My first experience with Einstein’s theory of relativity happened in 1978. I was ten years old. As I approached a ramp on my bike for what would be a record breaking jump, time suddenly slowed to a snails pace.
We’d taken a twelve foot 2-by-12 board and set one end atop a four foot concrete wall. The idea was to ride our bikes down the hill to build up speed, take the ramp, and jump as high and far as we were able. Whoever jumped the farthest won the honor of bragging rights until the next stupid stunt.
I was first in line. As I straddled my home-built, Schwinn dirt bike cobbled together from parts both borrowed and bought, it seemed like a simple task: gravity would do most of the work through the two hundred feet of downhill, twelve feet of uphill, and a launch into history. This was back in the days before helmets and doting parents; before every minute was filled with organized sports and dance lessons; no Playstations, XBoxes or Gameboys, when kids had to make their own entertainment. When mom said, “Go find something to do or I’ll find something for you to do,” we let our creativity run as wild as our spirits.
Although the ramp looked tiny from atop the hill, I’d taken plenty of downhills on the Schwinn and launched off hundreds of natural and man-made ramps. It mattered little—I was ten, indestructible, and destined for glory.
I stepped up onto the pedals and started grinding away. At first I could feel the pressure under my feet as the crank turned faster and faster; as fast as I could manage. It wasn’t long before me and my bike were screaming down the hill toward the ramp.
The gap between the bike and the ramp closed quickly. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, pedaling was useless, the wheels turning faster than my legs could generate torque.
I lined up on the board.
Just before the front tire rolled across the base of the board, time slowed and everything became crystal clear. I could suddenly see the grain of the wood; the tiny potholes in the cinder block wall; my friends—Tony, David and Robert—frozen in cheers; even the knobs in my tires seemed to slow into focus. I could see each instant with razor sharp clarity.
It was my first experience with the relativity of time.
A normal week gone horribly wrong.
Tuesday started off like every other; at the kitchen table, bottle of water nearby, doing research for an article about world domination. It was an early, grey, cloudy day in mid-monsoon India; the perfect time to write a few missives ahead of our ten day tour of the country with our son and daughter-in-law (DiL). The week was planned, the schedule set, and things were plugging right along, until…
I was moving back and forth between my laptop, a circa 2013 Macbook Pro, and a pad of paper, jotting down statistical accomplishments about our progress toward taking over the world one follower at a time. Usually I just take notes in an open document on the laptop, carefully positioned, sized, and to the right of the browser for easy access. But this time there was a lot of visual information to absorb and scribbling on a sheet of college-ruled paper allowed full view of the charts in the browser. I could keep all of the information I needed up front.
I saw the water bottle and felt it touch my elbow as I turned back toward the laptop. Time slowed just like it had years ago. I watched the bottle fall toward the keyboard, helpless to stop it. First, only a few droplets of water splashed the screen; they amplified the colors where they landed. Then a stream of water started to spill forth from the mouth of the bottle. It initially covered the keys in the upper left side of the keyboard—Q, W, A, S, and that little squiggly thing next to the number 1 key took the brunt of the water.
The laptop was still powered up when the final wave of liquid doused the remainder of the keyboard. In painfully slow motion the water built at the mouth of the bottle. As the leading stream ebbed slightly, a little tidal wave crashed over it and onto the laptop. Now, all of the letters were soaked, from Fn to the power button.
Then everything went blank.
Time finally gave up its cruel, prolonged view of events as I rushed to up-end the laptop and drain the water. In the bathroom, I flipped the switch on the blow dryer to “cool/max.” With the blow dryer in one hand and the up-ended laptop in the other, I blew air onto the keyboard like a mad stylist trying to tame a hairdo gone wild.
It was no good and I knew it. I lacked the tools to remove the bottom of the Macbook, and I couldn’t even attempt to re-power the laptop unless I was certain it was dry inside. It was time for tough decisions.
There are no Apple stores in India, just some authorized and unauthorized dealers—finding one to repair the laptop could be challenging. Luckily, we were at just such a shop the previous day dropping off a defective iPhone. But any repairs would likely take at least a few days as the components would need to dry before power could be applied. If there were damaged components, it would take even longer. That simply would not do.
