November 15, 2002
Unplugged

miles to go: 185.47 [YTD: 1,816.53]

From the *It Never Pays To Be Smug* Department: David and I sat in bed on Wednesday night, all smug and jammied and pleased with ourselves, and wrote the final check to cover the final payment on the "new" computer. 

"That's it!" we crowed, once the check was written and signed and ceremoniously stuffed into the CompUSA envelope. "Our computer is 100% paid-for!" 

And we high-fived each other in goony self-congratulatory triumph. One more tiny victory in the endless war against debt.

Then of course we turned right around, the very next day, and killed our 100%-paid-for computer totally dead.

We still don't know what happened. We got home from work last night, and everything seemed to be running just fine, I swear to god. While David cooked dinner, I sat down to take a quick spin around the Internet. Nothing out of the ordinary in my mailbox: a little bit of 'Grilla back-and-forth, a couple of notifies, some iffy-looking stuff that I deleted without opening. (Like I'm going to open an e-card from someone named "DrunkenLady@aol.com.")  No McAfee pop-up alerts, no virus warnings, no alarms or sirens or barking Dobermans ... nothing to indicate any system difficulties at all, as a matter of fact. I took a peek at David's message board, read Bev and "The Bleat," made a few edits on a *FootNotes* entry I'd written at work during lunch, formatted a graphic to go with the entry. At that point I noticed that things were running a little slower than usual, but even that didn't seem all that unusual: with our medieval dial-up connection, the Internet often bogs down on us during peak usage hours. The usual fix for this is to reboot, so I obediently shut down all of my open programs and hit "restart."

The next thing I knew, I was looking at a DOS screen ... and a disk failure message.

I knew right away that this was Very Bad. I don't know a lot about computers -- about the mechanics of them, I mean, or about what goes on under the hood while I'm busy ordering bicycle jerseys and writing fan mail to Jeff Probst -- but I knew right away that this was a catastrophic malfunction.  Worse, even, than when the KLEZ virus shut us down a couple of months ago. David knew it too. He squinted and muttered and tinkered and slid various boot-up disks and emergency system repair CD's in and out of the PC for most of the evening, all to no avail, and eventually he just looked at me wearily and said "We're screwed."

Our hard drive has essentially been wiped out ... along with everything on it.

I've seen David this upset maybe two or three times, in all of the years I've known him. Of course, with David, "upset" translates as a clenched jaw and uncharacteristic silence for half an hour.  But it's still devastating to witness. And he had every right to be upset. I lost a couple of years' worth of archived e-mails in the crash last night, plus yesterday's *FootNotes* entry (no great loss) and some recent digital photos of The World's Cutest Nephew, which I stoopidly forgot to back up on CD. Everything else I've got safely mirrored elsewhere, thank god. But David has lost everything.  More than a years' worth of artwork and writing and music and various creative projects, into which he'd poured hours and hours of heart and thought and effort ... gone, *poof,* just like that. Lately his passion has been digitizing old cassettes to CD -- mostly radio broadcasts from the 70's and 80's -- everybody from George Thorogood to Richard Thompson to Randy Newman. It was a project that filled him with joy and kept him busy for days on end. Now all of those massive, meticulously-edited audio files are gone forever because we never got around to buying that ZIP drive we were always talking about.

I am beyond heartsick, just thinking about it.

We don't know when we're going to be able to get the computer fixed. It might be a while. We stoopidly allowed the warranty to lapse last summer -- We don't really need to keep paying this, do we? -- and with the holidays bearing down on us like the revenge of Montezuma we can't afford the luxury of sending it in for repair right now. I've just plunked down a big bunch of money for Christmas airfare for the two of us; David had to have some work done on our elderly Subaru; neither one of us expects to win the lottery this weekend. And no, this is not a plea for help. Please don't send money. Antacids, Far Side cartoons, Fast Lane Tea, if you've got 'em ... but no money. When I get home tonight I'm going to attempt to jury-rig our ancient laptop to the Internet and see if we're able to at least check e-mail and upload files. If so, fine: there will be the occasional subpar *FootNotes* entry or mileage update or whiney message to the notify list all about why I haven't written in ten days. (In other words: business as usual.)

If not, we're going to have to consider ourselves unplugged for a while. (And either way, of course, this does nothing to help David recover his trashed computer handiwork.)

The good news -- if there is any good news to be had here, and I'm really having to stretch to find it, believe me -- is that unplugged probably isn't fatal. Unplugged doesn't even really hurt all that much, as long as you've got somebody to be unplugged with. If something like this had happened, say, when I was living alone in the Tree House and the computer was all I had for company/entertainment/emotional support, I would probably be leaping out of that third-story window, right about now. The situation sucks, no doubt about it -- we're both going to go through major withdrawal in the next few days -- but I'm sure we'll find ways to keep ourselves busy and entertained until the computer is back up and running. David called me here at the office a few minutes ago, and he's already beginning to sound like his normal, practical, ridiculously chipper self. 

"We're going to have a great weekend," he said flatly, when I cautiously asked him 'how he was doing.' 

And he's right: we'll probably be fine. We've got books to read and phone calls to make and last night's "Survivor: Thailand episode" on tape, still to watch. We've got a Tot coming to visit next weekend, and a buttload of housecleaning and shopping to do this weekend in preparation. We've got Yahtzee. We've got conversation. And of course we've still got 185 miles' worth of elephant to eat, starting first thing tomorrow morning. 

Who knows? Maybe a period of involuntary unpluggedness will actually turn out to be a good thing.

Have a great weekend, everybody. I'll be back when I'm back.




in memory of marcella degrasse
in memory of marcella degrasse
[aunt marcie]



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