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My iBook is terminally ill. The little hard drive whirls in pain, every email received sends it further creaking into doom. Though I have taken care to run back-ups, I know that one day soon the blue screen of death will come.

So I made the call. To the Italian backroom iDoc.

He has successfully operated on the iBook of a friend of mine, replacing the hard drive, though an open-iPod battery replacement on my first generation device killed it. It’s a stop-gap measure, there’s no telling how well the operation will go or how long the computer will live afterwards.

Why would I do this? Why not go to a real repair shop?

Italian customer service. Or lack thereof, really. It’s almost too easy a rant (here’s a classic example) though after a while complaining does not satisfy.

So one learns the “arte di arrangiarsi,” which translates roughly into English as “the art of getting by.” Roughly, because in many countries the whole concept of getting by with panache is really too foreign.

This isn’t a familiar concept in the U.S. Once in New York I brought a friend’s ailing iMac to Tekserve, a beacon in the darkness of computer repair. I trundled into the Western-themed shop with the computer in my arms, took a number, was swiftly called up to the stable of Mac repairers.

The guy listened to the problem, took 10 minutes to run a few tests (during which I had a little bottle of Coke from an antique vending machine for a dime) and told me that the computer had passed away. Then he gave me a few options for recuperating the data, explaining how much it might cost and what the success rates were. That was it.

I laugh (ha! hahahahahaha!) at the idea of going to a computer repair shop in Milan and obtaining an answer in half an hour.

It would go something like this: I would go in, fretful, saying that the iBook is having hard drive problems.

They would wrench it from my arms and take it away (where? to whom?) while saying something like, “Well, we’ll have to see. Call back on Thursday between 11 and 1 and we’ll tell you how much it’ll cost, though there’s no guarantee we can fix it.” And, of course, the hours of 11 to 1 are close enough to lunch time that, well, there’s a chance, a good chance, they really mean “sometime Thursday afternoon before we close.” Maybe.

My teeth chatter at the thought of it.

After all, how long can a freelancer survive without a computer?

The landscape here is fairly bleak – despite Milan’s cosmopolitan and forward-thinking reputation – there are a few dark and dodgy Internet caf├ęs where, in a pinch, you could read your mail. (They are considered such hotbeds of terrorist activity, though, that you have to bring ID and have your activity monitored).

Or, if you get lucky, one of the two libraries with one public computer each might be available.

So, until the unauthorized doctoring can be done, it’s one program open at a time. No downloads. No music. Sure, multitasking is overrated – if not impossible – but there’s something scary about trying not to work your computer too hard, thinking it might bottom out on you.

Wish me luck.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:05 AM | Permalink

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