August 20, 2001


Over the weekend, I stumbled across what looks like the perfect job for me: working as a Customer Service Representative at a computer megastore.

Here are some of the reasons why I feel this would be *my* dream job:

  • You're surrounded by computers for eight hours a day ... along with computer hardware, and computer software, and computer-related gizmos in every size, shape, color and antioxidant level ... which, for a hopeless computer junkie like me, would sort of be like sending a four-year-old to work at the Barbie factory!

  • You don't have to know a thing about how any of this stuff works! Just walk around and "adjust the screen savers" every twenty minutes. (And if somebody does manage to corner you long enough to ask a technical question, just point to the nearest Pentium IV and say "The parallel flange indicators really scream on this baby." And then take a coffee break!)

  • Wardrobe is clearly a non-issue. A pair of khakis, a banana-yellow polo shirt and a couple of nose rings, and you're good to go!

  • The job title is clearly misleading. Although there are lots of "Customers" -- dozens of them, at any given moment, milling about the store looking confused and irritable -- the very last thing in the world you're expected to provide them with, apparently, is "Service." As a matter of fact, if you do happen to spot a potential sale -- say, a pair of fortysomethings wandering around Aisle 7, looking at Hewlett Packard mini-towers -- you are required to immediately report to Household Appliances, over on the other side of the store, where you'll hang out with your fellow Customer Service Representatives in front of the microwaves for the next hour and forty-five minutes, swapping hangover stories.

    And then take a coffee break!

I don't know about you, but to me, this is the sort of job that just screams "SECRA."

A new computer, of course, is the last thing in the world we can afford right now.

(Actually that's not true. The LAST thing in the world we can afford right now are octuplets ... followed by a vacation villa in France, breast reduction surgery, matching His-and-Her Bianchi XL Aluminum Frames and/or a cheeseburger. But trust me: a new computer rates right up there on the list of Stuff We Can't Afford Right Now.)

We were planning to stick it out another few months -- making do with David's decrepit, six-year-old Pentium-Minus-Four, with its broken parallel flange indicators and its eleven thrumming megabytes of hard disk space -- at least until some of our wedding-related credit card debt had been relieved. It was a horrible computer: slow, lumbering, noisy, terrifying in its unreliability. Information went into the beast, and it never came out again. It took an hour to scan a single photo, and most of the night to burn a CD. It screamed when you fired it up in the mornings ... and towards the end, frankly, so did *we.* In short: it was a piece of crap. It was making us miserable. But we were prepared to bite the bullet until next spring, when we would finally reward ourselves with a bright, shiny, brand-new computer.

That was the plan, anyway. And it was a good, frugal, sensible plan, and we stuck with it for several months, and we were fully prepared to stick with it for another several months ...

... until we walked into that CompUSA store on Saturday afternoon.

What can I tell you? I'm still going to hear screaming noises for the next little while, but now they're going to be coming from my wallet.

Instead of from my hard drive.

I'm continually amazed by the lack of *Sentimentality Molecules* present in the average adult Testosterone Unit.

"Are you sad at all?" I asked David on Saturday night, as we bundled up the old piece-of-crap computer and prepared to dump it into the cove behind our apartment building.* This was, after all, the very computer that Ю僱êrvØ¡ was using when he met SecraTerri in the fabled Baby Boomer Chat Room, during that long-ago summer of 1995. For that reason alone its archival value is probably beyond estimation.

David shrugged. "No, not really," he replied, and he continued wrapping discarded line cords around his arm, as offhandedly as if he were wrapping up a garden hose after watering the petunias.

Men. Honestly. It's like trying to squeeze lemon juice out of a potato sometimes, I swear to god.

"Well, I'm feeling a little sad," I said. "It's like the end of an era." And I wistfully fingered the old keyboard. It was covered with grime, fingerprints, cookie crumbs, ancient tobacco, ink. The "A" and the "Backspace" keys stuck when you pressed them, and the lower lefthand "Ctrl" key was missing altogether. But this was the keyboard Ю僱êrvØ¡ was typing on when he sent his first chat room response to Secra. This is the keyboard he used when he sent his first instant message to Secra. This is the keyboard he used to compose his first "This is not a romance!" e-mail to Secra (followed soon after by his first 'Can I have your phone number?' e-mail to Secra).

I dunno. Maybe we should be saving this stuff for the *FootNotes* museum or something.

I looked at the battered CPU. It looked so forlorn, sitting there on the floor next to the rest of the trash. David's Hello Kitty! and "Hagfish Rocks Your Lame Ass" stickers were still plastered to the front of the casing, just above the 5-1/4" floppy drive. Passwords, screen names, registration keys, phone numbers were scribbled all over the outside of the box in faded pencil. This computer served as the electronic conduit for Ю僱êrvØ¡ and SecraTerri's friendship, from its boozy beginnings, straight through two recoveries, right up to the sweet evolution of our romance. Perhaps we should commemorate this occasion in some way. Maybe a moment of silence would be appropriate. Or holding hands and exchanging a few words about how much our lives have changed as a result of technology. Or singing a ...

"The quicker we get this thing out of here," David said -- managing to break through my reverie -- "the quicker we can set up the new computer."

"Haul this piece of crap out of here," I replied.

So much for sentiment: give me those screaming parallel flange indicators, baby.

i'm kidding. OK? i'm KIDDING.
we're not really tossing the old computer into the cove.
we're disposing of it in the same careful,
thoughtful way that we disposed of MY old computer
last year.
(read this: we're leaving it outside our apartment door
so Surfer Dudes in Apt. G-17 can steal it.)

throw a rock