By Susan Reimer
The Baltimore Sun
I was complaining about moving files and pictures and stuff from my old computer to my new laptop – the electronic equivalent of your parents moving out of the family home and into a condo – when one of my friends offered this commiseration.
“Yeah. It’s like having two men and not being able to remember which one you did what with.”
That’s me, I thought. The microprocessor version of HBO’s Big Love.
I have this fresh, young, streamlined laptop that can go like mad and restart in seconds. And I also have this dusty, old tower that makes noise when it starts up and stops dead if you ask it to do anything.
This must be how Bill Paxton feels with his multiple TV wives.
I have tremendous affection for my old computer. It contains all the Christmas letters I have written, hundreds of pictures of my kids and the records of how I have spent my money for a decade or more.
It has been with me from dial-up to cable to wireless and it has survived at least two power outages.
What more could I ask?
But this new laptop – well, it doesn’t have any baggage. It offers me a fresh start.
A thin, lightweight fresh start.
Importing data from my old computer to my new computer seems like bringing all your mistakes and your stupid decisions with you into a new relationship so you can be sure to repeat them.
This new computer is a clean slate, a way for me to reinvent myself as the uncluttered person I would like to be. And since laptops cost about half-a-grand a pop, I am not going to get too many chances to do that.
But I have to be careful around this new computer. I have to be coy about how old I am. New computers can make women of a certain age feel that age. They can make you feel like your brain is encrusted and you can’t learn anything new.
New computers can also make your twenty-something son’s friend, who is doing you a huge favor by just installing the backup hard drive, look at you with withering impatience.
You thought he thought you were one of the cool moms, but you can see now that he thinks you are as thick-headed and annoying as his own mother.
This new laptop has so many bells and whistles, I am afraid to shut it down for fear I might drain its memory like a bathtub full of cloudy water.
In addition to “shut down,” it has a “sleep” mode and a “hibernate” mode. I am not making this up, and I don’t know what the difference is among the three.
If I am going to the grocery store, do I put it to sleep?
If I am going away for the weekend, do I put it in “hibernate?”
If I am going to tour Europe with my new, slim man and his uncluttered mind, do I turn it off?
Can I turn this new machine off? Its keyboard lights are always on, if you know what I mean.
And, while we are on the topic, why doesn’t it have “sleep six hours and then wake up in the middle of the night and, unable to get back to sleep, might as well check your email” mode? I mean, it has everything else.
Humans were meant to be monogamous, in terms of computers. You can have one at home and one at work (the office wife?), but it is no good having two at home.
You start out determined to use each home computer for its strength – one for record-keeping and the other for mobility – but pretty soon you are just using the new, youthful computer, and you can’t remember what you ever used the old one for.
I am pretty sure that’s why bigamy, not to mention polygamy, is illegal. It is just never going to work out. Things are never going to be the same for Big Love’s first wife, Jeanne Tripplehorn, after second wife, Chloe Sevigny, moves in.
One thing I do think about, though.
My old computer is plugged into a wall socket, and it hasn’t moved in all these years. It is slow and clunky, but it is there every day when I get home from work.
That pretty little laptop? Somebody could steal it out of my car in a minute.