Heavy Early: What To Do when your Laptop Dies on the Way to the DNC

Readers from yesterday may recall that I tempted the digital fates by making snide reference to the possibility that my trusty iBook computer would “implode.” At the time, with a fresh battery, and no sign of non-battery trouble for almost three years, I had every reason to think that this was an ironic comment — that all my backups onto USB key drives, and the OS X install CDs in my backpack were simply the result of paranoia.

Oh how wrong I was.

After a tasty dinner of fresh spring rolls and spicy basil chicken at the excellent Vien Dong restaurant on the main street of Moncton, I spent the balance of the evening fine-tuning the weblog and playing with the new digital camera in my hotel room (Country Inn and Suites; short review: free WiFi only works in the center core of the hotel; card-key doors locks don’t work more often than they do; be prepared for vague carpet mold smells throughout).

Just before going to bed, around 10:30 p.m., I decide to try out the whizzy movie-recording features of the new camera: I shot a little movie, and dumped it into the iBook using Image Capture.

It was then that things went horribly, horribly wrong.

The computer froze up tight, with the hard drive making a sound very akin to that which a 45 rpm record used to make when it was skipping — a-rat-tat-tat… a-rat-tat-tat… a-rat-tat-tat… a-rat-tat-tat. Not Good, I thought to myself.

My only choice was to do a hard reboot — hold down the power key until the iBook turned off, and then power it up again.

When the iBook sprang to life, it didn’t: on the screen was a folder with a flashing question mark super-imposed on it. This I took to mean “I can’t seem to find a start-up disk.”

I powered down and rebooted again. Same result. Again. Same result.

I inserted the install disk, figuring that the Disk Utility included on it could be used to fix a disk problem. Except that when I powered up the Disk Utility, it didn’t actually see the disk at all. And thus couldn’t fix it.

I rebooted. By some magic, this time the computer powered up. Perhaps this was just a freak occurrence? I got online, went to the Apple support site, and looked around the “start up troubleshooting” section for possible answers. The best answer seemed to be “call your authorized support technician.”

At 11:30 p.m., in Moncton, the day before I was due to fly to Boston, this was not a helpful solution.

My scenario-planning system sprang into action. I figured there wasn’t much point in going to Boston to blog a convention without a machine to blog with. I temporarily flirted with the notion of ditching the iBook and relying on public libraries and Internet cafes, but then I realized this would mean competing with thousands of other laptopless delegates, media and guests for scarce resource.

My mind immediately turned to Johnny’s iBook. We had made arrangements for Johnny, who is in Montreal this week, to leave his laptop at his house in case my earlier battery situation didn’t get solved. Because the situation with the battery did get solved, I’d just left his laptop back at home.

I did the driving math: 2 hours back to Charlottetown, maybe an hour and 45 if I drove fast. Same to get back. Four hours of driving. Flight leaves at 7:00 a.m., in 7 hours. Be at the airport an hour early. It would work, leaving me two hours of sleep in Charlottetown and lots of crazy, sleepy driving.

But I’d come too far to stop now.

So I called Catherine to warn her I was coming, checked out of my hotel (I did get a good 8 hours worth of use out of the room…) and headed back to the Island.

I pulled into my driveway in Charlottetown at exactly 2:00 a.m. Grabbed two hours of sleep, waking up at 4:00 a.m. Headed over to Johnny’s. Brought the wrong key. Back home. Back to Johnny’s. Got the laptop. Stopped at Tim Hortons for an Ice Cap and a bagel to as to pry my eyelids open and power up the adrenaline generators.

I left Charlottetown at 4:30 a.m., arrived at the Moncton airport at 6:15 a.m. Checked in for my flight. Through security, and into the waiting room. Only then did I get a chance to make sure that Johnny’s computer was actually working.

It is. And I’m sitting here in seat 8C on flight 613 from Moncton to Montreal at 7:22 a.m. Atlantic. Two hours sleep. Heavy Ice Cap buzz means I can’t get any more sleep.

Let’s rock…

Posted from the Air Canada lounge at Dorval Airport.


jeff's picture
jeff on July 26, 2004 - 14:53 Permalink

Wasn’t Heavy Early John Fever’s air name on the old WRKP before they changed the format from easy listening to rock?

art's picture
art on July 26, 2004 - 15:10 Permalink

There has to be some bad karma floating around for mac laptops this summer, my hard drive died a few nights ago right in the middle of writing a document and no amount of rebooting and sobbing would bring it back. It makes you realize just how dependent you are on mobile computing. Congratulations on your spot at the DNC, maybe John Kerry will return the favour and show up at the next Zap Your Pram conference.