I awoke to a broken keyboard this morning and it turned into a little bit of a nightmare to get a new one. I’m not going to get into it now because now I’m hours behind on my daily schedule and I’ve got a shit-ton of stuff to try and get done. I was originally going to do a Fast Food Friday post and I might put that up tomorrow if I have time. In the meantime, here’s a story I wrote in 2009 about trying to get a keyboard for my computer in New York that was way worse than this morning. Okay, I gotta run, we’ll see you all tomorrow!
An Angry Keyboard Story (From 2009)
I rarely get really, really mad. I am neurotic as all get out, I think about things way too much (today I obsessed over what is the proper amount of space to give while waiting in line, this happened because today at the deli, there was a woman purchasing some stuff and a goofy looking guy in an ill-fitting suit was standing about five feet behind her holding a can of soup. I asked him if he was in line and in an incredulous tone, this asshole say’s, “Well yeah!” And he’s five feet behind her! So then I have to stand behind him and a woman with a bag of popcorn and a newspaper says to me with a weird tone, “Is this the line?” I said rather loudly, “Yeah, he started it.”And I saw the guy wince, so I felt better. I decided 18 inches is the proper amount. That way you’re not in someone’s space, but you are clearly starting a line. I over analyze, and on and on. And on and on! On and on and on and on.
But, I am blessed with being able to keep my cool. It takes a lot to really get me angry. But when I do, whew, I go batshit nutso supremo. I don’t get violent, I don’t hurt anyone, but I yell, scream, say really mean things and just act insane. It really takes a lot to bring this on and only a handful of people have ever seen it. My ex-wife, any girlfriend that was luckless enough to have been involved with me for a tangible amount of time and everybody in my immediate family has witnessed me going batshit nuts. Even at my night job, I’ll yell about stuff, but no one has ever seen me go really nuts there and I’ve worked there over a dozen years. The last time I exploded was about two years ago. And this is where the angry keyboard story begins.
A couple years ago I took a few days off from my night job to work on my book The Boy Who Would Be A Fire Truck. I had a few stories left to write and was having trouble getting them done. I thought if I devoted a few days to nothing but writing I would get back in the groove. The first day went the way a lot of days devoted to writing goes for me. I spent about an hour trying to find a decent CD to listen to (I like music on when I write, but I like to hit “repeat” on my boom box and repeat it over and over and it kind of becomes like white noise and it helps me write. Sounds weird, I know, but it works.) While looking for the CD, for some reason I wondered where my old writing portfolio was. It’s a leatherbound portfolio with lots of my old clippings I used to drag around to editors offices back when I was freelancing. I look in my closet, find it and spend about an hour looking at old articles I’ve written. I then put that back and continue the CD search and decide on “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys. This is a good one to play over and over.
But first I decide to call my mom and dad and say hi, we talk for about twenty minutes and by now it’s a little after one in the afternoon. So I decide to get a slice of pizza on 14th street. I go to the pizza place, get a plain slice and a grape soda and eat it there. On the way home I stop at the magazine store, browse around a bit and I see a new Mojo magazine with a huge article on the Lovin’ Spoonful, one of my all time favorite bands. So I buy that, start home, but end up walking over to Union Square Park. I look at some artwork on sale there, watch some kid who’s drumming on buckets and decide to head home. I get home, put on the Beach Boys CD, open up a Quark document on the computer to start work on a new story and then stare at the blank page for fifteen minutes. On the sixteenth minute I decide to read the story on the Lovin’ Spoonful in Mojo and after that I decide to read the entire issue. If you’ve never seen a copy of Mojo, it’s an English magazine that has a ton of stories and information in it. It’s like reading a book. By the time I was done it was after six in the evening and I cursed myself for having blown the whole day.
So I decided to go to the deli, get a ham and cheese on a hero with mustard and a couple diet Cokes. I came home ate, put “Pet Sounds” on, and told myself I would not go to sleep till I had finished the next story. So I sat down, had one aborted attempt, but soon was going like gangbusters. I was in that zone where the story appeared to be writing itself. I was coming up with some good stuff, and then I went to type the word, “and.” My fingers were on the home row, my little finger pushed on the “A” key on the keyboard and nothing happened. I hit it again and nothing, no “A.” I took my index finger and hit the button about 50 times, each time harder than the next and realized that for whatever reason, the “A” key was shot on my keyboard.
