When it comes to modern communications, I am the least hi-tech person I know. I don’t own a smart phone or a tablet. I make all my phone calls on a landline and don’t even have wireless internet, relying on a plug-in modem instead. Despite this, being housebound, I am dependent on technology in a way that healthy people are not. Online banking and shopping are less a question of convenience for me as a matter of necessity. To put it simply, without internet access, I don’t eat.
So when my laptop recently had to be sent away for repair, leaving me unable to access my bank account, order groceries or continue with any distance learning or computer-based volunteer work I tried to impress on the repair shop just how urgently I needed my computer returned. Their initial response was that it would take two to three weeks, maybe more and when I told them that I simply couldn’t be without a computer that long, they responded that every customer tells them that, and I’d just have to join the queue. Unlike their other customers however, I can’t get to a bank or supermarket in person and can’t use internet-cafes or public library computers to access the internet.
Given I’m always home within reach of the laptop, and have too few friends left to make a mobile contract worth bothering with I’ve never had much need of the kind of high-tech gadgetry most of my friends and family own. In the eight years that I’ve been housebound I am lucky never to have had any serious problems with my laptop that prevented me getting on-line for more than a couple of days but having to explain to a disbelieving computer technician that this laptop really is the only internet-capable device I own (not even my ancient, stuck-together-with-Sellotape, pay-as-you-go mobile phone has functioning internet anymore) made me realise just how preposterous it is that someone so dependent on internet access doesn’t have a second net-capable device.
There is a common assumption that people who are chronically ill spend most of their time chillaxing on the sofa watching day time TV (several friends in the past have expressed envy at me for it). While that may be true for some, it certainly isn’t true of me. The incessant bombardment of noise, bright lights, rapid movement and cognitive stimuli can be an exhausting combination, but even if I were well enough to watch TV for hours on end I wouldn’t choose to. While a day in front of the telly might appeal to those who are rushed off their feet with family and work commitments, the novelty wears of very quickly when you aren’t well enough to do the kind of things that TV normally provides a welcome break from. Unable to even start my Christmas shopping or get on with writing Christmas cards when all my addresses are stored on the computer, it took less than an hour of flicking between Loose Women and Bargain Hunt for me to come close to losing my sanity.
As a result of going three weeks without groceries, and no better way to pass the time than to watch nauseatingly clichéd Christmas films, I have therefore concluded it is high time I drag myself into the twenty-first century and buy a smart-phone or tablet in the January sales. If after Christmas my resolve should waver and I try to back out of it, feel free to threaten me with back to back episodes of Jeremy Kyle and nothing but porridge in the cupboards for another day or so. I guarantee it will have me typing “smartphones” into Google in less time than it would take you to pass me the TV remote.