This is a column about the worst loss a college student can face.
Having grown weary of his complex role as gatekeeper to all of my most important memories, an occasional coaster and door prop, my laptop Reginald spontaneously combusted early this Sunday. I first noticed a thin cloud of hellish steam, accompanied by the smell of burning hard drive around 6 a.m. Sunday morning. By 12:30 p.m. when I had finally convinced myself to leave the bed and investigate, it was already too late. Despite my best efforts and speedy response time, Reginald had passed on. Where my clunky, prone to frequent overheating laptop had once been, there was now only a burned-out husk perched atop a pile of molten goo.
I cannot type humor on a pile of molten goo.
I tried that; it stings and keeps me from handling food afterward. So thus began my epic trek to Best Buy to somehow replace the 750 gigabyte-sized hole in my life that Reginald had left.
Even though I consider myself to be fairly technologically literate, I still found myself feeling like a 90-year-old man as I tried to find a replacement. Firstly, everything in Best Buy is shiny, and given that shininess is my baseline for quality, I had immense trouble differentiating between the NASA supercomputers and the low-functioning lemons that one might buy for a child.
Consequently, my line of questioning toward the sales rep probably didn’t fall under the umbrella of “normal human interaction.”
“No, of course I don’t need a laptop with a touchscreen that detaches and becomes its own tablet. What do you mean that all of these models come pre-equipped with National Security Agency spyware (and worse, Windows 8)? And since when did we decide to eliminate disk drives — how the hell else am I supposed to burn scratchy mix CDs for my plastic car?!”
The computer guy, whose enthusiasm had been nearly overwhelming in the beginning, grew weary after my constant stream of questioning. His explanation had devolved from a dissertation on the Mac vs. PC debate into a series of tired grunts and gestures.
Deciding to take charge and be the master of my own fate, I quickly pointed to the two closest laptops and demanded that Computer Guy decide for me. With a mutual sigh of relief, we swapped cash for a laptop that seemed just as shiny as the others and probably had at least a few of the features I needed.
The next seven hours of my life were devoted to recreating my old data onto the newly christened Atticus — named less for Harper Lee’s paragon of morality and more for Atticus the pervy guidance counselor from “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.”
I never realized how terrifying it is that we entrust our entire digital lives to machines that could die (or become self-aware and enslave us all) at any minute until I was forced to rebuild from the ground-up. Luckily I had backed up everything excluding the past month, though unfortunately it was all concealed by a garbled mess of empty folders, false filenames and unnecessary encryption I was convinced I needed at the time.
Though the setup went miserably — mostly due to accidentally setting a 23-digit pass code and realizing I lost three major papers that had been half-finished — it was quite reassuring to see all of my old pictures and videos again.
Though I had fully intended to bury Reggie as part of the mourning process, I quickly remembered that digging holes is hard work, and also that I love fire. So to commemorate that terrible brick of a computer that ceased to function as a laptop years ago, I’ll be cremating his hard drive. This grants me the added benefit of keeping the NSA mole people from digging it up for inspection.
Do I really believe that mole people are after my emergency folder of half-finished humor drafts? Probably not, but much like how I occasionally hiss at the drains in the men’s restroom in the off-chance I’ve stumbled upon the UAA version of the “Chamber of Secrets” — it never hurts to be sure.
I’ve finally passed the denial stage, and I’m almost done fruitlessly screaming at poorly sized USB ports. If my outdated knowledge of psychology is accurate, then I should be near the point of acceptance where I can happily view my new laptop as the magic Netflix-providing box it truly is.
Atticus may never be able to singled-handedly heat my entire room the way his predecessor could, but as I queue up a new season of “Community,” I have a feeling that we’ll get along just fine.
Now I can finally avoid my pre-finals stress in peace.