Cover Photo: Passwords And Hard Drives by Lauren Suval

Passwords And Hard Drives

And how can I assist you today?

Another few hours devoted to apple tech support. I cushion my desk chair, embracing the discussion ahead. It’s not exactly how envision this particular Wednesday afternoon, but my (fairly new) laptop, Millie, is acting strange. She needs the attention.

My keyboard is playing mind games— keys that have specific functions stray from protocol, and some keys decide not to work altogether.

Well, I’m sorry you’re experiencing trouble, Miss, but I do know how to fix this for you. It’s common in these kinds of models. Have you upgraded to the new operating system yet?

New operating system? I know nothing of the new operating systems. I don’t even possess a smart phone. I tell him as such. He finds me amusing.

So it’s not advanced, he relays. Okay, we’ll do the upgrade right now — do you have the time to wait for it to download and install?

Yes, I say. I already knew this would be a process. I just have to wait.


Once the upgrade officially installs, we reach another roadblock. My password will not allow access. I’m blocked from entry.

The technician and I joke with one another. Oh silly, Millie, what on earth are you doing? Why are you not accepting the password that you’ve become accustomed to on a regular basis?

During the trial and error period and amidst resetting passwords, I ask where he’s calling from.

I’m working from home today, he says. I’m in Virginia.


Yeah, temperatures have dropped here these past few weeks.

Same here, I reply. We went from tropical weather on Christmas to freezing. But alas, winter has arrived.

And then, through all the maneuvering, through all the ‘can you be placed on hold’ inquiries, we get disconnected.

I call tech support right back, but I cannot track down the man from Virginia.

I sigh. He was friendly. He was eager to help.

A half hour later, the phone rang. The man from Virginia did not forget about me. Unfortunately, though, he could not fix her. I move on from slight disappointment and speak with a (rather cheery) female technician from Canada.

We go in circles with Millie. Restart. Shutdown. Turn On. Turn Off. Turn On holding down the Command and R Key. Turn On holding down the Command and Options Key.

Finally, she asks if I can turn on the computer while holding down several keys simultaneously — she refers to this method as ‘finger yoga.’

I begin to lose tenacity. I shovel bites of leftover pasta in my mouth in between attempts. I missed lunch.

Don’t sound so defeated, Lauren, she says after we return to the same screen over and over again.

She does not know me at all. Heck, she’s based in another country. But she did detect a crack in my voice. A sliver of my disheartened tone.

I’d have to bring Millie into the store for face to face assistance.

Is this fixable? I ask before we hang up. Reassurance typically elicits comfort.

Absolutely. You have a good day.

You too, I echo.


Sitting at Apple’s Genius Bar, I absorb the scene around me. People on line with their phones and computers that are all broken. Well, to some degree.

Technicians are at the ready, ready to troubleshoot, ready to remedy, ready to conjure up solutions.

I’m assigned to Megan. She assesses the issue at hand, bewildered.

Huh. That’s really weird, she says. I’m assuming this has to do with your keyboard, but there was probably a preexisting condition, too. Perhaps the upgrade freaked it out a bit.

Oh boy, I think to myself. This all started two nights ago. Weird how it lost control so suddenly.

I leave Millie there. She’d be in repair for three to five days as they replace the keyboard, along with other faulty parts. But it’s fine, because she needs the weekend to reboot. To chill the hell out.


And with a shiny new keyboard intact, all checked out well. Or so I thought.

I still could not get into the computer with my password.

I braced myself for another phone call.

It looks like it’s encrypted, the technician, this one based in Pittsburgh, says.

There’s mostly likely a software issue that they didn’t notice during repair. But that’s why you keep getting stuck.

Encrypted? That does not sound promising.


I return to the Genius Bar the following day. I apologize for my abruptness, my less-than-thrilled-to-be-here demeanor.

I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling well today. And it has been one of those weeks. A ‘run down feeling’ persisted, landing in my throat, affecting my energy. Tis the season for susceptibility, I suppose.

He smiled and waved me off.

All okay, he says. Let’s see if we can get this resolved; this is John.

John reads over the notes, appearing just as puzzled as I am.

Let me try a few things, he says. Might as well exhaust all our options first.

He’s about to announce big plans for further repair, but then, somehow, with knowledge that grants him the ability to be employed at the Genius Bar, he works his way around the system. Millie let us in.

A small success, for there is still recovery ahead. A disclaimer attached.

Yeah, it looks like there is an underlying software issue going on. Make sure your information is backed up, because we’re going to have to wipe the hard drive clean.

So, that’s what this is. Before the upgrade, before the keyboard, before it all, the initial setback was, in fact, the software. The hard drive needs a clean state, a chance to start anew.

Wipe it clean.

And another disclaimer. This story isn’t really about a hard drive. The hard drive is a metaphor. A metaphor for life.

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Psych Central, Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her latest book, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” a collection of personal essays, can both be found on Amazon. She loves to be followed on Twitter @LaurenSuval and on Facebook @LaurenSuvalWriting.