After recovering my beloved desktop computer yesterday, I was startled, alarmed and dismayed to discover that some of my files were missing from the freshly reconstituted hard drive. While not being exactly renowned for a sunny disposition, the potential loss of eighteen months work, with which I (only yesterday) realized I have a significant emotional attachment and investment, raised my frustration level to Defcon 4.
Today, after working a night shift and waking after a whole five and a half hours of interrupted sleep, I called the nerve centre (or maybe that should be the CPU) of Nerdville to remonstrate with Fazer. Clearly, he had received some data about my problematic interaction with Igor yesterday, and as a result he could not have been more servile and obsequious on the phone. I swear, if it had been possible, he'd have washed my feet for me over the land line (...for some reason that thought seems extremely disturbing...forget i said it...).
Shocked (apparently genuinely) to hear of my plight, he hunted around in their backup files and after a couple of aborted searches during which he tried to convince me that I had got my own telephone number wrong, located my digital pile of missing work, much to my delight and immense relief. With joy in my (several sizes too small) heart, I bounded like a gazelle (two hundred and seventy five pounds of balding, pot-bellied, embittered, curmudgeonly gazelle, to be accurate) to the repair store clutching my trusty USB stick - which, by-the-by, in something smaller than the nail on my pinky finger represents 1300 times more memory than my first desktop computer in the late 90s - and clinging on to hope that this was all actually going to be OK.
I opened the door onto the 1000 square foot premises to be met by a stultifying wall of warm (which was actually the worst part) human body odour, the like of which I have not encountered for many a year. The air was so thick, I was forced to enact a mime of climbing over and around an invisible wall (it was instinctive, I'm sorry), however my expression of disgust and strange contortions seemed entirely lost upon Fazer who came grovelling towards me, wringing his hands and offering his assistance with much humility. Uriah Heap, eat your heart out.
I handed over the USB stick and against my better instincts, followed him into what is euphemistically referred to as 'the workshop' - basically a small room filled with computers in various stages of cannibalization and laptops running programs against a backdrop of brightly-coloured wallpaper photos. Unbelievably, the smell in there was even worse, and, swallowing desperately, I fought against my gag reflex for several minutes while Fazer found my files and transferred them onto the USB. Against all the odds, the paint was managing to cling to the walls and ceiling, however I held out little hope for the more volatile chemicals within the computers themselves...surely the vicious combinations of artificial and human-produced molecules were even now eating their way through vital components, leading to subsequent failures and more work for the dungeon-dwelling geeks.........ahhhhhaaaaaaa....cunning, eh?
All this time, Igor sat quietly on a filthy, broken office chair, fiddling ineffectively with a stripped-down computer case and enthusiastically smelling. As a special treat, today he was sans chapeau, which meant that I was presented at close quarters with an unobstructed view of his pale, wispy-haired pate, gleaming greasily under the flourescent lighting. It was almost too much for my stomach to bear.
Minutes later, having mumbled my thanks through a rolled up handkerchief and a hastily-sourced chemical warfare suit and subsequently escaped this particular form of torture, it set me thinking, as similar experiences in the past have also done. What, I thought, must life have been like in a world before deodorants and anti-perspirants? I suppose it may have been a little like the interior of that store - highly smelly to the point of inducing excess stomach acid.
I suppose everyone must have smelled - I know that I definitely do if I don't use deodorant (and in the summer in particular, I sweat like James Bond tied to a table with a laser heading for his undercarriage), but that rarely happens because I hate the idea of inflicting B.O on other people. I have grown up in a world largely devoid of strong human pong. It's a cultural development, obviously. Clearly I, and millions of others, have become a bit prissy about our natural condition, to the point where the smell of another person is considered repulsive. In a part of the world where the cultural mix is extremely mixed, I frequently notice that Sikhs, in particular, seem to eschew the use of deodorants and such like. Even Sikh women frequently carry around a very strong personal smell that I would ordinarily categorize as body odour - that smell which I first experienced acutely while being taught geography by Mr Ronald 'Armpit' Travers in 1976.
It is, undeniably, an organic, natural smell. I am, equally undeniably, being a bit of a wuss when I complain about it. I don't actually have a problem with a cultural difference which results in some people being - and there's no other way to say this - really very smelly compared to myself, however I'm not sure whether 'Geek' can be properly used as a cultural label.
In this context it strikes me as just another piece of evidence that people who so enthusiastically immerse themselves in one thing - ANY one thing, tend to push away many other norms, traditions and conventions of behaviour...and in this very specific context, if the solar flares one day hit us (which I think is eminently possible and even likely within my lifetime) and knock out the power grid, I wonder - are geeks perhaps unconsciously preparing themselves to be used as landmarks at night; I mean, with all the lights out and the computers silent, at least we'll be able to find them...