Technology . . . We love it . . . When it works.

03/05/14 2:55 PM

Well, I finally did it.

A week ago last Wednesday, while I was working on my laptop on my lap, I reached over to get something from my side table. Two seconds later, I watched as if in slow motion my laptop slipped from my lap onto the floor. I picked it up and restarted it. It turned on and connected as normal. I breathed a sigh of relief. Just about two minutes later, the programs started shutting down. So I tried to reboot it. Again it came up, but would only shut down within minutes of connecting. So I tried to run a test on it. The test came back normal. Again I rebooted and again it shut down after a few minutes. So I quit trying and went to bed with a pit in my stomach. I was going to have to go see the Geek Squad.

The next morning I let Brett know what I had done. He responded in that warm, “I am so sorry” kind of way he has. That’s right, no yelling and getting upset at me. He is just like that. And I love him for it. I headed out at 7:30am (we had no guests the night before) and drove to Fredericksburg. I knew Best Buy wouldn’t be open at 8am so I stopped at a small grill for breakfast. As I sat there, I started looking for another repair place just in case the Geek Squad wasn’t able to help me. I also found out that Best Buy didn’t open until 10am. So I had to waste two hours, all the while wondering if I would make it home in time for our guests coming around 4pm.

By the time Best Buy opened, I was a nervous wreck. And it seems I wasn’t alone. I arrived early to Best Buy and there were several others waiting at the door to get in. I wasn’t sure if I was at Best Buy or at a Patient First waiting to see the doctor. When the doors opened, I was glad that the others needed to see the store and not the Geek Squad. I quickly made my way to the Geek Squad area. There sat a gentleman in black pants and a white, button down dress shirt and tie. I half expected when he turned around, that I would see a pocket protector and pens to complete the look. He was sitting with his back to me, working on something on his computer. I think he was checking his email. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, while I am sure it was just a few minutes. He finally did turn and noticed me.

When I walked over, I explained what had happened and how I had tried to “fix” the problem. I am sure in his mind, he was thinking, “Poor girl, you should never try to fix anything on a computer.” I had even taken a photo of the blue screen message that kept showing up on my computer when I rebooted it. When I tried to show him the photo, he just waved it off and said I am sure you have damaged your hard drive. So we started up my computer. To my amazement, it started up and connected (I brought my “hot spot” so I could) and I was able to open my files. Isn’t that just like a computer and car. When you aren’t at the repair store, it doesn’t work. But as soon as you step in the store, it makes a miraculous recovery.

So he told me that he wasn’t sure how long the hard drive would continue to work and suggested that I download all I could on a external hard drive. I bought one quickly, leaving my computer up and running. He sat me at another station and allowed me to start downloading. Now before you preach to me about the wonders of backing up my data, I want to let you know that I had been doing so on another external hard drive. The only issue is that we had gotten so busy lately, I had not done so in a few months. So I was very eager to get what I had off so I wouldn’t lose that work. So I started to make the transfer. I opened my first file and wouldn’t you know, it wouldn’t transfer. Then it shut down again. I tried to open it again and it just shut down again. I turned to see what the gentleman’s next suggest would be, but he was with another customer. So I sat waiting for him to finish. When he did, I called him over with a teary voice and said, “Now what?”.

He told me that he couldn’t guarantee anything with a computer that was broken. He kept saying that throughout our conversation and really, I was getting a little tired of hearing it. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. But you are a geek. Fix it!” was my thought. He told me that he could do one of two things, but not both. He could replace my hard drive, which meant I would lose all my files. Or he could recover my files, but not fix my hard drive. At this point, just wanted it to work. I needed it for my business. So I asked how long to fix the hard drive. He told me that he would have to send it off to do so and it would take about four to seven weeks to get back. That wasn’t an option for me. So I thanked him and left. So much for the Geek Squad. Had Leonard, Howard or even Sheldon been there, I would have it working with my files and free access to the “World of Warcraft” loaded. By the way, I don’t play games on my computer, but I love “The Big Bang Theory”.

While I had been eating breakfast, I had found a computer repair store in Fredericksburg that showed promise. They advertised that they could fix most issues within a hour. They were my last hope. So I plugged in their address into my cell phone GPS and headed off. I have been in the area for one year and I am still learning my way around Fredericksburg. I know main streets, but anything else I have to use my GPS. This store proved to be a little harder to find. I drove for about half an hour, missing the address somehow long the way. I ended up in a Sheetz parking lot half an hour later. I had to make a phone call to a bride’s mother to discuss our wedding packages. She had called me the day before and I wasn’t where I could talk and had asked if I could call her back later. So I didn’t want to put her off again. So I put aside my stressful search and made the call.

Half an hour later, after I finished my call with her, I called the repair store. They gave me directions to their place, which I had passed several times. They are tucked back in what looks like a construction company lot. When I arrived, I explained my dilemma. It was just two days before our first Civil War Day at Belle Grove. I had guests arriving that day and would have a full house until Tuesday the following week. My self guided tour guide for John Wilkes Booth’s Trail from the Potomac to Garrett’s Farm was on the computer. And I needed my computer to work. I had told him of my visit to the Geek Squad and of their “help”. He told me that he could help me and do it faster and cheaper. It set my heart at ease. He asked me to go and run my other errands and he would personally look at my computer. So off I went to get my Civil War costume for Saturday.

