You Did… What… to Your Keyboard?

I wore it out.

Yesterday was a marathon. I wrote for at least eight hours straight. Revised and added new material spanning 23 pages. I closed the computer, watched Gladiator and sewed spats, and then went to bed.

This morning, I woke up, turned on my computer, and my password wouldn’t work. I was locked out.

It took many tries before I realized what the problem was. My “n” key wasn’t working.

Finally I got in, and realized that it wasn’t just “n.” It was “a,” “b,” “n,” both “shifts,” and “enter.” You could make them work a little bit if you rolled your finger back and forth on the key for several seconds at a time, but even that wasn’t predictable.

Clearly this was not an acceptable state of affairs. So I packed my computer and headed to Best Buy, its point of origin, hoping that there was just something stuck under the keys (You know, those things that creep around getting stuck under keys at 2 am when the computer is shut.)

The Geek Squad, unfortunately, couldn’t do a thing for me, but did point me down the road to the best computer repair shop in town, the Bad Apple.

I pulled up in front of the Bad Apple and got out… but there was a sign on the door. Today, it said, the good people of the Bad Apple were taking a special lunch break and would be back at 3 pm. It was 2:30.

So I got back in my car and sat in the heat, sweating in my black Blind Guardian t-shirt, intermittently reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and texting my best friend morosely.

There was a line when the employees returned. One extremely talkative woman dropped her computer off and, while they ran diagnostics, sat there cheerfully, greeting everyone who came in, asking them, out of curiosity, what was wrong with THEIR computer?

It made me wonder if folks ever do that in the hospital–you know, cheerfully discuss and compare maladies just because, after all, everyone who’s there has got one. Common ground, you know.

Eventually it was my turn. I gave them my computer, wrote down all my passwords, and explained what was going on.

“We’ve got a two week wait list on PCs right now,” said the repair man. (I have gained a new respect for computer repairmen. Handling people stressed out about their damaged electronics has got to go on the list of most-unpleasant-jobs-ever.)

“I’m a writer,” I said. “I can’t just leave it here for two weeks.”

“You could leave it here for a day for a free diagnostic.”

I liked the sound of “free,” but I’d driven over an hour to get there and said so.

By now, our conversation had reached the ears of someone in the back, someone who had the authority to open up my computer then and there. “We get a lot of people coming from Oak Harbor and Anacortes,” he explained. “We like to get their stuff back to them the same day, if possible. I’ll open it up right now and see if there’s anything we can do.”

For the next two hours, I introverted quietly in the corner of the repair shop, listening to the loud lady cheerfully inquire about strangers’ computers and strike up conversations with them. I avoided eye contact and eventually went back to my car to get my book. I was developing a massive headache and was in no mood to discuss my computer’s health.

“Oh!” her voice cut across the waiting room a few minutes later. “You’re reading Harry Potter! Those are my favorites; I’ve read them like twelve times. I keep telling people they need to read them, and they say, ‘Oh, those are kids stories.’ My mom, she said, ‘Oh, I don’t like books about magic.’ But they’re about SO much more than magic, aren’t they? Which one are you on?”

She would be a Harry Potter fan.

I was saved by the repairmen–her computer was ready now.

The crowd dwindled, and finally I was the only one left in the corner.

“Erika?”

I got up, somewhat reluctantly, to hear the verdict.

“So, your keyboard needs to be replaced. We can order a new one and replace it ourselves, or send you the link and you can just order it and bring it in. It’ll cost about $60 to replace.”

“All right…”

At this point, the mysterious guy in the back who’d been performing surgery on my laptop came up to the desk. He had a beard and was wearing a Goonies shirt. I decided I liked him. “You know, I wouldn’t take this apart more than you need to.” He listed off a long litany of the things he’d found, including missing or broken screws and the like.

“What exactly does that mean?”

He shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s wearing out. It’s going to die eventually.”

I laughed. “So… I really should just get an external keyboard and save up for a new computer.”

“That’d probably be best.”

“Well… I appreciate your honesty.”

Sorry I couldn’t give them more business, I left and headed back to Best Buy, where I acquired the cheap USB keyboard I’m typing this post on. It’s ungainly but, hey, I can write on it. And even having to replace the computer soon is not such a big deal. If I do well at my next couple of craft fairs, I should be able to replace it before the end of the year, no problem. Provided the car doesn’t die again, but that’s always a variable.