I have deadlines and projects.
I’ve written before about my schedule both here and here. I believe in deadlines and am committed to posting not later than Saturday morning US time for my 44 dedicated, intelligent, extremely sexy followers. There is just no way to make this happen and maintain quality control without a laptop of some kind.
In addition, the two book projects require time at the keyboard. Outlines and suggestions are in electronic files, unfinished chapters are in Scrivener, and even a week spent not writing is a serious setback. Not to mention the impact to my sanity if I can’t find a way to keep busy with meaningful work.
Unfortunately, luxury items in India are prohibitively expensive; restaurants, groceries, plants, and labor are ridiculously cheap, but laptops, beer and decent mountain bikes are far more costly than in the US. Complicating matters, computers are often generations behind their Western equivalents. Although the newest Macbook Pro’s are missing from the market, a 2014 Macbook Pro might be available for 25 percent more than we’d spend in the US.
Luckily, we have family visiting.
Our son and daughter-in-law (DiL) would be arriving in a few days and could easily pick up a laptop on their way. I placed an order on Apple’s website for pickup the following day and decided to call the store when it opened on July 5.
That evening—which was the following day in the US midwest—I rang the local number for the Apple store. The person who answered was part of the national call center, not the local shop. He said that the order had been cancelled—you’ll be reading about Apple’s security in next week’s article. It was beginning to look like I’d be without a laptop for at least a week and possibly until my wife returned from the US at the end of July. Thankfully, it was cocktail hour in India.
An idea flashed through on iMessage.
I texted our son and DiL with the bad news; there would be no laptop to pick up. Although totally in the dumps about the laptop, I knew I could simply go buy the least expensive PC available on the Indian market and write with that until August—although the baseline PC would likely mean far fewer graphics and photos in the posts. The important thing was seeing the two of them.
Then an idea from the our DiL flashed through iMessage. Perhaps our son could pretend to be me and call in an order? Given my recent experience, it didn’t seem like it would work, but we were running low on options. I texted them my credit card particulars.
My iPhone flashed a notification, “Supposedly it [a new Macbook Pro] will be ready for pickup in about an hour.”
They did it! They called in an order and even managed to get a discount and free headphones! Our son and DiL are amazing!
The new laptop arrived while the wet one was in the shop.
On Friday the new laptop arrived, along with three liters of bourbon, one liter of Malibu rum, and two sleepy couriers. We held up a sign at the airport with their last name and ushered them through the crowd toward the curb. We hugged and laughed and talked about their flight—apparently Emirates is quite good to their economy passengers. Our son and DiL created a miracle from mud.
There are redundant backups (cloud and local) of all of our data. It took a bit of time to configure the new Mac, but once ready I started writing again. In the meantime, the “WetBook” Pro at the repair shop was ready for pickup. It works when power is connected, but the battery and possibly the motherboard are shot—resulting in a potential $2,200 repair here in India.
Now we have an awesome son and DiL, a new Macbook Pro, and an older “Wetbook” Pro all staying in a house big enough to accommodate twice that number of people and computers.
At some point we are just committed to an act.
Too far along to turn back, we just give in to the momentum of the moment. My front tire hit the edge of the board dead center. As the bike ascended the steep incline, I allowed my elbows and knees to collapse slightly, like levered springs. In another second I was clearing the wall, flying through the air. It felt like flying.
I landed hard in the dirt, the impact knocking time back on track like a popping clutch starts a motorcycle. I jammed my foot on the brake, leaned to the left, and skidded to a stop. Just like in 1978, everything worked out. I landed without breaking my neck and my new laptop arrived on Friday in time to write this missive—24 hours later than planned. Next time I’ll leave the lid on the water bottle.
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Photo of the new Macbook Pro, complimentary headphones, and our tenacious son and daughter-in-law courtesy www.facebook.com/rowanpricephotography. Unless otherwise noted, all photos and drawings are those of the author. Copyright can be found here.