Famous Lost Words

I’m unreasonably attached to my computer; I can admit this about myself.  I don’t knit sweaters for it or anything; it doesn’t have its own stocking at Christmas.  When I affectionately call it “my baby,” I’m being hyperbolic.  It’s important to me, but I don’t confuse it with family.  I just spend most of my time with it and miss it when its not around.

Partially this is because I’m a geek.  Or a nerd.  (I can’t keep track of all the pejoratives that apply to me.  Both of those are true, I suppose, but I don‘t know which is relevant.)  The rest is because I’m a writer.  (Which ought to be pejorative, but isn’t.)  An architect might be able to point to a building or two as evidence of his labor.  Doctors have lists of patients whom they’ve helped.  I have twenty gigabytes of documents, which are the only evidence that I‘ve done anything with my life other than get older and embarrass myself in public. When my computer crashed though, I had nothing.

Naturally I was a bit upset.

I’ll spare you the details about how I fixed it, mostly because I couldn’t deliver them well if I tried.  I don’t know much about repairing computers, so I fumbled around a lot and said unkind things. Telling that story would be like trying to write a sonnet about a game of whack-a-mole.  I’m sure someone could do it artfully, but I am not that person.  The important part is this: I eventually had to load a “recovery image,” which is a highfalutin way of saying “start from scratch.”

Fortunately, before that happened I managed to get my computer into a condition such that I could back up my data.  Once my data was safe, I was generally sanguine about the entire experience.  Unfortunately, in the process I forgot a critical past decision.

I’m not an organized person in most cases.  That’s one of the reasons I married my wife. For example, as my poor parents can attest, it’s always been a stretch for me just to put my clothes away in the closet.  My wife now has my closet organized by color, style, appropriate season, and possibly so that my shirts form the portrait of a famous person when seen from afar.

I suppose it should have occurred to me to let her organize my documents, but the idea strikes me in the same way as asking her to organize my viscera.  I don’t want her doing surgery on me so that she can arrange my organs alphabetically, or by size, or by attractiveness of function.  Similarly, my documents are somehow off-limits.

The result is an abstract disaster.  My schema changes frequently, but there are too many documents to apply any one system retroactively.  Thus, I have a forest of incoherently labeled folders, most populated by more folders, and all surrounded by an ever growing list of files that I’ve never bothered to categorize.  It’s a mess.

Then, at the beginning of the year, I decided that I would be more transparent.  I wanted to limit my number of current projects and also keep them somewhere obvious so that I wouldn’t lose them amidst my junk yard of yesterdays thoughts.  Fatefully, I started saving files directly to my desktop.  This seemed to make my life so much easier, which should have been a red flag.

After wrestling with my crashed computer for what felt like eternity, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I tried to be careful as I went through my hard drive so that I could find every cranny full of my life’s work, but my stupid computer secreted away the location of the desktop files so effectively that even someone as random as I didn’t think to look there.  Those files didn’t even occur to me until after the recovery, when my computer booted correctly and I recognized with horror that my desktop was empty.

To extend my earlier metaphor, it was a bit like transferring my organs to a new body but then, when it was too late to correct the mistake, realizing that I hadn’t salvaged my lungs.

Here are just some of the things that I lost:

  • The book I’ve been writing.
  • The document containing all of my post ideas and drafts.
  • The document with all of my wife’s and my important security information.
  • The document which contained all of the contact information for… well, anyone who had ever given me contact information.

The book was probably the most serious loss.  I was trying to get it in the right form to start submitting it to agents.  You might think I would dwell on that, but instead I keep thinking about this one other document I kept on my desktop.  It contained a list of fun vocabulary words that I had run across.  My goal was to use them each one day.  Now the list is gone, and I only remember “torrefy.” That may not even be how it’s spelled.

What if I’ve forgotten a really cool word? How would I live with myself?


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