I should be more upset about my computer’s demise than I am. I think at this point I’m just a little astounded and proud of myself, though.

Because, according to the good fellows at the Bad Apple, my keyboard died from sheer use.

I wrote so much I wore out my computer. 

It actually feels kind of badass.

 

 

On Pursuing the Genuine

A friend and I were texting tonight and laughing about those old journals we kept when we were fourteen or so that we wish we could burn but we kind of can’t because that person was us at one point–or maybe just because the journals were cool and expensive and so shouldn’t be burned.

Just thinking about that person who-used-to-be-me makes me die of embarrassment. We are talking about a teenager who looked for super-long knit dresses at the thrift store because that was what was “cool” at church, who judged everybody on sight and by very narrow standards, who was trying desperately not to grow up in some embarrassing ways. Basically the only thing from those years that doesn’t make me cringe is the part that was the very worst during those years–my deep struggles with faith and what I could believe about God and the world around me.

I think that part isn’t too embarrassing because it was genuine. It was mine and mine only.

At some point I shifted from fierce conformity to fierce individualism. And in the middle of all that was this great, genuine grappling with what I believed, with what really counted in life.

Interesting.

One of my friends posted today about conformity and the value we place on it in conservative circles, that she felt like water, easily taking the shape of every vessel she was poured into. She was not being bitter, but simply reflective about how the very qualities that make one an excellent citizen and family member are also qualities that can make one wonder who, exactly, one is.

I wondered as I read her post, because I was once her, and I am no longer.

Not that I don’t try to conform. I mean, my goodness, even edgy little subcultures have their set of ways that one must dress and behave, and woe to the one who doesn’t! I mean, a goth who doesn’t care for skulls? A girly girl who doesn’t like pink? A geek who doesn’t watch Star Trek? Can such things be? The second you realize that you’re comfortable in a subculture, there’s a pressure to start checking off the boxes you don’t already have checked.

Nevertheless, at some point in my life, I kind of scrapped everything and started rebuilding myself based on what I genuinely believed and genuinely liked. It started with the faith crisis, it continued in college as, you know, I got to choose my major (and chose something I liked) and then got to choose elective classes (Seriously, I was a writing major with an education minor and I took medieval history and choir just for kicks). Then I got a job doing (surprise!) something that I liked. And I have decided that because I feel called there (deep personal beliefs) and because the fact that I enjoy it is more important than the fact that I don’t make much money, I am staying there. On a more day-to-day level, if I like certain music, I will listen to it. If I like a show, I will watch it, provided I don’t have grading to do. (And if it gets canceled I will throw a several-year tantrum.) Life is too short not to do things that are genuine–things I genuinely like, things that genuinely matter to me.

Of course, to make sure I’m being spiritual enough, I should add that it does matter to me that God and I can still talk. If something clearly isn’t helping with that, then it does need to go. But even then, that standard isn’t because someone else is telling me to have it–it’s because that is truly important to me. It is genuine.

Seriously, when taken with a grain of salt, “follow your heart”–as in, base your life on what you genuinely believe and what you genuinely enjoy–is not half bad advice.

Does  come with some snags? You betcha. Such as, you know, a paranoia of disapproval if I mention movies or music I like around people with stricter standards. Or accusations of intolerance if what I genuinely believe about God isn’t in keeping with what’s popular. But whatever you like or believe or feel, there will always be someone who disapproves of it. Always. And if we let that stop us, nothing would ever get done.

If I could go back and tell that horrifyingly awkward fourteen-year-old in those journals one thing, I think it would be an encouragement to be genuine. To only do something because she really wanted to, because she really liked it, because she really believed it. And to value the genuine in herself and others.

“Do you ever think about how much you’ve changed and wonder if you’re even still the same person?” I texted my friend. (I may have been binge-ing Dollhouse and having some deep metaphysical thoughts about personhood.)

“Lol,” he replied. “Hopefully I’m not!”

The more I think about it, the more I don’t think I am. And the more I think about it, the surer I become that that is a truly excellent thing.