I arrive home to find my husband agitated, clutching an empty envelope.
“I need you to print a letter for me, urgently.”
I remind him I’m due at the hairdresser’s in ten minutes.
“But I have to get it in the post today. It’s a legal document. It must be postmarked with today’s date.”
His printer, it emerges, has packed up again. But producing his letter on my machine will not be as simple as he assumes, because I’ve just acquired a new computer. First I must install the printer software. Which means finding the disk.
The edge is taken off his urgency by the revelation that he doesn’t have a stamp to put on the envelope.
The hairdresser calls. I have my priorities.
“I’ll do it when I come back,” I promise.
On my return, to my surprise I find the software disk in the first place I look for it and slip it into the disk drive, but even so, the installation is not the work of moments. A series of tedious prompts pop up on the screen as the disk drive chugs away. After a few false starts and the emission of copious blank pages (I realise afterwards that I’ve been pressing “photocopy” instead of “print document” and have inadvertently copied lots of nothing), the computer tells me to reboot.
By now I’m beginning to glaze over. The motto of a former colleague, the late, laconic Bristolian IT manager John Hamilton, is echoing in my brain: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. (I don’t suppose there are many IT guys these days who can get away with calling all their female clients “Flower”.)
I’m gazing unseeingly at the screen when the printer finally spits out two copies of Gordon’s letter, accompanied by much whirring and clunking. “This document contains 69 words,” the monitor informs me, a propos of nothing. All that fuss and effort for just 69 words! It hardly seems worth the bother.
I scoop up the two sheets of paper and ferry them downstairs to my husband who is busy on the sofa watching telly with his feet up.
“You know,” I say slowly, “there is another way your could have dealt with this. You could have written the letter out by hand.”
There is a beat.
“I didn’t think of that,” he confesses.