From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Little Computer That Wouldn’t

Working at home seemed like the perfect solution: no overhead, no commute. All I needed was a computer. I didn’t bargain for a computer with a high-maintenance personality and a constant need for new accessories. I named her Barbie.

Barbie has been a challenge. Like all girls, she needs support that is both technical and uplifting. I’ve given her aromatherapy and astrology readings to soothe her. She loves to shop and wants—no needs—frequent additions to her software closet, even though I have outfitted her with a tasteful selection of lounge ware, casual ware, scan ware, and photo ware for all occasions.

She’s temperamental. I don’t know what she says to them, but I keep downloading new drivers and their licenses for her because she just can’t hang on to good help. I’ve added the obligatory sacrificial RAM, a floppy drip drive, a modem in the latest colors and, after I got a burn permit from the fire department, a racy CD burner. To brighten her décor, I installed extra USB (Ultra Special Barbie) ports when she demanded and even threw in a pair of ethernet stockings.

Though born just last year, Barbie obsesses about her fading youth.

“Highly compensated engineers worked feverishly around the clock to program my irrevocable death precisely one day after my warranty expires,” she moans.

“I know, I know,” I say, “but don’t worry, I’ve gotten your sagging warranty lifted three times already.”

To relax, my sweet little computer has “developed” a penchant for pornography. I turn my back for a minute and she’s bringing home smutty photographs. Man, has she got a thing for male enlargement products.

Occasionally, Barbie goes on strike. I think she was just agitating for a new living room couch when her fan started buzzing. I freshened up her inner spaces with air in a can to clean out the cobwebs, dust, cracker crumbs, and nacho cheese that had mysteriously accumulated. Barbie’s fan whirred happily for a while, but in a fit of pique, she sputtered something about not feeling like it. That’s when the good swift kick I learned from my mechanical dad came in handy (hey, it worked on the lawnmower). I kicked, and the fan shut up, an awkward but effective arrangement.

Last month, though, Barbie couldn’t get her boots on in the morning without help. One day I turned her on and the screen was covered with exclamation marks, so I loaded her up in my car and took her over to our local computer geek shop.

I think Barbie was just starved for male attention because she booted up prettily for those guys, purring demurely and flashing her best screensavers.

“You got a power problem.” They prognosticated. “You need one of these $300 batteries.”

Barbie winked at me from the workbench.

Back home I plugged her into the hugely heavy, artificially enlarged battery reclining at her side. Still, she wasn’t happy and refused to put on her boots, so it was back to the ER for Barbie and her jilted Ken.

“She needs a whole new wardrobe,” the guys said. “A fashion upgrade. She’s hopelessly retro.” Barbie’s screen brightened as I left her with the high priests of the latest trends.

“She’s running beautifully,” they said when I returned. But as soon as Barbie got home, she refused to boot up. I was mad as I hauled her back to the boy’s club.

“It’s probably her mother-in-law board,” they said this time.

“But she isn’t married,” I complained.

“Well, she’s been corrupted,” they said, shaking their heads sadly. “She works fine here. Why don’t you sell her and get a new one.”

After all I’d done for her, Barbie just wanted nicer digs. I thanked the guys but said no. In my opinion, Barbie needed an attitude adjustment.

I took her home. She wouldn’t boot up, though I threatened to remove her modem privileges. A few days later when she was balking instead of booting, I didn’t kick her but stroked her, whispering kind and supportive words into her side vents. I also placed a candy bar on her CD tray, thinking when the stick doesn’t work, maybe a carrot is better.

She has worked perfectly ever since.

“Just a coincidence,” the computer gurus said, but I know better. Sometimes, you have to give uppity girls like Barbie their due, and sometimes, flattery really will get you somewhere.

Carol Mell

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