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January 11, 2009

Hotel upgrade? Fix my computer? Charge my phone?

January 11. Day 195.

Well, here we are. Hawaii. Finally!!

Five minutes after I stepped off the plane, I took out my laptop to search for an online rate for a rental car, since I'd been too busy in the days before the trip. Hotwire claimed $12/day from Lihue, but it didn't work from my cell phone.

And then I did something very stupid: I dropped my laptop.

I think it was a combination of sleep deprivation, and, I think, lack of sleep, that put me in a borderline psychotic state.

I tried it on two different outlets, pressed power a few times, but it was dead.

I resigned myself to the demise of the laptop ('twas a good little machine -- light, cute, affordable, loyal, feisty, purred so happily on my lap as I wrote this here blog), and I even romantically envisioned a Kauaian sendoff, complete with a seaside burial or ceremonial launch into the waves. (No worries, enviramigos, it was only the wistful thinking of a Roxy in mourning. Of course I'd bring it to my friendly neighborhood designated recycling center.)

But I quickly started panicking about the data. I last backed it up about a month ago, and my dissertation every day, but there was still a lot of stuff that was fresh -- and crucial. I called Mr. A, to determine if the data could be retrieved. He told me not to worry. With a stop at an electronics store and his all-knowing voice guiding me, I could collect the right tools and extract my files, pronto.

First stop: Radio Shack.

First asking: "Is there anywhere I could plug in my phone while I shop? I need the GPS to find my hotel." (I also almost let the battery die, another sign I was exhausted.)

Second asking: "Would it be okay if I used your counter to test your hard drive enclosure, to see if it's compatible with my laptop? And do you have a screwdriver I could use?"

The guys agreed to let me set up camp at the register, and as a token of gratitude, I confessed I am from San Diego -- exactly as the Chargers were losing the football game to some team I forget. Steelers, maybe? They cheered when they heard this, and we were clearly "all good."

Gained I and II: Cell phone juice, and the generous patience, advice, counter real estate and screwdriver loan of a team of Radio Shack employees.

Second stop: Sheraton. A few months ago, I asked for a hotel room upgrade in Maine, and failed. I thought I'd give it a second try.

As I approached the reception desk, I put on my friendliest smile and asked if perhaps they could let us change rooms, to something in the Ocean Wing, if they had anything available.

The clerk said he'd be happy to upgrade it, for a small fee.

I tried again, still friendly...

"Is there any way you could throw in a complimentary upgrade? For two girls who came so far to see Hawaii for the first time? It would really make our vacation magical."

Really. I laid it on thick. Thicker than Count Chocula's accent.

He replied he vood like to, but he zimply cannot.

Gained III: Nothing. (Frankly, I didn't want a better room -- ours is great. But part of this project is about getting what I need and want, and part is about practicing. Like this. Now, I'll have to see if there are any methods, post-check in, to getting that elusive upgrade. Am I really that bad at getting something so ordinary? I think the secret is complaining. Leaving the smile at the door.)

After a complimentary mai tai (or three), which was exactly what I needed before I disemboweled my laptop, I unfolded my computer repair kit and the dead machine on the bed and called Mr. A.

"Ready to go?" he asked.


"Okay. Why don't you plug it in and hit power first, for one last try?"

"I tried it twice. It's dead. Two plugs in two different buildings. I'm ready to operate."

"Okay. I'm just saying, you could plug it in one last time, before we do something irrevocable."

"Okay, you're right."

I plugged it in, and, of course, it lit right up. Gained IV: Lazarus the Laptop. (Adapted illustration, with apologies to Rembrandt.)
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