Friday, May 16, 2008

Losing my mind . . . and getting it back

I lost part of my mind this morning for about three hours.

It began when I leaned over to replenish the cat’s kibble bowl.

My Palm Pilot, tucked in my breast pocket, did a half-gainer into the water dish. Fortunately the cat’s dish was only one-third full so my Palm and I didn’t have a full immersion situation. Probably three seconds elapsed between the time the thing hit the water and I snatched it out.

I dried it off and tested it. Everything seemed fine. Password worked, the calendar date came up. I still had my “memory.”

But about 15 minutes later I tried to retrieve the name of a contact and the date showed up as January 1, 2005. I tried a “soft” reset and got an ominously blank and lifeless screen.

The thing was dead.

My God, I gasped, I just lost more than three years of memory, to say nothing of a fair portion of the future.

Patience, I consoled myself, this will work out. These things are built to sustain all kinds of disasters.

I once put my cell phone through three cycles in the washing machine. Sure, the little phone coughed and sputtered a bit and took its own sweet time to dry out, but ultimately its happy little ring tone came back.

All was well. I was in touch with the world again and vice versa.

Nevertheless, the Palm wasn’t cooperating. I tapped it against my real palm, the way smokers tamp new packs of cigarettes. I was trying to jar the water out of the Palm’s orifices. A few droplets appeared in my hand. Why hadn’t I done this before, right after the plunge? For a quarter of an hour, water had been wicking up into the PDA’s electronic innards, flooding nano-circuits, corroding sensitive neurons, destroying synapses and causing all kinds of techno-havoc.

Patience, I reminded myself. Give it time to dry out. I had to drive to Beaverton so I set the Palm lovingly and carefully on the passenger’s seat. As I drove I tried to reconstruct my schedule for the next three weeks. I drew a blank and nearly ran a light.

Caution, I thought. Calm down.

When was the last time I had backed the thing up?

A couple of weeks? What had I entered into the Palm since then? Hmmm. Too much to remember, but a couple of things came back to me — vaguely. Didn’t I have a meeting next Tuesday? And another Wednesday?

When I arrived at my destination, Sunset High School, I sat in the parking lot and tested again. This time the screen started flickering and the little hand-held chirped repeatedly. Screens of dates fluttered by. Were they being purged in retribution?

The thing was clearly pissed, but at least it was showing signs of life. Spunk.

I remember when my mother had a massive stroke and her doctor called to say that I should fly to her bedside immediately if I wanted to see her before she died. I remember how after three or four days of her being in a coma, she finally squeezed my hand in response my gentle questioning and fervent prayers.


I was looking for a sign like that from the Palm. The chirping and flickering provided hope. At least the thing hadn’t died on me. My mother lived another six years, weakened and forgetful, but we shared more than a few laughs and hugs in that time.

Today was hot here in Portland so I decided to leave the Palm, shiny side up, on the dashboard/drying rack.

I’d desiccate the baby.

I was scheduled to give a two-hour guest lecture inside the school. The Palm would have to bask, heal, dry out and forgive.

I managed to put its demise out of my mind as I introduced a comparative religion class to the whys and wherefores of Quakers. I didn’t tell the students that I’d left part of my mind in the parking lot.

I shared the virtues of Quaker simplicity, community, peace, integrity and equality and told them about worshiping in silence and consensus decision making. One student asked about sin; another asked about abortion. No one asked about my baking moribund memory out on the dashboard.

Back in the parking lot, settling behind the wheel, I took a deep breath and reached for the warm Palm on the dash.

The screen lit up.


It still came up January 2005, but it at least it didn’t go blank when I prodded its function keys.

Grudgingly, it allowed me to change the date to the present. Instead of going blank, it flashed, chimed and offered up today’s schedule of events.

At the top of the list was the Sunset High School talk.

The Palm was back! All was forgiven.

In a celebratory burst of technological reconciliation, we checked Sunset High off the “to do” list.

Now my mind is whole — or at least restored to its original condition, such as it was.

And yes, I’ve backed up the memory.

Have you?

Do it before you feed the cat.

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Blogger MTP said...

Just one more reason to read the Red Electric. 21st century PSA's Thanks Rick - MTP

10:20 PM  

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