Saturday, January 26, 2013

Computer Guy - Part 2: Wiggle-Wiggle Son-of-a-Bitch!

...continued from part 1, last week:

So there I stood, facing the computer shop owner, incredulous at his suggestion: that rather than bring a laptop computer that I had purchased from him for my son little more than three weeks ago back into his establishment, into his computer repair shop, I instead simply repair it on my own at home. With tape.
The laptop I held in my hands, however, was not the machine I had been instructed to repair by the grace of some Scotch Invisible. If you remember my post from last week, my own laptop had prompted my visit to this painfully disappointing place when the screen failed to light up when I turned it on. The thing was on, just not lit up. If you looked close enough you could see, ever so faintly, the login field waiting to be filled. But even that was only visible because I was expecting it and knew where to look.
I explained all this to Tape Guy (formerly known as Computer Guy, but his name has been forever changed in my mind), opened the laptop up and woke it from its hibernation, showing him the screen in all its inky blackness.
“You think I have a broken wire or something?”
He looked at the screen, poked it once or twice, then made his 'pained' face again.
“Nah, this screen is gone. I could replace it for you, or if you like you could just get another machine.”
He gestured toward the half-dozen or so refurbished laptops he had for sale. I had looked them over while he had been with the customer before me, and he did have a machine similar to what I had brought in that I could get for just under $300.
“How much would it be for another screen?” I said.
He went around the counter to access his own computer, face squinched up again in thought. I was getting pretty damn tired of him making that face, but I waited to see what he was going to come up with this time.
“Um... about a hundred dollars.”
I forced myself not to ask him what kind of tape one uses to attach a laptop screen: duct, electrical, or perhaps packing? – but it was a near thing. He apparently took my hesitation as a sign that I was struggling with the decision and came back around the counter again, directing my attention to the laptops I mentioned above, and singling out the one I had already noted as being similar to my own.
“Well if you that one, I think you'll love this one.”
He moved to turn on the laptop in question, probably intending to dazzle me with a little demonstration. I watched for close to s minute as he struggled to find the 'on' button, then constantly tried to enter commands while the machine was still booting up.
Hmm, I thought to myself. I could have him put a new screen in the machine I have for $100. or I could spend $300 on a machine not knowing what he's tried to do to it.
“I'll, ah, I think I'll just take a new screen.”
“Suit yourself,” he said, moving back behind his counter and tapping away at his computer again. I watched him hunt-and-peck his way through various menus and was struck by the thought that perhaps someone who was making a living on computers should, perhaps, learn to type.
Yes, I know. Look who's talking-- here I sit, a writer who does all his work on a laptop who also does not know how to type. Sue me. However, the rank hypocrisy did not occur to me before he looked up from his monitor.
“Will you be leaving that here now?”
It was my turn to make the 'pained face'.
“I have some stuff on there I really needed to get out this weekend,” I said. “I can just hook up another monitor as a second screen, can't I? As long as it's not a motherboard issue?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged. “You can do that. So you'll bring it in on Monday then?”
“Sure,” I said, scooped up my laptop and headed for the door. “I'll be here first thing Monday morning, on my way to my route.”
He smiled and waved as I left, and it looked like he was making a notation about the drop-off in his computer. I finished out my workday and took my laptop home, dead screen and all. I brought it up to my room and pulled out an old desktop monitor I still have.
For those of you who might not know, most laptops have a multi-pin connector port on one side called a VGA port where you can plug in a regular old desktop computer monitor to use in various ways. All I wanted was to be able to see what I was doing like I had a regular screen.
I pulled my laptop as far forward on my desk as I could get it and placed a cardboard box behind it. I put the old desktop monitor up on the box so I could see that screen above my blank laptop screen. I had to have the laptop open so I could use the keyboard. It took a while before it was ready, and even then I had to fiddle with the settings for a bit, but what I wound up with was a serviceable temporary screen. Now if only I could get the settings right...
I decided to stop fiddling with the laptop settings and try making some adjustments to the monitor itself. The monitor had some menu buttons on it, like an old-fashioned (am I really that old?) television, set into the base beneath the screen. I leaned my laptop screen down, closing it a little bit so I could more easily reach the monitor controls behind it.
As I looked at the buttons on the monitor I saw, from the corner of me eye, my laptop screen pop on.
I leaned it back to look at it.
It went dark.
“Wait a minute...”
I leaned it down.
It came on, nice and bright and clear.
I leaned it back up.
It went dark.
I waggled the screen up and down.
On. Off. On. Off.
“Son of a bitch!”
I went online (using both screens) and did a quick search. In less than two minutes I'd found three different websites that agreed with my own diagnosis of a loose or broken wire.
I did not need a new screen.
I did not need to buy one of his refurbished laptops for $300.
I didn't need to pay the Tape Guy $100 at all.
I thought about his 'diagnostic technique'.
Did he work the screen at all?
Did he take a good look at it at all?
Did he, instead, poke the screen once or twice and offer a diagnosis of something that would be easy for him to do and cost me at least $100?
You bet your ass.
“Oh you Moth--”
The remainder of this scene has been deleted by the management due to extreme vehemence, stamina and creativity in cursing. 

