Something disturbing happened the other day. My laptop started requiring constant plugging in. I figured the battery was starting to go—it is several years old now. Since time is the ultimate commodity in short supply, I made a weekend appointment with a genius at the local Apple store, which really isn’t that local. I drove out on a rainy Saturday afternoon to get the battery replaced. That’s not the disturbing part. Neither is the fact that so many people were flocking around in an Apple store without wearing masks (although that does count as disturbing in it’s own right). As I sat there watching the giant projection of devices I should consider buying, my daughter mentioned to me how like a dystopia it was: being subjected to advertising aimed at purchasing something you’re in to have repaired. That wasn’t really the disturbing part, either.
No, what was disturbing occurred when our genius told me I would need to leave my laptop there for three-to-five days for it to be repaired. I use my laptop daily and extensively each day. I have no spare and I post daily on this blog. (Those times when a post doesn’t appear it’s because I think I’ve hit the “publish” button but I haven’t. That happened to me again recently and I only discovered days later that WordPress was listing it as a draft. Sure enough, I’d gotten so busy I’d not click “publish”—which happens, ironically, mostly on weekends.) I was hit with panic. Could I live for three days, up to a week, without my laptop? No email. No blog. No ubiquitous Zoom meetings outside of work?
Even before the pandemic the internet had become my lifeline to the larger world. And the thing is I’m sending my thoughts out like a Pioneer probe to that outer space of the web, not sure if anyone will intersect with it and understand the gold-plated plaque within. At least I hope it’s gold-plated. I’ve been blogging here since 2009, at least one laptop ago (or perhaps two). I’ve posted over 4,500 times. What would happen if the earth went through the tail of a comet and wiped out all this electronic data? Would there be anything left at all? That’s the part I found disturbing. My ambivalence about technology doesn’t mean I’m not addicted to it. I was spared an immediate crisis since the genius at the bar told me the battery (being such an old model) was out of stock and would take a few days to arrive. Meanwhile I could continue to live in my virtual world as normal.