On Christmas day of 1993, I received an elaborate piece of business put out by the Lego Company called Majisto’s Magical Workshop. I had just turned nine and becoming a wizard was still one of my life’s ambitions. Whoever had picked my name from the Secret Santa hat must have known this sort of thing would be right up my alley, or at least that it would keep me occupied for a while. As I sat tucked away atop everybody’s coats in my great-aunt Babs’ bedroom, carefully following each illustrated instruction the Lego Company had provided, Majisto’s miniature Magical Workshop-world was gradually becoming my own. I was wont at this age to appropriate the lives I imagined for inanimate things.
Thus Majisto and his Workshop were to become enchanted talismans; it was important to follow the instructions carefully because those were the magic words. When all was said and done, Majisto’s Magical Workshop really was a sight to behold, and well worth the hours of effort. There was a latch in the front and a hinge in the back, so what seemed at first glance to be merely a model house in fact opened up to reveal what Majisto kept hidden from view: his magic book, his magic chalice, his magic parrot. A wizard’s work is complicated stuff and he needs to be able to focus; a certain degree of isolation is necessary.
Eventually I emerged from Babs’ bedroom swirling one hand around Majisto and his Workshop. “Behold, you sniveling mortals,” I proclaimed to my cousins, “and take heed of my powers! Mwahahaha!!” (Although none of them ever did try to flush my head down the toilet, I know all of them always wanted to.) Here I hopped, there I flitted; all around the living room, my freshly enchanted talisman placed precariously upon my open palm. “Look-it! Look-it! Look-it!” I’m sure what I took to be a wizard’s demeanor more closely resembled that of a housefly. They rolled their eyes, they swatted me away; I can only imagine the smug looks on their faces when they heard the uproar that followed.
There was an approximately three-foot-wide hallway running between Babs’ living room and kitchen doorways. On Christmas day of 1993, that hallway became an expansive river of molten lava, inhabited by evil alligators. Of course the only way to reach the opposite bank and the land of fire-breathing giants was by air. So I flew.
“Christ,” hacked my uncle Jackie as I landed face-down on the linoleum floor. The parrot, the chalice, the roof: all shot about and spread asunder. As painstaking the assembly was immediate the wreckage of Majisto’s Magical Workshop. A once audacious sorcerer transformed into a blubbering, nine-year-old mess, “It’s not funny!!!” I wailed, inconsolable.
Later that day, I managed to reassemble the source of my powers. After all, it was made out of legos.
“Come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, come on,” I chant softly into the darkness, massaging the button in slow, circular motions.
My Dell Latitude D600 retreats into a slumber from which I am unable to wake it.
Since when I was growing up, our computer had to be turned on using the blunt end of a pencil, and the internet could only be accessed by jabbing the modem with a screw, the fact of a laptop still presents itself to me as a blessing of modern technology. That my laptop is geared with a few eccentricities simply affirms how thoroughly mine it is. The Latitude D600 picks up American wireless internet without any help, but in Austria (where I am living, and where a computer is referred to not as “it” but rather “he”) he needs a special USB adapter, which I must always take care not to bump. He can only be charged near a power strip, because his voltage converter is heavy enough to rip itself out of the wall sockets and frighten the downstairs neighbors. When I want to put him to sleep, I must bend a folded up Post-it note such that it presses into the millimeter-wide hole lying just past the volume controls. When I want to wake him up again, I am welcome to try romancing the power button.
The lights flicker and a faint clicking sound can be heard from below the keyboard; but nothing more. I can either massage the power button, or unleash upon it a series of staccato pulses (a technique that bears faint resemblance to the administering of CPR). I often try unplugging the voltage converter and removing the USB adapter (which has never seemed to do any specific good, but at least adds variable to the experiment). It can take five, thirteen, twenty minutes before he gasps for air and I sigh in relief that my DVD player, my Rosetta Stone German lessons, the unfinished documents of my grad school application, my five days worth of music, my ten years worth of emails, and my access to more than I could ever hope to understand of Socrates, Hegel, Kierkegaard and Chris Crocker have not yet withdrawn into oblivion.
One evening two weeks ago, I was certain they had.
I smashed my desk against the bedroom wall and, mumbling profanely, stormed into the front hallway where my shoes and jacket were.
“Where you going?” asked the man I live with. He was sitting in the living room watching Russian Simpsons on his MacBook.
“Shut-up! Just shut-up!” I screamed, slamming the door behind me.
There’s a cart down on the Salzach that sells beer and Jägermeister. I ordered one of each, sat down on the grassy embankment, looked up at the crescent moon and counted the blessings of modern technology.
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