AT LARGE: A day in the life

6:00am - Drag myself out of bed. Make myself a nice hot cup of Earl Grey to start the day. Switch the computer on. Got to write column for ARN today.

6:10am - After wheezing and groaning for a bit, computer springs to life. I know what the problem is, but I also know it isn't fixable. The only thing for it is to wait until the faulty widget inside fails, then go get a new one. This procedure was recommended by HAL in 2001, and I tend to trust his wisdom.

7:00am - The moment of truth arrives. In the middle of checking e-mail, a very strange noise emerges from the computer (kind of like the sound of someone trying to cut guitar strings with a blunt knife), and the screen goes blank. I am, of course, philosophical. Hum a few bars of "Daisy" whilst powering down and plugging the phone back in (still no cable modem).

7:15am - While waiting for the computer shop to open, it occurs to me there is a perfectly logical reason why the candidates for the US presidency are so lacklustre this year. Every US president elected in a year ending with 0 has, by one means or another, failed to complete his term in office - so what politician worth their salt would seek election in a year ending with 000? Triple-bad-mojo. No wonder the poor Americans have to choose between the dregs.

7:20am - It occurs to me that Ronald Reagan (elected 1980) completed his term - two of them, in fact. This is only because, as a past president of the Screen Actors Guild, he is entitled to a lifetime of protection from a trained stuntman.

7:45am - It occurs to me that I'm not a political commentator, nor American, so I must make sure not to mention any of this in the ARN column.

9:00am - Phone the computer shop. Ask for the service division. "My widget broke. I'd like a new one."

"Why don't you bring it in and we'll see if we can fix it?"

"Because it's a widget. You can't fix a widget, surely."

"Oh, sometimes you can get a bit of extra life out of them. Cheaper in the long run."

I disagree with this point, but hey, life is a learning game. Carefully, I remove the widget from my machine, pack it, and get a cab to the shop.

10:00am - Arrive at the shop. Seek the guy I talked to on the phone. He looks at the dead widget and says "I see what you mean. Can't fix that. You'll need a new one."

"OK, gimme." (Or words to that effect).

"We don't have any in stock."

"Can you get one in?"

"There aren't any in the country. You'll have to wait until another shipment arrives."

"When will that be?"

"Depends on when we place the order."

"So place an order."

"We can't until the supplier tells us they're coming. We'll let you know."

10:30am - Leave the shop, my head spinning in a cloud of logic. For some reason, I had given him my telephone number so that he can call me when the widgets come in, or when he places an order, or something - whichever comes first. I imagine him chuckling with his mates in the service division about having confounded another customer with a dead widget.

Noon - Over lunch, I decide I can't wait some indeterminate period of time for my computer to be active again. ARN needs me. I call one of my contacts within the company that made the computer and explain the situation.

"Surely someone over there has a spare widget they could part with - it's an emergency."

"But Mr Powell, wouldn't that count as dealing directly with a vendor? Are you not a champion of the channel?" Confound my celebrity! My contact informs me that there are indeed widgets in the country, implying that the reseller was giving me what is technically known as "the runaround". I can deal with that. I'm a big boy. I imagine that I'll get a call in the next day or so, from the service guy, having gone to great lengths and procured the only widget on the island continent for me.

3:00pm - The phone call arrives. A miracle! A widget has been located, and can be sent over by courier immediately. For a small charge.

4:00pm - Widget arrives. I install it, and the guitar-string noise is gone. Pleasant humming, as of Fred Astaire in Top Hat, takes its place. I begin to write the ARN column.

6:00pm - Wonder if political commentators have to put up with this kind of thing?

Matthew JC. Powell studied international politics at uni. No, really. Debate the issues with him atmjcpowell@ozemail.com.au

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