Joyride Through Cyberspace By Caroline Wright
What Santa Didn't Bring Me
from the Internet Gazette, January 2000

I was good all year. For the most part, I really was. I brushed my teeth every night, I washed behind my ears and I was nice to my mom and dad.

You know, when you're a good kid, you expect that the fat old bastard in the red suit is gonna be on your side. So what happened?

Christmas morning I woke up and went very demurely to the living room; I sat on the sofa and waited for my gifts to be brought to me. A nice pair of jammies and some warm sweaters from my boyfriend's mother… a pound of Lion coffee and a sassy cup to drink it out of, from my friend Kim… a half-dozen wonderful CDs from my mom… in no time at all, the space under the tree was empty, and there was a pile of wonderful surprises in my lap and all around me. But where was the one thing I really, truly wanted?

Okay, so it isn't really Santa's fault. How could he have known what I really wanted? I never make lists. This is because I like surprises. I really do. I am always curious to see what the giver will think might please me. There really is no reason for my disgruntlement. How was Santa to know that what I really want, more than anything else, is a sweet little Sony Digital Mavica?

This is how it all started: in November, my best friend Jesse and her daughter Harmony came to visit. They are humble as church mice, living simply but happily in a cottage in northern Virginia.

They don't travel lightly. Jesse brought her sewing machine ("I have to make Harmony's costume for the school play!") and Harmony brought Belle the Bad Bunny (we had to talk my boyfriend out of frying her up and serving her with biscuits and gravy, as folks in these parts like to do with any rabbits they find handy). They brought armfuls of books and videos, jars full of homeopathic healing salve, and tomatoes, rescued from the first frost to hit Jesse's garden. They brought so much stuff that you would have thought they were moving in, to see it all. How I giggled when I saw their little car, weighed down with them and their stuff.

But my laughter ended when I saw The Camera. See, I'd just started doing some reporting for the daily paper here in Myrtle Beach, and I was charged with the task of providing art with my stories. I'd gotten my 18-year-old camera out of the mothballs – an old fully-manual 35 mm. Minolta, perfectly respectable in every way, with a zoom lens, a telephoto, and a flash that worked just fine, after I replaced it. But driving all the way to the newspaper offices in Myrtle Beach just to deliver my film had become a tedious chore.

"Smile, Auntie Caroline!" said Harmony, and I stuck my tongue out at her and grabbed for the little camera.

"Hey, lemme see!" I examined it carefully. A Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD5. "How's it work? Don't these things need a cable or something? Aren't they ridiculously expensive?"

"I don't know how much they cost. My mom won it! Isn't it cool? She called a radio station during 'Friends' week. I think they wanted to know the name of Joey's ex-girlfriend's sister's dog or something."

I peered through the viewfinder. "But your mom doesn't have a computer! How do you guys look at the pictures?" Harmony pointed at the little screen on the back of the camera; it contained an image of my toes, as the camera pointed down at them. "Where do you store the pictures?"

Harmony held up a handful of standard 3.5" floppies.

I gaped. "You're KIDDING! You don't need a cable?"

I took a disk's worth of photos in the yard that sunny afternoon. Then I ran inside to look at them. I opened ACDSee on my computer, placed the disk in the drive… and there they were! Two dozen or so handsome JPEGs of children, boyfriends, dads, bunnies, and toes. I could manipulate them in Photoshop; I could add them to my Web site; I could e-mail them to my friends… What a wonderful little gadget!

Much to my dismay, Jesse wouldn't give me her camera, or even swap it for one of my kidneys. Soon Christmas arrived, and with it, no Mavica. I was glum. Across the room, my son, already surrounded by North Pole plunder, howled with delight.

"Look what I got!" he waved the box in the air gleefully. "A digital camera!"

I was all ready to accost him with maternal guilt trips, both barrels. Or the bribe of a kidney, if that didn't work. "Gimme that!" I demanded, and then I remembered it was Christmas. "Errr, I mean, come here, dear… let me see your new toy."

It was cute. It was lightweight. It was purple with a slime-green aperture. How could I resist the NickClick from Nickelodeon?

I imagined taking it on serious photo shoots for the paper. "Smile and say 'SLIME'!" I'd prompt my subjects. And when I saw the software that came with the camera, I was delighted. I could manipulate my photos and insert the subjects into video games. I could put Jay's head on Cat-Dog's body. I could put my boyfriend in a Rugrat's diaper and give him the hair of an Angry Beaver.

Alas, the photo quality wasn't nearly as awesome as I would have hoped. The pixels were big and muddy, and there was very little contrast. I s'pose it's a fun toy for kids, but I have something new to covet now: the Sony Digital Mavica MVC-FD91. It can take 1024x768 XGA resolution stills, 60-second MPEG movies, and voice narration, all on a regular 3.5" floppy. I found it at www.pricewatch.com for only $838.00.

I wonder if Santa needs a kidney.


Caroline Wright, of WRIGHT FOR YOU Word Services, is a freelance writer. A former resident of Hawaii, she now lives in rural South Carolina. Feel free to e-mail your comments to Caroline at cw@wrightforyou.com.