Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.13.09
Stanstead, Quebec


Would you like extra RAM with that?

There are two methods for purchasing any big-ticket item. There's meticulous, time-consuming research, involving frequent humming and persistent hawing. And then there's buying on impulse. Neither method is particularly satisfying.

Chez Murray, we've been overdue to update our old computer for some time. It's deadly slow, low on memory and makes angry noises when it wakes up -- which also describes me some mornings.

"I can't help you with this one," my wife said. "I know nothing about computers."

"Oh, come on," I said. "You could come along and say things like, 'Ooo, pretty!'"

And so I set out on my own.

I know my way around computers. But that's like saying I know my way around Sherbrooke, even though I've never lived or worked there, and I don't know any of the back roads or where to find decent Senegalese food and robot parts (don't ask).

In other words, knowing your way around computers is far different from really "knowing" computers. This means that when I go into a big-box store (let's call it Bureau en Big), I can distinguish the good computers from the cheap ones, but after that it's like picking wallpaper.

You have to compare your RAM and your ROM and your RAMALAMADINGDONG and your CPUs and your CPUs delivered by UPS and your screen resolution and your New Year's resolution...

Eventually, it all becomes a blur. Plus, you have to consider the options: Mac? PC? Desktop? Laptop? Childproof? Waterproof?

And don't expect much help in Bureau en Big. A salesclerk may ask, "Can I help you?" but if you say, "I'm looking for a computer," you will receive only a blank stare. Such a statement is far too vague for Bureau en Big. You need to be more specific, e.g. "I'm looking for Item #43GIY in your current flyer, which I believe is in Aisle 57, Shelf 3, over there to your left next to Faxes and Gimmicks." And then the clerk will tell you it's not his department.

For kicks, I stopped in at an Apple boutique. There I found an iMac with the sweetest little keyboard and all the hardware tucked into the back of the 20-inch screen. "Ooo," I said, "Pretty!" But since it cost double what I wanted to pay, I repressed the echo of my wife saying, "It's something you've GOT TO DO," and reluctantly moved on.

I wound up in an reputably reputable (if that's not redundant) independent boutique that sold new and used computers Let's call it Blah Computers. There I had an actual discussion with a clerk about the type of computer that best suited my needs. It boiled down to this:

"Should I get a desktop or a laptop?"

"Do you have children?"


"Desktop. Children destroy laptops."

After that, things got harder.

The clerk at Blah Computers spoke French with what I think was a Lebanese accent. Quebec French, hard enough for me. Accented Quebec French, I'm done. So I was immediately at a disadvantage understanding-wise. Our discussions of RAM and ROM and CPUs were punctuated by long stretches of not understanding -- I mean, understanding less than usual. It sounded to me like this:

"This IBM computer is from an office that wawawawa noodle pan fastobin upgrade. It's perfect for families with shimmy shammy wackadoo and multiple users who might fwa fwa postscript."

And so on.

I bought it anyway.

Unfortunately, when I brought the computer home, it wouldn't connect to the Internet . So I called my supplier. Let's call it Stacatico. After 45 minutes on the phone with a technician, I was informed that there must be something wrong with my network card. I took the computer back to Blah Computers. They told me the problem was with Stacatico. I phoned Statatico again. The technician this time was simply stumped.

Finally,on a hunch, I tried something myself. I tried a different Ethernet cable between my modem and my computer.

It worked.


In your face, Stacatico and Blah! I'm surfing the Internet, no thanks to you. Who knows computers now? Uh-huh, uh-huh! I love technology!

Too bad my new computer is slower than my old one.

I hate technology.