook Pros before me, a 2010 model for $699 and a late 2011 model for $799. The sales clerk, Kenneth, suggested the late 2011 model because it is very similar to the brand new model and came loaded with the latest operating system from Apple. It was on the edge of what I wanted to spend, but still $300 less than a new computer. Chump change to some, but a respectable hurdle for me.

It wasn’t my Macbook. For one, it was silver with black keys. The mousepad didn’t have right and left clicks. The part of the keyboard where my wrists touched felt slippery, owing to the aluminum material. The connector was a different shape, though still the same size.

But it also had some positives. Aluminum doesn’t absorb body oils like the plastic on my old computer and the keyboard therefore looked brand new. The keyboard was backlit, which I always found attractive. It was also fast, very fast.

The stress of making a new commitment led me to default to my compulsive, nervous state. I told Kenneth I would get my laptop case from my car to see whether the Macbook Pro would fit. A casual introduction, so to speak, but I also needed to get out of the store and think outside the box.

My pink nylon laptop case that I bought the same day as my original Macbook had never held another computer inside of it. The soft black corduroy inside the case had kept my old Macbook safe for eight years. As I carried the now empty case under my arm back to the store, the other arm holding Polina’s hand, I felt excited and melancholy about sharing this private space with another computer. Polina was impervious to my dilemma, contently playing with her umbrella.

Maybe buying a new computer sounds thrilling to some, but that’s not how I felt. I didn’t find this enjoyable one bit. My defenses were up and I was tense.

I went inside the air conditioned store, grateful to be out of the heat, and lay the 2011 model on top of my case. It fit.

Kenneth walked back to me from his computer.

“I’ll give it to you for $699.”

He offered $100 off the machine, or the same price as the 2010 model. Gratitude filled my torso.

“I looked at the prices for this model online. You could buy it off eBay for $650, but ours comes with a 90 day guarantee.”

Buying from an individual buyer was out of the question for me. I didn’t want to risk getting a virus (I’m not that easy) or have someone else’s baggage affect the computer’s performance. I wanted a warranty and I wanted a technician to make sure the computer was scrubbed and as clean as possible.

“Thank you,” I whispered with my hands clasped to my chest, like an adoring fan.

I played on the computer to make sure everything was working. I watched two videos simultaneously without problems. It was beautiful, just like my old machine. I was sold as much as I could have been under the circumstances.

Kenneth ran my card and I signed on the dotted line. I came back two hours later to a scrubbed and newly loaded machine.

I carried my new computer back in the pink case I had purchased for my old Macbook eight years ago.

In some traditions a man marries his brother’s widow to support her and her children. That’s how I feel about this new Macbook. My previous Macbook died and I bought another family member. I didn’t want to, but that’s what I did to keep going.

Mazel Tov.

This post was originally published on June 8, 2015 on the antelopediaries.com