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James Lileks: Why real stores are better than online, pt. 2,239

James Lileks, Star Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

I bought a new computer mouse the other day. Ruined it the same day. I blame the pandemic.

Problem: My wife's mouse for her work laptop stopped working. As the hunter-gatherer in the family, I said I'd get her a new one. Yes, me.

Before society reordered itself permanently, and people worked in these places we called "offices," you could go down to the IT department and get a new mouse. The IT guy would plug in the broken mouse to see if it was, in fact, broken, because IT presumes that everyone is a dunderhead whose relationship to tech is the same as the hooting apes in "2001: A Space Odyssey" to the monolith. Except the apes are irritated and blame the monolith because they forgot their password. (Which is banana24, because they had to reset it 23 times.)

But now that people are working from home, there is no IT department with spare mice. It's up to me. Off to the large blue-and-yellow-themed retailer to get a mouse. They didn't have any. That's because they were Ikea. Off to the other large blue-and-yellow-themed retailer, Best Buy. They had many mice. I got the simplest one.

When I got home, I considered the plastic coffin in which the mouse was entombed. Commonly called a blister pack, it's that thick plastic that looks great on the rack, protects it from damage and requires either a bandsaw or an industrial laser to open. I suppose it prevents shoplifting; then again, so does encasing the object in concrete and chaining it to an angry dog.

I found the sharpest scissors and began to work on the package, pausing periodically to refresh my electrolytes and rub unguent on my aching muscles. After a few hours of diligent work, enough of the top was open that I could reach inside — the sharp plastic drawing blood, of course — and extract the mouse.


That's when I discovered that I somehow had cut the cord that plugs the mouse into the computer. Even though I scissored an inch above the aperture where the cord was tucked into the packaging, I cut it.

This called for some seriously obfuscatory tech-talk.

"Good news," I said to my wife. "Looks like you have a wireless mouse! Bad news, there's a defect in the mouse-to-motherboard interface, and there's a non-connective problem that probably is due to a Fiskar-enabled severance situation. I'll have to take it back."

"OK, thanks," she said to an empty room five minutes later because she was deep into work e-mail and it had just registered that someone husband-shaped had entered the room and uttered sounds.


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