It has been over a week that I have been without a viable working computer and I must say, I had not realized the extent of my problem until the day my computer told me that the operating system could not be found.
I had been away from my system and my sites for two whole days, patiently checking obsessively every now and then on my mobile phone to check the traffic, the code, the you name it I checked it, and when I returned home there she was, my faithful laptop that listens to everything I say, no matter how boring or repetitive, that takes my vitriol, my bile, my laughter, my tears, everything I feel, I can share here but on this day, and it was a Thursday as I recall, I turned on my laptop only to find myself meet with not the usual sunny screen with my little sign in button (what is it about that clicking sound that makes it so addictive – I can hear it now, like a box of TicTacs being shaken).
Operating System Not Found? I rebooted a hundred times or more. I rebooted in safe mode, in safe mode with networking, in unsafe mode, in any mode; I tried to hack my way in and for hours did not succeed. I called my ISP thinking for certain that surely the operating system couldn’t be gone. It had to be right there, where I had left it, safely in it’s little case on my desk. How could it be gone.
I called Gateway, who told me that my warranty had expired and that since I did not have the startup discs anymore, for this was some time ago in computer years (a whole two, imagine that), that the only possible thing was the use someone else’s XP discs or buy a new set for over two hundred dollars and maybe that would fix my problem. It was doubtful, they said, and for certain, I had lost everything that was stored on that computer – the two books I’ve been working on and stupidly and smugly had neglecte4d to back up with each iteration. The volumes of new poetry that I was preparing for my NEA grant, the many other tasks and documents and photographs for which my computer was the repository; those things, I was told, were now gone, and worse, they said, “if you can get an internet connection, maybe we can find out what caused it.” Get an internet connection? Didn’t I just tell this baffoon that my operating system was GONE! . I couldn’t get Word, let alone an Internet connection. I had International Klein Blue-screened and there was nothing except for the abyss, the gateway logo, and me. My desktop as I knew it had gone and gone for good.
I spent a week of sleepless nights. Yes, again, I admit this is obsessive. I am in the process of job hunting, working freelance, writing a column for several publications both web and print, working on several books, one proposal, a collection of new poems and my Site had just won a Best of the Web award. Surely I thought, if I don’t update it within a day or two they’ll renege on my little prestige and it will be gone and I was proud of this. It may sound silly, oh I know but it meant a lot to me. And that my editorial director for my other column had informed me that we were averaging sixty thousand hits a day, it was unbearable that I couldn’t write my column and get it up. The only other computer I had had been given back to the company I had been working for and my husband’s was too old and too slow and couldn’t handle a simple blogging software, let alone anything more advanced like photoediting.
After sleepless nights and anxiety filled days of leaning over the machine and countless calls with various providers and tech support people to the tune of $2.99 a minute (that’s what an expired warranty gets you), nobody could help me. Had I had the money, I swear to god I would have just gone out and bought a new one on the very first day. A thousand dollars would get me out of this hell and I didn’t have it – and I didn’t have it to spend on that when other obligations called. I was fucked. Totally and utterly fucked.
One night, after staring at the screen so long that i thought I was beginning to hallucinate, I pressed control alt delete to shutdown my blue screen again and a miraculous thing occurred. The Task Manager opened and the computer refused to shutdown. Eureka! I realized I could use the Task Manager as a kind of Browser in safe mode. So with my perfectly fine DSL connection and my blue screen and my task manager and my overflowing ashtray by that point and my empty cartons of ice cream, I dug into the task manager and browsed for my Internet connection. It worked. I then browsed for any Word files or jpeg images. They opened, like normal, against the disturbingly blank and otherwise iconless blue screen. But they opened — I could work like this for hours, browsing the Internet, checking email and the like even signing into MSN messenger. The only thing I could not do was Blog. I could not get the Google toolbar to work and when I tried to post, I timed out repeatedly.
