You can either make people feel better about themselves, or you can make them feel worse. Some people excel at the former, some at the latter.
About six years my then-desktop-computer was clanking and spluttering its way to the end of its life. My then-computer-engineer broke the bad news and advised me to buy a new one. So I did. For me it was a huge expenditure, but I was so kind of involved with the computer, for email, for surfing the jolly old internet, and for writing my endless bits and pieces that I decided to go ahead. I went to one of those computer warehouse places; some nice lady in a blue suit came out, as if by magic, from wherever she had been lurking, and sold me one.
You see, I know about as much about computers as I do about TVs and cars. To me a TV is a box that lights up and brings me news of the outside world and the occasional half hour of entertainment. I do not know what is inside a television. It runs on electricity, that’s all I know. Similarly, a motor-car is a box with a steering wheel that takes me wherever I need to go and helps me lift and carry a lot of stuff. I would be lost without my car but I have very little idea what’s inside her. She runs on petrol, that’s all I know. And a computer is another box, usually black. I would be lost without it but have no idea what’s inside it. Furthermore, I have very little idea how the programmes it runs are put together. Something to do with zeros and ones. Terribly logical. Not my scene.
So, I was forced to act upon the recommendation of the nice lady in the blue suit. I was at her mercy. The computer cost me a lot of money, but at the end of the day it worked, it looked impressively big and black and shiny, and with any luck it wouldn’t make with the coughing and spluttering for many, many years.
When my then-computer-engineer saw it he stared at it, speechless. Then what I can only describe as a restrained explosion. What did I need such a mega-machine for? Did I have any idea how many mega-whatsits it contained? Why, I could… do this… and that… and… (I can’t even remember what all the this’s and that’s were – probably streaming fifteen movies simultaneously whilst calculating the Meaning of Life). I laughed it off at the time, but I felt really bad about my Computer Blunder, and have continued to feel really bad about it at intervals ever since.
How could I have been so foolish? What would a middle-aged woman want with this (I now discovered) hideously expensive Ferrari of a computer? What would a doddery old dear like me be doing with this Stephen Hawking of a computer, this HAL 9000, this…? Unbeknown to me I had been fooled into purchasing something Albert Einstein might have used, if he’d been born a bit later, and all I needed it for was word-processing, a bit of surfing, a bit of email and some internet purchases. I felt embarrassed. I felt bad.
Recently my now-computer-engineer came and took the humiliating purchase away with him and brought it back with Windows 10 installed. He had apparently rebuilt it. Rebuilding is another one of those mysteries. I was so pleased with his handiwork, so relieved that this was one fearsome task I wouldn’t have to attempt on my own, that I became quite confiding. I told him the story of having bought the computer, and the silly mistake I had made.
He looked at me, aghast. But don’t you see, he said, in buying this computer you have future-proofed yourself. This computer has enough memory to take any programme they are ever likely to invent for it. You will probably never need to buy another one. And then he said:
He was probably jealous.
And in that moment one weight at least fell from my shoulders. I had not accidentally done the wrong thing in purchasing a machine more sophisticated than anyone of my advanced age, inferior gender and limited intellect could possibly have a use for. No, I had accidentally future-proofed myself!
Things don’t go right for me very often. Life’s pleasures are small and increasingly infrequent: but this, I do believe, was one of them.