Samuel J. Tanner 5 minute read

Of Cats and Computers

It's a simple story, really.

I was at at my computer two weeks ago. It was Thursday. I was working. A soft breeze blew in from the patio door. It was another productive summer morning. I've been prolific this month. Journal manuscripts. Creative writing. Different projects. I've been getting all sorts of work done. Satisfying the tenure-track, scratching my complusive creative itch, keeping my bills paid, and attending to service projects. It's been a satisfying month or two, to be sure.

I took another sip of coffee and prepared myself to begin working on conference proposals for next year. My cat Meowasauras, as she often does, was sitting on my desk. She stared at me lazily as I worked. I ignored her.

Suddenly, Meowasauras fell over.

Incidentally, Meowasauras often falls over. She's not a balanced creature. Meowasauras began having seizures soon after we moved to Pennsylvania. I hate to say it, but she hasn't been right in the head since. Meowasauras often falls off furniture, mistimes her jumps, or gets easily startled. I've pulled her out of the garbage can more times than I'd care to admit. She's an unfortunate cat. I love her all the same.

Back to my simple story. This was the must destructive of Meowasauras's falls. As she lost her balance, she reached out to grab hold of something. Her claw caught my hand. This was the same hand with a cup of coffee in it. The coffee spilled all over my desk. Some of it sprayed my Macbook Pro. Blood began to ooze from scratch marks on my fingers. Carnage.

I howled and reacted quickly. I went upstairs, grabbed paper towels, and raced back to my office. I soaked up the coffee on my desk. There wasn't much liquid on my computer. Still, I quickly dried up what I could. I was nursing my wounds when I noticed that my computer screen was blurry. I shuddered.

Yes, I have iCloud. I have an external harddrive too. I'm good about backing up my work. Still, my personal laptop blew up about two months ago. I can't afford a new computer, so I've been relying on my Penn State laptop ever since. This computer is a newer Macbook Pro, so I haven't thought to backup my recent work. The product of the past two months of my work was saved in only one place; the desktop of my now blurry laptop.

I was foolish. I didn't drag my valuable folders into my iCloud. Instead, I turned the computer off, hoping the glitch would fix itself when the computer restarted. No such luck. The computer went dead. No amount of encouragement would help it to turn on. I stood in my office, dripping with blood, stinking of coffee, and realized the enormity of what just happened. Meowasauras recovered from her fall. She's a shameless cat, really. Meowasauras looked at me without remorse as I took in the moment.

I brought the computer to the IT people at Penn State Altoona that afternoon. They told me not to hold my breath, but they'd try to recover my files. They gave me an ancient laptop as a loaner.

Incidentally, Solomon came with me on the drive to Altoona.

"Want to see the ducks on campus, Solomon?" I asked him.

"Yes, Daddy!" he told me excitedly.

Penn State Altoona has a fantastic reflecting pool in the middle of campus. Ducks live there. Turtles too. After dropping off my computer, Solomon and I took a walk. We said hello to the turtles, waved at the ducks, and spent time together. I'll admit that being outside with my son is more satisfying than working at my computer.

I got a call from an IT person on Monday morning last week. The IT people had a chance to look at my laptop.

"It doesn't look good," he told me. "I think your hard drive is shot. I'm not sure I can recover your files. We may just have to send it back to Apple."

I groaned.

"Is there anything you can do?" I begged him.

"Well, I could leave it upside down over night, and try again tomorrow. I don't think it will work though."

"Try that again? Please? One more time?"


I hung up the phone. I offered a desperate prayer for my computer. I thought about my Jewish ancestors. They would have marched around the city walls seven times, blown a shofar, and trusted in God to deliver them from destruction. That's one way to live. Really, what else could I do? Prayer is as good of a last resort as any.

I drove to campus the next morning. I tried to respond to emails, organize some of my work, and plan for how I might deal with the loss of two months of work.

The IT guy called me that morning.

"I can't believe it came up," he said with astonishment. "I've got your computer here. I don't have much time, but I was able to get in. What do you need to save?"

I told him to grab the files on the desktop. He did. Hallelujah.

A simple story of cats and computers this week. Thank God I'm not out two months of work. Another aspect of this story seems important though too. Maybe I ought to find more time to walk around a refelecting pool with Solomon and say hello to turtles. Pouring all of my energy into a computer is well and good, but screens aren't the only things to pay attention to.

Oh. And blowing shofars and praying seem like worthwhile endeavors. There's that too.

Oh, and one more thing.

Meowasauras is an unfortunate beast.