We’ve just made our way through security and are headed toward our gate when it hits me. “O no,” I say, “no, no.” Whispering to try to make it less true. “Noooooooooooooo.” My husband glances up at me, wondering what I’ve forgotten, and how badly it’s going to screw up our trip.
“The charger,” I say. “I forgot the charger.”
"Look!" he says, as he smiles and brings his rollybag to a why-do-you-worry-so-much stop in front of the airport electronics store. “No big deal.”
Except it’s not the phone charger I’ve forgotten. It’s the laptop charger. And we’re on our way to Juneau, Alaska—a small city at the bottom of a big bowl of mountains. Juneau is beautiful. It’s remote. And it’s refreshingly free of big-box chain stores. On any other day, I’d be smugly approving of that fact, patting myself on the back for shopping local. Today, with my laptop charger back at home in its socket? Not so much.
Of course, the independently owned Juneau Electronics is closed over the weekend. And 9:00 a.m. is sort of an approximation of when it will open, not so much a hard and fast rule. Since I can’t get there and back before my first meeting, I spend the morning using my phone to Skype with two good-humored coaching clients and send off several poorly composed, thumb-typed emails.
By the time I walk into the electronics store that afternoon, I’m pissed off at their lazy hours and on the verge of panic. I have coaching calls coming up, and tons of email to get through, and I have got to get some writing done. Please have it I beg, as I walk through the door and spot the clean white box with the silver apple. I’ll do anything to get back on my laptop.
Anything, I realize at the counter, but pay $89.99 for a charger I’ll only need for two more days.
The guy at the counter starts laughing when he hears me gasp, his eyes crinkling up as he takes the box gently from my hand. “You have a little time?” he asks me. “If so, I can just charge it for you.”
I’m so stunned, I kid you not, I cock my head to the side like my dog.
Then I sit in the chair he pulls out from behind the counter, and watch him over the next hour or so as he helps a couple of customers. I don’t answer email or text my friends. (Remember, Juneau’s at the bottom of a bowl of mountains. Not only is my laptop dead, I’ve also got no cell reception.) Instead, I watch him calm the hysterical, and indulge the vain, and make their technical problems disappear. When there are no customers around, I think about him losing a sale to help someone he’ll never see again. And I think a lot about him asking me if I “have a little time.”
I know it’s ridiculous, but when he hands me back the laptop I get a little dreamy thinking of all the stuff I can now get done. What should I do first? I wonder, and my eyes go a little soft as I imagine zeroing out my email and getting ten—no, twenty!—things ticked off my to-do list. I’m babbling out incoherent thanks, so thrilled to be doing again, that I almost don’t hear him when he says, “That should hold you for about 8 hours!”
Only eight hours?
Walking back to the hotel, I do what I normally do, the same thing I tell my coaching clients to do: I think about what’s most important, the thing that—if I don’t get it done, will weigh me down and make it hard to relax. Only this time, with just 8 hours of juice in my bag, I have a felt sense of those priorities that I rarely do in everyday life. By the time I’m back in the room flipping open the top and eyeing the battery icon, it’s crystal clear to me what matters most. For me it’s my chapter and my coaching clients. Everything else can wait.
Summer’s coming. For some of you it’s already here. You’re already dreaming about all those wide open days laid out in front of you. It seems like you have forever. You don’t.
Every day you wake up, you’re a laptop with no charger. Depending on how you slept, you might be at 100%, or you might be the little red slash at the bottom of the battery icon. Regardless of the state you’re in, you’ll have limited energy for the things that come your way. You’ll have limited time. You’ll always have more to do than can possibly be done on your remaining charge.
Watcha gonna do with your juice?
Want the InkWell blog delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to Inkling, a bite-sized newsletter filled with ideas, inspiration, and information for academic writers.
Want the monthly InkWell blog delivered straight to your inbox?
Michelle Boyd. Writer, Scholar, Coach