Death, if we're so lucky, comes in the waning years of one's life. It would arrive with little suffering, as painless as closing your eyes and entering a deep sleep. Some of us aren't so lucky. My iPod wasn't. It suffered. And I cried a thousand tears.
On Monday, Feb. 27, 2006, at approximately 4:10 p.m., my 20-gigabyte, special-edition U2 black-and-red iPod died. No warnings, no goodbyes. It happened as I exercised on the elliptical machine at the gym. Its last words were: "You're seeing the world through cynical eyes"... ("All Possibilities," by Badly Drawn Boy). Then the screen froze.
Have you ever lost a childhood pet? That's how it feels. You don't appreciate it until it's gone, and then you think about all the good times you've shared. One time, I jogged along the lake with Outkast blaring its Deep South brand of hip-hop. I never ran so far and so long in my life. There's the time my desk mates at work were yapping about this, that and the other. I slipped on the white ear buds, thumbed the click wheel clockwise to turn up the volume, and let the outside world drown in a sea of Coldplay.For the fiercely loyal 42 million iPod owners worldwide, this is our worst nightmare realized.
As the elliptical machine in the gym came to a stop, I held down the menu and select buttons to reset the iPod. A folder with an exclamation point popped up, with a Web address for Apple Support. I reset the iPod once more, and the same screen came up, followed by a whirring sound, like it was crying.
And then, for a moment, I coaxed some psychic echoes from the player -- a few scraps of songs -- only to have my hopes dashed. Freeze. Whirr. Nothing. The bus ride home was the longest 15 minutes of my life.
The iPod helped me get in shape, making the treadmill less of a chore. It helped me ignore both panhandlers and Greenpeace volunteers. It was my lucky rabbit's foot, my medulla oblongata, the wind beneath my wing. Did it ever know it was my hero?
The memories flooded back as I walked into the Apple Store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue the next day. The man at the counter held the iPod to his ear, listening to its inside. The same whirring sound came up. And then, with as much sympathy as diagnosing a hangnail, he told me: "Hard drive failure." My stomach sank.
He explained several options. Apple could fix the iPod, but that would likely cost more than the device itself. I could take it to a third-party repairer, but that would involve mailing my iPod away to strangers, for days and possibly weeks at a time.
His last suggestion, the one he gave the most enthusiastic pitch for, was for me to buy a brand-new iPod. The new one has a screen in color, it hold holds more songs, and hey, it plays videos! Awesome! I walked out.
Since the death of my iPod, I've been lumbering around with this unwieldy apparatus called a portable CD player, a device I purchased more than a decade ago. Besides the fact it only plays a dozen songs at a time, doesn't really work while jogging, and requires four fresh AA batteries every other week, it still works like a charm. Hmmmm.
I now ponder the $299 question. As much as I question the worthiness of a new video iPod (under my previous, $350, special-edition iPod's lifeline, it worked out to $21.81 a month), I'm resigned that it's not a matter of if, but when I'll buy a new one. But there's something about ol' Poddy I can't let go -- the scuff marks, the way it contours in my hands, the arresting red click wheel. But then I remembered...
When I was younger, I found my pet goldfish floating lifeless on the surface one morning. After it went round and round down the porcelain grave, my parents bought a new goldfish from the pet store that same day. I could barely tell the difference.