A Day in the Life

I have owned a large iMac desk top computer for about six years and love it. A few days ago, an ominous sign briefly appeared on my computer screen with a lot of numbers and then vanished. Then my Microsoft Word program shut down and froze up. Not only was I unable to type anything into Word, I no longer had access to any of my Word files.

No problem, I thought, I would just call Apple Help. I have had good luck with Apple Help in the past. Someone will usually call you back within  a few minutes and they almost always speak with an American accent and know what they are doing. As usual I got a call back from a polite Apple tech woman, who listened to my problem, and to whom I gave permission to screen share. I love the screen share feature. The expert can see everything on your screen and lead you through the process of fixing what is wrong. Usually, my problem is solved effortlessly by the Apple tech person within minutes, and I move on with my day. Not this time. After directing me to try this and then do that to no avail, she checked with a supervisor and informed me that the problem was not a computer problem but a software problem–a Word problem– and since Word is a Microsoft product, not an Apple product, Apple would not be able to help me. I should call Microsoft.

Hey, I can handle that, I told her and immediately called Microsoft. I got a guy who informed me that he knew nothing about Apple computers and that I would have to go back to Apple. He said it could not be a software issue and had to be a computer issue.

Back to Apple Help. This time I got a guy who seemed to want to help me but after a few minutes admitted that if Microsoft could not help, then I would just have to accept that my Word program was permanently frozen and I would permanently lose access to my files. I pointed out that I had many thousand Word files on my computer that would be lost forever. This would likely result in my having a serious mental breakdown. He replied apologetically that nothing could be done.  I would just have to accept it.

Panic time. When I told Embry about my situation, she suggested I take the computer to the Apple store that I usually go to in Bethesda, Maryland, a neighboring suburb of DC. I clicked online to their website and called their number, a local 301 number. The person who answered asked me what state I lived in. When I told him Washington DC, he switched me to another local number, which rang but turned out to be a downtown Apple store, not the Bethesda office I wanted. The person I got this time said that yes, I could bring the computer in, convey it to them for recycling and buy a new one or that they could try to fix it, but probably would not be able to since a Microsoft software product was involved and hung up. I did not want to fight the traffic or try to find parking so I decided to stick with the Bethesda store.

 I called the Bethesda number again. This time a guy with a strong accent answered and asked me which country I was calling from. Which country? I was dialing a local area code number for goodness’ sake. I had no idea which country he was in, but by this time I had had enough and lost it. I screamed at the poor guy on the phone almost breaking down into tears. I explained the situation and told him that if someone could not figure out how to unfreeze my Word files, my whole life was ruined. I would lose several thousand, maybe several hundred thousand Word files dating all the way back to the 1980s when I purchased my first Apple II computer. Certainly, they had to be in the cloud someplace and that certainly someone could help me. He was very patient and after confirming that I lived in the United States in Washington DC. said he would make an appointment for me as I had requested at the Bethesda office—which miraculously he was able to accomplish. I was set for the next day at 10 in the morning.

Now while I like my 27-inch iMac desktop, it must weigh at least forty pounds, maybe even fifty. With great effort, I managed to lift it into a very large suitcase, put it into the back of our car and headed to the Bethesda office where I had a scheduled appointment at the Genius Bar. I staggered into the crowded store lugging the suitcase and checked in with one of the guys wearing an Apple shirt, who was greeting the customers. When asked to explain why I was there, I told him my sad story, to which he responded that I need not waste my time. Apple does not deal with customers who have Microsoft software programs, and that I should instead go to a Microsoft store.  This time I kept my composure. I was committed to seeing this through. Rather than break down in tears or let out a primal scream, I pleaded with him to allow me to see one of the geniuses even though I understood that it seemed to be a problem no one could solve. He reluctantly agreed though warned me again that it was futile. I could, however, leave my broken computer at the store and buy a new one.

After waiting patiently for about 20 minutes at the Genius Bar, I perked up when a tall guy probably in his late 20s and wearing an Apple tee shirt and jeans meandered over and agreed to take a look.

In about five minutes he had figured out what was wrong and in less than ten more minutes, had fixed it. I wanted to give him a bear hug. All that was required was deleting the old Word program and replacing it with an updated version. I celebrated by buying myself a new iPhone 15 (My old one could no longer charge.) and drove home smiling the whole way.

Just another day in the life (of an old codger).


7 thoughts on “A Day in the Life

  1. Joe, thank you for sharing the story. We might think of your narrative as the sample of interesting ways that God’s Spirit invites us to exercise our patience and perseverance muscles. Remember, “Better living through technology!”

  2. In totally unrelated news, researchers report that a record percentage of Americans are not getting enough sleep because they are too stressed.

  3. Great story!
    Only 2 parts do not resonate w me:
    1) you found the person to check in at the Apple store.
    2) you had to wait only 20 min for the “Genius” bar.

    Also, I use Carbon Copy Cloner and keep frequent backups off my entire iMac hard drive on 2 different LaCie external hard drives. Easy, cheap.

  4. Joe,
    We bought our first computer, an Apple, in the mid ‘80’s. It ran on floppy disks. Within minutes of starting the set-up process, I had permanently wiped the instruction disk. To this day I am paranoid about computers.
    I also spent most of a day on the phone with the cable company guy in Bombay telling me the issue was the router, not the modem; and the Net Gear guy in Calcutta telling me the opposite was the case. More hair fell out that day.
    You got off easy.

  5. As I read your post, Joe, I could feel my body tensing up as my computer/ software are about in the same state and vintage as yours. Yikes.

  6. I can testify that this is totally true. None of the usual exagerations to some of Joe’s stories. Sadly, although I was once a computer programmer, I am clueless about helping in these situations. And I do not have a Mac!

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