“Why don’t you write something about my Mac,” says Number One Husband, setting a plate down close, but not too close, to the computer.
“Your Mac?” I say, waving a fork. “Mmmm, this is good. But I don’t understand. I’m always writing something about my Mac.”
“Not your Mac.” He watches with interest as I dislodge a piece of cheese from between the keys. “My Mac.”
‘But Honey,” I try to break it to him gently. “You don’t have a Mac. You’re an IBM sort of guy.” It’s true. He has a perfectly good Pentium 133 in the living room. It even has a new modem. One of these days I’ll have to make time to show him where to plug it in.
Since computers first entered our lives, much has changed. Like cooking. There was a time when I hustled around the kitchen coming up with 101 variations on Hamburger Helper and Shake & Bake. Now the kitchen’s become a place I pass through on the way to check my email. I’ve almost forgotten how to use the stove.
I pause, fork halfway to my mouth, thinking hard. Too hard. Pasta slips onto the caps lock and slides south. “Aha!” I say, scooping the edge of an envelope between the caps lock and the shift key. “I see!Your Mac!
I’ve got to admit that Dad’s become pretty handy in the kitchen these last few years. Well, it was either that or starve. His mother’s macaroni and cheese, soul food from childhood, is delicious. He does a mean pork roast and a tasty BBQ, too. And his peanut butter-chocolate fudge is legendary.
How did we get to this state? How did Mom turn from a technophobic to a Macaholic? How did Dad, a.k.a. Gene, dip his little toe into DOS and find himself drowning in Windows? How did our new, tastefully planned, empty nest become a quagmire of hardware, software, peripherals, catalogs and boxes? How did Dad become chief cook and-glory be!-bottle washer?
While Gene points to Mom’s Mac mania as the turning point in our lives, I say, let’s blame it on Dad. He may not know how to turn on a Mac, but he’s the one that started us down the path to digital ruin. There was this WordPerfect for DOS class held at his school.
“Why? ” I asked. “Why do you want to spend six weeks wading through DOS?” I’d just spent six years frantically keeping my name off the Apple II rotation list. If it was over my head, what chance did my little special ed-ers have? (Wrong!)
Gene not only took the course, he passed. Worse, he started making ‘join the computer generation’ noises. “A computer!” I was stunned. “But why?” And just as important, ‘where’? Where to put the beast, that is.
This place had been planned, only a couple years before, right down to the last begonia. Everything was in more or less harmonizing shades of blue and green. Didn’t match? Didn’t fit? It was banished to the basement. Could I banish Dad and the beast there, too?
But a good husband is worth any number of begonias, so I started to measure. I measured tables. I measured desks. I measured computers. I haunted Best Buy, ruler in hand, looking for the smallest computer I could find.
Let others sweat the mysteries of RAM and Hard Drives. I was buying my computer by the inch. Guess I forgot that old saying: Give’em an inch and they’ll take a mile.
In the end, like most beginners, we went for cheap. A close-out Laser 386sx25 with 2 Megs ram and an 80 MB hard drive. It was big. And ugly. And scary. But it did have GeoWorks and scalable fonts. I was hooked. This was even better than an electric typewriter with a daisy wheel.
Suddenly, big news! The Performas were coming! By now I knew all about RAM and hard drives. You always need more. And speed. You always want more. I’d had fun with our new Mac lab at school that fall. But what I wanted, what set my heart afire, was a Mac of my own.
Yeah, but what would Gene say? We had a computer already. And the living room was fast disappearing under all the stuff that collected around it. Stuff was even creeping into the dining room and taking over in the kitchen. Gene would not be pleased.
I tried. Really, I did. Day after day I stopped by stores to check out the price and the specs on this Performa or that. Always I left, empty handed and with a sigh.
Then, oh glorious day, the 476 appeared with its 040 chip and its 230 drive. I spent a couple of hours shuffling from foot to foot, checking out the software and playing with the system. The salesmen didn’t have a clue how to load the demo. Not even a password. It was all mine. And I guess we must have bonded, that Mac and me, cause just like a stray dog, it followed me home.
“Uh, Hi Honey,” I mumbled, caught red-handed tugging an oversized box into the bedroom. “I, um, I bought a Mac.” And worth every penny, too. Worth even a few frosty looks from number one spouse.
Suddenly, I could cut and paste. Take screen shots. Make aliases. Move stuff effortlessly between programs. Install without fear. It was perfect. But, as every Mac lover knows, one Mac is never enough. It’s not that you need more. The old Mac is perking along just fine and does every thing you really require. Still…
Grandma’s rocker was the first to go, followed soon after by Great Aunt Harriet’s hutch. While Dad Laser-ed away in the living room, Mom Mac-ed it up in the back. I spent every evening on a creative binge, previewing software and making personalized projects for my little guys. I really needed a faster printer to get it all done by midnight. And, Gee, sure would be nice to have a second Mac for that second printer. I’d churn out twice the stuff in half the time.
But where to put it? What had once been the master bedroom, complete with king-sized bed and a bay window over looking a little lake, was now a jumble of desks, disks, Zips, QuickCams and external hard drives. Hardly an inch to spare. Out came the yardstick. Voila! The only thing standing between me and Computer Heaven was the bed. There was only one thing to do. I sold the bed.
Those first Macs have, by now, found their way to my classroom to serve as a mini Mac lab for the kids. Faster Macs have taken their place in the ‘Mac Room’ and the living room Laser has given way to a Pentium. Face it. We’re full up. Stuffed. I’d almost forgotten that old Mac craving in the pit of my stomach.
Then, as I was surfing the Net one evening in May, I clicked on a new word: ‘iMac’. Without warning, I was transported over the rainbow to Apple’s Home Page. And there it was, spinning in cyberspace, the most luscious Apple I’d ever seen. Teal blue and tiny. With an iridescent glow.
I wanted to stroke it. I wanted to hold it. I wanted to… Oh no! I wanted to own it. I felt that old Apple urge growing inside me. Kinda like being licked all over by a warm, wiggly puppy.
“Hold everything!” I said. “Stop right there! You haven’t the space, the need nor the wherewithal.” Be strong, Susan. Fight this mad Mac addiction. Think tough! Think Gene!”
“But,” I argue, “it’s so cute. It’s so fast. It’s so just the right size.” And the clincher. “It’s Blue!!! Finally. Something that fits the decor.”
That does it. Mac Attack in full swing! A jellyfish feeling starts at the toes and works its way up and over the brain, dissolving grey matter and inhibitions willy nilly. There is only one thing to do.
“Honey,” I say. “I sold the stove.”