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“Sounds as if there was a Kernel panic.”

These are not words I ever expected or wanted to hear, but that’s what James the Genius Bar Guy tells me.

(Actually, I might have missed bits of it because I’m still loving on the concept of a genius bar. Does Albert Einstein belly up to the bar with Galileo and the guy who invented the InstantPot? Are Stephen Hawking and Leonardo Da Vinci and Marie Curie over at that table in the corner, giving Adam Smith the stink-eye because (as usual) he wants the invisible hand to get the next round?  I imagine myself pointing to Grace Hopper: “I’ll have what she’s having.”)

How I picture the genius bar at happy hour. From right to left: Stephen Wolfram, Katherine Johnson, Richard Feynman, Marie Curie, Sigmund Freud, Rosalind Franklin. [image credit: giphy]

I’m not really sure when the real trouble started. My computer has been er…computing… slower and slower. Then comes the frozen screen, the error messages, and finally—the spinning beachball-o-death.

If you’re a member of the Cult of Apple, you’re cringing right now. You feel my pain.

I log onto Apple Support and open a chat window, where I’m soon connected to James. He’s reassuring and confident that he can help. Frankly, we bond during the 64 minutes and 19 seconds we chat online. He suggests I do all the things I’d already looked up on the Apple forums and done, but I’m fine with that. Sooner or later, I’m convinced, Genius Bar Guy will come up with something I haven’t already tried.

Then James gives me his diagnosis. “Sounds as if there was a Kernel Panic.”

“Seriously? Kernel panic? That’s a thing?” I imagine quaking, sweating software kernels, breathing into their paper bags, curling into fetal balls, and moaning random series of 1 and 0.

A kernel panic is a safety measure taken by an operating system’s kernel upon detecting an internal fatal error in which it either is unable to safely recover or cannot have the system continue to run without having a much higher risk of major data loss.—Wikipedia


Kernel panic. At least, that’s how I picture it. [image credit: Giphy]

Clearly, there isn’t a moment to lose, not when innocent kernels are at risk.

So I pretend to go along with James, dutifully reporting that I’ve rebooted, backed up, scanned, swept for viruses, and eliminated malware. We recheck the memory, and attempt (unsuccessfully) to reset NRV and NVRAM. And no, before you ask, I have NO idea what they are. But I can attempt their required restarts while holding down as many as four keys because I have mad skills like that. (Also, I’ve tried enough times to know it’s not going to work. It never works.)


It’s finally here: the moment James and I have been backing toward with all the inevitability of a shootout at high noon (only with less sun because this is, after all, Scotland).

James: “We should reinstall macOS after a format of the startup disk.”

I try to break it to him gently. “I can’t reformat because my mouse and keyboard are wireless and they won’t work during reformat.”

There’s a pause. A loooooong pause, so long that the chat window politely queries, “We haven’t heard from you in a while. To keep your chat session active, please respond to your Apple Advisor and let us know you are still there.”

Finally James comes back, asking cautiously, “Do you have a wired mouse and keyboard?”

I explain about living on a small island off the coast of Scotland where the only ferry company has a schedule that’s mostly just guidelines and not something you can actually depend on to get back and forth. That means the nearest 24-hour superstore is actually at least 24 hours away, so new wired keyboards and mice purchases aren’t generally available at 10PM on a Saturday. (I don’t add that I have absolutely no doubt that if I were to post on the island Facebook page, I’d have offers of loaner peripherals pouring in. Island people are like that.)

James tries to be equally gentle with me. “It might be beneficial to bring the Mac into a service center for assistance in this case. What country are you in?”

I remind him about Scottish islands and dodgy ferries, and James books the first available appointment—not until the end of the week. I assure him there will (probably) be a boat by then, and we say our farewells.


This is my computer waiting until Friday. [image credit: giphy]

And this is me, waiting for Friday.

Pray for me. [image credit: tenor.com]