Needless to say I will never be going in there again, and Handsome's new favorite word is 'tape'.

Talk to you later!

P.S. - In case you were wondering, yes, I am writing these words on that same laptop, without having replaced the screen or parted with $100. Ha!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Computer Guy - Part 1: You Know What? Tape.

We here at WYMOP would like to wish a happy birthday to one of our regular readers whose birthday just happens to fall exactly on today.

Happy birthday, Doris! Thank you for being a WYMOP reader. Hopefully we'll still be here for your next birthday!

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We here at WYMOP would also like to thank any and all readers who took the time last week to vote for the short story "Photo Finish" in the Preditors & Editors 2012 Readers Choice Poll. We appreciate your support... and it worked. I won! Woot woot!

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Now... here's the story:

I was in the computer shop.


If you’re a WYMOP reader, you may remember this shop from my post “Hey, Even *I* Can Do That!”. You may recall the frustration I felt with this shop at that time, and it might make you smile. If you haven’t read it, check it out. It might make you smile. This particular computer shop is the closest one to my route, and as far as I can tell that’s all it has going for it. You’ll see what I mean in just a bit.

I had intended to do some writing on my lunch and had pulled out my laptop at the appropriate time only to find the screen would not turn on. No, that wasn’t quite right — there, in the center of the black screen, was a slim strip of slightly lighter black. If I looked close, strained my eyes a bit, I could make out the faintest shadow of a narrow rectangular box, right in the middle of the screen. Exactly where the login field should be. The screen was on, just very, very dark.

So there I was, standing in front of counter of the local computer shop, with my laptop in my hands.



“What can I help you with?”

I looked at Computer Guy, and saw him recognize me. The postal uniform may have helped there. I’m not sure.

“Oh! You must be here to do that data transfer!”

He turned to his own computer and started tapping away at the keys. It was then I remembered I had purchased my son a second-hand computer to replace the one he’s physically destroyed. I had purchased it here simply because of the proximity of the shop to my route: it facilitated the shopping process, actually being able to be there while the shop was open and all. Computer Guy had said at the time he could transfer all the data and settings from Handsome’s old laptop into his replacement, and he was assuming now that I was there for that purpose.

How I could be there to transfer data from one laptop to another laptop and walk into his shop holding just one laptop, I have no idea. This man is, however, a professional: a man with enough confidence in his computer diagnostic and repair skills that he’s opened his own business based solely upon that skill set. I was there to tap into those skills of his for my own benefit, was I not? Who was I to question? I did, however, have to correct his misapprehension.

“No, I’m actually here for this—” I held up my laptop. “— but… now that you mention it, I was going to try to get my son’s laptop in here for you to look at on Monday.”

“The data transfer?”

“Yes, but there’s another thing. I haven’t actually seen this happen, but he says when he picks it up lots of times the battery just falls right out of the bottom of the thing.”

