I had no clue where the blaring siren was emanating from or what danger it was trying to warn me about but, judging by the noise level, it was obviously something drastic. Panicked, I ran through the house trying to track its location, finally discovering that it was coming from the computer. The S.O.S. on the screen read: "WARNING! FAN FAILURE! SHUT DOWN AND HAVE SERVICED IMMEDIATELY!"
I instantly pressed the power button to Off. That was on Sunday afternoon. First thing on Monday morning, as soon as they opened, I took it down to Visionary Web. The woman there said it might take a few days to fix it....if it could be fixed. She said he would have to take a look and make a diagnosis. I didn't know who He was but I thought about him in roughly the same way I thought about Dr. Robert after my Dad had his heart attack. The All-Powerful who had my loved one's life in his hands.
My computer is old and faded. I bought it during one of my lowest financial points. It was the cheapest they had at Walmart. It has always done everything I've ever asked of it, never complaining about the clouds of smoke that swirl constantly about its face, never holding it against me when I spilled coffee on its mouse or crumbs into its keyboard. It has held my manuscripts and photos and music downloads with tender, loving care. I love my computer. We are a lot alike. We're getting old but we both keep plugging along. It is one of the least elite of computers; I am one of the least elite of computer users. Many times, it has patiently waited, enduring my curses, as I fiddled and fumbled trying to figure out how to download software or install a program or upload a picture, getting it wrong before I got it right.
While it was in the hospital, I got out my laptop, a much newer computer than the desk top. I hate my laptop. I especially hate the keyboard. I can type about a thousand words a minute on the regular keyboard but I have to resort to hunt and peck on the laptop keyboard. The keys are too close together. There must be a secret "Vanish" key on the laptop keyboard because I'm always sending my Word document or website off into cyberspace without knowing how it happened. Or the cursor mysteriously moves itself to the paragraph above where it was so my words are inserted in the wrong place. Or it creates a new paragraph where I don't want one to be or changes the margins at its own whim. Or I can be right in the middle of reading an interesting article on NASCAR.com when it suddenly shoots me off to a new screen about the history of motor oil.
And I can never quite figure how the cursor pad and buttons equate to a mouse. Or why I have to sign in to Google (which I can never remember my Google password) before I can access my Favorites. Or how to hook the laptop up to a printer.
Anyway, I never quite appreciated how much of a friend my old computer really was, especially in the mornings. My days start with the computer and cigarettes and coffee and silence. Reading my e-mail, catching up on Facebook, roaming through the NASCAR sites, writing on a manuscript. There was a huge gap when I had to do all these things with the laptop, which seemed to enjoy being as uncooperative as possible.
By Friday, I was beside myself. I thought Monday through Friday consisted of "a few days" and I didn't want to go into a long weekend without the computer. So, I called. It seemed they'd been trying to get a'hold of me but called my office where I wasn't, to leave a voice mail asking my permission to run an intensive scan.
"Yes, yes, whatever it takes," I said, "but please, please, try to have it done before the weekend."
They did and it was. I brought it home Friday evening at about 6:00 p.m. Turned out, the only thing wrong was that it was filthy inside. The fan blades were so covered with dirt and dust, they couldn't go around. Besides cleaning out the physical dirt, He also cleaned out old files and registry errors and checked for viruses.
I brought it home. Hooked it up. It has a new lease on life. It's faster than before with all the crud cleaned out of both its innards and its memory. I typed some just for the sake of typing. My fingers flew, hitting only the correct keys. I checked out all my Favorites, just because I could.
I patted it. "I'm so glad to have you home."
"So, are you going to quit smoking in my face?" it asked.
"No," I replied, "but I might not wait until you are on the critical list before I take you for a check up next time."
I thought I heard it sigh but I could have just imagined it.