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Grandma vs. the Alien: Chapter 1

[Previously titled “Grandma got run over by a … computer”]

[To begin this story at the beginning, click here.]

Grandma vs. the Alien

The plan was to start around noon getting the new computer unpacked and set up — a couple of frustrating hours at most — and then into the first day of Warhammer. Well, computers have a habit, or at least mine do, of being at their most contrary right when you most need and expect them to perform flawlessly.

The Alien

I got my beautiful new splendiferous shiny black Alienware computer out of its black box, the one with the black-on-black alien head printed on the side and all the black molded styrofoam packing inside, and the white fabric bag protecting the case from scratches. Nearly killed myself crawling around under the computer desk getting everything unplugged and replugged. Took several breaks just to sit and huff ‘n’ puff for a bit. (Hello, 9-1-1? Help, I’m on the floor and I can’t get up!)

The next three or four hours were spent trying start-ups and watching crashes, blue screens and red screens and no screens. If it didn’t crash, it froze. Just about the time I was ready to put my fist through the screen (which we all know is not the source of the problem), slit my wrists, and retire to the living room with a screaming headache, my daughter-in-law arrived unexpectedly and went to work. (She’d brought me an external hard drive housing, so she could just pull the old drive out of the old machine and plug it into the new one, giving me all that added storage on the new machine and totally eliminating the aggravation of saving files from one computer to another. Cool! I’d never heard of such a thing.)

The Intervention

She then spent at least 3 hours working on the new computer while talking to the Aliens (Alienware support personnel). My new baby was in pieces, bleeding innards all over the desk and floor. (Didn’t a goodly chunk of my purchase price cover having those pieces properly assembled?)

At some point I ranted to the DIL about apparently having just paid $3000 for a frickin’ baseball cap (included with purchase). Oops! The phone on the desk was still on speaker with the support dude listening on the other end. Oh well, he needed to hear it. Besides, she’d probably already filled him in on how she’s the DIL trying to fix the computer for her eccentric MIL who is spontaneously combusting because she’s missing the first day of her game (the game she paid extra for so she could get a two-day head start on other players)!

The Ninja

Grandson had come with mom, so while DIL worked, I divided my time watching her and playing games with him, including soccer in the backyard. Eventually dad shows up with granddaughter (having just spent an hour of his time on the phone with my out-of state brother who was also having computer problems). So me and my headache are playing various games with two kids while both their parents are huddled in the back room over my brand new big black Alienware computer system which is still in pieces all over the room.

Several hours later, I still had a splitting headache (surprise!) and the 3 people in the back room (counting the Alien on the phone) have concluded it’s the video card, so a new one will be sent and should arrive Wednesday. I pray they got the problem diagnosed properly. My son said about 20% of video cards in new systems are likely to fail, and the blame falls on the card maker, not the computer company. (Take that, Nvidia!) He said in a situation like this, Alienware is likely to turn around and ream Nvidia, since they, the Aliens, have had to take the heat.

The video “card” looked something like a giant black video tape cartridge. My son held it admiringly, very carefully, with both hands. Neither he nor DIL had seen anything like it before, nor had I. “Don’t touch it right there,” he cautioned, as he set it very carefully into a box for safekeeping. (Geek that he is, he’d only come over because he was curious to see how the Alien was put together inside, the airflow, etc.) The last vid card I ever handled was, literally, a green card with a bunch of circuits and a cute little fan on one side. This was decidedly not a card; it was an impregnable black box (why does that not surprise me?).

Anyway, a new video card is being sent and is supposed to arrive Wednesday. The shiny new partially disassembled computer is in the corner and the old one is back in place so that I can get into my game, sort of. (You can almost hear the old Dell giving the new guy a Bronx cheer.)

My personal Geek Squad pulled a full court press for me and my brother yesterday, and I can’t tell them how appreciative I am. Nothing I can do will recover the hours they’d planned to use for their own paying jobs at home. And I’ll still need one of them back on Wednesday. And, no, I was told, running their own Geek Squad business wouldn’t pay a fraction of what they earn as developers.

Grandma vs. the Ninja

After they left, and after a very late dinner, I went back to the old computer (which they’d reinstalled) to roll up some new characters in my game. My cat, scared into hiding with all the people in the house, reappeared, and tried, as he always does, to come between me and my monitor. Sitting on the desk in front of the monitor. Guaranteed attention-getting. I pushed him aside. He came back and knocked over my beloved old passive-aggressive mug (emblazoned “The greatest oak was once a little nut that held its ground”) full of pens and markers. Another guaranteed attention-getter. Not to mention burrowing into piles of paper (my filing system) to push them onto the floor. While this was going on, I realized my speakers weren’t working. Probably something still unplugged. I was not going to crawl behind that desk again! My back, my knees, my pounding head all said NO WAY.

About that time the cat pulled a ninja out of left field and sent more papers and both speakers flying onto the floor behind the desk.

I don’t know how to spell the sound I uttered at that moment, but it is indeed fortunate that the ninja’s finishing move was to vanish.

[continues with Grandma vs. the Alien: Chapter 2]

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