DELL, We Hardly Knew Ye' (OKA: Our First Computer)

My family bought its first computer when I was in the third grade. I don't remember the specific reason we decided to take the plunge, but I do remember that we had been wanting to buy one for a long time. A lot of my classmates were slowly purchasing computers and I remember jealously hearing them talk about the wonders of CD-Room games and the internet. Since we had a computer class at school, I also remember my mother telling me that I would be in charge of it, since I knew how to use computers.

[Interlude I: this is one of the very sweet and innocent things about being a first-generation immigrant kid. The only things we did in our “computer class” was play educational games, work on school reports using a weird and overly censored version of Google and Wikipedia, occasionally watch the odd “educational” video, and, once in a blue moon, take standardized tests. I knew how to turn a computer on/off, how to “type” and use the mouse, but other than that I had no experience managing something so crazy and complex. If anyone who is an immigrant is reading this, I am sure they can relate; especially if they are the oldest child. I was—on my occasions—forced into doing so many things: making doctor's appointments, reading the mail, filling out forms, translating (at the hospital, in stores, at school; basically, everywhere and anywhere you could think of), etc., because I was the only one in our family who could. My parents and grandmother didn't speak an ounce of English and whenever something happened, I was the one forced to take charge. I had to explain and analyze everything and then give advice on what to do; on how to move forward. In retrospect I recognize that it was a daunting and scary job, but I am glad I was able to do it. I got good at it pretty quickly (not like I had a choice to begin with, but that's not the point!) and my life definitely improved because of it.]


One day, out of the blue, my mother announced that we were going to spend our Friday evening at “the Best Buy”, and that if the computers looked “nice” and were at a reasonable price we would definitely buy one. I remember her picking me up from school that day, and me yelling with delight when she told me where we were going. I promised then and there that I would be responsible for our new computer and that if anything happened, I would ask my technology teacher how to fix it. With that assurance sealed in the form of a high-five we made our way to “the Best Buy”.

When we got to the store we spent HOURS inside, clicking and tapping every keyboard and mouse we came across and shielding our eyes away from the bright lights. After several arguments, threats that included us going home then and there without anything, and complaints of hunger we FINALLY settled on a big grey monstrosity (it was a DELL desktop) with a black keyboard and mouse. Once we'd made our selection and my mother had made me promise to take good care of it, off we went! Ready to pay for our “extravagant” purchase.

The guys there CLEARLY knew we had no previous experience with technology of any kind and my (poor) mother ended up paying for a bunch of shit we DEFINITELY did not need, but that the store employees were more than happy to sell to us. After our purchase had been finalized, we “hired” someone from Geek Squad to set up the computer for us, and because my mother didn't know how to use freeways and shortcuts very well the Geek Squad guy arrived 15-20 minutes before we did. He had used the highway and we had traveled from the store to our house via streets and predetermined shortcuts she already knew. The ride home took us about 30 minutes and when we got there the guy looked pretty pissed (which is understandable of course).

After a brief apology we went inside our apartment, and he placed the computer on the only surface large enough to accommodate it: our kitchen table. I remember sitting on our sofa, waiting patiently and, on my mother's orders, watching the man like a hawk. If anything happened I was supposed to be the one to catch it and then report back to my mother, who would then force me to translate her angry words as quickly as they came out of her mouth.

Nothing (thank God!) happened, and the Geek Squad Guy installed it in a few minutes. In retrospect it was (obviously) the most BASIC and intuitive thing in the world, but we didn't know that yet. We were happy and mesmerized with our new purchase and hiring someone to scam us out of a couple hundred dollars was completely worth it after seeing our new computer fully installed.

And then came the issue of the internet. I am pretty old, you see, and in those days (I am definitely becoming that person...“back in my day...”), there was a revolutionary thing called AOL Dial-Up Internet. The thing is, we didn't know that we had to pay for internet and in that moment, with the excitement of it all, I had forgotten that a computer is not a computer unless it HAS internet.

(Again, anyways...)

The guy explained to us that AOL offered some sort of bullshit plan that was easy to sign up for (he was “kind” enough to help us set that up as well) and that the only caveat was that we couldn't use our landline (that's right kids, I also had one of those suckers growing up!) while our internet was “ON”. After the setup was completed the Geek Squad Guy left and we were left on our own, both excited and afraid to be in the presence of such a magnificent machine.

The rest is history. My mother and I spent the rest of the evening tentatively browsing the internet and after a quick dinner we went to bed. At school the next day I remember telling anyone that would care to listen that our family had FINALLY gotten a computer and that it was way cooler than the ones we had at school. A lot of my classmates immediately exchanged email addresses with me and for the rest of the school year I spent most of my evenings (after all of my homework was done and I’d eaten lunch/dinner) chatting with friends, playing online games, and getting myself into loads of unintentional trouble.

Nothing has changed much, but I am a little wiser about computers now. I’m definitely not a pro, but at least I’m no longer getting tricked into watching 2 GIRLS ONE CUP with my mother.

Wait what? What did she say?


C. W.