Zorba the Geek

Friday 1 April 2016 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — April Fool’s Day

I’m writing today about Zorba the Geek, not to be confused with Zorba the Greek. I’m writing about the technician with whom I recently dealt while purchasing my new computer. “Zorba” isn’t his real name. I didn’t get his real name. I do, however, know he was a geek. There was a big sign suspended from the ceiling proclaiming “Geek Department.” I was in the Better Buy computer store. 

As we all know, there are two types of computers. One is PC and the other Mac. I’ve been using a Hewlett/Packard since Vice President Al Gore invented the Internet (fact-check required). 

At any rate, my HP computer was showing its age. Multicolored vertical lines were appearing on the screen. With my knowledge of technology, I knew immediately that a whatchamacallit was letting go. 

I keep my thumb on the pulse of the culture. All the groovy people I know use Apple computers. It was time for me to switch. I wouldn’t want to appear square, as today’s young people would say.

On my day off-duty I drove the 20 miles to the Better Buy computer store. It was there I met Zorba, standing under the geek sign. I told him I wanted to buy an Apple computer. He asked what I knew about computers. I masterfully avoided the question. 

Zorba showed me seven models. I pretended to read the descriptions posted next to each model, occasionally muttering “Hmmm,” as if I knew what I was doing. The truth was it was all geek to me. Within a minute, I proclaimed, “I’ll take this one.” This made Zorba very happy. 

Then my ruse fell apart. “What is your Apple password, sir?” asked Zorba. “Are you kidding me? I have no idea.” So, Zorba asked for my cellphone and searched it for a password. That was a waste of 20 minutes. 

We tried the security question. “What is the name of your dog?” “Which one? I’ve rescued many greyhounds over the years. I have no idea which was the dog on the day I set this password.” We went through the names of eight of my dogs (kennel names and professional racing names), all to no avail. 

“Not to worry,” assured Zorba, “I’ll call Apple headquarters in California.” He phoned several times. “Press one. Press two. Press three. Press No. Please hold.” Music. “Oh these computers!” Zorba expressed with exasperation. My sentiments exactly.

Finally, Zorba got through. An undercover agent at the Apple high command promised Zorba he would send a secret code to my cellphone within 24 hours. The code, however, would automatically self-destruct 15 minutes after it was sent.

Nothing more could be done. I left my computer in the store and drove back to Falmouth to spend the next 24 hours waiting.

The secret code never arrived. I found out later it had been sent to a friend’s phone, but it self-destructed after 15 minutes.

My cellphone did eventually ring. It was the geek department. “Your new computer is ready for pick-up, sir.” “How can that be? You don’t have the secret code?” “No problem. We broke the encryption.” This would be a skill set very useful to the FBI, I pointed out. Back I drove to Better Buy and then back home again with my new computer. 

Eager to begin my new life as a hipster, I opened the computer. “Enter Password.” I did. It didn’t work. I entered another. No luck. I entered a third. Nothing. I was shut out. 

I called the geek department. The technician gave me all sorts of instructions on how to access the operating system. “Hold down this key while pressing that key and tap a third twice and then a fourth.” Tap with what? My nose? It didn’t work. “You’ll have to bring the computer back to the store.” The next day I drove the 20 miles back to Better Buy. There was a long line. 

I chatted with an elderly woman also waiting in line. “You must know all about computers,” she remarked. “Why do you say that?” “Well, that’s a very hip computer you have there.” “It is, but I’m not. The truth is, I don’t know how to open it.” She didn’t believe me. “Don’t be so modest,” she advised. “My husband also knew all about computers, but he died. So I’m here.”

Finally, it was my turn. I immediately admitted to the young man that the problem wasn’t the computer; it was me. The geek simply smiled knowingly, took his index finger, and gently tapped “enter.” The computer sprang to life. “No need for a password, sir. We didn’t set a password.” 

I passed the same elderly woman on my way out the door. “That didn’t take long. I knew you were a computer expert,” she opined. “Yes, first you have to turn on the computer.” She laughed. I wasn’t joking.

Now I feel like such a fool (in April or any month of your own choosing). It’s not easy being hip.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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