by RIP RENSE
LTSEW. . .COMPUTERS!
(Sept. 22, 2004)
So you want to get your computer
fixed, eh? Pssst. C'mere---let me give you some good advice. cut your hands off
so you wont have to worry about typing anymore.
first time it "crashed," as they say, I took my noble, redoubtable machine to no
less a place than Computer Palace, on Wilshire Blvd., in Santa Monica. Yes, I would treat
my miraculous 21st century marvel like a cyber-sultan, a microcircuit-maharajaha. I would
take it to a repair palace, a veritable Taj Mahal of microchip medicine---not a
Inside, I was granted an
audience with a Computer Palace Wazir who introduced himself
to me cordially as Siroosh-but-you-can-call-me-Sam. I resisted an impulse to
introduce myself as "Ashok, but you can all me Rip," and got down to business.
Well, almost. Siroosh first invited---no, urged me to have a nice piece of
candy in a tray on the counter. I told him I was not there for a nice piece of
"But a little candy," he said,
smiling broadly, "takes your mind off your problems for a moment, makes you feel
Okay, so I took a nice piece of
candy, so he'd shut up. That would make me feel better. I should have figured that this
did not bode well. Here I had brought a computer in, and a technician was persuading me to
eat candy against my will.
As I bit down on some
artificially flavored wad of peach gunk, Siroosh explained to me exactly
what he was going to do to my machine, punctuating each point with this chirping refrain:
is that all right with you, sir?
It was only later that I realized that he
didn't exactly mean what he exactly said. What he was exactly saying was
something exactly like this:
dont have the faintest idea what is wrong with your computer, but I will do lots and
lots of things that cost lots of money, and hope that fixes it. Is that all right with
had answered yes, of course, but what I should have exactly said was exactly this:
its not all right with me. What I want you to do is find out exactly what the
problem is, then call me and tell me exactly what it will cost to fix it.
Of course, that's as
foolish a notion as expecting to be exempted from jury duty because you are about to give
birth. And you are a man.
I heard Danny Kaye in my head, blathering about "the vessel
with the pessel's in the chalice from the palace."
computerless days passed, during which I had a lot of nice chats with
Siroosh---on the phone, where he could not force me to eat candy---and he told me lots of
nice stories. Why, he was a captivating storyteller! One of his fables was about how he
could not reinstall Symantec Virus Protection with the new operating system, so he was
installing a different virus protection instead. He told that one so darn fast that, gosh,
I almost missed the ending! And when I told him that I preferred the original version of
the story, about how he was going to install Symantec, he said, Okay, I install
Symantec. (Guess that was the surprise twist!)
must have had as many tales as the Arabian Nights. One was about how he was going to do a
"rush job," and another concerned his plan to work on my system for the rest of
the day (both proved to be cute fiction.) Another was how he was going to remove all the
applications and do a total reinstallation, to make sure the system is
totally clean. I figured this was something like what Swiss Kriss did for Louis
Armstrong, so I went along with the gag. Funny thing, though: Siroosh changed the ending
again! I didnt do a reinstallation, he said later. I just clean
most provacative yarn involved his announcement that the computer would not be
ready until 5:30 p.m.. The amazing thing about this story was that in the very same
narrative, which took place at about 2:30 p.m., he said this:
The computer is
Had one of us spent too long on the hookah? Or was it a riddle? A mysterious and obscure
joke intelligible only to computer technicians? Perhaps something more cosmic, along
the lines of Stephen Hawking? Yes, that was it! The computer was ready now, but
also at 5:30! In the taffy-pull of time and space, it had always been ready, and always
the wretched temporal world, I was left to utter this banal sentence:
Uh. . .I thought you said 5:30, Siroosh."
Obviously realizing my inability to grasp even a PBS
version of quantum physics, Siroosh had to answer in terms that I understood:
Yes, its ready
now, but you cannot pick up until 5:30. . .uh. . .we have to run tests.
Ahhh. They had
to run tests! That story would hold a rube like me. Tests. . .
can't fault Siroosh for entertainment value. He saved his best story for last: my
computer was fixed. Repaired. Patched. Spiffed-up and ready to boot. Surf's up! And
this, too, took a great, surprising turn! You see, when I brought the beast home, why, it
displayed exactly the same start-up problem that had caused me to take it to the
great Palace in the first place! Quite a shock! A real O. Henry zinger!
created a string of loud free-verse profanity that left my neighbors steering clear of me
for a while, I figured that if I just reloaded AOL, it might fix the start-up problem.
it did! I phoned the Palace and barked that Siroosh-but-you-can-call-me-Sam
obviously had not tested the machine as promised, and whaddya know? A manager
knocked sixty royal dollars off my bill! Yes, a refund! I can hear the little Ross Perot
voice chirping in your brains now, dear readers:
and Osama bin Laden has been captured and strung up by his beard, while buzzards
peck at his liver. Oprah Winfrey has gone broke, and is volunteering in soup kitchens on
Skid Row, where she lives. I have been named editor of a major metropolitan daily
days later, my virus-free, clean, fixed, repaired
spiffed-up computer. . .crashed. I mean it went down. Plummeted to earth like the
damn Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity.
