Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Laptop Crashed

It happened to me. First time, too.  The laptop crashed. Badly. After frustrating difficulties in upgrading an application, I asked for help, was directed to Microsoft itself, and began a telephone step-by-step dialogue with one of its geeks from India. Our conversation began a week ago last Thursday at 9:20 AM, and was recessed at 5:30 PM, to be resumed the following day. At recess, the monitor screen was black, unvarying, endless black like that of the holes in the universe, and as implacable as well.

The next day's walk-through was conducted by a geekess from India, whose staying power was nugatory when compared with her predecessor. Within two minutes, she advised, "Ve vill now format dee harddrive. I vill bring up a DOS prompt, and you . . ."

"Pardon me, Ma'am, my solo practice since 1992 and written words and phrases since 2002 are on that hard drive," I murmured, adding, "You see?" Intuiting she did not, could not, we parted politely. And then, early that Friday morning, I began to tremble.

The laptop is an HP Pavilion, purchased last June from Circuit City, in South Portland, ME, with their Advantage Protection Plan, fortunately.  To make sure of backups, I joined it to an HP Expansion Base, which has a drawer available for an external hard drive, soon filled with an HP 300GB naked beauty.  The total blackness of the laptop's screen convinced me that the backups were as inaccessible as My Documents,1992-2008.

To restore the laptop to its pristine glory, HP's Restore Disc, plus the two it commanded me to create, begin by wiping the hard drive clean, and only then reinstall the applications it supplied last June. Wiping clean includes the remorseless destruction of documents and data and their remnants. Before daring that stroke on my own, without superior help, the little voice asked, "What if the backups in the Expansion Base drawer are corrupted?

The tremors, subsiding some from the initial onslaught, renewed with vigor and force, almost reminiscent on a personal basis of that shock and awe we read about but never feel. Could I have lost everything I did since going solo in 1992 and responding to Robert Blaire Kaiser's invitation in 2002, to join his group and write? Gone, all gone?

And that's when I saw The Suscipe Prayer, affixed to the laminated wood block our son Steve made for me in 1973. The English version starts off: "Take and receive, Lord, all my liberty . . ." I gulped. The wise-guy's initial retort was going to be "You know I  didn't mean it,"  followed by a quivering "Did you have to take me at my word? It's just a prayer, you know, " and ending with a resentment, "You could have waited a year or two, maybe."

Although convinced my work was gone, irretrievably, I grunted, lugged the old Desktop out of the closet, dusted it down, cleaned it up, and plugged it in. There would be no data on it, I knew, because all that stuff was transferred to the laptop last June and then deleted.  At least, I thought, as the monitor flickered into life, I can begin again. There is still some time left. Perhaps?

During the ensuing week, meditation was a bit deeper, lingered longer on Suscipe, Domine – Take, Lord, to me the quintessential Jesuit prayer. Realization came that I'd gotten a glimpse of its depth, when LordLord did not accept what had been offered. He simply took my hard drive. Could have been the devil who kept screaming in the black hole of my despair, that it could be restored, though wiped clean of everything created on it, were I a good boy.

It took a day over a week to demand, not summon, courage to reappear. I was tired of fiddling with the Desktop installation, sensed over and over anger dispelling hope -- that's why they call it "Re-sentment", not just plain, old anger, but the over-and-over-and-over variety that makes peace impossible. Emotions teetered, when I remembered the fun of the last six years and bemoaned the loss of a machine far more sophisticated than a pencil hovering above a blank sheet of paper.

So, today, I bagged the laptop, gathered all Restore discs, photocopied last June's receipts of purchase, stuck the Expansion Base under the free arm and drove with Jean to Fort Collins, CO, where there was a friendly Circuit City Store we often went to, when we lived and worked here ten years ago.

The technician, uncannily able to see the tears behind my calm, brave smile, checked out my records for the Protection Plan, opened the cover on the laptop, functioning on battery alone, and clicked on >START<, evoking  a DOS prompt, to which he entered the command "explore." After a long roll-down of DOS gobbleydook, he said, "It's not as serious as you think. I'll try first to extract everything from the hard drive in the Expansion Base, save it to our master computer in the back room, and then restore the laptop. Thanks for coming into Circuit City."

On the way home with Jean, I heard her say, "You're a changed man. You look different."  

When we pray Suscipe, Domine, are we holding onto a backup? Just in case?  If so, shouldn't we make sure that the backup is completely external to the entire system it is backing up and not an integral part of it in an attached device. The backup must be reachable, obviously.

The crashing of a laptop and the need for the restoration of its hard drive is but a gentle reminder that when we utter "Suscipe, Domine," and click on >ENTER<, it goes out instantly to a listening Dominus. There is no backup.

What if, what if Dominus took us at our word?  

What if, what if he responded: Amorem tui solum – only your love?

What if, what if we meant: nec aliud quidquam ultra posco – nor do I ask for anything more?

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