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A few days ago I noticed that the usual hum from my PC had become loud enough to nearly drown out my music unless I either turned up the speakers or slapped on the headphones. I didn't think anything about it until I went to put a DVD in the writer to make a duplicate and was greeted by this horrible ratchet sound followed by a grinding buzz and the sight of the disc tray stuttering out of its bay like some kind of palsied, dying robot appendage.  Well then, time to make a trip to my local mom and pop computer store and see my long time computer guy, Wayne.

I have been buying PCs from this place since the late 80's and have always had repairs done there. Wayne and his running buddy, Larry have been working in the repair shop since '93.  I like the place because its one of those old school places that has shelves and shelves of computer parts and you can either build your own system to fit your specs or you can purchase pre-fabbed systems. Its a comforting place - not much has changed  over the years.   Lots of happy memories of old conversations with Wayne and Larry.  The ongoing debate between Mac and PC. The once controversial issue of the viability of the Pentium chip for home computing. Trading hints and war stories about Doom, Duke Nukem and WOW.  I do use the Big Box stores occasionally - the Geek Squad repaired my wireless after a lightning strike fried my modem and router. But when it comes to fiddling with my machines, either I do it or Wayne does.

So I haul my PC in and tell Wayne I need a new burner and a RAM upgrade because I do some video editing and the rendering's pretty sluggish.  He opens up the case and gasps as he slaps his hand over his nose.

"Dude, do you have cats?"
"Uh, yeah. I got three."
"Have you ever cleaned this thing out?"
"No - I keep forgetting."
Wayne steps back from the PC and points.
"Take a look."
Everything inside is coated in a fine layer of dust and a mix of orange and gray fur.
"Wow, that looks bad."
"Bad? You're a fucking pig, man.  You gotta clean this thing out monthly.  Especially if you have cats. Cat fur is the worst for computers."
"Good to know - so I guess I need it cleaned out too."
"That's fine - I can do that, but I gotta go take a pill and put some gloves on and a mask. I'm really allergic to cats."
"Really? I didn't know that. I'm sorry."
"Its okay, I just might end up in the Emergency room later. Its really bad."
"Well, could you fix my machine real quick before? I need it today."
"You're a real humanitarian. Asshole."

With that Wayne whisks my PC to the back room where I soon hear the sound of an air compressor and Wayne muttering to himself. A few minutes later Wayne comes back decked out like he's on the bucket brigade at the Nakashima power plant.  He gives me the cleaning lecture again and we continue with our back and forth while he yanks out the old writer and puts in a new one making sure to show me the cat hair that has matted on the inside of the drive bay.  It turns out that a RAM upgrade is out of the question but Wayne suggests a bigger power source to boost my speed. The price is high. We dicker and I decide to do the upgrade later. Wayne throws a few software upgrade CDs in a bag for me. He buttons up the machine and I notice small red spots starting to form on his neck. Wayne idly scratches at one. Time to go.
"So there ya go, all set. Pay my boss over there at the front, and next time warn me before I crack open your case. Shit, this is really starting to itch."
I pay and while I'm waiting for the receipt to chatter out of the POS machine I hook a thumb over my shoulder at Wayne who I can see, from across the store, has turned a  sunburn shade of red.
"I'm sorry about giving Wayne a reaction.  You'll probably have to let him knock off early today to go take care of that."
Wayne's boss gives a dismissive wave.
"Oh he'll be fine. This happens a couple times a week. Wayne's always dodging to go home early. If I was married to his wife I'd wanna go home early too. Well, here ya go, thanks for coming in, we appreciate it."
Before I head out the door I take a last glance back at Wayne's station.  He's backed up against a door jamb rubbing up and down for all he's worth while talking and gesturing wildly with his arms at his boss who's standing with arms crossed and head cocked sideways.

When I get home I get my PC put together then I decide to clean up my little office area.  I hadn't really done any cleaning or rearranging of my desk all winter and it was starting to look like a miniature incident of pathological hoarding. I gave in to my OCD inner-nutcase and spent an entirely too large an amount of time on the project. After I got done, I sat and wrote for a while enjoying the blessed silence coming from my PC. Of course, there was a cat laying in front of the monitor purring like a faulty cooling fan and encircled by a near invisible halo of airborne fur.
My nose began to itch.


Apr. 23rd, 2011 05:22 am (UTC)
I trust you have that program installed, the one which detects whether a cat is walking across your keyboard. It's apparently able to take steps to prevent the cat from activating anything accidentally.

I can well imagine cat hair would be a killer factor. Have you thought of shaving your ... hmmm ... how do I put this delicately?
Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:44 pm (UTC)
Mark...shhh, I think they heard you.