I shut the door behind me and drag my ass down the hall, the weight of the day and the laptop case heavy on my shoulders. Entering the living room, I let the strap slide from its perch on my shoulder, catching it so the eight-year-old computer it contains only thumps the floor lightly: I might not like the thing anymore, but I need it for a while longer. I discard the rest of my gear on the piano bench when something catches my eye, something that wasn’t there last time I was home 36 hours before.
It’s your average cardboard box, the size and shape of a briefcase. It even has a briefcase style handle on the top. Emblazoned across the side is a single word — Dell — with its distinctive off-set E.
“Hey, my laptop came. It wasn’t supposed to be here until tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” the teen-age boy in the other room says between killing warlocks or zombie-warriors on the screen of the iMac. “Came yesterday.”
I cross the room with more vigor and grab the handle, pick up the box and heft it. Not too heavy: good. I sit down and pull it onto my lap when I notice a piece of tape across the top and read its message: “If tape is tampered with or broken, do not sign bill of sale” (or some such thing). I’m in my forties so remember when this type of message began appearing, first on bottles of Tylenol, then spreading to other medications, food, and now my new computer. Did Dell think someone would sneak poison into my laptop? A little anthrax smeared across the keys? (the disease, not the band) Probably not, but a hazelnut of panic rises into the back of my throat nonetheless.
Maybe they thought someone would replace the nice, big left-side shift key with one of the tiny bastards everyone else uses and a slash key.
My tape is not broken, nor does it appear to have been tampered with, but thieves can be devious, we see it in movies all the time. I tear the tape away, my breathing clipped and shallow, and wrestle the box top open nearly tearing the briefcase-style handle off in the process. Beneath it is more cardboard and that white foam envelope they ship electronics in which barely seems possible it’s foam. That’s all I see. For all I know, there isn’t really a computer in there. The hazelnut grows to peanut-size: not getting the correct shift key would be bad but not getting a computer at all would be worse.
The inside packaging hits the floor as quickly as wrapping paper on Christmas day or my wife’s lingerie after she’s been away performing at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for three weeks (that one’s for you, honey. See you soon.) and I dig the laptop out. The foam-velope flies over my shoulder and the new electronic contraption sits atop my lap, the silvery Dell logo winking at me from the middle of its shiny gray surface. My fingers reach out to open it, a tiny tremble in them, but I pause before I do, take a deep breath, and say my version of a prayer:
“This friggin’ thing better have the proper goddamn shift button.”
I throw caution and emotion to the wind and flip open the laptop’s screen. My eyes go immediately to the left-hand side of the keyboard: tab, caps lock and… and…
I hammer the power button on, a smile spreading across my face, and swallow the little fearful hazelnut for good. Eagerly, with little patience, I rush through the set up. Who cares about the time and date right now, it can be set later. Do I have to register MacAfee immediately? I think not. I agree. Yes. Cancel.
Finally I’m through the Microsoft labyrinth, click the little icon that sits where Word XP’s start button used to be, and bring up the list of programs. I haven’t loaded my writing software yet, but wordpad will do. It comes up, I breathe deep, crack my knuckles and begin.
Capitalize. Capitalize. Capitalize. Capitalize. Capitalize.
How about some proper nouns?
Bruce Blake. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Initials? You got it.
SPCA. YMCA. ICU. IOU. NBA. NHL. R2D2. OU812.
Punctuation? Sure thing!
Of course, I could just shout it out:
I AM SO HAPPY TO HAVE THE CORRECT SHIFT KEY!
It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy. I guess I’m just a simple man.
Now where the Hell did they put the delete key on this thing?