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Melrose Hack: Tales of Frustration
Rocky Lang

Once upon a time in a land not so far away is a store that I call Melrose Hack or The Hack for short. Not sure why, as The Hack is located on the esplanades of Olive Boulevard in beautiful downtown Burbank. It is a store filled with heroes and villains. Shadows and substance are indiscernible, and logic vanishes like the wind.

Our story is not a bedtime story, but it could be a nightmare for those who cross the threshold between light and darkness. There are good guys and bad guys and the evil villain, Justin “The Terrible,” stalks the terra with vacuity. This is my story, my descent into the bucket of hell, it is a place called Melrose Hack.

Our society today requires us to be tethered to technology to communicate and function. Industry and culture have created a world where we need to be “plugged in.” So, this is the case, we require our phones and computers in order to be relevant. The alternative is a cabin in the woods, and at this point, that doesn’t sound so bad.

About a month ago, I turned on my MacBook and powered up. As one of my wife’s cooking shows blared in the background, I realized it was taking more time to turn on than being on hold with Spectrum. This barely used laptop, as Lili Von Shtupp said in Blazing Saddles, had gone “kaput!”

Donning my KN95 mask, or at least that’s what it claims to be, I headed over to a local computer store that I call The Hack, to see what was wrong with my MacBook.

I checked the computer in, waited a few days, and was informed it was a logic board failure. That means it’s like Frankenstein’s brain before they plug in the power. It’s going to cost $800, a cheery woman tells me on the phone. Don’t you love it when cheery people give you bad news?

It reminded me of the day a young kid arrived at my house. With a big smile, he held a box out to me and said, “Here’s your mom.” And so it goes.

Back at the Hack I asked the service guy behind the counter, “I suppose it’s out of warranty.”

He smiled at me. “Yeah,” he said, “it went out in January of this year.”

“Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I asked.

He smiled again. “I do not kid.”

Logic board or no logic board, it sure didn’t take any logic to know that this was the end of the line. No use having it fixed when I could get a new computer for a couple of C-notes more. I waited for my computer to be returned.

You know when you watch something develop and know it probably isn’t going to end well? This is the start of a trainwreck.

The cheery woman looked for my broken computer in a line of cabinets behind her. Peering in one cabinet after another, she repeated this five times. She was on her knees and seemed to bow at each cabinet (perhaps a prayer of uncertainty?).

Exasperated, she exited through a side door to the back, came out a few minutes later and continued to look in the cabinets again. It was quite remarkable.

We were fifteen minutes into the Easter egg hunt, and so far, no egg. I thought Godot would appear before my computer would, so I decided to wait outside.

A few minutes later, she emerged, smiling. “Here you go.” The computer sure was beautiful… but so’s Marilyn Monroe, and she’s dead too.

I decided to call Apple and see if they would take my MacBook a for a trade-in and maybe knock a hundred or so off a new computer. Steve Apple is a good guy, said our president, so maybe they would cut me a break.

When the Apple guy came on the line, he said there was nothing they could do with any type of trade-in, then suggested I try eBay. Just as I was about to hang up, he said, “I suppose you didn’t know you have AppleCare Plus, or you wouldn’t have called me? It runs through next year.”

My mouth dropped.

“Yeah,” he said. “Just send it in and we will fix it for no charge.”

“But the Melrose Hack said it expired this year,” I said.

“Tell them to pay more attention,” he told me. “It’s not that hard.”

Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” crawled out of the deep recesses of my brain as I headed back to The Hack for round 3.

I pushed my dead computer at the same service guy standing behind the desk. “You said this is out of warranty and Apple says it’s not.”

He looked and shook his head. “Nope, expired this year. Sorry about that.” But before I could respond, he looked up at me, surprised “Yeah, I guess you do have AppleCare until 2021.” He sent the computer to Apple for repair.

In the movie biz, this is what’s called the plot turn. It’s when the music goes, “DA-DA-DA,” and the story turns in another direction. So, DA-DA-DA.

Cheery Woman called about a week later and said my computer was back and ready to be picked up. I headed over singing to myself, “On the road again, ain’t it great to be back on the road again.” Back at the Hack, I walked in and nodded to the guy at the reception desk, who reminded me of Winslow Leach from the Brian De Palma cult favorite, Phantom of the Paradise.

