The philosophy of a broken laptop
Maria Leontaras | Friday, May 21, 2021
One day about two months ago, my life changed dramatically. No, it wasn’t retiring as Editor-in-Chief. The top half of my laptop popped open, and a few tiny screws clattered to the ground. I didn’t think much of it. If anything, I accepted the fact that art (an almost broken computer) imitates life (an almost broken mental state), and I carried on. Things got a little more difficult, though, when the screen started cracking near one of the hinges that was already hanging on by a thread.
This happened during one of my last nights in The Observer office. I was having a sentimental moment post-retirement, working on my last news story in the corner near the mysterious wall stain. If you know, you know. I teared up as I wrote about the memories of an Observer alum, sipped on some “last-shift” beveragino and turned to share a portion of my story with my almost-retired colleagues.
A jostle, a crunch and boom, the bottom right corner of the screen began to crack where the screen popped open. Soon, the spider web of cracks grew. In a panic, I found the nearest roll of brandless (Scotch) tape and performed one of the most intricate procedures the office had seen to date. From that moment on, my laptop added a new sticker to its collection, an adhesive cast that has yet to be removed.
Ever since that day, my computer has been a vaguely mobile desktop. Always open, it only calls two places home — my dorm room’s desk and dining table. It’s always hit-or-miss if it works; these days it’s more miss than anything else. But as the Madea sticker near its trackpad says, nevertheless she persisted.
While I begin my move-out triaging, I’m not sure where to place this computer. It’s not an automatic toss like the essays of semesters past and the receipts from my recent online shopping addiction. It’s not an automatic keep like the baby Jesus light and pictures of shirtless men in kilts hanging on the wall. It’s not questionably garbage like the single-serving Keurig that gives life to everyone who enters my room and the stolen HERE™ decals on my closet door. Oops! Is it a little broken? Yes. Is it completely useless? Sometimes. You know what they (the unreleased One Direction song) say, “She’s so mean, but I gotta love it, and I just can’t let her go.”
Even now, I sit writing the first draft of this column in a notebook, dark laptop open behind me. I’ve returned to the writer’s roots — pen and paper — and the action takes me back to roots of my own. Writing was my first love. Seven-year-old me put her woes into a picture book about a red balloon lost in space. It floated past planets and stars, fearing eternal loneliness. Time passed and eventually, the balloon stopped floating freely. It got tangled with other balloons that were taken by the wind. The red balloon was still a little lost but no longer alone.
Perhaps it was a bit much for a child, but it somehow prophesied my college experience. I picked Saint Mary’s because it felt like home. In making that choice, I forfeit the comfort of knowing I’d have high school friends nearby to rely on if I couldn’t bond with anyone new. The nerves were endless upon my arrival to campus, my anxiety doing a little dance as I waited silently for my one-and-only SMC ID. I sat and forced a smile for the card, cheeks puffing like a chipmunk’s. The smile slipped away as my ID slipped into my wallet and I floated across the unfamiliar space that is campus.
There was some downtime during orientation, so I opened my then-new laptop, wasting time as I tried to figure out how to connect to BelleAire (The pre-BelleNet times…). As Welcome Weekend went on, the string of my balloon got tangled with others’, forming the beginning of some of the most meaningful friendships I’ve made to date.
Many of my favorite memories with these friends were made while we sat around my laptop. We spent hours in our dorm’s lounge finishing group projects and final exams, binge-watching anime after Italian class and showing off how great we (I) look next to Jimmy Buffett. We worked in each other’s rooms, random places on campus and the best spot of all, Noble Family Dining Hall. People forget the magic of a pre-COVID dining hall! There’s nothing like the rush of snagging one of the few booths, snacking on the endless supply of cereal and frantically completing an assignment before class. There’s always more than meets the eye when it comes to dining halls and the tri-campus.
The Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame Observer offices reside in sacred locations — the basements of the Student Center and South Dining Hall, respectively. It was in these spaces that I met some of the people whose balloon strings will stay tied with mine the longest. Whether they were my elders who welcomed me to the paper or my colleagues who have come and gone, I will always cherish the memories we made.
I’d be remiss to not mention the true hero of my time at the paper: my basically broken laptop. When the world went virtual, I was able to stay connected with those who mattered most, and keep the paper afloat, because of this computer. Even though I’ll get a new laptop before I take the first steps into post-grad life, I’ll always keep this almost-defunct MVP in the back of my closet at home.
Maria Leontaras is graduating with a self-designed degree in interactive journalism with a minor in journalism, ethics and democracy. This summer, she’ll be interning with the Dallas Morning News. She can be contacted at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.