“Fuck!” I said to myself. I was just getting into it.
I unplugged my keyboard and plugged it back in, still no “A.”
I restarted my computer, still no “A.”
So I decided what I would do was copy the letter “A” and then paste it in whenever I needed one. But I found out the letter “A” gets a lot of use, and it’s a little stifling to have hit, “command v” every time one is needed. I stopped and stared at the screen.
And now this is where I can keep my cool. I took a deep breath and said to myself (out loud, yeah I talk to myself, who doesn’t?), “Okay, this sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. The keyboard’s busted, so I’ll just save the story out and go out and have a little fun and not feel guilty about it. Then I’ll go to bed at a decent time, get up early, get another keyboard and I’ll be back into it at the latest by 11:00 in the morning. I’ll finish this story and probably another.” So I went to The Stoned Crow Bar, had a few beers, played a little pool, put some songs on the jukebox then came home and went to sleep.
The next morning the alarm clock rang at 8:30 in the morning. I dutifully got up, drank a diet Coke, checked my email, and took a shower. I decided not to shave. Fuck it, it was a day off. I got dressed, put on my jacket and made my way towards the Staples store about 9:30 am. It was a nice sunny day and I was in a great mood as I strolled into the store on Union Square across from the park. It had just opened at 9:00 so it wasn’t crowded and I made my way to the computer section and found the keyboard area. No sooner was I looking at boxes, than a happy, helpful sales clerk approached me.
“Can I help you sir,” he was in his twenties, a portly fellow with a walrus moustache.
“You sure can,” I spat back, “All I need is an inexpensive keyboard for an iMac on operating system nine.”
I made sure to let him know that I was on operating system nine, because most people by then were on operating system ten. But I had an original iMac, it worked fine and I wasn’t going to get a new computer just to upgrade, but some things wouldn’t work on nine, so I wanted to make sure.
Without hesitation the Walrus grabbed a keyboard and handed it to me. “This is a standard keyboard, 26 bucks,” he said with a smile.
“And it’s compatible with Macintosh?” I asked.
“Yes, sir,” the Walrus shouted back.
“Oh this is great, and it’s a lot cheaper than I thought it would be,” I told the beaming Walrus.
“Happy to be of service,” He said with his smile widening. “Check out is right over there.”
I thanked him again, paid for the keyboard, came home and opened the box. There was a disc that said, “Software for keyboard. Install before plugging in keyboard.” So I take the disc, put it in my computer and a PC icon appears on the desktop. I try to open it and it gave some error warning saying “unable to open on this computer.” It wasn’t Mac compatible. I looked at the back of the box and it said it was a keyboard for PC computers only.
“Motherfucker!” I said while putting the disc back into the envelope and then closing the box and walking back to Staples. I get to the store, I see the Walrus still in the computer section and walk up to him and say in a tense voice, “This isn’t compatible with a Mac, it even says so on the box.”
The Walrus looked at the box and looked crestfallen, he knew I was a little pissed. He grabbed another box that looked similar, both had red backgrounds and looked at the back.
“I’m really sorry sir,” he said redfaced. “I thought it was this one, see it says right here it’s compatible for PC’s and Macintosh. I apologize!”
Well, now I felt bad, the Walrus just made a mistake, who doesn’t? I make at least a dozen a day. Plus I used to work retail and it sucks. You make minimum wage and every jerkoff who wanders in thinks they can give you shit and now I probably ruined this guy’s day. I tried to make it right.
“Hey listen,” I told him smiling, “I shouldn’t have taken that tone with you, you were only trying to help and anybody could’ve made that mistake, you’re a great salesman.”
With this he perked up, thanked me and personally took me to one of the cashiers so I wouldn’t have to wait in line. I thanked him again, exchanged the keyboard, walked back home, opened the box, it too had a software disc it said you had to install before plugging in the keyboard. I put it in my computer and again, what appeared to be a PC icon appeared on the desktop. I clicked on it and—boom—up came the “unable to open on this computer” warning.
“What the fuck?” I screamed to the computer. I took out the disc, put it back in the box, shut it and lit out, once again for Staples.
