Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lost in Soul


Nope, that's not a typo. Here I am in rather freezing Seoul today and this morning my MacBook Pro of seven months decided to go haywire on me just as I was about to answer about thirty emails that had piled up through the night. It's no exaggeration when I say I feel I've lost (a little bit of) my soul in Seoul.

I had to hand it to my beloved computer, my erstwhile best friend and my most constant traveling companion for the past months; he certainly had great timing. I was in a strange country and smack in the middle of lots of editing work, busy days and business pressure. Plus, just last night, I'd just agreed to start an online game of wits with a friend in Manila. The game's too complicated to explain but it'll be great fun and the stakes for winning are pretty high since the winner is allowed to choose the prize. And thinking about the challenge of one-upmanship and a corresponding prize of one's choice certainly made me want to make sure he loses.

COMPUTER GOES KAPUT

So you can just imagine my consternation this morning when my computer came on and all I saw for about an hour was the familiar Apple logo and the whirling sign that just went on and on without giving me access to my emails or the Internet. If there was such a thing as a computer ambulance, I would have called for it. Fortunately my hotel concierge had the information for a shop and service center ready at his finger tips -- I wonder how many of his guests have rushed down to the lobby with a broken computer, looking like their world was falling apart -- and without even bothering to go back up to my room or even to have a bite of breakfast, I hailed a taxi right there and then and crisscrossed the city looking for (Mac) salvation.

Koreans are pretty mad about computers and Macs are incredibly popular here as well so the shop was fairly full even early in the morning. Many students were drooling over the new iPads or trying out the Mac Air. One of the store staff, a cool-looking girl who probably just graduated from some IT college, nodded sympathetically as I headed straight for the repair counter and narrated my technical tale of woe. She tried about a dozen ways to revive my Mac and nothing seemed to work, and to me it felt like trying to resuscitate someone in the ER -- and failing.

"You might lose your data," she said. "I suggest you try and back up quickly."

"How do I do that now?" I asked. I knew how people should be doing it, if they have new Mac models. There's a thing called the Time Machine that you're supposed to use to guarantee that you never have to worry about lost data. Of course I'd never used it. I've been using Macs for 22 years now -- which would make me one of the earliest users I know -- and I've never had one die on me yet. Until now.

TIME FOR THE CREDIT CARD

"Well, you can give it to us and it will take three days," she said, "or you can buy a new MacBook Pro and try your luck at recovering the data yourself." Well, I didn't have three days left in Seoul so I just closed my eyes and ever so reluctantly handed over my credit card. This was how I found myself with two Macs in a taxi in a strange city today.

And now I'm in my hotel room and so far I've spent a good part of the day laboring over my two computers -- practically twins, but one completely clueless and the other just plain stubborn -- so I've decided to take a short online break. I've been trying to coax the information I need from my old computer but he just won't budge. It's like your life is locked inside a machine and you don't have the key. And that's certainly enough to make you lose your appetite for kimchi.

PHILOSOPHY 101 VIA BBM

Of course, my friendly competitor in the upcoming battle of wits was pretty philosophical about the whole episode since it wasn't his life or his computer. When I told him about it -- I sent him the equivalent of a tearful BBM from the Mac store -- I was expecting some form of sympathy; and instead, from Manila, I got Life's Lessons 101 in text form: "It's okay for you to have your life depend on another life, but not on a machine." There was even a smiley face at the end. I thought about sending him back a BBM lesson on empathy, but I was just too busy with my computer problems.

But as soon as I finish this blog entry, I'm going to work overtime to get my computers up to speed. Then let the games begin.


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