Look it Up


Harvey and Sam

Since knocking over two drinks into my computer one (sober, I swear) night a year ago, he has been on a slow decline. Multiple keys have stopped working. The space bar went first, followed by the 3, 9, and 7 keys, then the direction keys went. The battery lasts almost an entire 40 seconds,. It was a sad day when I had to outsource his work to an external keyboard.

I had to face facts, Lester was on his way out.

About a month ago, I was at work in my home office when I realized that I was not picking up the Wifi signal. I had to send an email and the signal was spotty at best, in and out. I was wholly frustrated.

“What the F**k!” I screamed maturely. And then I wove together a quilt of vulgarities that made my cat shake her head. Since Lester’s battery is so weak these days he’s less of a laptop and more of a stationary desktop computer. To unplug it is a race against time to another outlet; I have about 40 seconds until it dies. That day I lost the race, and wove another friendship bracelet of vulgarity. My blood pressure was so high that I think I almost lost consciousness.

It doesn’t seem like a problem, does it? The Wifi signal doesn’t reach the shitty laptop in the office, but it works in the living room and kitchen. Um. Easy solution.

The problem is that I really like writing in my office, so that’s where I write. For the first week or so, I was irritated. When I needed a word, I would wander out to the living room and look up words on my tablet. But then I remembered that I had a book for this in my closet; it was called a dictionary.

I started using my dictionary, placing it on a stool next to my desk. I named him Harvey (the dictionary, not the stool. the stool is Sam). In the good old days when my computer picked up Wifi in my office I would look up the first three letters of a word and Google would fill in the rest. It would instantly give me dozens of synonyms, closely related words, and a variety of phrases. It was so easy.

But that was the problem. It was too easy; I wasn’t using my brain to think about words or phrases, let alone synonyms and antonyms. A friend of mine did a workshop for technology in the classroom and the teachers complained that kids no longer know how to use dictionaries. They simply expect the computer to do all the work. In a related issue, I notice that it takes me a minute to realize that my phone hasn’t finished a word for me, because my tablet does.

After using Harvey for a few days I noticed that I was using a lot more energy to look up words. If a word wasn’t in the dictionary or thesaurus I had to scroll through my mental dictionary to find a synonym or a related term. Often times I find a better word. I am using my brain more.

This wasn’t the only benefit. No internet means a whole world of distractions cut out. I don’t stop writing to flip through Facebook because in my office there is no Facebook. For the two hours a day I am writing, I am without question removed from the pissing match that is modern political debate.

Even though I was logged out against my will, I am now a willing off logger. I can’t recommend it enough. Even though I thought that Lester’s days were winding down, I might have to keep him around for a while. He’s good luck. Plus, he’s used to my rants.

  1. #1 by Ms. Snapova on September 27, 2017 - 5:19 pm

    Looking up words in a book?! What is this sorcery you’re talking about?

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