If you were robbed at gunpoint back in the 60s, you might have been presented with a choice, “Your money or your life?” If you stop and think about it – not that you would if a gun was pointed at your head – you would have a pretty hard time spending your money if you were dead. As decisions go, it is sort of a no-brainer.
Having never been in that situation I can’t help but wonder if I would freeze up – which probably would not end well – or if some ancient survival instinct would trigger a neurotransmitter to make my hand pluck out my wallet, hand it over and say, “Please don’t shoot me. Have a nice day.”
Like you, I would like to think that I would make the smart choice without hesitation. But what if the crook asked for your smartphone? What about your laptop? Would you hesitate? Would your mind take a few moments to mull over the probability of the guy actually pulling the trigger before responding?
Seems like a ludicrous question, but maybe not. Millennials say their smartphone is the most important thing in their lives – more important than their car, deodorant, even their toothbrush. And nearly half of adults surveyed said they couldn’t last more than a day without their mobile phone.
Suddenly I’m not so sure if “Your computer or your life?” would lead us all to the right response with an appropriate sense of urgency.
Personally, I doubt if I could force myself to leave the house without brushing my teeth. And I’m pretty sure I can survive at least a few days without my iPhone, but my MacBook Air, now that’s a different story. An improbable series of events over the Labor Day weekend proved without a doubt that my priorities are not what I thought they were.
Friday morning I woke up to no Internet service. Yes I know; that’s just crazy talk. Believe it or not, within 20 miles of the world’s high-tech epicenter, Silicon Valley, there is a mountain range that Comcast deems too remote and economically unfeasible to service by high-speed cable.
What we do have, however, is point-to-point wireless beamed from the top of Mount Loma Prieta. Remember the Bay Area’s 1989 earthquake? The epicenter was right next door to the mountain my Internet service comes from. It is fast but, as you might expect, a bit more problematic than suburbanites are used to.
Anyway, the network was down. Then it was back up. Then it was down again. After the usual reboot and reset router routine, same problem. So I contacted the service provider to let them know and started working on a column as best I could (given the situation, frustrating as it was).
The timing couldn’t have been worse. I had a mid-afternoon appointment to bring my MacBook Air into the Apple Store for much-needed repairs, so I had a lot of work to do in a short day ahead of the holiday weekend. Still, I got it done and only felt a little lost to leave my blessed computer for 48 to 72 hours. That would soon change.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling achy with a painful lump on my neck. I do get sinus infections, but it had been years since I felt this crappy. The next day it was even worse, so I paged the doctor and he prescribed some antibiotics. He also said there was a drug-resistant Staph infection around and to call pronto if I wasn’t feeling better in a couple of days.
With that weighing heavily on my mind, I went down to the pharmacy only to have Blue Shield reject the prescriptions. They told the Walgreens clerk that my medical insurance policy had been cancelled and that I should call them. Wait, what? I had never gone a day without insurance and, at my age, it’s a necessity, to say the least.
So I paid cash and left feeling even more disturbed than when I’d arrived. Now I had no medical coverage, a lump on my neck, no MacBook and virtually unusable Internet service … all in the space of 48 hours. Writing usually calms my nerves but my old Sony laptop with Vista was hopelessly out of date, and I couldn’t get it to connect reliably with the network. Having to mess with it just made me feel worse.
By Labor Day I was ready to jump out of my skin, so I did the only thing I could think of to make myself feel better. I called the Apple Store and prayed for good news. Incidentally, if you want to get a live person immediately just say this exact phrase to the automated attendant: “I’d like to order a pizza.” Works every time.
I was on hold for what seemed an eternity while the clerk checked on the repair. When she returned and said, “You’re MacBook Air is ready to be picked up,” I felt a sudden lightness of being, as if I’d sprouted wings and left the ground. I thanked her profusely and floated to the car. The holiday traffic was horrendous, but I didn’t care.
By the time I got home the Internet was back to normal. By Tuesday the antibiotics had begun to work and a call to Blue Shield eventually resolved the mystery insurance lapse. I’m still not out of the woods yet but, as long as I’ve got this miracle of titanium, silicon and glass on my lap, everything seems right with the world.
Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of "Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur." Learn more, contact Tobak or follow his new blog at stevetobak.com. Any opinions expressed are those of the columnist.