Still, it was not a complete loss. I had been able to retrieve almost all of my documents, save for a few newer documents including a proposal for a job and a book proposal and several photo images, but the older things could be saved to disc with relative ease, though truth to tell I worried that whatever had made the system crash might perhaps be transferred to the discs, which remains to be seen.
I share this story because I want to tell you: My name is Sadi and I am an addict.
Okay, sure sure, yes I do this for my job and so it’s legitimate, but I spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer and without it, I feel lost and literally disconnected. For a basically shy and antisocial person, I find that on the computer I can be social with ease, perhaps even a bit charming at times (maybe delusional, but I choose to believe – don’t shatter this please). I could be whoever I wanted to be and I liked it. I liked the person behind the screen, the same way the Wizard of Oz must have liked who he was behind his purple curtain. The image he projected of the almighty all powerful was a compelling and convincing one and I liked to believe that mine was no less convincing. Only I, I believed, knew the dirty truth which was that I wasn’t the social outgoing girl of my articles, that I am this little freckled and light thing with a slight stutter and brogue and funny glasses and really, just quite ordinary in every way, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just nothing; as Tom Ripley said, I always thought it would be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody.
Now, to be clear, I disagree with that. I’d rather be a real nobody, but the Internet had afforded me the chance to be a real nobody that for the most part, people seemed to respond to in a way that they did not always have time for in the real, physical world. Nobody would sit still long enough to listen to me speak about philosophy or my grandfather or some other story or review of a film or book or any of the things on which I Blog, and nor should they. Who has the time. For all the speed we apply to the Internet and all the people who say we are sloppier now that we work in real time and that print is better I say, Psshaww.
Only here in the ether can I find a group of people in the thousands who want to read. Who don’t have to read, have no obligation to me in any way, and yet they do anyway. Every day there are those who come to one of my various columns or my own web site and they read. I even have subscribers, which thrills me to no end to think that there are people who care enough about my poetry that they have signed up for updates. And more, to be awarded a prize for my precious, and birthed site, designed entirely by me and with my blood and sweat and time and countless arguments and insistence that i would “yes, get off the computer, darling, just as soon as I finish this….” I was proud and I was not sorry for any of it. If this was addiction, then that was fine with me because it was a kind of love as Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote of her Ritalin and if you’ve never been addicted, then you’ve never been in love for the two feel remarkably similar, and can make you both nutty and happy at the same time.
Today, I am working on the generosity of a good friend who saw me strung out and shaking, my fingers looking for a soft place to tap and offered me her old G3 Macintosh, which was all new to me, but it was a computer and I leapt for it. Within two hours of driving the hour to pick it up at her house, I had it loaded up with all of my blogging software; I had established my DSL connection on the Mac; I had downloaded IE and MSN Messenger and other non Mac items and got them to work through Aladdin and AppleTalk and other programs that, two days ago, I had never heard of. But I’m a quick study – and I got the thing up and running and so I write to you now, at long last, like the junkie I am, pushing the thread of the modem line deep into my vein I let the words flow forth.
Tomorrow, I go to get a new operating system installed on the other laptop and pray that it can be saved, though it would seem the motherboard has had some fatal error and may have departed this world. We shall see. A friend says he has XP discs and though I’m not sure they’ll work I am, at least, hopeful. If there is a chance, then I will take it, for as much as I love this Macintosh, it was not made for blogging and already we’ve had a few blank and blue screens of our own.
I tell you, I love International Klein Blue and I think it was a genius marketing technique on the part of the artist who came up with the idea of calling a custom mixed color on a flat board “art” and why not, but that said, I hope never to see that color any approximation anywhere near my computer again.
Keep your virus software updated; never open unknown emails and run a live update and get spysweeper because it’s the best I the market. These are the things I have learned and yes, I knew them before, but to learn them is a different matter entirely. Get a little lax and things go to shit. Stay on top of it all, hide behind your curtain, seek your heart and your courage, and let the wicked witch who crashed my operating system be eaten by a flock of her flying monkeys.
Fuck the bitch; I’m waiting for the man.
ASIN & Subhead changed 6/12/5 CR