I realized the depths of my technological dependency when I first had the misfortune of watching the vibrancy and life fade from my MacBook Pro charger. I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy or the most fervent Slim Jesus fan.
As Rebbie (my charger) gracefully transitioned from this world, I danced with hysteria daily. In those final spurts of forced productivity, I reckoned with the impermanence of Apple accessory life: “Are these headphones and cables engineered to break hearts and bank accounts?” I shouted to the sky while running down the street in the rain, barefoot, that harrowing and humid Panamanian afternoon.
The arrival of the beginning of the end forced me to ponder (and plan for) a post-charger existence. At the time, I was living and working in Panama City, Panama, running a small English-as-a-second-language education situation and working as a freelance writer stuck inside a hateful, never-ending encore of the Accounts Payable Tango. My computer was my lifeline, my cinnamon apple.
The Apple Store there charges a smooth $110 plus tax for the 85-watt charger I needed. There were no off-brand alternatives. No, “Oh yeah, this other trustworthy brand will work just fine!”
When things were going to s—t, I had no friends arriving in Panama soon or who could have slipped a precious charger into my care package (which invariably contained grits), saving me lots of dollars and seven to 10 days of international shipping, Panamanian customs-officer handling and emotionally fragile hell.
Woe was me.
There are levels (and stages) of grief. Famed psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross established a widely accepted model that explains what we go through while dealing with loss. You will experience these stages as waves of emotion, each with varying intensities. These phases happen in no particular order, and every person experiencing MacBook charger death may not pass through every phase.
But me? Those four days when electrical tape and hope were not enough were painful. I had deadlines and plenty of friends who needed to keep their own dwindling MacBook batteries alive. Their procrastination, too, needed a vehicle. After much torment, I parted with that $110 because, ultimately, watching porn on your smartphone just isn’t the same. Ultrathrifty lifestyle aside, you gotta draw the line somewhere.
These are the five stages of MacBook charger death.
The very instant a fraying wire peeks out seductively from inside a MacBook charger’s rubber casing, a pang of terror gropes you, drop-kicking your peace of mind like a stray Alicia Keys note unto the sound barrier. You will always remember where you were when it first happened.
This stage is often marked by an inability to believe that something like this could happen to you. Friends and co-workers will nod understandingly as you tell, again and again, how “it just worked … last night. It was right there, just fine!”
But life and positive checking-account balances must go on, so you skirt the obvious: The end is nigh.
And you wrap the cord around your laptop. You drape it casually over the ceiling fan and around your big toe, typing with one hand, holding the cord just so in order to keep that orange LED on. Nothing to see here.
Rage disarms your better judgment like a mooching cousin’s convincingly genuine embrace. You blame Apple, cursing the day you opted for the sleek and nimble computer life. You blame the Man. Steve Harvey and that fool-ass Vanessa Huxtable. “Bank account, we have a problem,” you may concede, pacing and chain-smoking, your mojo melting, your knuckles powerfully ashy in public. Again.
You descend into madness as that $80 suggested retail price flashes gang signs at you from your Apple Store shopping cart. This is also called the Kitten Heels and Tube Socks Phase for its high occurrence of nervous breakdowns and departures from reality. “How could such technological hateration happen to ME?!? I was the first in my class with the Grant Hill Olympic joints, dammit!” you may wonder.
In this stage, distress-borne absurdities such as, “Maybe I’ll order this $2 Japple charger from Japan on eBay,” are common. You may even consider asking a friend for joint custody of their fully functional charger. Resist. Fight through it. In time, you’ll find a way.
This is the If Only I Had Correctly Wrapped My Charger Cord phase. A feeling of simply wanting life “as it was before” is common.
“I should have surrendered that $300 for AppleCare instead of spending rent money on Beyoncé tickets,” you will say. You will tell yourself this as you teach your toddler a great new game called Hold This Cord Riiiiight Here and Don’t Move.
Your metastasizing worry has become desperation, and you are frenzied for a quick, wallet-friendly solution. There are still baby Jordans, holiday ham hocks and deceptively cheap travel deals to the UAE to be bought, mind you. As such, bargaining can often manifest as vowing to browse Facebook less during work hours in exchange for a miraculous technological recovery. Madness.
In public places, you hunt for Apple logos, green LEDs and kind faces. You ask yourself how long you can live like this.
It’s noon on Monday. After a weekend of using your computer in short spurts on the lowest screen-brightness level, your battery is at 23 percent. All of your co-workers have PCs (it hurts, I know). Your warranty finished a year ago. Welcome to hell.
Here is where you mourn those daily trips to Chipotle that you won’t be able to make for a week if you pluck this coin from your anemic and downtrodden pockets. There may be tears.
Grief greets you with open arms and introduces you to your Uncle Regret and Aunt Sadness. During this bereavement, you are reacting to the sudden loss of both charger and alleged productivity. You may occasionally ask, “You expect me to use a PC for a few days? What’s the point of living?!” when faced with routine activities.
This is the part when you escort your delicate and fading charger around town, nestled upon a Tiffany Blue satin pillow, inside a bulletproof glass hamster carrier when not in use. It is strapped into a stroller. You are inconsolable, wearing a black Kanye-esque deerbra fur onesie under a velveteen-and-donkey-skin freakum shawl inside a suit of armor in the summertime. A mess, really.
You are despair.
Bereavement is a necessary stage of the grieving process. Out of the darkness arrives the sweet dawn. Sometimes, as in the life of Saint Damita Jo Jackson, you must Jermaine Dupri before you Wissam al Mana in order to be all right. Growth is a process. Breathe.
Hugs and ice cream cones will help you through this trying time.
Life is unfair. Ke$ha is still a thing. George Zimmerman walks the earth unmurdered, and power adapters pass away. This is our reality.
If Halle Berry can make eye contact with people after Catwoman, then you can get through this. It’s not right, but it’s OK. Look. Life among the lightweight and aesthetically pleasing has a price. No credit-limit strain, no gain. Pretty hurts (your pockets).
This is the life you implicitly signed up for when you handed over your Visa, taken by the idea of harmony (and synchronization) among your overpriced devices. These are the moments not depicted in snazzy Apple ads featuring mostly white and nonthreateningly black cool persons who are with it and now equipped to out-style those Windows 2000-using hater persons. Comfort costs … in this case, about 10 trips to Chipotle.
The rest of your life awaits you. Crawl out from under the break-room table, dry your eyes, realign your wig, smooth out your skirt and pull yourself together. Fear not: Nobody can make you use a PC against your will, and people who pressure you to violate your body like that aren’t to be trusted. Not even for a few days. Use the same don’t-leave-your-wallet-unlandmined-around-them-ly caution you would toward people who put sugar in their grits. Protect yourself. Make your peace, drop the coin, and imagine all the Cats Are S—tbags montages and adorable rapping black baby videos you will soon be watching at work.
Unlike Mariah Carey album sales, you shall rise again.
Alexander Hardy is an Afro-Panamanian writer, foodie and teacher who divides his time between plotting meals; running his blog, the Colored Boy; and slinging words across internet land on sites like Gawker, Saint Heron and Very Smart Brothas, where he works as a senior writer. Follow him on Twitter.