The thing l like most about computers is that, for all their intricate components, they’re simple. Something goes wrong, you observe the symptoms, diagnose the problem, and fix it. That doesn’t work, simply repeat until it does. Take the computer I’m working on right now for example. Ms. Barker, the old lady who lives a few doors down, brought it here complaining that it’s been running sluggishly ever since she installed some new program a few days ago. The problem could have been anything from a virus to incompatible software, or maybe a faulty hard drive. Simple trial and error led me to the real problem—low memory. Just like that, bam! Problem solved.
Real life, unfortunately, is nowhere near as clear cut. Take mine for instance. This past June, I finally graduated high school. Just about all of my friends went off to college, having some plan or at least a vague sense of what they wanted to accomplish all nice and laid out in front of them. Me, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I still don’t.
I didn’t go to college. I decided to take a year off, figure things out. It’s been six months. I’m nowhere nearer to figuring anything out than I was the day they handed me my diploma.
I carefully insert a RAM card onto the motherboard. I don’t really want to think about what I should be doing or where I should be in life right now, and this is just the type of delicate work that demands my full attention and takes my mind off of my dilemma. For a moment, I have peace.
But then my bedroom door flies open and Grayson, my roommate, strolls in. “Still trying to figure out what to do with your miserable existence, Jack?” he laughs.
I don’t look up from my work. “That door literally has a sign that says ‘Please knock.’”
He shrugs and comes to peer over my shoulder. “I didn’t notice. What are you doing?”
I carefully select another RAM card from my anti-static bag. “Adding memory to Ms. Barker’s desktop,” I mutter, “What’s it look like?”
His eyes glaze over. “Sorry, I’m not a geek, remember?” He taps the old case. “Sort of a fossil, don’t you think? The computer, not Ms. Barker.”
I swat his hand away. “Don’t touch it! You’ll short the board.”
He scoffs and collapses onto the lazy boy that sits in the corner. “I think it’s time for an upgrade anyways.”
I go back to ignoring him and focus on the task at hand. He’s right, though. Ms. Barker bought this particular unit about six or seven years ago, which may as well have been a hundred years. Computers age like cars. I’ve told her time and again that it’s time to replace it, but she never has. I think the idea of having to learn how to use a different ‘machine’ is a little scary to her. Which is why it seems she’s back every other week with some new problem for me to solve.
Grayson flicks a pillow at me. “C’mon, Jackie boy, we’re going out.”
“I’m busy.” As if he can’t see that.
“How long’s that going to take?”
“I’m about done, actually.”
“Okay then!” He laughs. “When’s the last time you got out of the lab, really? How long’s it been?”
He’s right again. It has been a while. Still, “I have work tonight.”
He kicks up the footrest. “Oh, the Big Bean!”
“Yes, the Big Bean…” the coffee shop I just got hired at. In all honesty I’m not looking forward to working there, but I need the money. Besides, being a barista (barista-ing?) seems like it can be fun.
Grayson laughs again. “You know, I was just there. If I’d remembered I would’ve waited; maybe you could’ve hooked me up with a free coffee.”
I carefully slide the side panel back onto the computer case. “I doubt it works like that. Besides, it’s not like you can’t afford it.”
He doesn’t argue. Grayson’s father is a lawyer, and apparently lawyers still do pretty well for themselves. Grayson’s used to having access to money, and he tends to throw his around as if he has an infinite supply. He works at a bookstore, but you’d barely know he had a job. He hardly ever mentions it and he’s hardly ever there. But, he pays his half of the rent on time, so what do I care?
I on the other hand, don’t have a rich father and fixing computers on the side doesn’t pay rent anymore. Hence the new job.
“By the way,” Grayson says, suddenly sitting up. “I’ve got some news that I think you’ll like.” He gets that cheeky half grin he does when he’s about to announce another of his ill-fated schemes when his phone goes off. He yanks it out of his pocket and glances at the screen. His eyes widen and he leaps out of the chair and mouths ‘one minute’ to me. Then he’s gone.
I shake my head and screw the case back together. Grayson is the most easygoing person I know. He doesn’t seem to care about much, but even he has more of a life than I do.