found myself admitted again into the glorious confines of Computer Palace, and I confess:
it was making me a little giddy. Every time I saw the big "Computer
Palace" sign now, I heard Danny Kaye in my head, blathering "the vessel with the
pessel's in the chalice from the palace." After much plumbing and
spelunking and poking at electronic entrails, the Computer Palacians discovered that. . .
computer had crashed.
hard to say what caused the problem, said a very polite manager who did not
force me to eat candy, but Windows is corrupted.
Yes. Windows, walls, ceiling,
floor, possibly the ground underneath. Quite a coincidence that my computer had melted
down just days after having been Sirooshed. You know, kind of like Bush's
National Guard records disappearing when he became a politician---I mean, front man for
It dawned on me that the alarms would alert the police,
and the police could show up and very logically conclude that I was trying to rob the
Yes, of course it would
be "hard to say what caused the problem." It always is---with
computers, cars, and divorce. So as before, my cyber-sickness was undiagnosable, but---you
guessed it---the Manager had a sure-fire fix: reinstall all applications, so the
system is totally clean.
Hmmm. . .Hmmm. . .now
where had I heard that before? A Metamusil commercial? No! Why, this was exactly one of
the hallowed and beloved tales of my friend, Siroosh! He had planned to do this, but
changed the ending on me, and never did! Gee, it was a good thing the system crashed
again, so this time I could get the job done properly!
in order to derive the maximum enjoyment from the rest of this column, dear
reader, please first comprehend the rather dry facts of exactly how the system
First the screen froze,
then my testicles retracted, and then, when I restarted, I was faced with a black screen
containing choices of safe mode, normal mode, and, maybe pie
a la mode. No matter which mode I picked, though, I was out-moded. "The
system" (an amusing euphemism for the starving rat running around inside the computer
box) would not re-boot.
coincidentally, was exactly what I wanted to do to Siroosh and all at Computer
Palace---after I again picked up an allegedly repaired, fixed, spiffed-up computer
and took it home.
Why? Can you guess?
When Computer and I attempted to resume our busy, co-dependent life together, I
turned it on to find. . .
Now, I really dont mind spending $500 when I have to.
Especially when I have $500. Things like teeth-cleaning and supporting losing candidates
are a sort of mid-life crisis passion of mine. But I am not keen on donating to computer
repairmen who dont repair computers. I figure there is no economic value in it,
except for the repairmen.
Luckily, I did not put my fist through an uncorrupted window, and the door was
sufficiently strong to go undented. So at 9 a.m. sharp the following lyrical, late summer
day, I prostrated myself once more before the gates of the Palace of Computers, awaiting
the Grand Wazoo. And, well, you won't believe it, but the strangest thing happened! I
know, I know---it's a stretch to imagine something strange happening in this saga, but,
well, alarms went off as I walked in. At first I thought they were inside my skull.
Perhaps I needed to be restarted in safe mode. But no, they were not in my head, they
were. . .in the shop! And there was no one else inside.
What a zany, fun-filled Palace!
Ah-ooooooo, ah-oooooooo, went the alarms, with a deeeeeeep
deeeeeeep thrown in for color.
Surely Larry, Moe
and Shemp would soon appear in turbans, saying "Maha!" and "Ah-ha?"
slowly dawned on me that the alarms would alert the police, and the
police could show up and very logically conclude that I was trying to rob the Computer
Palace, when in fact it had been the other way around all along!
A manager appeared.
Did you just walk in? he said.
I refrained from making a crack about having flown in on a magic carpet---you know,
racism and all---and said that yes, the door had been open.
It must have been open all night! he gasped.
was a freewheeling, wacky place, all right! Just the kind of establishment you want to
take your computer for repairs! Hell, if they cant fix it, they'll leave the door
open so somebody can steal it! Have to admit there's a certain efficiency here.
believe this, but I calmly and
politely explained the latest debacle with the computer, as the sirens screamed and
chattered, and ah-oooed and deeped, while another employee arrived and
phoned the alarm company to shut them off. I was getting used to them, though; I found
them very appropriate ambience. Then the manager, a fellow of Middle East descent who gave
his name as Fred, escorted me back to the repairman, a gentleman of similar
ancestry who said his name was Shaun.
(I think in
the interest of international cooperation and cultural exchange, I will soon adopt the
professional name, Vindaloo.)
