I came home looking very smug tonight.
“I bought a computer today!” I announced over the dinner table.
Mark looked up sharply.
“You mean, you saw one you liked on the internet?! he queried, cautiously.
“No.” I said triumphantly. “I mean I walked into a computer shop and bought one!”
Mark’s eyes widened in consternation. “How?! What?! “ he started “How did you know what to choose? You didn’t do it on colour, did you?”
“No!” I said, indignantly. “It’s plain black. I know colour isn’t the most important thing!”
“So, what is the most important thing?” questioned Mark, testingly.
“The most important thing is that it does its job properly.” I said, demurely.
In fairness, Mark has every right to be nervous. What I know about computers you could write on a micro chip, and still have room to jot down directions to the nearest computer shop. Which is pretty much where I went. My little notebook has been dying of exhaustion, and I knew the time had come to move on when I came in on a morning and switched it on, and then went to make a cup of tea and check the mail while it agonized about whether it could face another day. When I came back yesterday after a full half hour to find it was still undecided whether to start at all, I knew I had to act.
So I marched into the computer store, and made purposefully for the nearest bank of computers. I hadn’t quite reached them before a salesman accosted me.
“Hi there! Can I help?” he said, inevitably.
“I hope so,” I said briskly. “My notebook has died, and I want something else. I don’t know what I want. Something a bit bigger, maybe, and it has to be fast, fast, fast!”
I snapped my fingers to show how fast it had to be, and looked at him expectantly. He stood there smiling.
Eventually, he said: “I’ll just go and get Bob”.
“Hi there! Can I help?” he said, Matrix-like. I felt an itching at the base of my skull, and chose to ignore it, for the time being.
“Yes, I hope so” I said, and repeated myself, very patiently. He started to lead me closer to the promising bank of computers.
Then, upon a thought, I added: “And it needs to be Windows XP Professional.”
I don’t know what that means, but it is something that my IT team warned me that I always had to say if I ever went anywhere near a computer shop.
As if stung, he wheeled away from the rows of computers, and started leading me towards his desk, as if for interrogation. Unclear what I had done wrong, to disqualify myself from the lovely shiny new computers, I followed him reluctantly, looking slighty wistfully and pointedly over my shoulder.
He sat me down, and fired up his own computer.
“Why can’t we go and look at those ones?” I said, pointing.
“They are all Windows 7” he said. “It’s been out for a couple of weeks now. We don’t stock any which don’t have it on any more.”
“That’s helpful,” I said. “So what can I have?”
He brought up a page of tiny little images of laptop computers on the screen before him.
“We can order these ones,” he said, encouragingly.
“That’s good,” I said doubtfully, checking my watch and noting that I had been in the shop for a full ten minutes without making any progress whatsoever.
I peered uncertainly at the screen. “So what do we have here, then?”
He opened his mouth and spoke words. They sounded like English, but I couldn’t be sure. They meant nothing to me at all.
“Whoa!” I said “You’ll have to slow down with me a bit. I do word-processing. I have no idea how it works. That’s the extent of my knowledge – I’ll need you to explain things a bit more carefully.”
“Well,” he said, slowly, as if I had just revealed that I had had a full frontal lobotomy, “How should I explain it? What do you know best?”
I didn’t even know how to answer that question, and while I was thinking what it could possibly mean, he expanded:
I had no idea where this was going, but I thought I would go along with it.
“Horses!” I said brightly. “I know a lot about those.”
He looked crestfallen.
“Cars and houses are pretty much all I do,” he said, “I don’t really know about horses.”
“Let’s try the cars and houses then, “ I said, trying to ignore the itching.
“So,” he said, swinging into what was obviously well worn patter, “The computer machine itself is like the chassis. The operating system is like the engine. The memory is like the rooms in the house where you can store things.”
He beamed at me like he had solved World Peace.
I wasn’t sure how much further this had taken us.
“OK,” I said, fighting frustration valiantly, “So – why would I want one of these machines more than another? What’s good about them?”
“Well,” he said, “Some are better quality than others. But that depends on what you mean by quality!”
He smiled encouragingly. I gripped the table, and tried very hard to see anything meaningful in the tiny images in front of me.
“It’s very hard,” I said, “To choose between them when they are so small. Is there anything similar in the shop that I can look at?”
“Maybe,” He said. “Which one did you like?”
“Well – we appear to be at the cheapest end of the list here, “ I said. “Is there a reason for that?”
“I assumed that’s what you would want.” he answered simply. “Most people do.”
“Well, I don’t have a budget as such.” I said. “It will probably come off my tax, and I am more interested in something that does the job properly.”
“We could go and look at some”, he said, not moving.
“Great idea!” I said, moving.
We went and looked at some.
“This one is an ACER.” He said. “It is smaller than the one on the screen, and it doesn’t have the same processor or memory.”
“So why are we looking at it?” I asked, really losing the plot.
“You said you wanted to?” he answered, equally baffled.
I took a very deep breath, and smiled winningly.
“Here I am.” I said, encouragingly; “A woman without a budget. Who doesn’t know what she wants.”
“Would you like a bag?” he asked, sweetly.
“Shall we sort out the computer to go in it first?” I answered, through gritted teeth.
It took time. Lots of time. It took more patience than I had, but somehow, I emerged, way later, with a new computer. Well – not actually with it – it has to be ordered, and things have to be done to it – but definitely the legal owner of a new computer. I think. We’ll see. I should have just chosen a pink one and be done with it.