A Happy Ending

I’d been struggling with a sick computer for several weeks. It started with a techno-nervous-breakdown, random files suddenly flashing across the screen. I knew enough to unplug everything and immediately take my Mac to the Mac doctor, where it remained for four days. When I picked it up, the technician told me they had reformatted the entire drive, and now my Mac was fine.

And it was. To my great relief, it functioned faster and more smoothly, and the trauma of its malfunction receded into the past . . .Until a Zoom appointment with Eric, my PPP Advisor, when my computer slowed down, way down. “*****####,” I cried! “I just had this fixed and now it’s crashing again!!!!”

“Don’t worry,” Eric reassured me. “My main gig is as tech support for small businesses. Let me share your screen.”

With a huge sigh of relief, I opened my techno-universe to Eric, who quickly went to work diagnosing. “It’s not your memory; you have plenty of that,” he announced. “And it’s not a virus; I just checked.” “It’s also not your external hard drive; that seems fine.”

As I sat watching Eric’s curser roam over my screen and listening to him clicking away, I felt no relief. If nothing obvious was wrong with my computer, why was it not working?

“I think it’s your operating system. You need to upgrade to the latest.”

“Can my computer handle that?” I asked.

“You might have some difficulties with Word, but other than that, it should work well. And if Word doesn’t work, you can upgrade your Microsoft Office for Mac.”

“Sure,” I said, sheepishly.

Two hours later, Mac High Sierra was installed, Eric and I were still on Zoom, and my computer continued to malfunction. “Give it a day or two. I remember that it took a while for my computer to integrate all the changes of the latest upgrade. Check again tomorrow afternoon, and if it still isn’t working, give me a call.”

Eric was correct. By the following afternoon, to my great relief, my computer was singing away, and I was feeling lucky at the coincidence of my needs and Eric’s expertise. If I had told this story then, it would end here.

But of course, within a few days, my computer rebelled. “I’m exhausted,” it seemed to say. And everything ground to a halt. I was in despair. Not only was I unable to work, my computer was a mess and I had no idea where to turn.

So I went to NextDoor and looked for a computer expert who could come to my house. This time, I wanted to remain present while somebody worked on my ailing computer. By the next morning when Julian, arrived, I was in a state. Not only was I hysterical about my computer, I was days behind in my work. And here was a complete stranger I had invited into my house and onto my computer, where a great deal of very private information about me and my life resides.

Julian sat right down and got to work. “I’m checking its overall functioning first,” he explained, then turned to me. “I looked you up before I came, and I want to tell you that I like your latest book. And it’s not the kind of thing I usually like!”

Julian and I ended up spending hours together, as he worked patiently and logically on my computer, layer, after layer, after layer. And as the hours passed, and I got to know him better and better, and appreciated him more and more, I realized that he had revealed himself to me in his first five minutes. Here was a man with no pretense, who spoke his truth directly and honestly, who is logical and insightful, who loves his wife, gardening and his dogs. He is also generous, but I didn’t learn that until he took my computer home with him and refused to charge me for the hours he put into fixing the web of problems that were keeping it from functioning.

So my story ends here. And it holds a lesson I needed to relearn: Wringing your hands and despairing when something like a computer breaks down is a waste of time. In the first place, it doesn’t solve the problem. Secondly, a lovely reward may await you at the end. Not always, but every once in a while. And that’s enough.

Emeryville, CA


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