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Life with Liz: PC problems

I have been beaten by technology once more. My trusted laptop gave up the ghost, and she didn’t do it gracefully at all. She just decided to die. Right in the middle of me trying to do three things at once.

A few years ago, the real job decided to implement a plan where you could purchase your own personal laptop to be used for work, but since it was yours, you could also use it for all the other things in your life, like your second job, your kids’ homework, your swim team management, and of course, your household management. While I appreciated the beauty of having one portable device to run my life, I slowly began to realize that having the PC to do everything also meant I never ever really walked away from work.

This became doubly, triply, quadrupley apparent over the last year when I turned my PC on in the wee small hours of the morning, used it for eight hours of work, then some writing, then another four or five hours of kids’ school work, then for another half-hour to search and find something “different” to make for dinner, and then usually ended up back online for work for another hour before flipping the screen over to some Netflix to unwind before bed. Now that I write that all out, I realize that she didn’t just die. I killed her.

After losing a few laptops and a few phones over the years, I’ve become somewhat religious about backing things up. By religious, I mean I do it every month. And by every month, I really mean every quarter. When I don’t just snooze through the 57 reminders I’ve set up on my calendars to “back up.”

So, the good news was that I was current up through November 2020. The bad news was that I wasn’t really working on anything important from last November. The good news was that I had set things to auto-backup. The bad news was that I have had to create so many different accounts over the past year to back up just about everything that my “cloud” is just about as chaotic as my real-life filing system.

I tried to be optimistic. We weren’t that far into the new year, so I could take this as an opportunity to Marie Kondo my electronic life: I could bring back only the things that bring me joy. I could use this as an opportunity to revamp my household files and calendar. After about five minutes of trying to execute that plan, I decided to just wait and see how much of my old PC was recoverable after the tech wizards attempted to fix it.

This brought me to the next obstacle. Not only did I not have a PC, but now the work loaner could only be used for work. Until my PC came back from the Great PC Beyond, or until I broke and got a new one (that rotten PC was in cahoots with the car window to scarf up my tax refund), it looked like the kids and I would be sharing.

You know what is fun? Trying to kick a teenager off their laptop. “Mom, I’m in a match,” became such a repeated refrain, my mantra became, “I know you’re in a match, and if you’d like to continue playing that match, you’ll let me on there to pay the cable bill.”

For those of you who aren’t aware, “matches” are apparently what they’re calling the online video games they play with their friends. The next complaint, albeit heard much more rarely, was, “Mom, I have homework.”

For the most part, I did try to work around their school and social schedule. Since they’ve been locked up in the house for over a year now, I do realize that this is the extent of their social life these days, and I don’t want to take that away from them. On the other hand, things need to get done.

After a few days, they got a little tired of me using their devices and tried to get tricky and change passwords and PINS. That was cute. Like I don’t know every single digit on the back of every single jersey they’ve ever worn, or any other number that might be important to them. Also, I hold the admin password to each and every one of their accounts and devices, and two can play at that game. Although with my age and experience, it’s not much of a contest. The CIA has nothing on a mom who wants into her kid’s laptop.

One thing that this last week has really driven home is just how much time I am spending on a screen. Over the past year, I’ve really become aware of how affected I am by all the things I worry about happening to my kids when they’re on the screens too much. I’ve become much moodier, much less patient, much more irritable. I can feel my attention span shortening every week. I am starting to wonder how many brain cells I’ve rewired or just killed off over the past year.

While I’m certainly grateful for the window to the world that my PC has been able to provide over the past year, I’m also recognizing that it’s time to start reconnecting with the real world face to face. It seems like my PC has pulled a Mary Poppins. She came here to do what she needed to, and now her work here is done. And, just like George Banks, I find myself being forced into more interactions with my kids, even if it is to fight with them over getting to use their computers.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.