Force quit, reboot

My external hard drive died this week. Suddenly and horribly and in such a way that it’s sent my life into a state of panic.

Who knew that a tiny box could cause such anxiety? But, with 500 gigabytes worth of music, photos, writings and more, that’s precisely what it’s done.

Its epic failure is just the latest in a stream of high-tech malfunctions that’s led me to the brink of an emotional meltdown more than once in recent weeks.

First my home computer crashed. Initially, I just let out an annoyed sigh when the much-hated spinning color wheel appeared on the computer screen, stubbornly frozen.

Force quit, reboot. No good.

We ran diagnostics and finally erased and reformatted the computer—twice—before a grim-faced Apple technician informed us that the hard drive was indeed dead. Its untimely passing had occurred just 10 days after the extended warranty expired, but the tech was kind enough to waive the $200 repair fee.

It took nearly a week to get the computer back, but still, we felt as if we’d dodged a bullet. While it was out for repair, we shared my laptop and congratulated ourselves because we stored most of our files exclusively on the external hard drive.

Then, just a few weeks later, my husband’s iPhone slipped off a stereo speaker and fell three feet to the ground.

He walked into the living room, his face pale with shock, to show me the damage: White Screen of Death.

My husband uses his iPhone even more than our home computer, so less than 24 hours later, he was at the Apple Store where a tech confirmed what we’d already learned via several frantic Google searches: The phone still worked, but the broken screen would cost $100 to replace.

Instead, my husband bought a new phone (the old one was more than two years old after all), and we breathed a sigh of relief as our lives returned normal.

And then, just a few days ago, the hard drive died.

Just. Like. That.

One moment I was writing on the computer and using the hard drive to listen to a Wilco album; I got up to do something and returned to my desk a few minutes later to find that the music was off and the hard drive’s icon had disappeared off the desktop.

Based on the state of mind he found me in, I’m pretty sure my husband thought there’d been a death in the family when he came home from work.

And indeed, it felt as if something inside me had died.

While some of the files were backed up elsewhere, there were still thousands of photos, songs and documents—everything from important house- and tax-related business to every last article, piece of poetry and novel-in-progress I’d written in the last 10 years—all stuck in a frightening state of zeros and ones inside that hard drive.

By all accounts, we’ll be able to recover the files—to the tune of anywhere between $125 and $895, depending on whom you ask.

In the meantime, we walk around in a state of shock. At parties, our friends ask us about the drive’s latest tech diagnosis, speaking in the kind of hushed, sympathetic voices once reserved for news of a terrible illness.

The next step is to buy a new hard drive and then another device to back up that one—a digital copy of the copy of the original.

Until then, I’m trying not to think too hard about the way my life fits so neatly—indeed it’s frighteningly compact—inside a tiny digital box.