"I have a close relationship with my computer. I’ll call her Betty, as long as when she calls me, she doesn’t call me Al," writes Peggy McKee Barnhill.(Peggy Mckee Barnhill / For the Juneau Empire)

Gimme a Smile: My computer—my BFF

Let me tell you about my best friend…

I have a close relationship with my computer. I’ll call her Betty, as long as when she calls me, she doesn’t call me Al. That would be weird, since my name is Peggy.

I spend a lot of time with Betty. Here’s how my day unfolded today:

Betty greeted me with a lovely home screen: my daughter’s painting of a steaming cup of coffee, punctuated by bold brushstrokes of blue and purple, green and white. The cheery image gives me a smile every morning to start my day.

When I logged in, my Colonists game from last night was still up. I always enjoy this online version of Settlers of Catan. I admired how I had placed cities on all four wood hexes and snagged the wood port as well. This wealth of wood propelled me to victory in the game. If only my shrewd resource management could work out that way in real life…

My email gave me an inspiring quote from Keanu Reeves. I had to go deeper and watch a YouTube interview on a late-night talk show where he was asked what he thinks happens when you die: “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” OK, I’m crying now. Maybe I should search out a few more clips of Keanu Reeves to further warm my heart…

But first, I’ll scroll through Facebook for a bit. I just got back from the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, Ohio, which drew talented and funny people from around the country to celebrate the creation of humor. Betty went with me of course, although we didn’t get much time to spend together, what with all the sessions and keynote talks. Now that it’s over, the attendees are flooding the workshop Facebook page with their memories and takeaways. I can’t stop laughing.

Oh wait, I have work to do. Betty is my writing buddy, keeping my various manuscripts safe until I get around to working on them. My dad was a history professor, and he had a running debate with his colleagues in the math department in the 1990s about the value of computers. Dad maintained that computers are glorified typewriters, while the math professors saw them as glorified calculators. I’m with Dad on this one.

I take Betty on vacation with me. She’s a laptop, so she fits nicely into a carry-on bag. My kids are grown and I’m allergic to cats, but Betty can sit in my lap and keep me feeling warm and cozy. She will even let me know when she needs me. A message pops up, alerting me that her power is low and if I don’t attend to her, she will sleep soon. My kids were never that straightforward.

Betty also helps me keep in touch with those kids in new ways. At the height of the pandemic, I learned how to use Zoom for work meetings, Sunday morning worship, and even doing circle time with preschoolers. Why not use this new skill to connect with family members? We have to choose our time wisely to accommodate a four-hour time difference and five different schedules, but when we get together for a family game of Colonists, I have Zoom and Betty to thank for it.

Well, it’s almost time for lunch. I’ll sit down at the table with Betty and watch “Jeopardy” on YouTube while I eat. The long-awaited Tournament of Champions is almost upon us. Of course, Betty and I together could blow all those champions out of the water with our correct answers, if only I could teach her how to ring in with the buzzer.

Betty has a little sister, Fiona, who I carry around in my pocket. Fiona doesn’t give me the same love and attention that Betty does, but she’s good for taking photos, storing said photos in a sprawling file that requires sleuthing skills to access, and allowing me to text my kids when they’re not available to play Colonists over Zoom.

Maybe I’ll take Betty to the museum this afternoon for a quiet time of writing surrounded by inspiring art. She’s fully charged and ready to go. Fiona can tag along. But first, I’ve got another Keanu Reeves video to watch.

• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother, and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life.

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