Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Computer, A Cup of Coffee and Me

They're not a good mix. As brutally evidenced by my experience yesterday. You may have noticed I was out of computer commission. Here’s why.

I was sitting at my desk writing about the importance of keeping one’s premises neat and decluttered. Household organization as the key to an organized brain. Or something equally earnest along those lines. Unfortunately, I never got to the organized brain part. Clutter, stupidity, multi-tasking and resulting mania got in the way.

It all began rather innocuously. Halfway through writing the piece, I got up, went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee and brought it back to sip. I cleared a little spot amongst all the papers next to my Mac laptop and plopped the old mug down. So far so good.

With my eyes still on the computer screen, I reached blindly for the cup. And missed. Within a nanosecond, I had knocked it over and a mug of steamy, milky coffee spilled onto dozens of papers, including bills, and the right-hand side of my keyboard. Into, as well as onto.

‘You idiot’ was all I could think, but smart enough to momentarily quit with the chastising so I could swing into action. I ran and got a cloth, did the requisite mopping and drying, then sat back, waiting for the results. I shut the computer off, pulled out the battery and waited. After 15 minutes I put it back together, but not much was happening. I tried a hair dryer on a cool setting. 

I had some relatively good news in another 15 minutes.  I could access all my documents. But the keyboard didn’t work. Actually, that’s wrong. A few letters did, but nothing on the right side of the keyboard. Forget the brackets and quotation marks. Try writing anything without access to your Backspace and Delete keys. I have new respect for them.

Then I went into my email inbox. The opened page kept changing back and forth in size from minimal to full page. Then it settled into a page with the two versions of the same inbox line-up  side by each. When I went into Word and brought up my blog text, the letter Z kept printing itself across the page, filling up dozens of empty lines. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. That wouldn’t be so bad if I was trying to describe the sleeping sounds made by a howler monkey. But that wasn’t the case. My hand was nowhere near the keyboard.

I was beginning to panic, but not as much as I would have if I couldn’t start-up the damn computer or thought my documents were somehow lost. I made a mental note, right then, telling myself that besides being an absolute idiot, I am also mildly intelligent. I bought the services last year of Carbonite, a company that does computer back-up of all my files. Memo to myself and anyone else reading this. Make sure files are backed-up. Always. Forevermore.

Now a day later, my husband has attached a spare keyboard to my laptop so I can use the computer. It worked. I can pick up and respond to emails, finish my blog and do a few other random things before I take the laptop in to be fixed tomorrow. I’ll undoubtedly be out of commission for a few days again while it’s being serviced (and hopefully fixed).

In case there was opportunity for self-help in this experience, my husband went online looking for entries by other ditzes like me who had spilled their own errant liquids into computers, and yes, there were. Dozens of them. I liked having company, but more importantly, these people were kind. They shared detailed explanations on how to take your keyboard apart, clean every key and get it back in tip-top shape.

Nice, but I wouldn’t dream of trusting myself to the job. Maybe my husband will take it on, but there's only so much I can ask of a person. Since I believe there’s hope elsewhere, I'm keeping in mind the old age. Sometimes it's better to pay.

So what did I learn? Who knows. Most likely nothing other than  it's good I don't take honey or sugar. Will I drink coffee again while on the computer? Yes, I probably will. Will I try to be more careful? Yes, Ma, I’ll be more careful the next time. Does it really work like that? No, I multi-task and do so many things without paying close attention, it’s amazing that I don’t have more mess-ups than I actually do.

Can I change my brain and mildly ADD self at this stage of the game? I've already tried. So, in the name of being a mature person, I take full responsibility for the accident, but I’ve moved on from the ‘You’re an Idiot’ stage, to 'sometimes you're really stupid' stage. Sometimes is the operative word here. Martha Stewart would say that's a good thing.

There are a few things I’ve culled from this experience, though. How extremely difficult it was going through the whole day yesterday (OMG, a whole day!) without being able to use my computer, whether to write, check emails or look up some facts (did I use to look up facts and definitions so often before?).

It once again reminded me of how dependent I am on this thing, and I don’t like it. I also noted how much I'm now using emails instead of calling people (and we know where this is headed . Facebook next, right?).

Case in point. I had an email I needed to respond to about upcoming plans for Wednesday. Two friends and I are suppose to go to a major gardening show here in Toronto. We needed to firm up plans. But since my computer was down, how? Like, duh. Pick up the phone and call the person, dummy.

Actually, I needed to call two people, not one. I called the first friend and explained the situation. Then, instead of hanging up and calling the second person, I asked the first to email and finalize the plans with the third friend.. Like why couldn't I just have called her, too? What would it have taken. A minute?

It's not like I can't stand the sound of her voice or anything. The only reason to explain it is this. It's easier to email people than talk to them.  There's less engagement. Doesn't take so  much energy. Well, that's pretty darn pathetic when it starts applying to people I really care for. I can't blame this completely on my ever-increasing dependency on computers. Old age must be creeping in. Note to self. Change.

The only other lesson learned, or really, lesson underscored. And you should pay me a million bucks for sharing it with you (but I'll take a new Mac in lieu). Back Up Everything. Now.

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