THURSDAY: The Saga of the IBM Thinkpad


Copyright is held by the author.

IT WAS the year 2000, the new 21st century and I had been thinking for some time that I would like to buy a laptop computer as I was now writing my book . . . the book that everyone should write!  But what did I know about laptops?  Precious little. I knew that they were small and portable — and at that time, very expensive — and that’s about all. I tracked down a refurbished IBM Think Pad advertised for $899 and realised that I would be in the same area next morning, with an hour for lunch after my seminar, so I decided to drive.

“It’s OK! I can do this,” I thought, trying to convince myself that having no sense of direction wouldn’t cause me problems. So, after the seminar finished, I set off in the car to find the street address, not realizing that this street had one name heading east of Yonge Street and another name heading west. So of course, I missed it!  When I was almost at the lake, I realized that this was all wrong. I pulled over, checked my street map and found out where I had gone wrong.

It was plain sailing from there on in, west to turn north then turn east. I turned east looking for parking and couldn’t find any but I had seen some just north of there, so I went around again. First right took me south, then the next right, Oops! No right turn, keep driving south, then first right again took me west, then next right was also no right turn, next right is going north . . . I think? Yes, there was the underground parking sign.

Round and round in the underground until I had no idea where I was. There were no numbers or letters on the walls, nothing to guide me back to my parking spot when I returned, but on the way out inside the stairwell, there was a sign that said northeast P2. Alas,I would never see it again.

I came out onto a side street that was a side street off of a side street. I looked for landmarks and saw a store with a bright, canary yellow sign. I should be able to find that easily, I thought confidently, but I would never see it again. Now all I had to do was find my way to the intersection with the computer store. I finally asked someone. A nice young man pointed me in the right direction and off I went, trusting him blindly. It was hot but not unpleasant for walking yet.

Soon I reached the intersection and saw a computer store. It was on an adjacent corner, so I had to cross the street. After dodging the crazy drivers, I had been one of them myself a few minutes before, and stepping over drugged out teenagers, I walked into the store and waited for a clerk to help me.

The clerk was very nice and I asked him if his company advertised in The Metro newspaper, he didn’t think so, but what was I looking for anyway? I told him that I had come downtown to buy a Think Pad advertised at $899.

“A laptop . . . for $899 . . . I don’t think so,” he said looking at me over his imaginary spectacles, flaring his nostrils and pursing his lips in a know-it-all attitude. “Try across the road, they sell refurbished computers,” he mocked, as if refurbished was a dirty word that was right under his nose, and waved me away with a limp backhander.

I faced the crazy traffic once more and navigated safely to the other side of the street. Once there I realized that there were two stores side by side, so I went into the first. A clerk approached me as I walked in and I said to him, “Do you have an IBM Think Pad for $899.”

“Brenda!” he said, enunciating the consonants in a very familiar tone.

Maybe my friend had called ahead, to tell them I was coming, me being such a computer illiterate, I thought.

“Yes,” I said, suddenly realizing that he was staring at my left breast.

“My girlfriends’ name is Brenda,” he said smiling at my breast.

“That’s . . . so nice for her?” I said carefully, quickly glancing down to see what had fascinated him so.

It wasn’t as if I had a lot to tempt him, but maybe I was flashing some skin without realizing it. No, I was as chaste as a Mennonite; everything was tucked away properly, but there it was, like a neon sign — my name badge from the seminar! So, now I was walking around in downtown Toronto, stepping over unconscious, homeless people that were sleeping on the sidewalk, being asked for money by semi-conscious substance abusers that were not much older than my sons and now, on first name terms with a sleazy clerk in a computer store, wearing my name on my chest!

Fortunately, the next store sold the refurbished Think Pads but the clerk told me to wait while he checked if they had any in stock. Meanwhile, this other person on my side of the counter began to talk to me, although by this time, I had removed my name badge, “They do,” he said, “and I’m just delivering them right now!”

Wow! Hot off the van! Well, I bought the computer and left the store with this oversized box, and went back to the intersection and the crazy traffic.

At that point, I should have just walked to the entrance of the underground garage and walked down the ramp, but I didn’t of course. The only thing to go down the ramp to an underground garage is a vehicle. People can’t walk down the ramp; there are signs that say so!  Anyway, I walked back the way I had come, expecting to find the entrance into the underground garage. I walked up and down the street until I was exhausted, but I couldn’t find the stairwell.

I asked several people and no one seemed to know anything. Two young men offered to carry the box which by this time was bruising my forearms as I moved it around. I immediately started to walk faster, thinking they were trying to steal my computer, although the box was plain, with no wording on it.

Twenty minutes later, sunburned and disillusioned, I found myself back at the entrance of the parking garage again. If I had been driving my old car that day, I think I would have given up the search and gone back to work on the bus, but I had brought my brand new, z-Tec, aluminum wheels, fully loaded, six weeks old Ford Focus! I ignored the warning signs this time and sneaked down the ramp.

After a short time, it seemed as if I had been walking forever. I was feeling claustrophobic and beginning to hallucinate in the steamy atmosphere of the underground garage. What did my car look like anyway? Could I even remember? But suddenly I rounded a corner and there she was! An oasis in the desert, a place to rest my aching feet and finally I would be able to put down this cursed box.

Rational thought would have reminded me that I had a “panic/find your car, stupid” button on my remote, but who could be rational at this stage. Once inside the car, my relief was obvious, a/c on full blast and hair flying up to the roof. I drove around the first corner and there was the ramp to the outside, the very ramp that I had driven down when I arrived. So, the in and out were one and the same! It must be full moon! Not to worry, I thought. A writer should experience a full range of emotions and be able to draw from all kinds of experiences. The stories that I shall write, will live on after I’m dead. I may even become the modern Jane Austen or Charles Dickens.

But alas, this was not going to be easy. The laptop only lived a short time, and although it was refurbished, its battery was already on the way out. What actually killed it though was a glass of Chardonnay. They were rarely seen without each other, the glass always strategically placed close to the laptop. One evening it ended up spilling its golden liquid into the keyboard, causing the laptop to have a massive stroke. Its light went out within moments, taking with it all of the brilliant script that had been created up until then and the glass in its anguish, was broken beyond repair. The unanswered question was, did it fall, or was it pushed?

  1. Oh dear! Great descriptions of landmarks and getting ‘lost’ in spite of them. You’ve put in words something most adults have experienced. Great job and a funny read.

  2. So relatable – I think most of us have gotten ‘lost’ in Toronto just like you’ve aptly and comically described. A very enjoyable story.

  3. Makes me miss my old Thinkpads, beastly difficult to repair, but the mini-joystick beat and mouse/touchpad, hands down!

  4. Who has never experienced being lost? Many of us have been “out
    there” but have survived. Thanks, Brenda, for your very funny approach
    to it all

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