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Almost Fiction: Blue screen blues

By Sam Jones

Almost-Fiction-web

It all started with my computer throwing a blue screen. When a computer decides it’s tired or scared it turns itself off and shows you a blue screen with lots of computereze gibberish which tells you that a bad guy is trying to sneak in and take over. If you don’t immediately fix the problem the naughty ninjas will wound or embarrass the poor thing and if there is a loss of face the required commitment to hari-kari must follow.

On the screen you are told that there are ways of fixing the problem, however, with all command keys inoperable there is no way of getting in and fixing anything. All you can do is turn it off and hope the blue screen goes away. When it doesn’t, you turn it off again and again and again which confirms that you are up the creek without a computer.

Now that I think of it… this didn’t all start with a computer blue screen. It started with my truck. The alternator light, very nicely and politely, came on to tell me that the alternator was dead. Great. Just what I want for Xmas: a new alternator. But my friend Harry has a repair shop and he owes me a favor.

Harry says, “Sure, I’d be happy to fix the truck to pay off my favor. I’ll take the alternator off and give it to my brother-in-law who rebuilds them but it will take a few days. OK?”

“OK.” I left the suffering truck and congratulated myself on getting the job done for free. That was two weeks ago and today it is a blue screen.

Lucky for me I have a computer protection policy. All I have to do is call them and they can fix my machine right over the phone. Ring-ring-ring-ring, “We’re sorry we are not able to answer the phone. We are closed. Business hours are 8–4.” It was 10:30 a.m.; where was their office? Reaching for a cup of coffee I called the number again and dropped the cell phone on the hard kitchen floor. It landed exactly on its corner and exploded in a dozen pieces. Now I have no phone.

No problem. I’ll just unhook everything and carry this two-foot tower over to the mall and have the Geek Squad make it well. Damn; the truck is in the shop. No problem; I will lash it down to the back of my motorcycle.

Helmet and gloves on, computer bungee corded to the back, key in the ignition, turn, hit the starter, nothing-hit-nothing-hit-nothing. Dead battery. Perfect. OK, I have a good rack on my bicycle as well as, of course, two flat tires.

So, the computer tower goes into a backpack and I’m off to the park. The bus stops at the park. In just a few minutes the bus shows up, I jump on, it whizzes off and I am on my way to the mall and the Geek Squad. Except in this case the bus makes no stops and gets on the freeway. “Hey driver, doesn’t this bus go to the mall?” “No, this is the Express.” “Where does it go?” “This is the Express to downtown L.A., to Union Station.”

Union Station is where everything connects; all bus routes, all Metrolinks, all Amtrak’s train lines and if you can get to Union Station you can get to anyplace in the United States; anyplace in the world for that matter. You can get to anywhere but the mall if you get on the Express. An hour later I finally get on the right bus headed back to the mall.

There is a long line for the Geek Squad but I am polite and wait patiently. “Yes, you may indeed help me. This computer has thrown a blue screen, several actually, and I would like you to fix it.” “I am sorry, sir; this computer is so old that there are no updates, backups or support for it or the software.” “Can you put new software on it?” “No, the new software needs different drivers and motherboards.” “Can you rebuild it with the new stuff and install the software?” “Yes, but that would cost twice as much as a new computer. All we can do is take off any files you have created and install them on a disk.” “And then what do I do?” “Put them on another computer.” “You mean I’m going to have to buy a new computer.” “Yes.” The Geek Squad guy points across the store to a whole department filled with new computers.

A salesman sells me a new computer and the Geek Squad takes my old files off and installs everything on my new purchase. That will take two days. Terrific.

The bus that brought me to the mall doesn’t go back to my house without several transfers. I call a taxi.

“Where to, Mack?” Because everything with wheels at my house is broken I give the driver the address to my shop. There are four motorcycles with charged batteries and inflated tires just waiting for me to choose one of them and ride it home. “That will be $20, Mack.”

At the shop I go for my wallet and discover I have no cash and he doesn’t take Visa. “OK; take me to the bank.”

At the bank I take out $400 all in brand-new bills. I like the feel of brand-new bills. Rolling them up in my pocket as it starts to rain, I get back in the taxi.

That’s fine, Southern California has been in a drought, we need the rain. It rains two inches before we get back to the shop.

“OK, Mack, now the bill is $40.”

I reach in my pocket and drag out the bills. Forty plus a $5 tip; I give the driver two twenties and a five. He checks them quickly and drives off without even a goodbye. That’s when I realize several new bills were stuck together with rainwater and I paid him $60.

I give up. Inside the shop, out of this rain there is a helmet, rain gear and four motorcycles just waiting for me. Standing outside the locked door I dig for the keys. The keys to the shop are in my right-hand pocket, no, left-hand pocket, no back pocket; oh-oh the keys are stuck in the ignition of the motorcycle with a dead battery, back at the house.

The farmers will love it. The rain turns into a gully washer as I walk home.

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