first-world problem, indeed

that i am typing on a screen seems nothing short of a miracle. of course, this is not my trusty and lugged-around laptop. that ol’ die-hard is in the resuscitation ward, aka the genius bar at my neighborhood apple store, where a genius and near-goddess named gretchen is tending it nearly round-the-clock. she’s pumping bodily fluids into it. she’s taking its temp at regular intervals, and calling me with updates, since i am, after all, its next-of-kin.

no, this snowy morning’s typing comes courtesy of the ancient family desktop, a clunky hulk of a thing i’d thought served one sole purpose: tucked-in-the-corner gathering ground for dust and accumulated fur balls.

it’s been a long week, all right.

after weeks of slower and slower typing, and the near constant appearance on my screen of that nettlesome whirling color ball — the one that whispers, “shhh, we’re working on it, lady. cool your jets if you care to make it to the end of the sentence…” — it seemed that i was due for a once-over at the genius bar. what better time to check in there than at the preamble to the super bowl, that annual concussive rite i disregard except to make maximum use of cleared-out stores and shopping aisles, when i alone am out minding by own business.

it didn’t take long at the bar of genius stature for a nice genius of a man to plug in a diagnostic cord, and declare: “hard drive failing.”

i’ll spare you the agony except to say that the external hard drive i’d dutifully plugged in every single day for all the years i owned it, well, it too was failing.

as tears filled my eyes, another nice man at the genius bar bellyflopped his arm across my shoulder and whispered, “honey, this is a first-world problem.”

it is indeed. and i am wholly mindful of how a lifetime archive of lost photos and emails — accumulated across the childhoods of both my boys — measures up against a growling belly that can’t be filled and a litany of other sins and injustices that are too excruciating to even thoughtfully attempt to lodge into any sort of comparison.

suffice it to say i ached for what might be lost — and still might be, since the resuscitation is still ongoing. i couldn’t stop the roll call of lost treasures — the compendium of choice words and knock-me-out passages and poetry i’ve so carefully copied and pasted over the years. every email that ever made my heart go ping! every photo i’ve taken in the last 10 years. the PDFs of every tribune story i  deemed worth keeping as i shuffled out of the newsroom on my last day at what once called itself the world’s greatest newspaper.

and don’t you know that after four months of waiting for the very last round of edits on le book, my dear editor got back to me on tuesday — day 2, the cyber-hostage. and asked that i make the revisions by, um, wednesday. without my laptop, mind you. after carefully keeping other assignments at bay, so when the revisions finally landed in my lap i could devote all my attention to slowing time. (slowing time, by the way, is the title of le book, so that last sentence is deliberate double entendre, one my editor and i find to our liking.)

miraculously, and through the kindness of yet another saint in this saintly equation, i’ve managed to borrow a laptop with just the right accessories, and last eve shipped back what just might be the very last crossed t’s and dotted i’s of slowing time, the book.

funny how life has a way of not unfurling according to your best-laid plans. funny how you process loss — how it comes in waves, and one minute you think you can manage to rise above it — absorb it with zen-master acceptance — and the next minute, you swear you’re going under.

so, yes, my first-world problem turned my days and nights upside down. but here i am — almost on the other side of the cyber-chasm. i figured out  plans  B, C, and when needed, K through R, as well. i made the acquaintance of a saint masquerading as a goth-coiffed apple genius. and the long-awaited final edits on le book are signed, sealed and delivered.

i await a call from the cyber-nurse any hour now. then i’ll toddle off to pick up the rehabilitating laptop. i’ll spoon chicken zoup, or whatever’s needed, till my files and i are reunited. and back to first-world business.

in the meantime, i am beyond grateful to saint gretchen and her undauntability. and i’m plugging in my new external hard drive the minute it gets home.

hope your week was far better than mine. and that you repeat early and often: back up. back up. back up. 

no questions other than: over all the years, what treasure have you lost — cyber or otherwise — and how did you learn to get along knowing it was forever gone? for me there was once a typed letter tucked under my pillow, the night i was crowned homecoming queen, and perhaps the most open-hearted missive my father ever wrote me. for the life of me, i’ve never ever been able to find it — not at the bottom of any box, not anywhere. it’s gone but for the memory of finding it, and being stunned at his tenderness. my father too is gone now, long gone, 33 years monday. but he’s with me every day, in every keystroke, always.