Buying the laptop the other day got me thinking about something that happened years ago and which I hadn’t thought about for years.
These days I guess I take it for granted that I can pretty much have anything (within reason of course) I want. When I was younger things weren’t so easy, I mean to say that we weren’t totally poor but neither were we affluent.
I’d been given a Commodore VIC-20 for Christmas of 1982 by my Mum and step-Dad and I loved it. You could “make” your own games by typing in code published in magazines. You could borrow games from friends and even Video Libraries and copy them using 2 cassette recorders connected together. The possibilities seemed endless and from then until now, I’ve been hooked on computers.
A year or 2 later I was hoping for something new and had decided I wanted a Spectrum Plus, this was basically just a Spectrum with a new case including a “proper” keyboard.
My Dad took me to the Woolworths store in Rotherham, where they had some good deals on offer, to get my Christmas Gift.
So far so good, I’m a very happy boy and in great spirits, looking forward to having my new computer for Christmas. However, it wasn’t to stay that way, in fact this day was to change me forever ( please excuse the drama.)
We spent some time in the store looking at the deals and I chose the one I wanted, then had a couple of rounds of Dad confirming if I was sure, it would have to last me, I wouldn’t get any other gifts etc etc.
So Dad found an available salesman and to my surprise we were led to an office at the back of the store. this felt a bit odd, a bit like something I’d seen on TV about a shoplifter taken to the Managers office! Of course it wasn’t that at all, it was because there was paperwork to be done. The paperwork
was for a credit agreement or maybe it was called a hire purchase agreement back then.
Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t like it. Back then, credit wasn’t as free and easily available as it is now, only the rich had credit cards and most ordinary people could only access credit at expensive rates or even worse through some other dodgy means. At my Mums house I was trained in the
“save up for it, if you want it” school of thought. At Dads house it was more common to order things from the catalogue and pay it off at 32p a week for 48 weeks. I think that because I spent most time living with Mum, that’s the side that had most dominance for me.
So back to the store. The man is going through the paperwork, speaking to Dad about Interest rates and repayments and I realised that this was not a good thing. This was the time of the Miners strike (Dad was a coal miner) and things were hard money-wise.
The thing that changed in me was that I realised two things, on a concious level, for the first time.
Sometimes the things we are given come at an unseen price.
People will make sacrifices for those they love.
The trouble was that as soon as I realised this, I also realised that I didn’t want him to make this sacrifice. The hard part is how does a 14 year old boy tell his proud working-class Dad that he doesn’t want him to get in debt for the sake of a Christmas present that he cant afford.
I couldn’t think of a way to do it like that without wounding Dads pride. The only thing I could come up with was, to say that I wasn’t sure it was what I really wanted after all, maybe there was something better. It came across as petulant and spoiled, in short I was an ungrateful boy.
It is only now, looking back, that I realise that I made a sacrifice of my own on that day, I remained an ungrateful boy because I never told my Dad why I’d rejected the gift. I thought I’d tell him later but it never came up again. Its too late now of course.
I still think I did the right thing.