Tim Dowling: the new life of my laptop put me in a stew | Life and style


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Three years ago I bought a laptop, a few days before I flew to America, because the old iPad that I had long used to work away from home had died.

Compared to other tech in my life, this laptop was like something from the future. I am not an early adopter. After my phone was stolen from a train, I went in search of the least desirable model to buy: refurbished, obsolete, not recommended.

“Also, rose gold,” I would say, showing people its pink shine. “I could leave it on the hood of a car overnight and it would still be there in the morning.”

Despite the leap forward that the laptop represented, I never used it except when traveling. Every time I opened it in a motel somewhere, the last thing I had written on it – sometimes several months ago – was always on the screen, reminding me of past trips. I was reading the first paragraph of a column about a fox and a raven fighting in my garden and I thought: ah, Marseille.

Then, last summer, the desktop computer in my office shed expired. My youngest son made it work, but it was so strained by the updated OS that I sometimes had to wait 20 minutes for it to catch up in the morning. One day I put the laptop in front of him and used it instead. Problem solved, I thought.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that if it was raining, I no longer had to walk through the damp garden to sit in a cold shed. I could just work in the kitchen. If the weather was nice, I could work in the hammock. I started walking around the house with the laptop open under my chin, like a teenager. I never look at him.

It’s early evening. My wife and I are watching Part 5 of a disappointing six-part thriller, but I’m also looking at my laptop. When I get up to check out dinner, I take it with me. When I come back, I can just see over the lip of the laptop that my wife is watching her favorite show: a reality show on a luxury yacht piloted by morons.

“Why is it on? ” I say.

“You’ve been gone ages,” my wife said, returning to the thriller. “Either way, you are on your laptop.”

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“I can do two things at the same time,” I say, thinking: in fact, I can do seven things at the same time. I can check my emails, Twitter, my other emails, the latest headlines, tomorrow’s weather forecast, and today’s Covid case numbers, while watching this thriller on …

I point to the TV. “Who is she?” I say.

“The victim’s mother,” my wife said.

“She looks like the other one – whose husband had the affair,” I said.

“Not if you’re careful, she doesn’t,” my wife said.

“I’m careful,” I say. “Can you quickly remind me of everything that’s happened so far?” “

“I’m hungry,” my wife says.

Dinner is a stew I’ve been making since 5 p.m., reading the recipe on my laptop while simultaneously watching live updates from a vote in parliament, and also monitoring various metrics that accurately gauge success or the failure of my career in real time.

“It’s almost over,” I tell my wife.

“I’m going to pause this, if you like,” my wife said, pressing pause.

“Alright,” I say, getting up, with my laptop.

I call everyone to the kitchen. The stew is supposed to last for several days, but with all three wires present, the pot is empty once everyone is served. As the three of them sit down at the table, I grab my plate and glass of wine and return to the TV, my laptop under my right arm.

Before I reach the door, I can feel the laptop start to slide. I apply more pressure with my elbow, to no avail. As I try to block his fall with my leg, the plate of stew leaves my hand, spinning in the air. On its way, I give it one last accidental kick, sending its contents flying all over the place before it crashes to the ground. The computer lands next to it.

“My laptop!” I scream, in the tone someone could use to cry, “My baby!” Outside a burning nursery. The stew is speckled on the walls to a height of three feet. I search for the remains of my wineglass, only to find I still have it.

“Oh my God,” my wife says as I sit down in front of the TV with what’s left of my dinner: a very distressed baked potato and half a glass of wine.

“No comment,” I said, checking my emails on my pink phone.

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About Michael Brafford

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