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!


  1. LOL Rob that was funny! So how did you fix it?

    1. Apparently I (and most of us) have a two-layer screen: one layer that actually throws up pictures and text, working like we all think a monitor or screen works, and a second layer that is just a light that, well, just lights up. The cables that connect both of those layers to the rest of the laptop (including the power supply) run through one of the screen's hinges. The constant use I put this thing to, all the opening and closing, has caused one of those cables (the one powering the light part of my screen) to crack.

      I have the screen set to an angle where the screen is lit up, and I just leave it where it is. It's essentially become a very small, self-contained desktop pc. Eventually I'll take this little machine to a different computer shop, most likely the one where I bought it a few years ago, and have them replace that cable.

      This laptop is dying, though. I've used it so much I'm just wearing the whole thing out -- for instance, I can plug in headphones to listen to this thing with, but if I listen for too long the headphone jack has this thing where it randomly shorts out, shocking me through the earbuds. Not a pleasant listening experience. Anything I do to repair this little machine is just a stop-gap, or bandaid. I have to try to get a new machine somewhere.

      No, strike that. I have to try to get the MONEY to get a new machine somewhere. I'm going to conventions, book fairs and readings to try to sell books and make a little money -- maybe that will help.


      Fingers crossed!

      Talk to you later!

  2. You are a writer so you need a good computer...just get one and stop doing crazy things with tape on that one you only frustrate yourself so get a good will hurt to give the money but authors need good computers to compose...wishing you luck and God Bless you and Handsome!

    1. I am looking for a good deal on a new laptop -- a good laptop. You aren't the first to point out that I should just break down and get new one, believe me Whoever You Are. It's not that I don't want to PART with the money, it's that I don't HAVE the money. I'm actually starting to get paid for writing (a very little bit), so hopefully this laptop won't figure out that I'm using it to try to get ANOTHER laptop... :D