Screenshot from HBO's magnificent "Band of Brothers."

So there’s a note on the door: the Airborne Express delivery person had come by, but no one was here, so, later dude. That was it - no information about where I could get the item today. Nothing about when it might come tomorrow.

My Greatest Nightmare: the computer arrived when I was in the shower.

I called the number on the note, punched in my zip. They asked for the airbill number, and I read off the squiggles. “That’s not a valid number,” said the clerk. Oh. Well. Would you like me to repeat it and add a random number, or just make up a sequence for the hell of it? “I can’t track the package without a number,” she explained. Oh. Well. We’re screwed, then, eh? Have a nice day!

There was one thing she could do. Apparently airbill # wasn’t the only way to track my package. She could try my name. Man, the things they’re doing with computers these days. She said she’d try to find the driver, and have him return. Two hours later I called the number again, and talked to the same nice helpful lady; she told me that the driver hadn’t returned the page, but she’d try again.

While I was on hold the driver appeared on the porch with my computer.

She came back, said she couldn’t page the driver. No prob - while I was on hold he’d come and gone. She apologized for the delay, but I thought: only in America. In Soviet Russia people waited 12 years for a phone. I got my box in two hours. What a country!

I hauled the box upstairs, drew a deep sigh . . . and went to work. And after work I went to Target. And the grocery store. Then I made dinner. Then I played with Gnat. I’m putting this off, I thought. Why? Because I don’t want to sully it. Because I don’t want to ruin its pure aluminum perfection. Let’s be honest: as good as your computer habits may be, eventually they all feel like the backseat of an AMC Hornet driven by a fast-food-addict chain-smoking college student. I’m somewhat of a packrat when it comes to computers - everything’s in its place, but I can’t throw anything away. Two, three times a year I archive stuff on DVDs, but I can’t quite bring myself to take them off the hard drive. Or the backup drive. Or the backup backup drive. I was digitizing some video the other day, and I ran out of disk space - over 120GB of space, and I had not a spare sector for a few mere minutes of video. The new computer has a hard disk equal in size to the entire amount of storage space available to PC users in Minneapolis c. 1983 - and I’m sure I’ll cram it up in six month’s time. It’s pathetic; it really is.


Okay, I hooked it up. A few observations:

1. It’s, uhm, fast. It’s Igor fast. And by that I mean: remember “Young Frankenstein”? Remember how Gene Wilder would call for Igor, and look to the right, and before he’d finished saying “I-” Marty Feldman would appear to his left? That’s how fast it is. I remember when I got my 733 in 2000 - whoohoo, it would summon SimpleText in a second. Fine, yeah, great. That was then. This machine calls up Photoshop as quickly as the 733 hauled up a basic word processor. Bing! Okay, let’s try the web browser - bing! Desire contemporaneous with fulfillment. This is what computing should be: like a light switch. No one hits a switch with the expectation that it will take 39 seconds for the socket to load your lumen preferences and initialize the filament; you expect that the act of flicking the switch turns the light on. And so it is with dual processor 64-bit processor G5 Macs! Hah hah! (Yes, I know the programs I’m using do not employ the potential of the 64-bit processor, but it’s fun to fling that around. Oh, you’re still processing 32 bits? Pity.)

2. It’s silent. It's nanosecond-before-the-big-bang silent. My EVO computer at work sighs like Gore in a debate; feed it a CD and it spins up until you remove the disk. Noisy as Isabel. My old 733 had a constant muted fan noise, but you get used to that. But this G5 - this is something else. It’s just not there. It has five fans, and I can’t hear one of them. It was unnerving at first - dude! where’s my ambient white noise? You realize that you’ve been trained to expect noise; it’s just one of those attributes of computing to which you became accustomed long ago, just as once you saw the dialog box that informed you AOL was downloading new art, and realized you could do nothing with your machine, or phone line, for the next half hour. Sigh; get a cup of coffee and a magazine.

No one could sell a computer nowadays by pointing out that it’s quieter than other computers; people wouldn’t get it, because computers are not inordinately loud for the most part. But once you have a dead-silent mute brick machine, your previous machines suddenly seem like howler monkeys.

3. No AppleWorks. This is interesting. I cannot find the AppleWorks suite on the hard drive - perhaps because, you know, it isn’t there. But there is a Microsoft Word Office Test Drive. Que? I’m guessing that Apple anticipates the end of Office for the Mac, and is content to let everyone adopt that as a standard, and if MS drops OSX support, Apple will whip out something new that accommodates Office, and surpasses it. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate Office for the Mac; I have a legit copy, which I duly installed. But halfway through the installation I noted the WARNINGS on the box - if I had a Test Drive version on my machine, I should disinstall it NOW before I installed the real thing.

And so it came to pass that within an hour of turning on my new magnificent computer, I was already dealing with Microsoft wizards. It’s like converting to Zoroastrian religion and spending fifteen minutes filling out forms the Catholic Church requires you to sign and initial here . . .and here . . .annnnnd here. And here again.

4. We have house guests, and I’m banging this out in the brief space between husband / father / host duties, so I have to go. And since the new machine isn’t set up for everything, I’m doing this from the laptop via hardwires into an unoccupied wall plug. Better bleatage tomorrow, I promise.

Hey! Here’s a matchbook!

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