Just a girl, sitting in front of a Dell

Matilda Swartz

As the ides of February creep closer, and with them the holiday that for sanity-preservation purposes shall remain nameless, I find myself facing some sobering realizations.

In 2006, Villanova coveted the number one slot on PC Magazine’s list of America’s Top Wired Colleges. In its 2008 edition, we placed 15th. I have developed a personal hypothesis concerning our plummeted ranking: Villanova computers are frauds. They are interactive anomalies. After closer observation of our campus’s Dell population, I concluded as much.

Log in to any desktop in Falvey Memorial Library and Dell will not just make you wait, it will make you say “Please.” Then it spends a few crucial moments “applying your personal settings.” At this point, one is still balking at the fact that the computer has better manners than the usual late-riser in front of you at Holy Grounds (who is much too involved telling their Motorola all about the chai latte they have been craving all day to actually order it). So this virtually generous gesture seems not only astounding, but improbable. How could this computer, placed so strategically in an edifice open to the public, be willing to go out of its way to apply tailor-made settings of my very own?

I could accept its knowledge of some of the basics. It probably is aware that I like the color blue, and adjusts the desktop background as such. I can see the feasibility of Dell knowing that I made the switch from the immuno-deficient Internet Explorer to the heartier Mozilla Firefox.

But is this Dell taking into account the quirks and complexities that differentiate me from the rest? Does it know that I have been and will always be more partial to dogs than to cats? Is it aware that I will dry heave from the smell of plain cream cheese but devour half of a cheesecake if put in front of me? I know it cannot be privy to the fact that despite my massive adoration of Bob Dylan, I fancy a T.I. solo in the shower just as much as the next person.

If in fact I needed it to, would this electronic mass be programmed to deal with my fluctuating temperament? Would it keep the pop-ups to a minimum during my prime napping windows, weekdays 3 to 5 p.m.? Do these “personal settings” include a program with a tranquilizing effect for when I exceed my daily coffee limit and break out into neurotic, nonsensical rants a lá Woody Allen (which, trust me, is more frequently)? I would bet that they do not.

Moreover, when I log off and the next patron logs back on, Dell claims to be able to make the switch. Again, I play the interrogative cynic. How can it be so intuitive, so capable of not just memorizing but caring about the personal needs of me, my friends, my peers and my professors? First the system surpasses the public line-etiquette standard, and now it is trying to exceed my expectations for an ideal significant other. It figures that this compact, lifeless machine would be able to stay organized, go mute when I want it to, and take care of not just me, but those close to me.

Perhaps I am looking at this too optimistically. I steadfastly refuse to accept perfection. No man or machine edges that close to excellence without a catch. When I leave this station, some girl with longer legs and straighter teeth is going to relinquish my position and Dell will act as if I was never here. Dells-each one is more seemingly unassuming than the next-are nothing but cheating, sweet-talking, polygamist rogues. I should have expected nothing less.

So after using the always appropriate Socratic method of inquiry after inquiry, I find my original hypothesis validated. Villanova Dells reel in their victims with superficial attentiveness and sensitivity, willing to respond to every click and call, but the minute you leave them alone in a singles crowd they are the first to stray. Such infidelity is not worthy of a number one rating, and for once karma was served. So for anyone thinking of getting serious with a ‘Nova Dell: keep it light, avoid serious attachment and you won’t get hurt, and drown your sorrows in red-and-purple encased Hershey’s Kisses. Trust me, I learned the hard way.


Matilda Swartz is a freshman communication major from Longport, NJ. She can be reached at [email protected].