Our Man in Paris, Part Two: Feel The Wrath of My PowerBook, Knave!

The first computer I ever bought on my own was a PowerBook -- a big, clunky 165. I went into the campus bookstore at my college and paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500 for it -- despite the fact that I just graduated from college, had no permanent job lined up, and could only pay for it by using a credit card and then faking my own death when the bill came due.

For six years, the PowerBook 165 served me well. Compare that to the IBM PC Jr. my parents tried to foist on me in the early '80s; it bought the farm after five years, and that was without dropping it repeatedly in airports across this great land of ours.

Yes, my PowerBook 165 had a fitful life. It endured a winter in a mountain cabin heated only by a wood-burning stove. It survived a summer living in a desert town where a day below 95 degrees was considered a cold spell. And it made it through countless rages by its owner that saw its keyboard smashed, its screen nearly detached, and its parts eventually held together with duct tape.

(This, incidentally, is why a lucrative career in tech support does not await me should Macworld ever wise up and eighty-six me. "You say your beige G3 keeps crashing every time you try to run multiple applications, ma'am? Have you tried banging the side of the computer repeatedly and cursing at it until the problem resolves itself?")

The PowerBook 165 gave up the ghost just after New Year's this year -- and since I now have a PowerBook G3, I'm in no hurry to perform any life-saving surgery. But yes, part of me misses that heavy, awkward monochromatic box of circuits and memories.

Like sometime around two this morning on the plane to Paris -- I could have used the PowerBook 165 to smash over the head of the guy behind me after his loud, obnoxious chatter kept me from my needed beauty sleep.

He spoke in a voice that seemed to echo throughout the plane -- perhaps because everyone but him and his traveling companion was trying to get some shut-eye. He punctuated every sentence with a braying laugh that sounded like a donkey wheezing for its final breath. And -- rather than run the risk that his female companion might miss a syllable of the wit being dispensed at the top of his lungs -- he leaned forward in his seat so that his constantly-in-motion mouth was inches away from my would-be slumbering noggin.

Oh, PowerBook 165! Where were you when I needed you? Your heavy, plastic frame would have dropped that lout like a bad habit. And without a noticeable drop in processor performance either.

Things got so bad, I had to put on the headphones and crank up the in-flight entertainment to decibels somewhere between "turbine engine" and "Who concert" just to enjoy a little peace and comparative quiet. So if I seem a little cranky and out of sorts, it's only because I had to lull myself to sleep with the soundtrack of a made-for-TV movie starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnett, and John Stamos -- John Stamos! -- about a widower who finds love in his autumn years while growing closer to his son, the once and future star of Full House.

If that happened to you, you'd want to beat someone to death with an ancient PowerBook, too.

At least, I've made it to Paris in one piece, with no major incidents, and my dignity almost entirely intact. Oh, there was that one touchy moment where I had to tell the cab driver where my hotel was -- Rue de Croix Nivert -- and apparently created a semi-international incident with my pronunciation.

"Roo day Kawaugh Nee-Vert," I said to the cabbie.

He looked at me and laughed, clearly unsympathetic to my John Stamos-induced jet lag. Rolling his eyes, he motioned for my printed itinerary. For the entire 45-minute ride from the airport, he called up friends and family on his cell phone, no doubt alerting them that the population of Paris was about to increase by one stupid American.

That tears it. I'm not even trying to speak French anymore.

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