I got there and right as I walked in, the Walrus saw me and I’m sure I looked pissed because he ran upstairs. I decided just to get my money back and go somewhere else. I waited in line, and after a couple minutes was face to face with the same woman who exchanged it for me a little bit earlier.
“I just want my money back for this,” I said, handing her the receipt.
“You just exchanged something for this just a little bit ago,” she said in surprised tones.
“Yeah, I know,” I said with my voice rising, “it says on the back it’s compatible with Apple Macs, I just took it home and it’s not. I wish you people would stock shit that works.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t handle the ordering,” she curtly replied opening her register.
Now I felt bad all over again. I hated it when I worked retail and people would complain to me about prices or if we were out of an item that was advertised for sale, blah, blah, blah. And now I was acting just like one of those assholes.
“Hey listen,” I said to her, “I want to apologize. I’m just frustrated and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you, I am really sorry.”
She looked shocked and said,“Well, this is a first, I’ve never had a customer apologize to me!” she said with a big grin.
“Hey, I used to work retail and it sucks,” I told her.
She laughed, looked both ways and said, “It double sucks!” We both laughed she gave me my money, I wished her a nice day and I walked outside. I took a deep breath and decided to walk about ten blocks to a Circuit City store. I got there and walked in the double doors and asked the information man where the keyboards were.
“Second floor, to the rear,” he said in a monotone voice, like he had said it a million times and he probably had. By now it was around 11:00 am and it was fairly busy. I found my way to the keyboard section and there were a lot to choose from. I started looking at boxes but none of them said what they were compatible with. I flagged a guy with a nameplate down and asked him if the keyboard I was holding was Apple compatible.
“Oh yeah,” he said confidentally.
“Are you sure,” I shot back. “It doesn’t say anything on the box.”
“I’m positive, I’ve got an Apple and that’s the keyboard I use,” he said with a swaggering lilt in his voice.
“I’ve got system nine, that’s okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s fine, trust me,” he said laughing at my trepidation.
I laughed back and said, “Usually I’m not this skittish about buying a keyboard, but I had to take two back in a row to Staples earlier.”
“Oh man,” he said wearily, “you should never buy computer stuff from there!”
“Yeah, I know, well, you live and you learn, thanks for the help,” I told him.
“Thank you sir,” he replied back as he walked away.
I waited in line, bought the keyboard, walked back to my apartment and opened the box and my stomach dropped because there on top was a disc that said it needed to be installed first. Slowly I took it out, put it in the computer. PC icon. Same fucking error, it wasn’t Mac compatible.
“Godfuckingdammit!” I screamed. Then I got up plodded around my apartment in circles mumbling, “motherfucker,” over and over. Finally I stopped and pulled myself together. I put the disc back in the box, shut it and trekked back to Circuit City. I asked the information man where returns were and he robotically told me it was on the second floor, left of the elevator.
I took the elevator up, looked to the left, saw a counter with “Returns” on the wall and a large, heavyset woman with dreadlocks who was looking at someone’s item behind a counter. Then I saw the line, there was about fifteen people in it and it wasn’t moving.
I walked up behind a bob-haired woman who appeared to be in her twenties at the end of the line holding a portable TV box. She noticed me, looked back at me and I said to her, “Is she the only one working the return booth?”
“Yup,” she said with a tired look.
“Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I told her. That’s one of the things I like about New York, everyone curses, so you don’t have to worry much about saying fuck and other curse words to strangers.
“I know, and she moves like someone shot her up with valium,” she said.
“You wouldn’t happen to have any valium on you would you? I mean I’ll pay you for it,” I jokingly replied. She laughed and I told her my keyboard story and it turned out she was a writer too, every other person out here in New York is a writer, but we had freelanced for some of the same places, so at least we were able to pass the time talking with each other.
Finally she was next, she got called, wished me luck and took off.
Finally I was next. The woman in dreadlocks was Jamaican, I could tell by her accent now that I was within earshot and finally it was my turn. I walked up, smiled and said, “I just need to return this and get my money back. It’s not compatible with an Apple computer and I was told it was.”
She seemed oblivious to what I was saying and was slowly examining the box. Soon she was taking the pieces out of the box and methodically checking them out.
“I didn’t even take anything out but the disc,” I explained, “everything’s there.”
“I got to do this my way,” She retorted in her clipped Jamaican accent.