When I returned half an hour later, he told me that he would work on transferring my files and put in my new hard drive. And that he could work hard to have it to me by close of business the next day. (Friday) I thanked him with all my heart and left my computer in his good hands. That night was really a pain. Little do we know how much we rely on something until we don’t have it available to us. I really did miss my computer. People were emailing me, asking for wedding package information (which I didn’t have access to) and asking for Civil War tickets, which I couldn’t log on my list for our check in person. It was really a pain.

The next day, I ran over to the repair store. The owner let me know that he was having a harder time removing the files than he had expected. He had taken my new external hard drive and downloaded the John Wilkes Booth guide, so at least I could get that printed. But he was going to need more time to make the transfer. So again, I left my computer in hopes he could get it done. But it would be Monday before I could get it back. By then, Brett had brought our other computer from Chesapeake for me to use. I was at least able to print invoices for our guests and check some of our social media. But I didn’t have what I needed… my files.

Monday arrived and I waited for a call from the repair store. At mid day, I decided to call them. The person I spoke to had to talk to the tech so he put me on hold. My thought, “This isn’t good.” The person got back on the phone and said the tech was working my computer as we spoke. He said that he would have the tech call me within the hour. I thanked him and went about my business. Four hours later, I called again. I got an apology and another promise the tech would call. Somehow I didn’t believe him. But I was surprise when the tech called. He told me that they had been working on my computer all weekend, which I didn’t believe at all, and that they were not having much luck pulling the files off. He said that they would continue to work on it and let me know the next day where they were at.

The next day arrived and I received a call from the owner this time. He apologized for the mix up, that he had been out of the office for two days sick. He told me that they weren’t able to pull the files as they had hoped. That the hard drive was just shutting down too fast for them to get them. So he was going to replace the hard drive with the new hard drive and have the tech load my operating system (Windows 7). He said that it would be ready by the end of the day. But that he would keep my hard drive and do some research on pulling the files off it he could. He told me that he would do this part for free. I thanked him and said I would be there later in the day to get it.

I didn’t make it that day.

We had a couple coming in for the evening and they didn’t arrive until well after their closing time. So I was on day five without my computer. I felt completely lost. But while I was waiting for our guests, we had a “drive by” come through. Brett and I call them “drive by” because they will pull into the circle and drive around to see Belle Grove and drive right back out without stopping. This time, because I was thinking it could be our guests, I met them at the door. It was a local couple that had been interested in seeing the mansion. Turns out the gentleman had worked on the mansion during its restoration sometime between 1997 and 2003. He had been 15 years old and had wanted to see what it looked like now. So I invited them in even though it was after tour hours (12pm to 3pm). Turns out the young lady is an IT Tech. After my conversation with her, I had decided to allow her to see if she could pull the files from the old hard drive. She wasn’t going to have to do “research” so it made me a little more comfortable.

This has happened to us many times during this journey. Just as we came into need for help, someone shows up at our door for a tour, generally after hours that fits that need. It’s like God was hearing our prayers and providing the answer. He is good like that. So it is almost not a surprise anymore. And we are so thankful.

The following day, Wednesday, one week after I dropped my computer, I picked it up along with my old hard drive. It is the first time I had seen a real hard drive. They aren’t that big. Just about the size of a small cell phone razor style. But who would think that such a small piece could hold us at its mercy. I left and headed for a lunch of my favorite comfort food… sushi. The week had been so stressful. Learning how to cope without my files and finding other ways to conduct business had been a continuous stress. I decided to take a break and do something I had not done since we opened Belle Grove. I took the night off and went to a movie.

On Thursday, I stated my old computer. When it opened up, it didn’t look the same. The screen was stretched wider than my old screen and things looked distorted. It was also missing all my software. No Microsoft Office. None of my passwords worked. Since it was a new hard drive, I knew it wouldn’t have my password “cookies” as my old one had. But what made it harder was I couldn’t remember most of them. My old computer had saved them so I didn’t need to recall them each time I logged in. So now I struggled to remember them. After a short time, I just shut it down. It was hard looking at that screen knowing it wasn’t my old computer.

So on Friday, I spent the day downloading contracts and files from my “Sent” emails that I still had in my email accounts to the computer Brett had brought from home. I am glad I had not deleted these lately. I also worked on getting logged in to the different sites and programs I need to operate Belle Grove Plantation. Will I ever go back to my old computer? I don’t know. It is as if it isn’t the same as the old one. And in a way, I feel betrayed by it. How can I trust it to be my business’s “keeper” again? I told Brett that I am almost ready just to buy a new one. I had used the old one for several years and it is pretty much a “dinosaur” compared to today’s newer computers. The computer Brett had brought was also a little harder for me to use. It is a tablet and hooks up to a monitor. It took me a few tries to learn how to move the screen from the tablet to the monitor. It has also taken me a little trial and error to figure out the new operating system on this computer. Things don’t open up and close as my old “dinosaur” had. But I am not intimidated by technology. I am a fast learner and can pick up how to do it pretty quickly. It is just the thought of “rebuilding” my files and programs that is so stressful. And the loss of the pictures, videos and files that I might never see again. Some of these files and photos are ones I can never replace. So let’s keep our fingers crossed and pray this IT Tech can work a miracle.

Once I get this computer where I want it, am going to hook us up to either Dropbox or Cloud. This won’t happen to me again.

At least I hope not.

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Darnell History | 1 Comment »

One Comment on “Technology . . . We love it . . . When it works.”

  1. Jennifer T Says:

    So sorry to hear about your computer woes! I love your faith, though, and your reminder that God answers prayers. 🙂