My text had to be delivered by close of business Friday. Thursday night I was still torturing my laptop’s keyboard to make the deadline on time.
The article had to be original but I could not come up with new ideas. It was my third draft and still the story was not going where it was supposed to go. What is a creator to do when his work will not follow the mind of its maker?
Finally I decided to search countless pages of notes saved on hard disks, diskettes and tapes. Using an old Macintosh SE30, I dug through the innards of diskettes for 20-year old back-ups. Every time I found something reusable I transferred it to the laptop by modem.
And the clock kept ticking...
I butchered away through unpublished stories trying to make mine again the virtues of my past creativity. I chewed ideas that were too raw, making them fit for human consumption. It was messy but it was coming along...
At 3:00 AM, the laptop was overheating. I could feel the CPU boiling under the keyboard.
Then the computer started making strange noises: “Aarrrruuuh! Aarrrruuuh! Aarrrruuuh!”
I knew what it was: the bearings of the internal cooling fan were giving up. I had to turn off the laptop until I could replace the fan assembly.
A computer’s integrated circuits generate heat that would build up quickly without dissipating devices. In this picture, the copper pipe draws heat from the CPU and motherboard for the cooling fan to expel.
I opened the back of the laptop, removed the faulty cooling fan, and went to bed wondering where I would find parts for a five-year-old laptop.
First thing in the morning, I took a cab to a computer store that sold end-of-line equipment. The owner was not selling spare parts but suggested another store that might be able to help.
The fellow in the second store’s service department told me he would order the part but it could take a few weeks for delivery. “No can do, I said, I need it this morning.”
After some thought the young man said: “There’s a shop with which we sometimes do business that locates hard to find parts. It's far but it’s accessible by bus. I have to warn you though: this is a ‘peculiar’ kind of business.” I got the address and the directions, and hopped on a bus.
When I got off the bus, I was in the middle of a field. There was a wooded area behind me. I read the directions: “Go under the bridge and walk for five minutes until you see an unpaved pathway to your right.”
I looked around; there was an overpass to my right. I figured that was the “bridge”. I went under it and soon I saw a trail leading through an overgrown area. I followed it for awhile until I found myself in the middle of an industrial park.
The address was 1245 Industrial Road. I guess the urban designer who came up with that street name felt as creative as I was the previous night, tearing off bits and pieces from old texts.
Twelve-forty-five Industrial Road was a one-story building with grey siding behind an unkempt front yard. I rang the bell and waited.
A lanky young man with a shaved head, a nose ring and gouged earlobes opened the door. His bare arms were tattooed from shoulder to wrist. For some reason I thought of Queequeg, the Polynesian harpooner in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
Moby Dick was a vindictive sperm whale chased by the equally spiteful captain Ahab. Native harpooners were often used in whaling expeditions. Europeans and Americans prejudiced against natives sometimes depicted them as cannibals. However documented evidence indicates that colonialists resorted to cannibalism for survival. The British members of Sir John Franklin’s expedition set to discover the Northwest passage in 1848, or the survivors of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse off the coast of Mauritania in 1816 are good examples.
I explained what I was looking for. Without a word he let me in and left me to wait in a large damp room that reeked of mildew. The carpet was dirty and there were gutted out computers piled up all around.
Through a door I could see in another room two black men busy dismembering desktop computers on a conference table. There were electronic parts everywhere.
Then it struck me: these guys made a living cannibalizing old computers.
A soldier is cleaning a part he just cannibalized from a tank during WW II.
Cannibalizing is such a gruesome word to describe an activity that is actually environmentally-friendly: re-using components to prolong the life of dying equipment and delay the moment parts are sent to landfills.
I guess doctors do the same when they take organs from cadavers to extend or improve the life of their patients.
Anyway, since the FBI unreluctantly resorted to a cannibal to solve their problem in Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, I figured it was OK if I did the same.
When the tattooed, shaved and pierced metal faced gentleman came back, I showed him the fan assembly. He took me into another room filled with shelving stacked with old laptop computers, dug out one from the middle of a pile and removed its fan.
I was back in business...