“Okay, do what you have to do,” I wearily replied. And then she spent what seemed to be an eternity checking the keyboard, the cables the box and finally when she was done, she started to slowly put it all back together in the box.
“Hey, listen,” I said smilingly nice, “could you put it all back together again after I get my money, I’m in a little bit of a hurry and I’m running late.”
“I got to do this my way,” she once again stated.
Fuck, she was like a Jamaican Rainman. “Alright, whatever,” I said in a surrendering mode.
Finally after what seemed an eternity I got my money back and walked out of the store onto 14th Street. I walked over to Union Square park, sat on a bench and tried to think where I could get a fucking keyboard that worked. I remembered there was a Best Buy on 23rd street. Surely they would have something.
I decided to stop and eat at the Chat ‘n’ Chew (if you’re ever in New York, they have the best macaroni and cheese in the world) on 16th Street on the way. I had lunch and it was approaching 1:00 pm as I put my foot in the Best Buy store. I asked a salesperson where the keyboards for computers were and she pointed out where they were.
I walked over and started looking at them, but none of them said if they worked on an Apple computer. There was no way I was getting burned again. I found a kid nearby who worked there and called him over. He was slight and bespectacled and looked about 19-years-old. I had a keyboard in my hand.
He walked over and I asked, “Do you know if this keyboard is compatible with an Apple Macintosh computer?”
“Uh...I’m pretty sure,” he said in unsure tones while squinting at the box.
This kind of set me off. “You know I’ve heard that at two stores today, and none of the keyboards worked,” I said with my voice rising. “Now I know you just work here, but is there a manager that knows? Is there a Macintosh computer here we can try to hook it up to, I have wasted the entire morning trying to find a goddamned keyboard!”
The kid had a pained look on his face and put his hands up in the air in an almost surrendering gesture and started speaking. “Look, I’m not trying to be a wise-guy here, but if you need an Apple computer, why don’t you just get one at the Apple store?” He said haltingly.
I immediately started laughing and he kind of looked at me like I was nuts.
“Sometimes I am so stupid,” I told him laughing. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that, and we even print all their signs for their stores where I work.”
The kid looked relieved, I thanked him, shook his hand and then went to a pay phone to get the address. I got the address, it’s in midtown, next to FAO Schwarz toy store.
Soon I was on a subway headed to 56th street. I was laughing to myself how stupid I could be and was relieved that soon I would be back to writing. I still had a day and a half to finish four stories and one was already halfway done. I was officially back in a good mood and was certain I'd have my new keyboard soon!
I picked up a keyboard, it was in a black and white box and it looked like a basic keyboard, just what I needed. Then I flipped the box over and read the following words: “Keyboard operates on OS 10 only.” I picked up another one and it said the same thing. Another one, same thing. All of them were for operating system ten. But I had nine. This was like a nightmare and it started off my first rung of batshit craziness.
“No!” I said loudly. “No, no no! Fuck!” Now I was almost at scream level and the kid that pointed out the display ran over to me.
“What’s wrong sir,” he nervously asked.
“These fucking keyboards, that’s what’s wrong!” I shouted.
“They all say they only work on operating system ten, but I have nine on my computer.”
“You still have nine?” He asked while looking at me like I said I eat grilled babies for breakfast.
“Yeah, I got nine. You got a problem with that? My computer works fine and I’m not going to get a new one just because the keyboard doesn’t work,” I said gaining a little composure. “Now can you tell me if this will work on nine?”
“The kid almost looked sick and said, “To be perfectly honest sir, I just work the floor, I’m not a technical person.”
“Okay, fair enough, but please, tell me that there is someone in the Apple store that can tell me if this keyboard will work on my Apple computer,” now my voice was getting close to shouting level again, as I continued on.
“You don’t know what kind of day I’ve had and I’m right on the verge of losing it. Now I live downtown, it’s going to take a half an hour to get home and if this thing doesn’t work...”
Now the kid is waving his hands at me like he’s trying to signal a crazy person and he cut in, “Sir, there’s someone who will know the answer to this. We have a room all the way at the other end of the store called the genius room and there’s people there who just answer technical questions, I’ll take you there now and we’ll find out."
“Okay,” I answered as we started walking. “Look I’m sorry for the way I’m acting, but you don’t know what I’ve been through today and this was really the icing on the cake."
