Monday, 30 April 2007

"Home Office Collapse" published April 29

You read about it happening, but it’ll never happen to you. It was a Friday, I had just finished writing 75,000 words. A project which had taken me six months, a few counselling sessions and a great deal of recovered memory to finish. I felt strangely deflated at the longed for moment of completion. If only I knew that melancholic mood was a sign.
I set up the computer to print the bugger out. Loaded it up with reams of A4 and wandered into the kitchen to make a celebratory cup of coffee and ponder my newfound freedom. Never again would I need to find time for “the book.”
Back in my home office I glanced briefly at the printer which was happily spewing out completely blank sheets of paper where printed ones should be like some moronic computerised half wit. It had ink. It had died, on page 25. I bought the printer three years ago. I guess it was time.
I returned to my laptop to cancel the print job and experienced a premonition of impending home office disaster. Something to do with the words “three years” and a long overused phrase “planned obsolescence”. I panicked and began to back up. One would hate to lose those 75,000 words. You read about it happening all the time.
At 11.30 am that Friday morning my laptop crashed, hard drive melted, computer dead right in the middle of the back up. It’s amazing how quickly you can find that 0800 helpline number in times of crisis. It’s also amazing how quickly they tell you there is nothing they can do, in times of crisis.
By midday on that Friday my home office had died on me, and gone were those precious 75,000 words, apart from pages 1 to 25 which sat in the printer tray looking very pleased with themselves.
I retrieved my precious pages and reached for the hole punch so that I could at least place them in the brand new folder I had purchased to be the honoured recipient of the intended 119 pages. I just needed to be sure I had them safely filed away. The little green hole punch I bought three years ago, along with my computer and printer to set up my home office, made a mouse-like squeak and refused to punch. There was nothing to do except sit on the floor and summon every swear word that had ever found its way into my brain as well as a few I made up on the spot. For a moment I pondered the possibility that a poltergeist had entered the room and at any moment the lights would start flickering on and off. Would my portable telephone start flying around the room and repeatedly bang me on the head while the green stapler gunned me down?
And then I just cried. As I sat there dripping tears onto pages one through 25 I realised that I really wasn’t surprised that in factories all over the world laptops, printers, hole punches, telephones and staplers were being manufactured to give up the ghost at age three.
I regularly visit our caravan which was built in 1968, when they made things to last. It doesn’t leak, rust or collapse. The fridge clatters into action as it has done for the past 39 years as does the gas stove. The house I live in which is about to turn 100 and doesn’t leak or rot will no doubt still be standing in another 100 years if a property developer doesn’t bowl it over.
And then I just got angry at our acceptance of the sheer stupidity of planned obsolescence which while it helped end the depression in 1932 by creating jobs, has since meant that everything we buy will die, sooner rather than later.
My laptop recently returned home with a new hard drive, only after I had to endure the humiliation of telling the technician my password was “bigdick.” And my printer is still in “isolation.” When I asked what “isolation” meant it turns out it’s another way of saying the technician hasn’t got around to looking at it yet.
Meanwhile my 75,000 words were found by my husband at 1.30pm on that fateful Friday afternoon. Every one of those little darlings sitting in his Gmail account where I had sent them. Gmail is a web based email service which never downloads to a hard drive, it just exists in the internet ether. So in the end my book was preserved not on a hard drive or on 119 pieces of A4 paper. It sat, safe and sound in nothing but thin air.

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