Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Could Walk It If I Had To

Weekend Assignment #154: Your Car or Your Computer: You must pick only one. Which one do you choose?

Extra Credit: Which was more expensive: Your first car, or your most recent computer?

I'm not giving up either of them, John. You can't make me. But like the similar false dilemma of cats vs. cheese, this week's Weekend Assignment question touches on surprisingly weighty issues.

From time to time, friends accuse me of being "addicted" to some aspect of computers - mostly blogging and Wikipedia these days, but time was when it was all about the message boards on AOL and (before that) Prodigy, or ripping (legally purchased) CDs to build a library of music files to play at work or at home, or writing and editing fanzines. Computers are integral to everything I do at work, and very nearly everything I do after work. Even my digital camera would be pretty useless without a computer on which to store, edit, view and upload the files. And while I could buy a used typewriter at some yard sale, cheap, and use it to type my novels, the result would be a terrible, time-consuming, discouraging mess. After thirty years of typing, I still work mostly with two fingers, and I'm extremely typo-prone. A typewriter doesn't let you insert missing letters or words easily, revise a sentence or move a paragraph, or cut that scene with the prince and paste it into another file in case you find a use for it later. A word processor might allow for such things, but a word processor is pretty much just a low-end, primitive PC. If computers are off the menu, so are word processors.

Cars, on the other hand, are something that I tend to use about half an hour a day, mostly just to drive up and down Wilmot Road several times. I like my current car a lot, and have fond memories of every car of mine that preceded it, going all the way back to the Artful Dodger, my 1967 Dodge Coronet wagon. Ultimately, though, they were all just four-wheeled, relatively comfortable transportation. If I had to, I could walk the two and a half miles to work each day, or get a bicycle or a scooter that isn't falling apart, or even take a bus. In fact, there have been several periods in my life when John or my parents had a car or van and I did not. For years I drove only a moped, a scooter, or a bigger scooter. It was mostly only a problem on a long road trip (I got sore in the seat) or crossing a patch of ice. If I had to, I could get a new Honda Elite and ride around on that. As I read Scalzi's premise, scooters are not forbidden.

Such an eventuality would probably make it rather hard to take my one-hundred-one-year-old friend to church, though, so it's a darn good thing this is only a thought experiment. If I had to make such a choice in the real world (and I'd be hard-pressed to find a scenario in which this could ever happen), there's no question that I would give up cars without too much fuss, whereas you'd pretty much have to pry the Logitech mouse out of my cold, dead fingers. Heck, if I started walking more (assuming the scooter idea gets vetoed on some technicality), I'd lose weight and get more fit, which would be no bad thing. But if I gave up blogging and word processing and photo editing and article writing and IMs and email and let my screen go dark, the light in my brain would go dark as well - not completely, perhaps, but my life would suddenly be much harder and lonelier, and a whole lot less fun.

Extra credit: I insisted on paying my mom $1.00 for her 1967 Dodge Coronet wagon. (I think this was after she bought her Pinto.) Yes, this computer cost a bit more than $1.00.


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