It’s been nearly a month since I posted, but really, there hasn’t been that much to write about. Well, except one huge thing that happened two weeks ago, and I haven’t had the time to talk about it since because of work and life and so forth. But now is a good breaking point to stop and reflect. Settle in and grab your beverage of choice.
Let’s backtrack a bit; you all know I dropped out of the public scene for all of 2019. It was a really dark time for me, one in which I felt like I didn’t belong anymore, I didn’t know who my friends were (with a few exceptions who stuck with me through it all). Come 2020, I was ready to reenter things. I reactivated FetLife, and in February, I went to a big national party after skipping the last two. I had a fabulous time, felt reconnected and renewed, and was looking forward to further adventures.
Then COVID-19 hit. And everything shut down. No parties. No play dates. No coffee dates. No anything, socially. I’d reentered the scene just in time to have it disappear.
Virtual meetings became the norm. Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc. The only way we could see our friends was on a computer screen. But it was better than nothing, right?
Except I couldn’t do any of that. Because I still had this old desktop that ran perfectly well with just one glitch: I couldn’t chat with anyone online. It didn’t have a built-in cam, and I tried three different external webcams, all with the same result: picture, but no sound. I had my computer tech take the system home with him and tear it apart, trying to find out what was wrong, and he couldn’t. So I knew I wouldn’t be able to do virtual chat with anyone until I got a new computer system.
Which I couldn’t afford.
However, my birthday is at the end of September. And John was making noises about how I should start shopping and researching computer systems. I knew what that meant; he was going to buy me a new system for my birthday. He does stuff like that. I mean, he bought me my current system, and insisted I get the best. When I was going to buy a 19-inch monitor, he said live a little, get a 21-inch one. This system has served me well, and still runs well (and quickly), save for that webcam issue. But perhaps it was time to move on. After all, I was still on Windows 7 and Word 2010.
Online, I complained endlessly to anyone who would listen about how I couldn’t cam with anyone. People said things like “You really need to upgrade.” Sure, okay. Wanna buy me a new computer?? Tell me something I don’t know.
A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Jay and I were having our usual daily email exchange, and she cryptically told me that she’d “done a thing” and had help with it. That I would be getting a package from Fed-Ex that I’d have to sign for, and it would be coming from Zack’s address. (You remember Zack from 50 Freaks; I had several pictures of him and me in my party blog.) Um… what? She said she knew it was my birthday next month and she had planned an early surprise gift. She had one request: when I got it and opened it, she wanted me to record my reactions on my phone.
What on earth had she been up to?? I couldn’t imagine what it was. John couldn’t either.
The package was supposed to arrive sometime Thursday… but then midday Jay got a notification that it was now bumped to sometime Friday. (Of course, they don’t give you a time window — they just say “sometime before end of day.”) Argh. Well, at least I was going to be home all day and evening Friday, right? So we waited.
On Friday, I got up early and got as much work done as I could. Jay had warned me that once the package arrived, I wouldn’t be getting much of anything done for the rest of the day. Good grief, this was getting more and more intriguing. And at 2:15, my doorbell rang. Yup, Fed-Ex. A huge, heavy box. I signed for it and dragged it inside. Then, as requested, I set up my phone to record my opening it. I grabbed a sharp knife and hit the record button.
Oh. My. God.
There was a ton of packing material, piles of bubble wrap, and two distinctly wrapped packages within. Recording all the while, I babbled in confusion as I tore through things, trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at here. And then I saw the laptop case.
No. They didn’t.
I fumbled and fumfered around with the case; I was so flustered, I couldn’t even get the damn thing open! Finally I did, and then I pulled out the new Asus Chromebook. Oh. My. God.
When I lifted the lid, I saw a couple of sheets of paper within. One was a note from Zack, explaining everything that was included, and letting me know that he had installed software to allow him to remotely get into my computer, help me figure things out, copy over all my files, etc. The other sheet was from Jay. Along with a very loving note, she let me know that this had been a group effort; she’d contacted several people and gotten contributions from them. She listed all of them and their FetLife/Twitter names. And on the other side was a list of messages from all the people. Besides Jay and Zack, ten other people had contributed to this. When I saw the messages, the waterworks started.
Mind you, I was being recorded. So here I was, sobbing, babbling incoherently, sitting on the carpet fumbling about with all this wrapping detritus around me, thanking Jay and Zack, saying how much I loved everyone, that I couldn’t believe they did this, that I didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with this right now because I’m such a techno-dork… and then I shut off the recorder.
Before I finished unwrapping the gift(s).
