Does Not Compute

shopping old school for new tech

The family computer isn’t doing too hot.

And by “hot,” I mean it’s not operationally healthy.

Taken literally, the sucker heats up like a hostel hibachi on Jerry Garcia’s birthday whenever I try streaming video.

Even a GIF will turn this laptop into a crippling crotch cremater which is why I always keep it safely at arm’s length. (Well, maybe I let it hover over my upper thighs mid-January.)

In addition to going supernova, the computer’s AC cord is held together by several layers of electrical tape, the W key keeps flipping off, the headphone jack doesn’t work, the battery only holds a three-minute charge, and a very melancholy virus keeps injecting It is what it is into all my text.

Enough is enough.

I checked our bank account and figured if I could find a new PC for under $1000, I’d only increase our debt by less than $1000.

But what to buy and where?

I’m not ready to go tablet. Those things rely way too heavily on the cloud and we all know the cloud will provide the Phistonians from the Scour Dimension ample intel for a rock-solid invasion strategy next year.

I’m also not bobbing for Apple. Their machines are mucho expensive, and I’d have to go hygge and smirk and pretend I know things.

Nay, I’ll shop around and let the big name brands duke it out for my business: Dell, HP, Acer, Smith Corona.

Let’s start by returning to the store where I purchased our last computer.


Just kidding. Funnin’ on Radio Shack never gets old.

As I was saying, I returned to the shop where I bought our computer.

As I was saying, I began shopping around for an electronics store that hadn’t yet transformed into Chappie Eleven’s Rad Skatepark.

I started with…

I started…

Sorry, let me take this question: YES! In the back! Yes, you! The one with the raised hand in the REO Speedwagon t-shirt!

Ah — the question is “Why not shop Amazon?”

Good question, Mr. Wagon. Now shut up.

The reason is due to an experience I had about a year ago when I bought a digital drawing tablet through Amazon for my daughters. The item arrived and didn’t work.

After several emails trying to get technical support, I connected with Dora in Guangzhou, China.

This was Dora’s avatar:

I spent over a month working back and forth with Dora trying to get the tablet to function properly. I eventually gave up and told Dora I wanted my money back. She told me she’d gladly provide a refund if I shipped the tablet to someone in Axis, Alabama.


Apparently, Dora had a plan.

I did what she asked wondering what sentence I’d be handed by feds once they learned I worked as a midway mule for an east/west trafficking syndicate.

It took two more weeks before I was refunded for the tablet and another month before Dora reimbursed me for shipping to her ‘Bama buddy.

And THAT is why the only things I buy through Amazon at this point are dish soap and used books.

I’m all about face-to-face customer service when it comes to high-ticket items, so I began my quest at the low-price leader.

Walmart does employ people to assist patrons, but I firmly believe that task comes with a long list of other responsibilities like pressure-washing diaper-changing stations and escorting out students attempting to film low-budget films on location without permission.

I was lucky enough to find a rep demoing computers in the electronics department. He seemed lost in his own world so I just observed as he navigated the web between and some online chat rooms.

For a quiet guy, he sure leaned on the exclamation point key a lot.

I then took a drive to Best Buy.

As soon as I walked in, I knew I’d get great service. The employee to customer ratio must’ve been 20 to 1.

I walked around aimlessly waiting to be pounced on by the first hungry floor staffer to lock in on my signal.

Two minutes traversing departments and I still hadn’t been approached by anyone clad in blue and yeller. To get things moving, I let my bottom jaw dangle extra low and squinted at the overhead store lights to give off an extra special in-need-of-assistance vibe.

I began tinkering with a laptop that looked to have potential. I tapped it. I viewed it from side to side. I opened and closed it several times. I sniffed it.

“Can I help you?” asked a young employee, Evan proudly displayed on his name badge.

“You sure can, Evan. Is this laptop on sale?”

“Hm, it might be. Let me check the flyer. I’ll be right back.”

Five minutes later, dejected and weary from waiting, I made way for the exit.

Before leaving, I snapped a pic of Evan chatting with another employee.

why evan? why?

I plan on showing this photo to the skateboarders hanging outside Best Buy in a few weeks and demand they observe a moment of silence in honor of the staff that made their new park possible.

I had one more stop: Costco.

I’m not sure why the place where I buy butter, croutons and generic Tylenol in bulk came to mind. I guess it’s because I’ve always noticed their pretty decent computer selection.More than likely though, I was enchanted with the idea of combining my PC shopping experience with free food samples.

My assumption was I’d shop without any assistance, so I began scanning laptops and reading specs:

RAM, gigabytes, terrabytes, dual-core, quad-core, finger-scanner, face-recognition, lip enhancer…

“Can I help you?” The employee’s name was Ernie and he looked like Harry Truman.

“What can you tell me about this computer?”

Damn. Ernie knew his stuff.

After a ten-minute pitch, I felt I had found the perfect machine for our family, but the quick-acting venom of buyer’s remorse had paralyzed me nose to toes.

“I see you’re thinking about it. Why not take it home and try it out for a week. If it’s not for you, just bring it back. No hassle, no worries.”

At that moment, I loved Ernie more than any other man. I took the purchase ticket to the cash register and took the plunge.

Ten minutes later, when Ernie saw me on the new computer in the Costco food court, he nodded in complete understanding that he’d just helped a very grateful neurotic take a very big step.

I ran the computer through its paces.

It was fast, barely giving me time to chew my hot dog before changing web pages.

I pushed it to the limit, opening multiple tabs, running video, starting a document and running the webcam.

Then, I placed the computer on my lap.

The gentle hum of the cooling fan massaged me and — miracle of miracles — there was no scorching heat searing my delicates.

I was a happy camper.

I packed the laptop back in its box and took it home.

It’s been two weeks since.

So far, so good.

In fact, I think it’s time to move on.

Technology never really dies though.

It just saves personal information for the day it’s recycled into new tech so it can exact revenge.

Oh well.

It is what it is.

"Hi. My name is Roy." - Now that just sounds stupid. (

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