Standing in line behind a nice frustrated guy, I began to chat with Winslow about nothing, really. He seemed like a nice enough guy but he was bummed to be working at The Hack instead of writing his master rock cantata based on Faust. I like to assign lives to people when I stand in line and am bored out of my mind. I flashed from Phantom of the Paradise to another movie, Groundhog Day. I’d been in this line several times before.

AH HA!!!! I realized why it was taking so long: they couldn’t find the computer for the guy in front of me. I waited patiently, looking at the same displayed computers that I had already looked at fifty times. The guy in front of me turned and shrugged. “Been there done that,” I said. He snorted, and turned back to stare into space.

A new customer sauntered in. Winslow instructed her to wait outside in line and then turned to me and said, “You have to go outside too.” He lowered his voice to tell me, “We don’t want too many people in the store.”

As my dad would say, “Hold the phone!”

“But there are no more people in the store,” I said. He shrugged.

Now he’s telling me this? Now? Really? I had been standing in line for twenty minutes and now he asks me to move to the back of line which had formed behind me.

There were no more people in the store than when I’d first entered, clearly a logic board fail for Winslow. This made no sense.

I tried telling my story again, but he cut me off. “You still need to go outside,” he said. I looked at him and asked, “Are you kidding me?” He fidgeted and looked down and said, “I don’t know. This is my first day. I don’t know anything.” Poor shmuck, I thought and then asked for the manager.

This is where the DA-DA-DA happens again and Justin “The Terrible” enters the story. Every good tale needs a villain, and Justin “The Terrible” is our Gene Hackman’s characterization of Lex Luther in Superman II. You know, a goofy kind of bad guy. When Justin “The Terrible” emerged, he looked more annoyed than if I’d interrupted him watching Bachelor in Paradise.

His eyes were glaring before I said a word. I repeated my tale of woe but he was not impressed and showed no sympathy that The Hack had caused the problem in the first place. He didn’t care that their ineptness was going to cost me $1,500 as I sought to sell a perfectly fixable computer for a hundred bucks. I asked if I could just get my computer.

He angrily said that Winslow was right, and I had to go outside. He barked at me, “Go wait outside!”

Taken aback by this order, I asked him for a logical explanation of why I’m being sent out at this point when I wasn’t asked to stand outside when I entered the store twenty minutes earlier. He literally said, “GET OUT OF MY STORE RIGHT NOW!” I had no idea that this was his store, and I’m sure the owners of Melrose Hack didn’t know that, either.

I took a breath and said, “This is a great way to treat a customer.”

“Get out!” he shouted again. I wanted to tell him that Get Out was a pretty good movie, but I thought I might never see my computer again.

As I walked out the door, I turned back and told him, “I’m a writer and I can’t wait to write about this―it’s better than fiction.”

Now, sometimes in this world you see adults regress to their teenage years. And although I didn’t see the synapse misfire in Justin “The Terrible’s” brain, what I can tell you is that he became 14 years old instantaneously. He was not the sweet little boy that Tom Hanks became in the movie BIG, but the total ass bully that can be found on the playground picking on the little kids.

“Oh, you’re a big man, you’re a really big man. I hope that makes you feel like a big man,” he said. The name Biff came to mind from Back To The Future.

Let’s paint the picture. Here’s this 30-something guy, hands on his hips, raising his voice and yelling at me in front of staff and customers, “Oh, you’re big man!” By the way, I had a great retort, but he had me by the balls and I wanted my computer.

I went outside and stood at the back of the line.

In about three nanoseconds and a half, Cheery Woman (who now didn’t look so cheery) came out and told me to come in and get my computer. When I entered the store, everything was exactly the same. Guy was waiting for his computer, Winslow sat at the reception desk and Justin “The Terrible” was staring at a computer. Nothing had changed other than I had been sent outside, I guess so that Justin “The Terrible” could show me that he was the really big man.

The same guy at the service desk handed me my computer and looked at me with sympathy. He knew the story and saw it all happen, but he needed the job so he kept his mouth shut. Computer in hand, I turned to leave. As I passed Justin “The Terrible,” he said, “Big man, you’re a big man."

So, The Hack cost me jack and a hell of a lot of aggravation, plus some dough but, I chalked it up that I got some great material. As Vonnegut wrote, “And so it goes.” I took my computer, mounted my pony, and headed into the sunset to fight another day. So long, Melrose Hack, we shall not meet again.

Power off.

Rocky Lang is a writer living in California.

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