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ISO a Life: Digitally Challeneged In The Silicon Valley

Updated on June 2, 2011

The Amature Tech

I arrived at Anna's apartment at 9:30 Monday morning. She had already warned me about her computer problem.

"It won't do anything. I can't get to the internet. I can't even check my email! I don't know what's wrong. I didn't do anything."

Her door was wide open so I walked in, saw her back and said hello. She didn't respond.

"Hi Anna!" I called out. "Anna, hello. Hello." I walked up to her and tapped her shoulder.

"Oh, hi. You look nice. You doing ok?"

"I'm doing good," I said. I was dressed in jeans, a lavender tank top and my black sneakers. No big d.

"I'm just putting in my ear piece. Luke found some more of them. I'd forgot about them. Say something."


"Good, it's working," she said with a smile. "So how you doing? Are you ok? I haven't told Nicki about the computer. Maybe you can fix it."

Nicki is her sister; the one who got all the smarts. She oversaw Anna's day to day life from afar. Well, from a 3 hour drive away. She seemed to get irritaed easily but you have to remember that being around Anna can have that effect on a person. She also has a high stress job and, from what I've heard, a rocky marriage. While I certainly didn't want to get yelled at, I also didn't want to cause her any more problems.

I walked into the guest room, where Anna kept her computer. I turned it on and waited. The black screen of death appeared.

"Aw, shit," I muttered. I've done temporary fixes for this before on my old computer but it's a royal pain in the ass. And Anna's computer is only about a year and a half old. Mine was five years old when it started pulling this crap. So I read the message the computer had written in the most mechanical looking font it could find.

"We apologize for the inconvenience, but Windows did not start successfully."

No shit.

"If a previous startup attempt was interupted due to a power failure or because the Power or Reset button was pressed...blah, blah, blah."

Ok, can I start it in Safe Mode? No. It won't let me highlight it. Damn. Try F10. Nothing. F1? Nada. Esc? Crap.

"Can you fix it," Anna asked.

"I don't know."

" Well, I don't want to spend a lot of time on it. It's getting hot out and we're supposed to go for a walk. You still wanna walk don't you?"

"Yeah, ok. Let's go do that." Grumble, grumble, grumble computers.

"Who's car are we taking? Do you still wanna go to Vasona? What about Hough Park? We don't have to pay for parking there."

"Where is it," I asked.

"It's close. Just over there," she waved in a general direction that had me thinking downtown Campbell. Naturally, it was in the opposite direction.

We took my car. I always maneuver to use my car. Her boyfriend was with her in the car once and she had an accident. The car was creamed. Her father had to buy her a brand new one. Luke was hurt. Something to do with his back. Anna insists that it wasn't her fault but, remember, this is the woman who drives while looking at herself in the mirror.

"There aren't any Subway's around here," said Anna. "Do you know of any Subway's around here? There's a Togo's. Let's go there."

We pulled into the parking lot.

"Are we going to eat now," I asked.

"Well, yeah. The sandwiches would just go bad if we didn't."

"But it's 10:15. I'm not hungry. I just ate breakfast a little while ago. Why don't we eat after our walk?"

"Ok, if you want to. But I don't know what's over there."

While we were driving to the park, Anna got a call. I couldn't tell what her sister was saying but I could hear her. And she was pissed. Oh, God, please don't tell her about the computer yet. Wait til I'm gone.

"So what if I called Tom? I didn't call him that much... Ok, fine, I won't call him any more... I can call Sammie if I want to. She's my daughter! ...I only called the college once. Why'd they complain to you?... I just wanted to know something...Ok, ok I won't call them anymore... You don't have to keep telling me. I understand... You don't have to keep telling me!... I'm with Emily... We're in her car... We're just going out... I can go out if I want, you know." And on and on.

Tom is Anna's ex-husband.

The college is one of those super-religious colleges that doesn't allow outside contact, not even with parents, during the student's first year. I tried to explain it to Anna.

"That's stupid," she said.

"Well, yeah."

We found the park and walked around it. It was a decent size park. There were moms with their toddlers playing on those things that kids play on. A couple of other adults were walking and one had a gorgeous, fluffy malamute. I just wanted Anna to get a little more exercise. Walking across the street and back a few times a week with Ileen wasn't cutting it. Anna gets winded easily but she can do more than that. And she was getting bigger. I know she cheats on her Weight Watcher's diet so she needs the exercise even more.

"Nickie said she wants to have a fun time when I visit her. She'd better not be telling me stuff cause that's not fun. Then I'll get a stomache ache and I don't want to drive up there just for that. She says she's going to buy me clothes, and we're going swimming and I'm going to go see Ronica."

Veronica is her other sister, who lives closer to Nickie.

"I don't call Tom that much. Why'd he complain to Nickie? Him and his wife are always telling stuff to Nickie and my mom. I don't like that. Luke does that too. Always telling other people. Nothing's private. That's not right."

"All Tom has to do is tell you he's busy and that he'll call you back later. Hell, he can see it's your number, he can just let voice-mail answer." I probably shouldn't have mentioned that last part. Anna looked at me kinda funny and it occurred to me that she's been trained that if the phone rings you have to answer it. Unlike me, who only answers when she damn well feels like it.

"Yeah, there's no reason to call Nickie."

"It's pretty childish that he can't tell you himself."

"Yeah, he's being childish. And why can't I call Sammie? College hasn't started yet. I think Tom told Nickie I was calling her. I can call her if I want. She's my daughter."

The conversation pretty much followed in this vein for the entire walk.

After we decided we'd had enough exercise, we found a nearby Subway sandwich shop. I knew it was there.

We ordered our sandwiches, two Monday sandwiches of the week, and sat down. Anna had already eaten her bag of chips, so she nicked mine.

"Don't say anything to Nickie about the computer. She'll just get mad," she said.

"Don't worry. I won't. But what if I can't fix it?"

"We'll just have to call Comcast."

"They can't do anything."

"What do you mean? They can come out and look at it."

"They won't. They're not a computer repair shop. They didn't even make the computer. It's not what they do."

"You mean they're just the cable?"

"Yeah, I mean, they get you to the internet but they have nothing to do with the computer itself."

She looked at me with an incredulous look on her face.

"Ok, say something went wrong with your TV. Would you call the electric company to fix it?"

"Well, what'll we do?"

"Best Buy has computer repair service but I don't know what it would cost because I don't know what caused the problem. And it's kind of heavy. I don't want to lift it. There's a service that comes to you but that's expensive. I called them once. I decided to fix it myself."

"We could carry it together."

"Yeah. But let me have some more time with it. If nothing else I want to write down that error message and do a search on it on my computer."

"Ok, let's go. I'm finished."

When we got back to Anna's apartment I headed for the computer while she headed for the kitchen. I turned the computer on and tried again the old standbys F10, F1 and Esc. Pissers.

I started to pound on F10 over and over. After several seconds it did something. Very quickly another page showed up then disappeared.

"Ah! I got you." I pounded some more and got the page back. Yes! System Restore! Unfortuneately, it wouldn't let me choose a date to go back to. It hadn't created any restore points and neither had I. It was hard enough getting the time to update stuff on her computer. She's not exactly patient. So the restore point would have to be when she first got it. She was about to lose all her files and newer software.

Oh, well.


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