Brigid O’Dea: I hate technology, but when I fix Dad’s problems I feel like a genius

Assisting my father with his technical queries is a veritable ego boost

Brigid O’Dea: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could release all the gunk built up in my head? Pop it. Flush it all out. Give it a clean’. Photograph: Alan Betson

Brigid O’Dea: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could release all the gunk built up in my head? Pop it. Flush it all out. Give it a clean’. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

My dad rang me recently with a technical problem. My dad is the only person in the world who would choose to ring me with a technical problem. I love helping him with his technical problems. This might surprise you, because, as you saw in my last column, I hate technology. I’m truly hopeless with it. Assisting my dad, however, with his technical queries is a veritable ego boost.

Last week, I fixed his phone after weeks of frustration and a hefty phone bill, by pressing the volume button. “You are a genius!’ he exclaimed. “A wonder child!”

Years ago, when it was just the two of us at home and we spent our evenings watching TV, the NTL box would freeze. I would try to subtly hide my pride as I strode to the TV, knotting my hot water bottle under the rope of my dressing gown. I would blow on the dusty NTL card, pull a few cords, leave it a minute, while I mopped my now runny nose, before plugging the box back in again. When it worked, my dad would lavish me with holy praise. “Where did I get you?” he would marvel. I would attempt to hide the satisfaction creeping up my face with the curry-cracked sleeve of my dressing-gown.

Bolstered by my success, and my dad’s veneration, I turned to a friends’ WhatsApp group to brag

On those occasions when this trick didn’t work, no blame was apportioned my way. This was a feat too grand for mere humankind. We cursed the TV company as a loose red wire danced in sight. Instead, we opened our books.

But on this day, my dad was phoning me because his laptop had broken. I told him the one solution I knew; hold down the power button for 15 seconds and turn it back on again. Low and behold, it worked.

He told me I was a genius. I believed him.

Bolstered by my success, and my dad’s veneration, I turned to a friends’ WhatsApp group to brag: “I’m actually really good at this, guys”. “Okay,” my friend responded (he has a degree in IT and has come to my rescue countless times), “but do you know why it worked?”. “Yes,” I replied, “because I’m a genius”.

“There was an overcharge somewhere between the power and the circuitry,” he wrote, “holding down the power button flushes it”. “It’s called a voltage flush,” he said.

Now, if my neurologist told me that a migraine was “an overcharge somewhere between the power and the circuitry”, I’d say, “yes, that sounds reasonable”. In fact, often, I can feel the overcharge happening. If I go too long without eating, overexercise or become overtired, I start to feel funny things happen in my brain, which if I was to describe them, feel like an overcharge somewhere in my brain’s circuitry.

Bloaty Head patient in Theme Hospital
Bloaty Head patient in Theme Hospital

But, a voltage flush, now that sounds nice.

When I was younger, I used to play Theme Hospital on our home PC. Theme Hospital was a computer game whereby you managed your own private hospital. Patients would present to the hospital with a myriad of peculiar ailments, including slack tongue; patients with comically elongated tongues, King Complex; sufferers who felt compelled to impersonate Elvis, and Bloaty Head; a condition whereby patients presented with cartoon-style inflated heads. Upon presenting at the hospital, patients with Bloaty Head were taken into a room by a doctor to have their head deflated.

I always empathised with this ailment. Not because, as some may argue, I have a big head, but because as I watched them deliver the treatment – that is bursting the big head – I thought wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could release all the gunk built up in my head? Pop it. Flush it all out. Give it a clean.

Recent medical theories suggest that ultimately, that may be what a migraine is; a resetting technique. It’s an adaptive mechanism that restores homeostasis in the brain. A migraine is, in other words, a voltage flush. It’s just a pretty unpleasant one. But I guess, so is having your head deflated.

When I first read this theory of migraines, it made me view the process a little more kindly. I felt a vague affinity with my brain. Reframing a migraine as a “voltage flush” felt restorative. My brain is doing its best; turning itself off and on again.

I guess it’s just unfortunate that, like me, it’s the only trick my brain seems to know.

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