In my office – ok, I’ll come clean with you, I call it my ‘office’ but only because it has my desk and my laptop in it as well as (most importantly) my music, my books, my favourite photographs, odds and sods, trinkets, curios, and various elements of sentimental jumble (that my wife chooses to call ‘junk’), various guitars, a red ukulele, more pens than you (or anybody else for that matter) could shake a stick at, (I also have a stick), some shells, some mugs, a pair of ‘cowboy’ boots, my favourite hat, a secret stash of chocolate and a nerf gun – I have a signal booster for the internet router. Well, I say booster only because that is what it said on the box when I bought it. It was implicit. I remember it clearly. Big letters: the words ‘Signal Booster’. Nowhere did it say ‘A little plastic box that you plug in – after a set-up process that should take five minutes, but actually ages you by five years – and watch as the little green LED lights flicker listlessly for a while before turning red and switching off your entire network’, even though that is all the bloody thing actually ever does.
Not all the time, you understand. Not even regularly. Just randomly. Just after enough time has elapsed for me to forget what it was that buggered it all up last time, so that I have to go through everything again: every conceivable setting on the laptop, boot and reboot, router off/router back on, ‘What the f…?’ before remembering that all that I have to do is unplug the little plastic box, give it a minute to compose itself and then plug the bloody thing back in again. It serves to remind me that everything in my house has a Primary Function that it performs sporadically and badly, and a Secondary Function that it performs diligently and, for the most part, covertly.
To my right I have a printer that prints what I want it to print from time to time, but mostly fails to do so: that generally prints, instead, the last thing that it refused to print a week ago, without explanation or excuse: that extracts more joy than it has any right to from mashing up a perfectly decent document before splashing it down onto paper sideways and in an order that could only be explained by Alan Turing, turning it into the kind of thing that is only otherwise seen printed in the instruction booklet for a Chinese digital watch.
Below it I have a paper shredder which steadfastly refuses to shred paper, but is very happy to pass its time by reminding me not to stray anywhere near electronic gadgetry whilst wearing a necktie. It is also very efficient at puking out an acrid white smoke, specifically designed to prove that the alarms are not working.
Finally I have a piece of useless junk, just an arm’s length from my computer keyboard, that is designed to think of something entertaining to say every now and then, but mostly just stares vacantly at the screen and nicks the chocolate from my stash when it thinks I’m not looking. Tonight I gave it the task of thinking up a title for this evening’s post. It is currently wiggling a cotton bud in its ear. It is reading the instructions on the toothpaste tube. It has forgotten why it is here…