I stood there, expecting him to ask when I was going to bring it in, maybe even start a work-order on it now in order to save time when I did bring it in. Possibly he would tap a finger on his chin for a moment in thought, only to have his eyes brighten as he snapped his fingers and say something like “I know just what that is!”. Maybe even the phrase “an easy fix” might float through the air, or the much-loved “Bring that in, we’ll take care of that for you free of charge”.

But no.

This business owner, this real go-getter, this Repository of Knowledge of All Things Computer… do you know what he says? To someone having an issue with a laptop they purchased there, in his very own computer repair shop?
He looked me in the eye and squinched up his face, as if he hated to be the bearer of bad news, as if it pained him to say the words he knew were about to fall out of his mouth. He nodded his head.

“You know what?” he said. “Tape.”

To be continued…

And just to make up for the short post this week, check THIS out!

Is it real? I don't think so. Neat to watch, though.

Talk to you later!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stupid Lady... Not So Stupid?

Please, help me turn from an 'Up-and-Comer' to a Rising Star!

The voting is only open for another couple of days in the Preditors&Editors Readers Poll for 2012. I have a chance, a pretty good chance it seems, to win the Horror Short Story category with my story "Photo Finish", as published by Post Mortem Press. I just need one little thing.

Your vote.

Please, if you could just take two minutes of your time, click on the link below and cast your vote for "Photo Finish.
Membership is not required. All that's required is the desire to help a small artist's burgeoning career.

Two minutes and the desire to help. Won't you?

Thank you for your help and support.

...and now, here's the story:

So Handsome had a wrestling tournament on Sunday morning. Early. It was about an an hour away from home, so that meant we had to get up and leave early.


Now, if you know me, you probably suspect the words “Rob was right on time” have never been spoken during the course of my life. Even I have that suspicion. I was, surprise surprise, running just a bit late. However, I had the address, I had a GPS unit, and I had little to no traffic.

I drive using a Garmin GPS unit all the time. The unit (just in case you’ve never seen on in operation) talks to you, like a smooth, female-voiced nagging backseat driver. I tend to refer to it as ‘the Stupid Lady’.

“In two miles, take a right, onto Richardson road.”

“In one and a half miles, take a right, onto Richardson road.”

“In one mile, take a right onto Richardson road.”

“In a half-mile, take a right onto Richardson road.”

“In 500 yards, take a right onto Richardson road.”

“In 200 yards, take a right into Richardson road.”

“In 100 yards, take a right on to Richardson road.”

“In 100 feet, take a right on to Richardson road.”

“Take a right, onto Richardson road. Take it now. Right now turn right rightnowyou’regoingtomissityoudummy—”

You get the picture.

So there I was, listening to this otherwise very pleasant voiced Stupid Lady giving me the most strict and detailed directions you ever saw, heard, or read about. Anywhere. Trust me. The whole way she gave warnings, directions and instructions. Handsome laughs at me, but I tend to talk back to the machine. I start out with thank-yous, then try to ignore her, but eventually I start snapping at her. It’s kind of fun, and that thing yapping at me constantly does get pretty annoying.

So there we were, zipping up the highway, and along came our exit. Madam Garmin warned us that the exit was coming up. In excruciating detail. About nine times. She even told us about the exit as we were taking it!

“Yes, you Stupid Lady,” I said to her. I wasn’t exactly shouting, but it was getting there. “I know, I know! Take the exit on my right! I get it! I get it! For God’s sake, shut up!”
Then, once we were on the exit ramp, the display screen on the GPS changed. It showed just the diagram of a traffic circle, an actual circle on the screen, with individual roads leading out from it. The highlighted route went into the circle on one road, half-way around it (passing one roundabout exit on the way), then out the other side. If the circle wasn’t in the diagram, the route would have been a simple straight line.

I looked through the windshield at what lay ahead.

There was no traffic circle.

It was an intersection, where I could either go right, left, or just go straight on through.
I hit the brakes and came to a halt, staring from the GPS display to reality, then back again. I was hoping they would suddenly match up, but it didn’t happen.

Traffic circle with the marked route going just as straight through as can be.



