Christmas is not my favorite time of year, I’ll admit. Essentially, it’s just another cold day, in a string of many. Technology can make it a little better, in the way of a relaxing movie, or a lot worse, as in equipment that doesn’t work.

Having been abandoned for the holidays, I intended to work late into each night on my current book project, enjoying some of the wee-hours productivity that bachelorhood once enabled me to achieve. Thursday night I stayed up late, trying to finish a column so I could spend the rest of the week on history, but finally I decided to wrap it up in the morning.

Before I even had coffee on Friday (which many of the rest of you thought of as Christmas Eve), I pushed the start button on the 2012 MacBook Pro that Our Favorite Millennial gave me for funding her summer in Paris. When the startup bar was almost full, the screen went black. Numerous repetitions only yielded the same result. Tuesday’s column was imprisoned in an unresponsive computer, along with the book manuscript — which, I was later surprised to find, I last backed up in August.

Worse still, I was unable to even complain to anyone about it. There was no one here but me, and my communication options were all hampered. My 1999 clamshell iBook still works but has been incapable of email since we gave up dial-up service. I couldn’t use my wife’s computer because she recently changed the PIN number on it, and she was somewhere along the Amtrak corridor between Boston and Denver. She now has a cellphone, which should have made it easier to reach her. Unfortunately, last week she exchanged our old receiver-in-the-cradle landline for something that looks and acts suspiciously like a cellphone.

Before she left she showed me how to make a call, but she forgot to show me how to turn it on. Amid considerable fumbling I accidentally hit what must be the start button and tried to call her on the train, but her phone was off. I left a message, then tried my hand at texting. When I finally found that function, I kept hitting the wrong letters on the microscopic keypad. It took forever to compose the text — especially since I couldn’t see an apostrophe, so I couldn’t use contractions. When I sent it, it popped up on the very phone I was using, evidently because I had sent it to myself. If these phones were really “smart,” they would know that no one sends a text to himself. Well, maybe Jussie Smollett would send himself a hate-mail text.

Answering a call is harder. Touch the phone icon and swipe, she told me during her farewell tutorial, and to give me practice she called our home number from her cellphone. No matter how much I swiped, pounded on and swore at the icon, the phone kept ringing. Our Favorite Millennial said it was because I’m so old the skin on my fingertips is too dry. Isn’t she precious? Any Yankee knows how to fix dry skin, however, and I left an open can of Bag Balm beside the phone. When my wife finally called back, I was so anxious to answer that I left a gob of Bag Balm on the phone the size of a road apple, which I promptly stuck in my mouth when I said “Hello.”

After I stopped spitting and sputtering, she gave me the PIN number. Then I realized that having access to her computer didn’t solve my problem. I couldn’t remember how the column started, let alone replicate it, and if my laptop can’t be resuscitated, that column is gone forever. So is five months of work on the book (you big dummy).

At last I decided to just start a new column, and hope for a Christmas miracle on the laptop. By then it was mid-afternoon, so first I made that long-overdue coffee. While it brewed, I stood at the stove rubbing my chin with thumb and forefinger, ruminating on Christmases past that were far worse than this one — and noticing how soft Bag Balm had made one side of my beard.

William Marvel lives in Center Conway.

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(1) comment


"Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated" - Confucius

Take techno-gadgets, for example.

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