My dad asked me to smash the hard drive. I don’t know what was on it. I never asked him. That wasn’t the point, anyway. Maybe it was work related stuff. Maybe he had me got rid of his porn collection so mom wouldn’t find out. Who knows.
He just came into my room one afternoon. Handed it to me.
It was one of those smaller ones. Flat, metal, silver, a little bigger than a smartphone. Pretty standard rectangle of thin industrial metal held together with screws. There was a sticker on the front with all the technical info, an HP logo up in the corner. Other than that I don’t know how else to describe it — you know, whether it was solid state or whatever. How much storage it had. Any of that.
I don’t know computers. I don’t know much of anything, really. I went to school for English. I used to read a lot, so I thought it’d be a good idea. I thought I’d be a teacher or something. I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I thought it would all make sense one day.
“What’s this?” I asked when he handed it to me.
“I need you to get rid of that,” he said.
“Plenty of ways out in the garage. Hammers and stuff.”
He walked out of my room without another word. It took me a second but I got the hint.
I think he could tell I needed something to do. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room. It’s like I’ve hit a wall. I don’t know where to go or what to try. I have so many choices I’m paralyzed by them. I don’t know if I’m afraid of failure or afraid of success or both.
I don’t usually complain. I’ve been applying places constantly. It’s a soul-crushing experience. Searching for the job, clicking, signing up for yet another website that I’ll never use again, uploading my resume, filling out what city I live in, what state, my schooling. Over and over. I have a LinkedIn with barely anything on it, got a summer job last year as a dishwasher at Outback but dad let me quit. No future in that, he said. Just put yourself out there.
The struggle began. I graduated last year from Eastern and haven’t had any job prospects. The real world seems really hostile and non-negotiable right now.
I called myself useless earlier today, which my dad hates. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t believe anyone’s useless. He works in the paint shop at the Ford Wayne plant. He’s been there all my life, makes six figures a year. He says everyone on the line has a job and they’re all part of the process. No one’s useless.
I took the hard drive out to the garage. It was a gorgeous May morning, like the day’s temperature was dialed in on a thermostat. The trees were exploding with neon green buds. The wind carried whiffs of grass and lawnmower gasoline.
I put the hard drive on the dirty garage floor, sticker down. It looked weird sitting there, this sterile piece of silver metal on dirty cement next to pebbles and dead leaves.
I went over to the tool bench, found a regular hammer, walked back over to where the hard drive lay.
I took a few preliminary swings at the thing. Would it just break apart?
The hard drive proved tougher than it looked. The hammer barely dented the outer casing. I swung harder. Some dents, scratches, scuffs started to appear. This thing was going to be a piece of work after all. (I guess it truly was a “hard” drive. :laughs infinitely:)
I swung harder, harder, harder. The sound of the hammer on the silver metal got louder, sharp snapping reports.
I crouched, swinging the hammer down in front of me with two hands like a toddler. I started one-handing it, like an expert carpenter who never misses a nail.
At first I aimed to break, to crush. But then the motions, the lifting and the heavy blows, started to feel satisfying.
I thought of the beautiful day surrounding me, the smells it carried. I thought of my dingy, stuffy room with a blanket clamped over the window blocking the sunlight. My shelves were dusty and my nose was stuffed up all the time. I spend all my time on my bed with my headset and sticks, playing Fortnite and Overwatch and Zelda. I talked to my teammates. I never talked about anything other than the game at hand. I don’t have anything going on worth talking about and don’t really know how to change that. I think they’re all pretty much in the same boat as me.
The hard drive was starting to look beat up, but not what you’d expect from the amount of strikes I’d dealt it. It looked like it had been, well, hit with a hammer a bunch of times. I’d been expecting it to shatter within the first three hits, breaking apart and vomiting green plastic circuitry and little bits of metal from its blown out sides.
The hammer was so heavy, it was like it wanted to smash the hard drive. It was just the hammer, me and gravity. It was our job to break this contraption apart. And we did.
I hit and hit, striking a rhythm. I felt like John Henry driving spikes. It was a tuneless, toneless song.
No matter how much I smashed it with the hammer, it wouldn’t come apart.
I went over to where the shovels and rakes and things were hung up on the wall. I found the sledgehammer, took it off its hook, dragged it over. I’m really out of shape. Lifting it to deliver the first blow was actually kind of difficult, getting it over my head. I swung. It was more effective.
It only took a few hits and the hard drive finally gave out. It was all over the garage floor. The outer casing fell off and the inside looked like a CD with a small rotary dial plastic wheel thing in the center. There was a little metal Erector set arm over the CD like the needle of a record. Everything else was little metal plates and little screws. I savaged it all, lifting the sledge and aiming, letting gravity finish.
I kept going. My arm muscles roared with blood. I breathed heavy, my armpits a bit damp.
The job was done.
I put down the sledge hammer head first, let the plastic handle clatter to the floor. I looked out the garage door, squinting in the sunlight. Cars went by out on the street. The world suddenly seemed very alive and full of light and motion.
I looked down to the wreckage at my feet, and felt productive for the first time in months.