That was mid-May. It’s now late July. I still don’t have a laptop.
I have, however, escaped from the crushing grip of ‘paralysis by analysis’ — where our motto is, ‘But they all look the same, and none of them are perfect!‘, also endorsed by used car buyers and picky Jewish mother-in-laws-to-be the world over.
“Personally, I wouldn’t even consider dating a girl, if she wouldn’t let me get elbow-deep in her .ini files. I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.”
From there, I’ve moved on to the next circle of computer-buying hell, which involves seeing the machines in person. I’ve seen all the specs, I’ve compared and contrasted, and I’ve pored over spec sheets until my eyes are red and weepy. And in the end, they do all look the same, and not one of them is ideal for me. The next logical step is to spend some quality time running my fingers over their cases and dabbling in their configurations a bit.
(This is why the majority of arranged marriages and mail-order brides don’t work out so well. How can you possibly choose a compatible life partner without mucking with their drivers or fiddling with their trackball first? Personally, I wouldn’t even consider dating a girl, if she wouldn’t let me get elbow-deep in her .ini files. I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.)
Of course, seeing the machines is not the problem. The rub here is that the computers are, for the most part, displayed in computer stores. Which means that they’re chaperoned, rather aggressively, by that most unpleasant of creatures, the computer salesperson. Now, I’m sure that genuinely friendly, well-groomed, polite, and knowledgeable computer salespeople exist, somewhere in the world. Somewhere out there, leprechauns and unicorns and happy little elves are getting wonderful service from these salespeople. They answer the most obscure and technical questions with ease, they never pressure customers into expensive warranty plans, and they all smell faintly of cinnamon and lilac and grandma’s famous peach crumble.
Yeah, right. And I get Bluetooth reception with my ass.
Meanwhile, here in the real world, the goal is to get rid of these sweat-stained mongoloid trolls as quickly as possible, in order to get a look at the machines on display. It’s their job, of course, to glom onto customers like leisure-suited leeches, sucking and slurping their way over to the most overwrought, ill-conceived, and uber-expensive models available.
‘What’s that, granny? You need a laptop to send emails? Well, you’ll be wanting our TechMaster 9000, then! It’s seven times faster than anything on the market, with nine video cards, a thirty-three inch LCD screen, an internal phone/fax/printer/espresso machine, and dongles for technology we don’t wven know about yet! Yep, that’s the only machine in the whole store that’ll handle this ‘e-mail’ you speak of.‘
Chumps. In the past, I’d simply growl at the staff who’d come bouncing over to ‘help’ me in the computer aisles. That would scare most of them off, but there were unfortunate side effects to the strategy. A few of them would stick around, and snark back. If I growled too menacingly, I might be escorted from the store before I’d seen what I needed to see. One older salesman was apparently turned on by the growling. And I’d often frighten small children in the adjoining video games section. So that’s three ‘bad’ side effects, and one ‘good’ one. Not a great trade-off.
More recently, I’ve decided to have a bit of fun. They’re there to answer questions, right? And they’re slinking over, presumably to offer assistance and technical know-how. So why not put them to the test? Nowadays, I cheerfully greet the lonely, empty souls coming over to sell me hardware I don’t need, and immediately lay into them with technical questions and jargon. I’ve been reading up on this stuff for just a few weeks; you’d presume they’d know more about their own merchandise than me, right? Wrong. More than your average adult orangutan? No. More than a breadbox? Sorry. More than an amoeba? *bzzzzzzt!!*
Of course, asking tough questions will get rid of the first salesmonkey. But soon enough, he’ll be back, chittering away and flinging poo with another, more senior store simian. Stump that one, and they’ll pass you right up the chain, until finally, if the manager can’t comprehend the laptop lingo you’re laying down, they’ll leave you in peace to evaluate your options. They’ll hide behind hard drive boxes and stare at you while you browse, cowering and scampering away if you move in their direction. One intelligent question about 64-bit architecture or FireWire compatibility, and you become their god.
(That’s not a particularly useful group to be deified by, but they do have their uses. The brighter ones can fetch you coffee, or act as a handy doorstop. You can dump the rest in a sack with some packing peanuts, next time you need a beanbag chair.)
I used my strategy on a recent trip to a local computer ‘superstore’, with predictable results:
Sales Weenie #1: Hi there! You look like you’re shopping for a notebook!
Me: Well… sure. Why not?
Sales Weenie #1: Great! You need our TechMaster 9000! It’s got all the latest technology, with lots of-
Me: Say, I’ve got a question.
Sales Weenie #1: Great! How can I help you choose our TechMaster 9000?
Me: Does it come configured with a Core Duo T2500?
Sales Weenie #1: Well, sure it does!
Me: It does, what?
Sales Weenie #1: Come… um, configured.
Me: With a what?
Sales Weenie #1: An, ah, the thing you said. That one.
Me: And what was it I said?
Sales Weenie #1: < blank stare >
Sales Weenie #1: < blink blink >
Me: I can wait all night, you know.
Sales Weenie #1: I’d better get my supervisor. Wait right here.
Sales Weenie #2: Hello, sir. I apologize for Lance; he’s training with us. Just started last week. Now how may I help you today?
Me: I was asking whether your TechMaster comes with a T2500.
Sales Weenie #2: I see. A tee…?
Me: Tee. Twenty-five hundred.
Sales Weenie #2: Tee. Twen…? Is that, like, a mousepad?
Me: Um, no. It’s a CPU model.
Sales Weenie #2: Cee…?
Me: Cee. Pee. You. The processor?
Sales Weenie #2: < empty gape >
Me: In the computer. The central processor?
Sales Weenie #2: < brow furrowing >
Me: The little metal thing that makes magic electric box go vroom?
Sales Weenie #2: Uh-huh. Maybe you should talk to the manager. I’ll be right back.
Sales Weenie #3: Hi, I’m the manager on duty. What can I do for you, sir?
Me: Well, I just wanted to know whether this machine comes with a T2500.
Sales Weenie #3: Well, yes sir. I do believe I read once that it does. Now I’m sure Marty here can answer all of your other–
Me: What’s the L2 cache like on that processor?
Sales Weenie #3: Uh-wha?
Me: The L2 cache. I heard it might be larger on the 2500 model. What’s the size, again?
Sales Weenie #3: Well… um, it couldn’t be any bigger than, I don’t know, a thumbnail, I guess. The machine’s not that big, really.
Me: Riiiiiiight. Except that the cache is usually measured in megabytes.
Sales Weenie #3: Mega-who, now?
Me: Mega. Bytes.
Sales Weenie #3: Um…
Me: The size in megabytes. Of the L2 cache, please.
Sales Weenie #3: Errrk…
Me: For the T2500 Core Duo processor.
Sales Weenie #3: Nggghhhh…
Me: With the 667MHz bus speed and 2.0 GHz core speed, and-
Sales Weenie #3: GAAAAAHHH!!! He’s a witch! A witch!! Run away! Everybody run awayyyy!!
That’s all it takes. I spent the next twenty minutes fiddling in peace with the other computers, until I had the info I wanted. And for the record, the TechMaster 9000 does not come with a T2500. Or any other processor, as far as I can tell. It’s just a cardboard box with a keyboard painted on the bottom and aluminum foil for a screen. Don’t get sucked in by those bastards. They’re out to take your grandma’s money, and she’ll never get that email sent. But at least her ‘laptop’ will run nice and cool. And quiet, too. Just don’t forget that twelve-year extended warranty. Can’t do without that, eh?Permalink | 2 Comments