Ever since I wrote the Boo Tie Shoo Fu post I have been feeling under the weather. Coughing, certainly, but also a general malaise and a lassitude, which culminated into my not being able to draw a deep breath. The inability to breathe well even woke me up a few nights in a row. I was terrified, wondering what could be wrong with me! I would lie in my bed at 2 and 3 in the morning, fighting for breath, heart pounding, coughing till my throat was raw and my abdomen hurt. Very scary.
It just so happened that, while that was going on, I had also been suffering computer woes, which culminated in my 200Gig external hard drive crashing.
About 2 weeks ago I grew so worried about my laptop crashing that I started using the University provided computer. I had legitimate reason for this worry: one evening, while using my laptop, typing happily away, my screen went completely blank. White Screen of Death instead of Blue Screen of Death (as Mike would call it), but certainly an event to cause panic. I figured I had better back up my files and start making use of the computer that I had no personal stake in so as to preserve the one I do have a stake in. I was using the university computer to broadcast Christmas music from my external hard drive on the night of the first Christmas party I hosted last week.
The next day, my external hard drive would not come up; I kept getting a message that there was an error on the disc. Talk about panic! EVERYTHING is on that drive: family pictures, music, stories I had written, video compilations I had edited. Most specifically, I was making a video for Marjorie and was nearly done with it. Hours and hours of work for this 13-minute video, and the materials (music and pictures) for that video are all on… you guessed it: the external hard drive! I can’t recreate the video now!
Was it lack of sleep? Feeling bad? The computer problems? Everything at once? The stars lined up just so to cause me to panic? I was crabby, whiny and depressed; even my office chair, which had always caused me to tilt to the right was irritating me.
After my second night of not being able to breathe I called Sam and told him about everything. He in turn had a solution for everything.
For the feeling sick part, we went to the campus infirmary. I knew there had to be one somewhere on campus; turns out it is right by my dorm building, cleverly concealed by Education Building One, where I teach on Tuesday mornings.
Stepping into the infirmary was like stepping back in time – as so many things here are. The doctor sits at a small desk, among shelves of medication. No separation between the examination area and the dispensary by a shatter-proof window. Some of the medicines stored on the shelves are in glass bottles. How long has it been since you’ve seen that?
The doctor asked me to pull up my shirts (all 4 of them) so she could listen to my lungs. Come to find out, there was some infection in my right lung, which was why I felt pressure on my chest and couldn’t breathe when I lay on my left side. She dosed me with some antibiotics and a traditional Chinese herbal preparation to help with the cough. For a mere 19Yuan and 15 minutes of my time, it seems my breathing woes were going to go away… along with the fear that my heart was giving out. WHEW!
The computer problems are going to be more difficult to tackle. I told Sam that I suspect the University computer caused my external hard drive to crash and that, in fact I had been having problems with that computer since I started using it. It would freeze up or go blank; sometimes programs that I didn’t even want to access opened up and would not go away. Although the computer department had installed an English language pack, most of the programs came up in Chinese and I was not able to use them.
He vowed to get me a new computer, which is good… but the more important issue is my external drive. I have to retrieve all of the data from that drive!
Sam to the rescue again! He took my drive to the campus’ computer department who diagnosed it as a failed disc. The local computer guru further stated that a repair of that magnitude was beyond his level of expertise and he recommended we take the drive to Computer City, a mega-computer outlet in town with technicians who specialize in such repairs. Sam knows that, if I went by myself I would most likely be overcharged for the repairs simply because I am a foreigner, so he volunteered to take it for me. Computer City is on his way home anyway… Thanks, Sam!
The final issue was the chair. I invited Sam to sit in it and he too quickly got annoyed by the distinct list to the right. He said he would procure me a new chair, but it probably wouldn’t be until the following week before the chair would be replaced. I thanked him, glad to have some relief for my back and shoulders from this evil, tortuous chair.
By the time Sam had batted all of my nagging out of the park it was lunchtime, so we went to lunch together and had a long talk. Two hours worth, to be exact. The most salient moment of that conversation came when he pointed out that I had only called him because of the University computer, and then just whined about everything else. (He did not accuse me of whining; that is my word.) I did not treat him like a friend and rely on him to help me with all of my troubles before they actually became trouble.
Remember in Continuum Break III, when I said I wanted to learn how to share and be a friend? He is absolutely right: I did not commiserate with him; I held him at arm’s length and relied on him to fix things only because I had to, after they all broke. I did learn something about myself that day, and I felt a door, long rusted shut, creak open… just a bit.
You see, no one has ever told me, and I’ve never accepted that friends need to be needed as well as wanted. I’ve only ever relied on myself. Sam pointing out that simple truth was a revelation to me, and a start to changing my bad and selfish behavior.
After talking with him I felt much relief. We walked back to campus – an odd looking pair with me so tall and he so short, but now on the way to becoming good friends nonetheless. As it was Friday, he went his way and I went back to my apartment, still reeling from the loosening of all that tension.
Final word about the chair: I was video chatting with Liz when it finally gave broke all the way. I had been wriggling around in it, trying to get comfortable when suddenly it decided to give up on supporting me and tipped backward. After getting up from the floor (and both of us laughing our fool heads off!) Liz told me the look on my face was priceless: my eyes the size of dinner plates, my face receding from the camera in slow motion and tipping backward until only my foot waving in the air was visible.
She should have recorded it!