Monday, January 28, 2008

I See... A Laptopaholic

He stood up slowly, almost without balance, and timidly scanned the room with pleading eyes, pleading that others would somehow sense his inner pain, and make this moment magically go away. But it wouldn’t. The words rolled off his tongue, almost automatically and without meaning; he couldn’t believe he was saying what he was saying, but now his secret was out, and his shame was complete:

“Hi… my name is Richard, and I’m a laptopaholic.”

They say the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. I have a problem, but thank heavens I’m in recovery now – I’m a recovering laptopaholic.

You computer geeks accidentally reading this post, or even innocent, occasional laptop users who swear it is just a matter of convenience, you’re going to want to stop reading now and alt-tab back to your Youtube screen; until you can face the truth of your own addiction, the rest of this story will be too painful and heart-wrenching.

It was 1986, and I was a young, carefree 26-year old DINK (that’s right everyone, do the math- I’m not afraid of my age. For you mathphobes, I’m 48.), when my home teaching companion naively introduced me to my first laptop… in a suitcase. I never bought one then because I didn’t have a buhzillion dollars, and besides, I had stopped lifting weights about six months earlier, so I was no longer in physical shape to lug one around. However, at that moment I was hooked. I knew that someday, I would own a laptop of my own, and that someday it would rule my life. Only divine intervention saved me.

Months turned into years. Kids were born, new and old cars were bought and buried, but I was still able to keep my secret desires for the wonderment and convenience of a laptop under control.

14 years later, I stood salivating in front of a Middle Eastern computer broker sporting a dangerous accent in a computer show at Timonium Fairgrounds, purchasing my first gleaming 286 laptop with bonus money from work- money that should have been saved to pay for future root canals and EFY fees.

14 gleaming pounds of computer power at my fingertips… I was invincible. The possibilities were endless; writing in my journal in the church parking lot while inside, my teenage children danced the night away… balancing my bank statements online while watching my favorite Disney channel shows… researching sacrament meeting talks on the back porch on a smooth Sunday evening with a picture-perfect sundown… life was picture perfect.

But it wasn’t picture-perfect; it was just the rationalization of a desperate man hooked on mobile computing. Soon, just one laptop wasn’t enough; the enticing echoes of “more power, more power” pushed me to add a second laptop to my collection.

A few years later, Brian was leaving for college, which was the perfect excuse to seek the comforts of a third laptop in our house. By that time, I was so blinded by the addictive pleasures of mobile computing that was I willing to sacrifice something as sacred as sleep itself, and endure early-morning 17-degree weather at a Wal-Mart Black Friday sale. What was I thinking? What about the big, bouncy black woman, the one-legged man, and the young lady holding a babe in swaddling clothes that I trampled over, just to reach the laptop checkout line before the angry hordes behind me?

Last December, when Brian came home for Christmas vacation, I was on top of the world as the proud owner of three laptops. Life was wonderful, or so I thought. The laptop high, the ability to access any bit of information on the Internet without regard to time and space, was thoroughly intoxicating in ways that words cannot express.

That’s also when my world started to come crashing down around me. Over the next nine months, all three laptops would die a violent death via damaged motherboards. First, Brian’s laptop, the essential element of his college learning life, died suddenly. This was followed in short order by my own personal laptop, as well as the first dinosaur I bought, both passing away unceremoniously under similarly suspicious circumstances.

They are all dead now. They are gone. There hasn’t been a working laptop in the house since the end of September. At first, the separation was torturous. You could find me on successive nights sitting in front of the television, or on the back porch, fingers vigorously typing on my upper knees, just where a laptop should have been but wasn’t. When would I be able to let go?

I turned the corner around Christmastime. Instead of coming home from work and immediately retreating to the security and comfort of the laptop, I slowly discovered a whole new world waiting for me. I got to know my family better. For example, I learned that Brian had left on a mission in August, and now was teaching the gospel in Spanish to the residents of North Carolina! Exciting! Deon had been running a home business for over a year! Who knew!

Now I realize that I have been set free- free to partake of the world around me, a world that didn’t exist when I was chained to mobile computing. It’s a liberating feeling. I am free to come home from work and kick the cat or argue with Leslie about homework. Sunsets are more beautiful; Hannah Montana episodes are funnier; and I savor every glorious bite of Deon’s chicken and cheese enchiladas instead of wolfing them down to find more time to surf the net for free downloads to render the laptop even more functional than it already was.

The most fortuitous benefit of symbolically surgically removing a computer from the tops of my thighs is that I am forced to write in my head. I’m not going to embarrass myself by revealing how much commuting time was consumed thinking about this blog post; lets just say I’ve developed an enhanced capability to entertain myself, and the drive home seems to fly by quicker than it used to be.

Will I ever introduce another laptop into my life? Probably. But this time, I’ll be ready. I will use the laptop only for good. This time, I will be the ruler and the laptop will serve me, instead of the other way around.

P.S…. I’m hunting for a lightweight, AMD Athlon dual core 12-inch notebook with at least two gigs of memory for around $1,000.

1 comment:

  1. HP Pavilion Notebook 2.10GHz, 250GB HD, 12.1" LCD - $999.00
    -Sam's Club