He was “that customer.”
You know him. The guy who always has a question, always has something going wrong, always needs some kind of extra attention.
He was always in my grill - “Fix my MySpace, I can’t play Mafia Wars, My music won’t play.” Never a please or a thank you. Not rude really, but always there, always insistent.
… and then he wasn’t.
I’d like to say I missed him, but the truth is I didn’t. I didn’t notice he was gone.
… and then he came back.
Standing at the desk one day I looked up and he was there. I kinda laughed under my breath and thought about how I hadn’t seen him in a long time and I approached him to say hello.
“Hey man, how you doin’? Where you been? What’s up?
He did not reply.
“What’s up bud?”
He stammered and motioned toward the desk where he laid down a huge stack of papers and then he began to (try to) speak.
In a choked stuttering sometimes non-existent voice, using the papers for illustration he told me.
He’d had a stroke. He was in the hospital for some time, but he was okay now, slowly recovering. He leafed through doctor’s orders and therapist’s instructions, forms he had filled out, and more forms he hadn’t gotten to yet. The stack was endless.
He told me how he hadn’t always taken very good care of himself and in a halting cautious tone with motions to match he told me how it had been the alcohol and the crack that had caused his stroke.
I don’t know why or how, but my heart reached out to this man and I told him that if I could help him I certainly would and I urged him to continue to do the right things, to go to therapy, to stay clean and to please keep in touch.
Because now I was worried. He wasn’t “that customer” anymore. He was now “my customer.”
As the year progressed James continued to get better. He took advantage of the health care aid for which he was eligible, and any other assistance he could get. (I believe, though I’m not certain he is a Veteran.) and really tried hard to improve himself.
He bought himself a laptop and made me his best friend. I told him to come to my Open Lab and helped him with some setup and a free anti-virus solution. He would stop by from time to time to show some new gadget he was into, a camera, a music recorder, and the tiniest wireless mouse I have ever seen.
We have become, in a manner of speaking friends.
When the hard drive on his laptop went south a few months ago he asked for my assistance. I told him that the computer was still under warranty and he should take it back to have it replaced.
A week later James showed up at the library very agitated, not angry but frustrated, fidgeting. “What’s wrong?” I asked him.
He had gone to find out about returning his computer and was basically told he would have to make a number of phone calls.
Remember, he still has a hard time speaking.
I said: “You want me to call for you don’t you?” with kind of a “‘wassup” look.
He grinned. That was exactly what he wanted. He just didn’t know how to ask.
So I called, and I have to give major props to both the retail store customer service department and the computer manufacturer tech support for working with me to find a way to replace James’ hard drive in a pretty timely fashion. In a little less than 2 weeks his computer was as good as new.
Of course now he was concerned about setup and the antivirus and what were his passwords and...
I told him to use the trial anti-virus software until we were sure the computer was going to be okay and we’d do all that setup then. He was okay with that. But...
He couldn’t remember his passwords. No matter how many times I tried to tell him. No matter how many times I went over actually inputting the numbers he wasn’t getting it. But then finally, he did. I thought.
I stopped to say hello to him on my way to do something with Netter and the girls and he was frustrated once again. I tried to help him, but I was in a rush to be on time and he could tell. He assured me he would figure it out and sent me on my way.
… and then he disappeared again.
After a few weeks I put some other staff on alert and asked them to keep an eye out for “my customer.”
They told me they had seen him, but I still had not.
There he was; Waving his arms at me, silly grin on his face. “Jim. Jim there you are. Jim, I need my AVA, (actually AVG), and I of course thought to myself: “Whew, thank God he is okay.”
So we got him all setup with his antivirus and I took a peak around to make sure his computer was running well and he went on his way.
A co-worker sidled over to me and said: “Are you ever sorry he made you his best friend?”
“No.” I replied. “I feel like I need to do this, to help James. He has come so far and done so much. He’s really trying to do things the right way. I’m just a little part of that, and I’m glad I can help.”
“I know what you mean,” said my co-worker. “I feel like he is ours, like he is our miracle.”
6 hours ago