It’s funny how I couldn’t think of anything to write about until I killed my computer.
I was carrying it out to the balcony to do some work on the first not-100-degree day in like a month when I spilled at least half a glass of water on the keyboard. I couldn’t put it down or flip it over fast enough. The water settled in between the keys as I moaned and tried to convince it to stop, you know, possessing the qualities of liquid.
When I could, I flipped it over, shook out whatever would shake out, and then dried it off with my skirt. Inside my place, I dried it off again, grabbed toilet paper and dried between the keys.
I hit the power button.
A flutter of light. Then nothing.
I hit it again. Same results.
Hair dryer. I need the hair dryer.
I carted the laptop – which was only 14 months old – into the bathroom and started blowing it dry. Maybe the heat setting is bad. Cool air button.
I took the battery out, put it back in. Tried the power.
If I had the sweet kind of relationship with my mother, I would have wanted her at this point.
I called my IT guy at work and left a voicemail about what one should do if one hypothetically spilled half a glass of water on one’s laptop. Not at all surprisingly, the IT guy did not fix my computer problem.
I called Brad and BIL1, both great with computers. Brad had no suggestions other than what I had done. BIL1 was more educated, but less positive.
“Yeah, you probably fried the motherboard.”
“You might be able to unscrew some things and get the keyboard off, and then you can dry underneath it. I did that when I spilled milk on mine once.”
I went digging through my tool box (read: Rubbermaid storage container full of crap dating back to 1995) and found the proper screwdriver while BIL1 asked about my warranty.
“I don’t know what I got. I don’t remember, and I have no idea where it is, ” I told him, twisting tiny screws.
“Well, you can call and find out what you have,” he said.
“Yeah, but… won’t that tell them that I’ve done something to the laptop?”
I get paranoid about stuff like this. I picture them typing it into my account info: Asked re: coverage, extension, type of coverage, 8/4. Then I go waltzing in all, “My computer isn’t working,” and they’re like, “You called, right?” and my grand plan to pretend absolutely nothing happened to the laptop goes out the window because I am such a bad liar that I start in with a facial tic before I even attempt the lie.
“Well,” said BIL1, “sometimes taking apart the computer voids the warranty, so…”
Okay, retwisting tiny screws now.
“…And you don’t want to try to turn it back on for at least a day. Let it dry completely, or if you haven’t already fried it, you will.”
I couldn’t form the words to say I’d tried three times already.
The lack of contact with the outside world had already started eating at me before I even hung up the phone. And all of a sudden, there was so much stuff I needed to write about. I whimpered. I didn’t even have paper. Who needs paper when you have a laptop? Forget internet access; I couldn’t even type. Faced with the understanding that it would be at least 24 hours before I could even try to boot up again, I was freaking out. I paced. I chewed my lip. I looked around.
I had to leave the apartment.
I went to the grocery store to fetch cat food and sour cream for the scones I wanted to make. Once there, I blindly cruised aisles I didn’t need to be in, mentally mumbling half-thoughts to myself like the guy in “Office Space.” Without realizing it, I stood unblinking in front of the frozen pizzas. When I snapped back to consciousness, I wandered away, fighting the urge to become an emotional eater.
The grocery store had been a bad idea. I was hungry, and I was upset. Danger, Will Robinson.
Forcing myself to buy only what I needed, I proceeded to the checkout with cat food, sour cream, a small frozen pizza (oh, leave me alone), a college rule notebook and a package of pens.
Wow, I thought as I looked sadly at my basket. I am a pathetic loser. The cat food seals it.
(Cat food is like feminine hygiene products. I try to make sure I need other things when I go to the store to get it. God forbid everyone know it’s the only reason I’m there.)
It was a Thursday at 5pm in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Forget it. There were four checkout lanes open, and three of them were “express,” meaning those lines were so long that I had to double down in the line behind the woman who had apparently done her shopping for the month. Standing there, I started writing this post in my head. Longhand, there’s no delete key, and cutting and pasting is way harder. I had to get started mentally now, to work out the kinks.
I compulsively checked my email and Facebook on my phone.
Twenty minutes later, still standing in line, I realized what I could lose if the laptop was complete toast. I have an external hard drive, given to me by my boyfriend for my 33rd birthday, as I was getting ready to buy a new computer. It has all the files from the old laptop, plus a “mix tape” he put on it weeks after we broke up – a sort of gallant gesture that fulfilled a promise he’d made to enhance the somewhat un-romantic gift with which he intended to make life easier for me by giving me a way to transfer everything easily from the old computer to the new one. Very thoughtful, really. But apart from the old files and enough music to play from now until my death without ever repeating a single song, the hard drive is empty. It doesn’t have a single thing on it since I bought the new laptop… because seeing the hard drive reminded me of the boyfriend.
We won’t get into that.
Point is, I hadn’t backed up anything from the new computer. Pictures, revisions of my resume, my cover letters, the beginning of a book I started writing, the video I took on the Mickey Boat, including my sisters doing a very, very poor – but absolutely gut-busting, pants-peeing hilarious – Charlie’s Angels impersonation… all of it gone if I couldn’t get my laptop back.
I entered the Bargaining Stage. If I can just get it to turn on one more time so I can back everything up to that hard drive… I can ding the Future Real Estate Fund to buy a new laptop if I have to.
I went home, dug the notebook and pens out of the grocery bag and started writing out this post. By the time I got to the sentence you just read, I’d forgotten what other posts I’d been formulating in my head. (How did anybody remember things before computers?) The laptop sat, open and dark, its guts possibly destroyed by the least threatening thing in the developed world, its battery removed. Taunting me.
It’s a good thing I was getting together with Ali that night and driving to my sister’s the next day to go to a concert. The urge to try to power my baby up before it had dried out was too great. I felt as fried as the laptop might be. I thought of what might be gone for good and how much hassle it is to set up a new computer, and I flopped down to eat my pizza.
Woe is me. I am woe.
Now I’m functioning off a backup laptop: my old one, which I gave to Ali when I bought the new one. It has an aqua blue line down the center of the screen and it’s slow, but it works. Thank goodness for friends who can’t afford their own internet service and can’t pick up a signal from someone else’s unsecured wifi. I’m still terrified of what happens when I try to turn on my computer again. BIL1 says I might be able to get the motherboard replaced and avoid buying a new computer altogether for the second time in 14 months.