Monday, May 30, 2022

Computer Supply

For several years now, since before the COVID lockdowns, sometime after midnight and almost everyday I've been going to the coffee shop, sitting outside on their terrace with a box of their $2 pancakes and my computer. I'd listen to music, watch movies and videos, read novels from the Internet Library. There would be constant traffic, the people who live on the streets passing through the terrace on the way to dig into the restaurant garbage cans, many of them asking me for money or if they could have my pancakes (when asked directly like that I complied, I didn't really want them anyway, they were something to order). Every degree of human destitution would in the coming hours be on display on the terrace: the drug addict, the alcoholic, the schizophrenic, the demented. They'd come and go. They'd dance, they'd jerk, they'd mumble, they'd twitch. Some would scream. Some would lay out of the terrace pavement their finds that night dug out from the garbage, offer to sell me this or that, which merchandise would at times alarmingly be conveyed by a filthy hand into my line of sight betwen my face and the computer screen. All was well, if that was well, until the beginning of this year. I noticed little things disappearing from my bag. A cheap broken watch, things like that. A few times I found myself looking up from my computer to be looking in the eyes of one the regulars, bending down to get a good look at my face. This particular habituĂ© was distinguished by his mechanical skill building luggage-carrying contraptions out of abandoned baby carriages and bikes he stole. I finally got the message: I was getting hypnotized by the pulsing of the screen and late hours, dozing off for a few minutes. I resolved to be vigilant. But apparently that was beyond me, because a couple nights later a song was over and I sit up to find my computer was gone, headphone jack disconnected. This is mildly disturbing. I have to change all my passwords. But this was not the war in Ukraine (my constant viewing these days). I buy a 7 year old Chromebook for 40 dollars, and the next evening I am back at my usual table ready for battle. But vigilence fails, I look up from the screen to see a tall hooded masked man with sunglasses with both his hand gripping the top of the computer screen. No! I shout, and take a grip on the sides of the screen. The masked and hooded apparition about faces and scurries away. You'd think I'd learn my lesson by this point. But just a couple nights later song over, I sit up, and computer is gone again! This time I admit I am more than a little disturbed. Not by the company I'm keeping, but by embarrassment I know I'm going to feel at having to tell this story. Am I really this stupid or do I really not care? I console myself that I can't go 6 months without drowning my computer in spilled coffee, and don't forget I find a lot of money riding my bike to the coffee shop so in a strict financial accounting I am still way ahead. I replace the computer in a couple days with a ten year old MacBook Air, thinking that if I have some respect for the computer I will better keep my eyes on it. The next skirmish comes three days later, when I look up and, yes, the computer is still there, but not my backpack with charger and all kinds of necessary things in it. I realize that now my inventory of earthly possessions comes down to: (1) bike (2) computer (no charger). With no bag bike transport involves tucking the solid metal MacBook under my sweater, for all the world like a bulletproof vest and I'm actually in Ukraine. That is a little funny. Next day I bought a backpack from a second hand shop and charger from computer repair. The next night wifi is off at the coffee shop. I decide to fortify myself with strong coffee, sit up strait, and wait and watch. And what do you think I see, or should I say, what have I done? Like in a nightmare or a zombie movie a convocation of the destitute is in progress, every ten or fifteen minutes another coming down the two streets (the coffee shop is on a corner) not in  the normal traffic pattern towards the trash cans or the restaurant doors but angling directly at me, coming to examine the state of my vigilance, me the supplier of free computers to the community and other valuable commodities.

Further Reading: