As you have no doubt heard, we are in a serious situation in south Louisiana regarding the weather. Torrential rains for the past few days have caused unprecedented flooding. My family is okay. Our place in Baton Rouge is on high ground, so no problems, and my mom up in West Feliciana is also okay. But I can’t get to her because broad, gentle Thompson Creek has become a raging torrent. The churning water is threatening to overtake the bridge, and has already covered the low-lying approaches on either side of the bridge, rendering Highway 61 impassable. I don’t think this has happened in living memory, not even after hurricanes.
I’m really blessed because the only real hassle I’ve had from the weather is the fact that my smartphone goes off at all hours with BOOOOMP BOOOOMP BOOOOMP alerts from the National Weather Service. The last one came at 2:30 this morning. Hard to get back to sleep after that. But these things are important. My cousin and her husband out in Livingston Parish had to sleep in their car last night so they could escape if necessary. They will be staying with my mom tonight, and for as long as they need to. It’s crazy. Places that have never flooded, at least in anyone’s memory, are flooding now.
But hey, I’m not panicking about that. I’m panicking about the fact that I was sitting in my living room working on the Work chapter of The Benedict Option — the final chapter — when suddenly my computer sort of froze, and the text of my open files began to go crazy, my words being replaced by gibberish.
“Matthew, what’s happening?!” I said to my teenage son Matthew, who is tech-savvy.
He came over and had a look. “Dad, your hard drive is dying. Your file is corrupted.”
I shut the computer down at once. I was so panicked that I just shut down, and went to bed. Got up early this morning, drank my coffee, put on my raincoat, and drove to the Apple store to try to beg my way onto the Genius Bar list without a reservation. When I got there, the store was dark, and there was a man in the back wearing galoshes. He came to the front, opened the door, said he was the manager.
“We’re not going to be able to open today,” he said. “Most of my employees can’t get here because of the water. We might open tomorrow, but it’ll probably be Monday.”
So, here I sit, stewing in a toxic flood of panic, waiting for Monday, and unable to do a thing with the manuscript, because it’s all on a laptop that I’m praying will not completely die before the surgeons can get their hands on it.
The good news is that the entire second draft has been for a couple of weeks in the hands of my editor. Plus, I’ve been saving things all along on a flash drive. I started working on the new chapter a couple of weeks ago, after my editor decided (rightly) that we needed an extra one on Work. But because we were in the process of moving, I didn’t think to save it to the flash drive. Besides, there’s no way a computer’s hard drive would crash at the most inopportune moment imaginable, right? Right?
The Apple manager said there’s a decent chance they can recover the data, but if they can’t, all I will have lost is one chapter. That’s not nothing. I worked hard to get it right, and it was close to being finished. Still, it could have been much, much worse. Fortunately, all the interviews I did for that chapter were via e-mail, which for me is in the cloud, and recoverable — though that will be a massive pain in the rear end.
Let me tell you writers now: don’t ever, ever, ever fail to save your work in the cloud. I have a Dropbox account but didn’t use it. That will never happen again.
Let me also tell you something cool. Last night, I had anxiety dreams. In my dream, I was in Alaska, of all places, trying hard to work on my manuscript, but I was unable to do it. I found myself in a bookstore attached to a church, and was going through the shelves looking at volumes by G.K. Chesterton. I’m not really a reader of Chesterton, but I was amazed because here were slim Chesterton volumes that had never been published. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to open them and read them, but every time I would try to read one, somebody would interrupt me. At some point, there was GKC himself, standing next to me, wearing a three-piece gray tweed suit. He was looking at me, but saying nothing. It was as if he were there to help me get his books open. I can’t remember how that ended.
This morning, dejected by being turned away at the Apple store, I decided to check my Twitter feed. I found this in it, from my friend Marco Sermarini, one of the main figures in The Benedict Option and head of the Italian Chesterton Society. He was replying to a despairing tweet I sent out last night just before bedtime, lamenting the computer disaster:
@roddreher Grande. Chesterton will surely help you!
— Soc Chestertoniana (@Sochest) August 13, 2016
I was asleep when Marco tweeted that, so I couldn’t have seen it before going to bed.
Hey, you never know. Mystery! I am going to read some Chesterton today, while I have nothing to do but sit and stew. Headed to the library now.