Well, I told Shaun that when I turned the machine on, I
got the very same black screen with the list of mode choices, just as
I had before it had been repaired. But Shaun was not least interested in my
sad story. He had a speech to make:
work on this machine all day! I reinstall everything! It was perfect when I finish! I work
in this all day! All day! It was perfect! And so on. I noticed that Shaun stared
only at the machine as he spoke, which made me wonder if he had been around them a bit too
shrilled some more, and I repeated the problem. Then Shaun repeated the speech. Then I
repeated the problem. Then Shaun repeated the speech. After a while, he puffed up his
little chest---I mean, he really did---and added, We have fine technicians here, and
we do very, very good work!
I asked Shaun if we could please stop discussing the quality of his work, and the
stores reputation---both of which were very clear to me---and just. . .fix. . .the.
. .computer. He said nothing, but plugged it in. And up came---just as I had
explained---the black screen with the mode choices.
Shaun raised his voice, too, although it was more along the order
of, say, Mickey Mouse on the receiving end of an enema.
Like the car that wont make that funny noise
when a mechanic is present, the computer worked perfectly as soon as he hit
normal mode. Naturally, it had refused to behave so well for me at home.
This led to another of Shauns Jeremiac tantrums, in which he said he was
blameless for all problems, perhaps including cancer and World War II.
caught a virus," he added, "when you went to the Internet or downloaded
I had already
explained to Shaun that this was impossible, because I had not visited the
Internet, and had downloaded nothing. How did I know this? Don't hold me to it, but I
strongly suspect that you have to be able to turn a computer on in order to visit
the Internet and "download something." I told Shaun this. I spoke the sentence
in capital letters. They came out of my mouth and hung in the air, and I blew them into
And wouldnt you know it? We played the repeat game again!
Shaun repeated that I had downloaded a virus, and I repeated that this
was impossible, as I had not been able to turn on the machine. Then we did it all over
again! This went on for no more than the time it takes to oh, build a computer, before I
played party-pooper and spoiled the game.
LISTEN: DO NOT TELL ME THAT AGAIN, UNDERSTAND? STOP.
I COULD NOT TURN THE MACHINE ON, SO HOW COULD I HAVE GOTTEN A VIRUS? STOP TELLING ME
I HAVE A VIRUS! THATS ENOUGH! NO MORE!
Shaun gave a casual shrug:
Okay, forget I say virus, he said quietly.
Moe poked Shemp in the eyes, yanked the Porcupine's hair out, and poked the
Nubian in the ass with an assagai. . .
mechanic who says he has to drive your car around until it makes that funny
noise, Shaun next announced he would have to turn the computer on many many
times to see if it malfunctioned, in order to pinpoint the problem. This
despite the fact that when he had first turned the machine back on, the problem---the
black mode screen error---had recurred right before his eyeballs!
I lost focus. I was imagining Shaun in a pit of cobras, naked, with nary a mongoose
in sight. Maybe some scorpions and army ants thrown in. Then
little Shaun snapped me back into the moment, with this dazzling statement:
you cause problem when you turn it on, he said.
yes. I had caused the problem! It had been me all along! Rense, Enemy of the
Computer! I should just go out and shoot myself, and let the damn computer live in peace!
Yes, I was the culprit here. And the guy who turned the lights on in the laboratory where
the A-bomb was invented was responsible for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
considered picking up little Shaun and pushing his little round, balding head into the
computer screen, but I figured Id probably have to be a lot stronger to make the
head actually break through the glass monitor, which would have been my desired goal. And
if I did manage to get his head in there, I figured the computer would be that much harder
to operate. Whats more, I guessed that the police would find this behavior
anti-social. So I just settled on yelling.
YOU TELL ME I CAUSED THE GODDAMN PROBLEM! DONT YOU TELL ME I CAUSED THE GODDAMN
Hey, I was playing the
repeat game all by myself! I loomed, and shook my finger. I enjoy looming.
HOW DID I CAUSE THE
GODDAMN PROBLEM? BY PUSHING A BUTTON AND TURNING THE MACHINE ON? YOURE TRYING TO
BLAME ME FOR YOUR PROBLEM! YOU GODDAMN LIAR! YOU CHEAT! YOU CHEATING GODDAMN LIAR!
Apparently not one to be outdone by a stupid computer-illiterate guy who uses his
real name, Shaun raised his voice, too, although it was more along the order of, say,
Mickey Mouse on the receiving end of an enema.
Dont you talk to me like that!
ILL TALK TO YOU ANY WAY I WANT. DO NOT TELL ME THAT I CAUSED THE
GODDAMN PROBLEM HERE. YOU DID NOT DO THE WORK PROPERLY. YOU LIAR! YOU CHEAT!
perhaps the funniest thing about all this is stuff is that the manager, who had
merely enjoyed the entertainment from afar, finally approached and apologized to me. He
allowed that everything I said was correct, and that they would fix the problem.
Well, Im afraid thats impossible. To fix the problem, you see, one
would have to take all the computers on the planet and recycle them into more useful
Like eggbeaters. Preferably to be inserted into the various orifices
of the zany, madcap employees of Computer Palace.
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