Carried away on a tide of red wine, the Lawyer bid for one of those pocket PCs at a charity do, and found himself several hundred pounds poorer and in possession of a sliver of metal with more functions and memory than he has ever enjoyed in his life.
It sat on the kitchen table for days until he plucked up the courage to turn it on, except by then, Subjudice had annexed it and was using it to record her latest Atkins diet successes. It took the Lawyer a couple of days to work out how to delete the heart-clogging list of eggs and bacon she’d devoured, but after that he was off.
He came home every night enthusing about the latest function he’d discovered. He could use it for emails. He could write on it. He could even play games – he’d spent an entire eight-hour meeting in the grim public sector improving his minesweeper score, and they all thought he was making notes, which just meant they spouted on for longer, of course; people love it if they think you’re writing down their precious words.
Soon he realised that he need hardly show his face in the office at all as it even kept a diary for him, just like a secretary does. And after he discovered it had an address book, the Lawyer ceremoniously tore out the hundreds of pages in the huge leather file he always used to carry with him. “Recycle them, Dad!” said Deminimus, in a cry of ecological angst.
“No, no, this is destined for the bonfire of antiquated ideas,” the Lawyer said, grandly. “But you can have my fountain pen.”
“What for?” asked our computer geek son, who probably hasn’t written anything by hand since he had to spell out his name at nursery.
The Lawyer spent the weekend entering obscure information into the box: people’s birthdays, maps from the web, swimming pool times. “Always on the move,” he said. “Need information at my fingertips. It’s like having a second brain in your hand.” Subjudice gagged and Liability told him that the box would eventually swallow his real brain.
By the second week, the Lawyer’s real secretary was ringing up asking whether he was skiving off at home, as he hadn’t been seen in the office for days.
“He never tells me where he’s going any more,” she said, plaintively. “It’s all written down in that little metal box, and he never has to ring up to check what he’s doing. He used to be lost without me: I had to remind him to go home on Friday evenings sometimes! I wouldn’t mind, only I worry.”
I wondered if I’d ever cared so much about my husband’s whereabouts, and concluded that I never had. Perhaps she does deserve him more than me, I thought.
I suggested that if she ever saw him again she should pinch the blasted thing and flush it down the loo, as she was far more important to the Lawyer than any stupid metal box. I could feel her preen at the end of the phone, and thought my stock might have gone up a bit – perhaps she’d send the Lawyer home a bit earlier on Friday nights in future. Unless she was having me on? When I did see my husband I seized the metal box and had a look at his diary. Written there in capitals, as a recurring appointment on Friday evenings, were the alarming words “GO HOME”. I looked at him wondering how lawyers don’t end up on the streets as it seems quite possible some of them don’t have any brains at all.