There was still another package to open. They thought of everything.
Besides the laptop and its new travel case, there was a separate, larger monitor. A separate webcam, because Zack said the built-in cam was a little grainy. Plugs and connectors and other things I didn’t recognize. And a wireless mouse.
The laptop was loaded with software. Microsoft Office 2016, which Zack said was the latest and the best before they went to that Microsoft 365 nonsense that you sort of “rent” instead of buying the program. A full Adobe suite, including Acrobat and Photoshop. Zoom was loaded. Zack had even linked me into his streaming service, so I could watch things from his collection of shows and movies.
I ended up making a second recording to add my thanks for all the other stuff I’d discovered after I made the first one. Yes, I came off like a complete dork. But it was real. It was me, raw, overwhelmed and touched beyond belief.
Priorities. The first thing I did was upload the two recordings of my reactions and send them to both Jay and Zack. I took a selfie, in the midst of my sob-fest, with red nose and wet eyes and the whole shebang. I sent a tweet, linking nearly everyone involved, and attached the selfie, saying words couldn’t express what was in my heart, so here was a picture of me bawling with joy. For the three people who weren’t on Twitter, I texted two and emailed the third.
Zack told me that he’d be available that evening and would help me figure stuff out. After I had my nightly phone chat with John (and I cried all the way through that too), first thing I did was take a picture of the bits and pieces I couldn’t figure out and text it to Zack, and he explained what they were. I connected the laptop to my WiFi. Then we connected via Zoom (first time for me, using that) and then were online together for the next two hours. He was in my system remotely, so he could see everything that was going on, and after I let him into my desktop, he copied over all my files, pictures, and music. He showed me around some of the programs.
During our chat, my signal dropped twice and I lost the connection. I asked him what this could be, and he said perhaps I should reboot my router. I did that after our talk, but then the next time I tried the laptop, the signal dropped again. My desktop is connected to my router via Ethernet cable, so the signal never drops, and it never drops on my cell phone either, so I couldn’t understand why this was happening. I spent some time on the phone with AT&T, and they said my router is fine and the connection is strong. So, that’s the next project with Zack — try to work out why the signal to the laptop is glitchy and how to strengthen it without using an Ethernet cable. But that will be later. Also, I want to try to figure out how to sync my laptop and desktop. I’m still keeping the latter, so I’d like to be able to have whatever I do on one happen on the other, if that’s possible. I have so much to learn. Oh, and my work table now has the desktop, laptop, and extra monitor on it, and it’s too crowded. So I’m shopping for a small side table I can use for the laptop. Oh, and accessories like a lap tray and a cooling pad. And and and… I’m getting ahead of myself. This is all so new and exciting.
Back to that night — after I said goodbye to Zack, I played around with the laptop for a while longer, adding my email accounts, choosing a desktop picture and screen saver, adding my MalwareBytes account. At 10 p.m., I was still so wound up I was shaking, and I realized I hadn’t eaten any dinner. I shut everything down, figuring I’d done all I could for one night, and grabbed a KIND bar and a yogurt. The next day I went to John’s, but I didn’t bring the laptop with me — I figured I wanted to give John all my attention and it would be waiting for me when I came home. John was as blown away by this as I was. I think he was a little disappointed that he didn’t get to buy it for me, and he confessed to being worried that our friends would think he was cheap or something because he didn’t do this first. I assured him that they all knew he had intended to, but they just did it sooner!
So. Even though the bulk of this year has been a clusterfuck, even with pandemics and elections and protests and fires and general mayhem happening all around me… I got a wonderful gift. No, not the laptop and the accessories, although those were indeed wonderful. I got the gift of feeling loved. Of knowing how many people care about me. I still can’t believe all the preparation that went into this. First, Jay painstakingly contacted as many people as she could think of, collected the funds, coordinated the messages, kept in touch with everyone with updates. Then Zack took over, getting the system, loading all the software, packing everything so thoroughly and carefully. (I was popping bubble wrap for a week.) It was a labor of love by all, and I still can’t believe I was the recipient. Even two weeks later, writing about this makes me choke up.
And yes, I’m typing up this blog on my new laptop.
In this awful time of isolation and uncertainty, I feel very much loved. I belong.
I love you, Jay. I love you, Zack. I love all of you who contributed to this. When I finally get all this stuff figured out, I hope to Zoom or FaceTime with some of you.
Although I haven’t worn makeup in months and I have about an inch of gray roots and maybe I don’t want people seeing me after all…
SHUT UP, ERICA!
Take care, everyone. Stay safe and well. ♥