It was refreshing to spend last weekend in Grand Portage. There are many reasons why I enjoy Rendezvous Day but one of the best things is that traveling to Grand Portage means you truly are unplugged.
Since there is still no cell phone tower, my “smartphone” doesn’t work in Grand Portage. And for some reason the Internet service at the lodge wouldn’t work with my laptop computer. So I had no choice. I had to go low-tech.
It was great. Whenever I wasn’t scurrying from one event to another to get photos for our Rendezvous Days coverage, I was able to just relax without Internet games, without checking on facebook friends and without reading emails.
It was especially appreciated after the horrible week I had just had with modern technology. I don’t know why—perhaps there were solar flares or something— but for a few days it seemed like everything electrical was conspiring against me.
It started with my phone. Instead of notifying me of an incoming call with my downloaded “personal” song— Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds—my phone reverted to its annoying “ring-ring-ring” ringtone. I could not figure out how to change it.
That was a minor aggravation. It got worse. I was working on Unorganized Territory in the wee hours of the morning at the News-Herald office, long after it should have been completed and pasted in the paper. I was about halfway finished when the power blinked, shutting everything down. The last few paragraphs, which I hadn’t saved, were gone.
Not to worry, outages don’t happen often, I thought. I started over and saved as I went. Until a few minutes later when I was so very close to finishing that I forgot to save. And the power blinked again. It was only a moment, but of course, I lost those paragraphs—again.
Quite annoyed, I decided to go home to work on my laptop. I was too tired to complete the column that night. I kept falling asleep and typing, “thisidnisoiehginw” over and over.
I quit and decided to get up early to finish. Of course my “smartphone” alarm did not go off. I hurriedly tried to re-create the Unorganized Territory I had begun the night before.
The conspiracy continued. My computer didn’t cooperate. It became increasingly slow. I typed a sentence—and had to wait a few seconds for it to appear. It was irritating, I had only a few more lines and I’d be done. No problem, I thought, I’ll just turn my laptop off and on again. That fixes just about every computer problem, right?
Wrong. Apparently there was something horribly wrong. My computer would not restart. I could not get the computer to turn on, much less give me the almost-finished document!
Frantically I called Dell. I explained the situation to the tech support person with the hard-to-understand accent and when she told me that my hard drive was gone I tried not to panic. There was no way I could rewrite the whole column. I had to somehow retrieve the work. Despite the struggle to understand one another, the techie could understand my desperation. She talked me through getting my file on a memory stick. My hard drive was fried, but my data was salvageable.
But I wasn’t going to get my column finished on my laptop. I dashed to work with the memory stick and loaded the column, which was no longer almost-finished. I had lost a few paragraphs in the data retrieval process.
No problem, panic helps you type fast. But just as I was getting close and moving my hand to the mouse to press “save” again—you guessed it— the power blinked again.
I cannot print the words that came out of my mouth. I can say that I apologized to my officemates later when I had calmed down.
For the umpteenth time, I started the ending to the week’s Unorganized Territory. Miraculously I managed to finish it and I didn’t break my unbroken record of not missing a column since October 1999.
Publisher Hal Kettunen went out that afternoon and bought a battery backup for my computer. Dell sent me a new computer and helped me get my programs reinstalled. I purchased a 500- gig external drive for backing up my laptop. I may manage to survive the computer conspiracy to drive me mad.
However, it was really, really good to get away and unplug for a while. I’ll have to get away from technology again soon!
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Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.