I don’t know what a “motherboard” is. But I know I need a new one.

For $300.

I know of no one more dependent on a computer than I am. My day starts at 7 a.m. with a review of the news and, of course, e-mail. I have demented contacts from Florida to Maine and back again. I know some delightful right-wingers who are having monster troubles with the election. In the middle of the campaign, my HP computer started locking up. Once a day. Twice a day.

Then the screen went blank and turned into black-and-white plaid. I know less about computers than almost anyone but David Grima, but I sensed this was not a good thing. First I naively downloaded a $60 anti-virus program to eliminate this “freezing” problem. That was a big help.

It kept locking, then finally turned to plaid.

I brought this $850 machine, only 18 months old, back to Staples where I bought it. I was hoping that the tech would recognize the problem and solve it with his magic wand.

“Black-and-white plaid? That can’t be good,” he said.

I told you so.

I had to leave the HP with strangers and drive off. It was a little like leaving a child at the hospital overnight. Just a little. I waited and waited for the call, hoping against hope that it was some minor league virus, nothing to worry about.


When the call came, I was lolling in Zoot’s Internet cafe in Camden, watching real people with real computers. It was then that I heard the word “motherboard” for the first time. Still naive, I asked what that was going to cost and how long it would take. The answer was a $300 guess and “a few days.” I have heard that before. I actually thought about buying a new computer instead of fixing this one. “We have had a lot of trouble with motherboards on this model,” a Staples employee admitted.

Then why did they sell them, I thought.

Now there is a big empty spot on my desk. When I get up in the morning, I actually read the newspaper, then turn on the television. There is no e-mail. There is no New York Times crossword puzzle. There are no political Web sites such as The Drudge Report, Wonkette and gawkers.com. I feel like I am living in the desert. I am lost.

The nearest available computer is at the home of Blue Eyes. I have spent so much time in her house that the cat, who used to hate me, now sits in my lap and walks across the keyboard while I try to send incendiary messages to my demented friends. It’s a 16-mile drive to get my e-mail. Needless to say, I won’t be checking it 10 times a day like I do at Cobb Manor.

This is how dumb I am. I am thinking about buying a new “backup” computer, like my rich eye doctor. Some guys tell me to buy a Dell ’cause they last forever. Others say that Maine has junked dozens of Dells. Others say to bite the bullet, dig down deep and buy a Mac. My most trusted computer adviser, Texas Larry, says he has dropped his Mac, driven cars over it, spilled beer and blood on it, and it still works.

I am incapable of making this decision. I am waiting for Staples to call, to come and pick up my sick child.

And pay the $300 bill. And get my e-mail back.

Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at emmetmeara@msn.com.