Sign of the Times

There’s a one-bay hole-in-the-wall computer repair shop next to a laundromat that Buck and I have been taking our aging laptops to for years. The guys there have replaced hard drives, applied thermal paste to keep a struggling hard drive from overheating, and generally cleaned up our messes.

The basic diagnostic fee is $59. It includes a general clean-up and virus removal if any are found. Reasonable.

The shy young man at the counter speaks in such a soft voice that even I, (a woman with the hearing ability nearing that of a bat, or so I’ve been told anyway), have trouble hearing him. He is nervous and apologetic when he tells me their policy has changed and now he has to collect the $59 diagnostic fee upfront.

No problem. I pull out a credit card and give it to him. Then I look past the counter to several sets of industrial shelving lining one wall. Desk top towers, mainly, plus some laptops and other assorted computer appendages line the metal shelves. They all have bills stuck to them with tape.

“Are you doing a lot of work and not getting paid for it?” I asked.

He gestures sorrowfully to the shelves. “We call them, but we can’t get them to come pick up their stuff.”

“Can you do anything with it?”

He shrugs one shoulder. “After a certain amount of time goes by. Sometimes we can use a part to put in something else, but most of it’s no good.”

He passes my credit card back and I sign the ticket. “Well,” I said. “It’s good business to require payment for the diagnostic work up front. I’m glad you’re doing it. You guys do good work, and we want you to stay in business.”

He actually looks at me for a few seconds, one eyebrow crooked in a question mark. It seems he is trying to figure out what happy planet I have beamed down from. Then the shutters on his face close up tight again.

“We’ll call you when it’s ready,” he said.

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