On Saturday afternoon while picking up a prescription, the pharmacist told me that my doctor had asked to be called for a follow up. Before leaving I decided to check my blood pressure on the automatic machine, only to find the reading stratospheric and scary.
I walked around the store sorting it out, and realized that I had let the machine read the pressure through my sweatshirt. Surely that explained the high reading since I'd been normal for some time.
Without the sweatshirt I was lower, but still elevated. I took a few more readings, each one a bit lower, and decided it was heading down to the normal level and that I was okay.
The next morning, just before leaving for breakfast to meet a friend, I opened my laptop to check my nonexistent Sunday email, and found the screen completely white. I took a deep breath, turned it off and turned it back on, and it stayed completely dark; the hard drive light went on for a seconds and then stopped. This happened three times. I left for breakfast considering the consequences of losing my hard drive – data was backed up to my desktop but lot of stuff, like recent email in Outlook, would fall through the cracks.
At breakfast I completely forgot about the blood pressure, and was somewhat preoccupied with the laptop issue, but strangely accepting and detached.
After breakfast, I tried the laptop again, hoping it would magically reappear (maybe it overheated?) but it was dead.
I went to Fry's and bought a hard drive, returned, figuring the laptop would now work but I would have to reinstall Windows and a lot of other programs, but at least I'd have a laptop.
Unfortunately the same thing happened. The hard drive light went on briefly, then off.
I called Dell and determined that the cause of my problem was not the hard drive, but a defective failed graphics card or motherboard. I was lucky to get this information, because I was out of warranty.
By this time it was late afternoon and I had recorded all the football games. I decided to relax, take a nap and then have a normal dinner and watch sports.
After my nap I took a shower and tried a Google search on my graphics card and my laptop for problems, and found many pages of similar issues; it turned out that on the Dell forums several users had had their laptops repaired out of warranty because Dell had acknowledged this issue.
I called Dell back, and after talking to three reps from India, for over an hour while I watched the first football game muted, I got him to acknowledge that indeed I had the faulty graphics card or motherboard.
This came as we watched three diagnostic lights, one solid and two blinking, and it took me ten minutes of description with him misunderstanding and repeating the wrong sequence to get it right. Then another forty minutes with his supervisor to whom I sent the information from the web sites about those who had been helped out of warranty. He finally promised that he would try to help me but I needed to wait 48 hours for a return phone call.
That evening I relaxed and watched sports, but several times I reached for the laptop to check my email or go on Twitter, only to realize that it was upside down and dead on my coffee table (I turned it over to take out the hard drive).
That's when I realized the lesson: this machine was my constant companion and I was connected constantly when I was home.
Without it I could still go online and check email, but I would have to go into my office and use the desktop PC.
Suddenly, the intrusiveness of the Internet was no longer a constant reality. Until I fixed or replaced my Dell, I would be forced to be with myself, or with television, but no more multi-tasking.
I observed myself throughout the evening and noted my discomfort, and the frequency with which, during commercials, I went into the office and checked my email, which again, for Sunday, was virtually nonexistent.
The next morning when I awoke I was anxious, but not about the computer, but I was thinking about my doctor and my blood pressure. Shouldn't I go in and have it checked; after all he had requested me to call.
I managed to get a late morning appointment and went in, only to find that the pharmacist had misunderstood and I had not been summoned. But I told him about my experience with the public blood pressure test, and he took me into the examining room and tested me right away.
"You're perfect," he said.
Waves of relief gushed through my body. I had let myself foresee doomsday scenarios based on others' misfortunes and my own misgivings about my health. Now I had a new lease on life. It was almost a shock to realize that all was well.
It also became clear to me that this piece of news rendered my laptop problem insignificant.
I returned to Fry's and exchanged the hard drive for an external USB powered enclosure.
Back home I was able to put my Dell hard drive into the enclosure, connect it to my desktop PC, and recover almost all of my important email and calendar information, and other stuff that I had feared would be lost.
I began looking at other laptops online, and also at a few stores, but was overwhelmed by the number of new features, different processors and the potential pitfalls of the new Windows 7 operating system.
I watched Monday Night Football, and again realized the void caused by the lack of Internet connectivity from my easy chair. Very weird.
Dell called me that night, and my supervisor's assistant informed me that my issue was being looked into. It took me several tries to understand exactly what he was saying.
By the next day the discomfort of not having the laptop made me go out and look at replacements and check Craigs List, but nothing really clicked.
Then I got another call from Dell – a social media and forum miracle – they are sending me a box to return my laptop for repaid and they would send it back to me in a few days after they received it. Wow. Kudos to Dell when that is accomplished. I'll be tweeting their praises from my easy chair.
Now I am sitting back in the recliner and wondering – what will a week without my computer companion be like?
And what does it say about me that I might find it difficult?
And what about the millions of text messaging and web connected iPhone and PDA users who need their electronic fix everywhere, not just in their easy chair?
Perhaps this is a lesson I should really take to heart (pun intended).
First, my health is good, so nothing is wrong on the most important level.
Second, I can unplug from the Internet while I watch television – maybe – or maybe I should just unplug from the television as well. Could I do it? I meditate daily but apparently there is still a strong pull for my attention from all sorts of sources that don't really leave room for me, or my "self" while they're being accessed.