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neurological dryer lint

dirty deeds... and the dunderchief


the face of your dreams of glass

got the sad news that compusa is closing down. i was 15 when i left the movie theater at forest fair to literally "move on up" to the first floor, where the computer superstore sat nestled next to bigg's, beckoning to travelers on 275 that computers weren't such terrifying creatures. but that place meant a lot to me even before i worked there. let me set the stage: fifteen years ago, the average teenager didn't spend hours in front of a computer - in fact, doing so made you a social pariah. we didn't have your "facebooks" or your "instant messaging" or your "DSL", just usenet and trumpet winsock on a 9600 baud modem.

so when compusa opened, i was eleven or twelve, just starting to find my identity as a pc hobbyist - and to walk into a store that made my geek hobby look shiny and classy - i felt at home there. i would frequent the store often over the next few years - usually in their gaming area, where their sega genesis display let me game for free instead of dropping stacks of cash down at the arcade. it's also where i first played wolfenstein 3d and doom, on a fast PC with a sound card. it's where i pwned my first noob in networked multiplayer - a cocky twentysomething in a suit that wasn't pleased about humiliation at the hands of a kid with enormous glasses and a megadeth shirt.

probably my favorite memory, though, is my dad and i at the compusa windows 95 midnight launch - it was a cool 'industry' event, the first time i ever showed up on day one to get something new. look at what you started, dad :)

so it seemed a natural fit for an afterschool job - i got tired of shifts til 2am at the movie theater, anyway. at 15 the only job they could let me have was cashier, but it didn't matter - i was in there, messing with new products, explaining tech stuff to customers, working with good people. strangely most of my co-workers up front were girls from miami - none of them incredibly technical, which i didn't get. why work at a computer store if you weren't a computer geek?

the best coworker i had, though, was an older guy named les, probably in his early fifties - he was a greeter, so he would often sit in the foyer, but when we weren't busy he came in and hung out with us. he was a really nice guy with a great sense of humor - les could make all of us laugh no matter how busy or stressed we were. he talked with us about real stuff, our lives, and always listened and gave good advice. after i left that job i would often stop back in to just talk to les, listen to him tell stories about his son and the goofy stuff he did.

i think les stayed around even after the store moved over to tri-county. i thought i saw him stocking the shelves a few years ago, but i was too busy at the time to stop over and say hey. still kind of regret that.

so after about three or four months as a cashier i asked to move out to the sales floor - there i could spend all my time talking to customers. i really enjoyed making the mysteries of technology make sense to non-technical people - probably why i ended up doing tech support at onenet a few years later, which burned that desire up rather quickly. the other guys on the sales floor were all in their twenties and thirties, and i never felt comfortable in their territory, so a little while later i moved over to the repair department, and i spent the last few months fixing PC's. it seems so long ago, so primitive compared to how things are now, but man, was life simpler over there. sit in a room, listen to WEBN, and install CD-ROM drives and new CPU fans.

i left a year after i started, the summer after i graduated, to work 40-hour-a-week temp jobs for twice the pay... where i learned the difference between work for work's sake and enjoying my job. three weeks into my first assignment at choicecare (now humana), i was falling asleep almost every day when i was supposed to be doing "data entry", and the management wasn't too keen on that, so i got kicked out of there, and the temp place stuck me at a nursing home doing 'electronic filing' (basically creating directories on the single PC in the place and moving files into those directories).

it didn't hold a candle to compusa. the store moved to tri-county a few years later, and then they added a games section to try to compete with best buy and circuit city. i stopped going in there right around that time - microcenter (or pricewatch) had better prices and a better selection, but also i think the place was too different from what i remembered, and it was kind of sad to see it so unlike the geek mecca in which i spent so much of my childhood.


for this post

Blogger scott d Says:

my, how the world has changed, eh?

Blogger B-Call Says:

funny, i felt the same way when Builders Square shut down. only i cut off a piece of my finger there. i bet you didn't almost die at Comp USA, did you?


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