Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Forgot Your Flash Drive

I love The Big Bang Theory. Despite the show's cavalier treatment of geek culture, sometimes getting crucial details wrong and showing the writers of the show are probably more chic than geek, the characters have enough similarity to myself and to the geeks I've known in my life that I can forgive their mistakes (I'm not going to dig into their inaccuracies here, but I'll note -- there are no playable races in World of Warcraft with prehensile tails). I'm thrilled that the top-rated sitcom in America can reference comic books, fan conventions, video games, and string theory without even a whiff of mainstream disdain and still remain the top-rated sitcom in America. Around my house we don't even name the show anymore. On Thursday night, we get my daughter in bed and sit down to watch The Boys. Yes, the girls on the show have taken a larger and larger role over the years, but for us, it's still The Boys.

"There is no more Sheldon! I am the sword master!"

One of my favorite episodes has the boys on a trip to Northern California to attend a physics conference where real-world physicist George Smoot will present a paper. Sheldon has a research paper of his own on a flash drive to give to Dr. Smoot. He expects the professor will love it "because it's brilliant." To his dismay, in the middle of their train ride through California, he discovers he left his flash drive at home, and to his mind, the rhythmic sound of the train's wheels mock him, chanting "you-forgot-your-flash-drive, you-forgot-your-flash-drive, you-forgot-your-flash-drive."

I have read voraciously throughout most of my life, and I studied fiction in college, and in fiction, I believe we find mirrors for ourselves. We find new ways of describing our lives and coming to terms with our successes and failures. By experiencing part of another person's life, we gain perspective on our own. So instead of putting up a new blog post last week, I have spent the past few days repeating to myself -- 

you-forgot-your-flash-drive, you-forgot-your-flash-drive, you-forgot-your-flash-drive

Yeah, I lost my post.

You see, I find opportunities to write at different times during the day. Sometimes, after getting out of the shower and before waking up my daughter for the school day, I will find a few minutes to get some thoughts into digital form. Throughout the day at work I find myself jotting down notes on a legal pad I keep at my desk, and instead of leaving the building or taking a walk on my 15-minute breaks, I will often stay at my desk and get those thoughts into a text file on my work computer's Notepad program. I save those thoughts to a usb flash drive. I do most of my composing in Notepad, actually, because I can edit a plain text file on practically any computer I happen to be near. So I've taken to keeping all of my posts on my flash drive, and when they're ready to publish, I copy/paste them onto Blogger, do a quick final edit to make sure the formatting looks right, add whatever pictures I plan on using, and click "Publish".

So last week, after pecking at it off and on for a couple of weeks, I felt ready to publish. I had done some editing during breaks at work and had the entire post saved to my flash drive. I came home and unloaded my pockets. Then I got sick. Unlike my friend Terese, I didn't become Wolverine, but I was in bad shape. I spent the weekend in a Day/Nyquil-induced haze, and by Monday I had forgotten where I put my flash drive. I can't find it. I've looked in all the places such things end up, even checking the laundry room, on the off chance I forgot to take it out of my pocket (it's happened before -- the thing is pretty durable, as it turns out). I don't think I can recreate it, either. I got it out of my head looking the way I wanted to, and I'm not sure I can get it back in there and back out again. So barring a miracle, my post is gone. Sheldon keeps chanting in my head, over and over and over again.

Jessika occasionally points out my concern, bordering on paranoia, for my way of doing things. I wouldn't say that I suffer from OCD, though. I have had experiences during my life that I would not like to repeat. Ever have a credit or debit card declined in a grocery store with a cart full of groceries? Such an experience might make you more likely to check your bank balance before heading out to the store, or check it on your phone while you're shopping. Either way, you'll verify that you have funds before piling a bunch of stuff on the belt. I've written before about pushing a car up an icy hill because I couldn't be bothered to keep track of weather. 

So I create habits for myself that help me avoid situations I don't want to repeat. Some might call them rituals. I don't care. Call it paranoia. Call it what you want, as long as I don't repeat past mistakes. At work I have a complicated highlighter usage system for keeping track of orders that I take. I made mistakes very early on, and I don't want to repeat them, so my highlighters have helped me create habits that help me avoid mistakes. In public places, I have a habit every few minutes of touching my back right pants pocket. I keep my wallet there. One of these days, if I ever lose my wallet (which is hard to do when you're constantly verifying its presence), I'll have a pretty good idea of the time frame when it went missing.

I have a feeling that my new flash drive, when I buy it, will have a designated location at work, and a designated location at home. I have a feeling I'll become borderline obsessive about checking those locations to verify the flash drive hasn't disappeared. I don't want to lose another post. 

Call me paranoid. 

But my paranoia has a purpose.