“I’m sorry you’ve had a trying day sir,” the kid told me in tones like he was talking to a severely deranged mental patient. “We’ll have an answer for you soon.”
We made it to the end of the store and entered a room that said, “Genius Room” on the wall. Behind a counter stood about half a dozen “geniuses.” There were about five people in there talking to the geniuses. All the way at the end stood a short, little skinny kid with a spotty goatee, glasses and a bad hair cut. The floor person started walking towards this “genius” and when we were standing in front of him, he started talking.
“Carl, this gentlemen would like to buy this keyboard, but he needs to know if it will work on system nine, that’s what he’s working on,” the floor kid asked the genius named Carl.
Carl shot me an incredulous look and then laughed out loud while pointing at me and said in a mocking, superior voice, “Ha! You’re probably the last humanoid on earth that’s using system nine. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade,” he said and then laughed at me again.
The fuse had been lit and now it had burned down to the explosive material. I went berserk.
I walked right up to Carl so we were face to face and then started screaming at the top of my lungs.
“YOU MOTHERFUCKING LITTLE DORK PRICK! IF YOU EVER LAUGH AT ME AGAIN I WILL JUMP OVER THIS COUNTER AND I WILL KICK THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF YOU YOU MOTHERFUCKING LITTLE PRICK!!”
You have to realize, I wasn’t just screaming I was yelling at the top of my lungs as loud as I could. Remember Sam Kinison? It was on that level. It was like I had shot a gun off in the room. Everything went silent, everyone was staring at me and no one was moving. It was like they were playing statues. Carl was staring at me wide-eyed, shaking a little and looked like he was going to cry and shit his pants at the same time. I continued on.
“ALL I NEED FROM YOU IS THE ANSWER IF THIS MOTHERFUCKING KEYBOARD IS GOING TO WORK ON MY FUCKING SYSTEM NINE COMPUTER!”
Carl just stood there shaking.
“ANSWER ME YOU FUCKING LITTLE ASSHOLE!” I yelled at him and he slowly started to open his mouth.
“I...I...have to tell you the truth...I...I...d-don’t know...I...I...think it will,” he stammered out and hung his head in shame.
“ALRIGHT MISTER FUCKING GENIUS, HERE’S WHAT I’M GOING TO DO,” I continued in my yellathon, “I’M GOING TO BUY THIS FUCKING THING, TAKE IT HOME, AND IF IT DOESN’T WORK I WILL COME BACK AND I WILL WRAP THIS FUCKING THING AROUND YOUR FUCKING SKULL! YOU GOT IT YOU MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE?”
Then I stomped out of the room and walked all the way to the other side of the sales floor to the sales registers where they were blissfully unaware of my meltdown. There were four cashiers and a short line. I stood in line fuming and in a few minutes I was face to face with a woman behind the register who kind of looked like an adult Cindy Brady.
“Did you have a great shopping experience at the Apple Store today?” she said in a sing-songy voice complete with a shit-eating grin while ringing up the keyboard.
“No, it fucking sucked!” I had cooled down a little and was out of yelling mode, but was still plenty pissed.
She looked shocked as I threw some money at her and said, “Now give me my change and put that thing in a fucking bag so I can get the fuck out of here!”
Nervously, she gave me my change and I stomped out of the store and stomped to the subway station muttering to myself, “fuckin’ assholes,” over and over.
Halfway home, I thought about Carl and the looks on people’s faces in the room and started laughing out loud at how I had exploded in the genius room. No one in the crowded subway car looked twice at me. You see a lot of weird shit in New York’s subway system and some jerkoff laughing out loud to himself is the least of anyone’s worries.
It was around 3:30 in the afternoon when I finally arrived back at my apartment on 16th Street. I opened my door, threw the box on my futon and ripped it open. There was no installation disc, just the keyboard, I took that as a good sign. I plugged it into my computer and held my breath as I slowly hit the “A” key. I hit it, looked at the screen and there on a field of white appeared the letter, “A.”
“YES!” I screamed out loud to myself. Soon I was writing and by five in the morning I had finished the stories. The book was done and I wandered to a 24 hour deli to buy a celebratory six pack of 16 ounce Budweisers. I brought it home drank it and slept through the day.
The next day I told the story to some co-workers and they were howling at my angry keyboard story and so was I. Sometimes things do work out.
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