I sat and waited for the Stupid Lady to speak up, to tell me which way to go. Straight? Turn?

Nothing but silence.


Nothing but silence.

“Well,” I said, “Okay… the route on the map goes straight, so…”

I drove straight on through the intersection, continuing on the same off-ramp route I was on.

Immediately the screen changed, flashing a single word over and over, the same word the Stupid Lady was repeating at me, again and again:

“Recalculating… Recalculating…Recalculating…”

“Oh, seriously!? You chose that exact time to shut up?”

I saw that I was cruising right back out onto the highway I had just left, bypassing the exit I was apparently supposed to take. I fumed silently as we pulled back into the slight morning traffic.

“In one mile, take exit 30 on the right.”

“In a half mile, take exit 30 on the right.”

“In a quarter mile, take exit 30 on the right.”

I listened. I drove. I did not talk.

We circled around, but made it to the tournament on time.

I still hate her. Stupid Lady.

Talk to you later!

Friday, January 4, 2013

That Was So NINJA!

It's been a really mild winter here in Massachusetts, at least so far. So, is this going to be a story about the weather?

Sort of.

Here's the story:

We finally had a little snow here in Massachusetts, and of course Handsome felt the need to go out and play in it.

Aw, who am I kidding? I felt the need too.

I was sort of trying to fight it off; I’ve never edited a novel before but I’m giving it a shot. Having just the smidge of an idea how much work this edit will entail, my plan was to get him to the hill with the other kids and let him loose on the sledding world while I sat in the car with more than 300 pages of single-spaced manuscript and a pen.

That was my plan.

Then I saw the snow-covered hill with its sleds zipping down while children trudged back up, and before you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (and some of the older crowd who are Disney fans probably can say that) I was struggling into my ice fishing/sledding gear behind the parked Jeep. Those of you who are paying attention might ask why I even had this equipment with me if the plan was to let Handsome sled while I sat in the car editing. I would like to inform these people that all questions must be submitted in writing and will be answered at the end of the term.


So there I was, sledding with Handsome. Handsome, being a ten -year-old boy, occasionally exhibits all the attention span of a meth addict who’s been hopped up on sugar and handed the remote control to a 52” television with all the channels. In minutes the sledding had morphed into an odd, somewhat violent snow-fight involving two plastic sleds (shields) various wrestling and karate moves (take-downs in the snow can actually be quite fun) and fistfuls of loose snow (because who really has time to pack a good snowball when your opponent is bearing down on you intent on taking out your legs and going for the pin?). We were in the middle of this comic-book-type battle when it happened.

I was lying on my side with Handsome lying atop but perpendicular to me, on his back. I had his left arm trapped with my legs and his right arm held with my right arm… if you picture us lying in the shape of a capital “T”, him with the back of his head lying on my sternum, you have it pretty well right.

Now though we were both on the ground at the time, and he was, technically, on top of me, I had the upper hand. I had both of his arms pinned, while one of my arms (the left) was free to scoop and throw snow. So I did. I scooped up a handful of cold, powdery whiteness and thrust my arm out past his head just about as far as I could. Since I was lying sort of behind him, this put my hand out in front of his face. With a flick of my wrist I cast the handful of snow into his face so that he, arms pinned and helpless, wound up with a face full of cold.

At least, that was the plan.

Seeing my hand push out past his face and noticing the chilly cargo it contained, Handsome intuited my plan and took action. Timing it perfectly, he jerked to the right just as I flicked my wrist, managing to get his head out of the path of my throw and allowing the snow to simply cascade down, past his face… and into my own.

Let me see if I can say this more plainly: in a move worthy of every Jackie Chan flick in existence, Handsome ducked out of the way and allowed me to throw snow into my own face.

Into my own face.

To all those people out there who have watched movies or television shows where a little guy outmaneuvers the bigger guy and the big guy winds up smashing himself in the foot with a club, or hitting himself in the head, or otherwise doing himself harm, and you have sat there wondering Oh, my God, who would be that stupid? I have one thing to say:

*Little finger wave* “Hi. How you doing?”

Talk to you later!