Thursday, December 17, 2009

When a Customer is More Than a Customer

I’ve been in this business a long time. Over the years, customers have come and gone and come back again. I’ve watched your children shed diapers, marry and move off. I’ve seen the good and bad in many of you. I have made many friends and even had one or two customers that I had to fire.

You see, my job involves resolving your computer problems. Frankly, the problem solving business isn’t much fun sometimes. In fact, it occasionally gets so frustrating that I wonder why I ever got into this business. Then there are the bright rays of sunshine that make it all worthwhile. I received one of those rays of sunshine in the form of an email from one of my favorite customers, Helen Quigley, a few days ago. I hope both my readers will bear with me while I dedicate this column to her.

Royce and Helen “Delete Queen” Quigley were born in an era when the most advanced computer was called a “differential analyzer.” This was a mechanical computer the size of a refrigerator that used cogs and gears to compute exciting things such as soil erosion.

The Quigley’s entered adulthood just as the first electronic computer, the top secret Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC), was being used to calculate ballistic firing tables during World War II. ENIAC was 80 feet long, 9 feet tall and consumed enough electricity to power a small skyscraper. It was at least a thousand times faster than the differential analyzer and cost 6 million dollars by today’s standards.

The Quigley’s young adulthood witnessed the rapid evolution of faster, smaller computers so that, eventually, the entire computing power of the ENIAC could fit inside the cramped capsule used by Apollo astronauts. Today, many of us have computers that are millions of times more powerful that fit in the palms of our hand.

All this cool new technology was too expensive, too large or too top secret for the Quigley’s until the early 1990’s. That is when they introduced themselves to me and invested a couple of thousand dollars in their first “inexpensive” home computer. That was the beginning of a relationship that continues to this day.

Helen recently wrote me a very nice letter that simultaneously ruined and made my day. The part that ruined my day was that she and Royce have been waging a war against an evil disease these past couple of years and will soon move away to be closer to one of their children. The ray of sunshine was where she wrote, “Jim, thank you for all the years that you have been my support. It is so good to be able to talk to a person [that speaks English] and not spend hours on the phone trying to unravel my computer. You are a good friend as well as my computer Geek Guru!”

Yes, you read that right. This crazy woman had the audacity to thank ME for being HER computer guy for so many years. How DARE you, Mrs. Quigley! You thank ME? No ma’am, I thank you! I will miss both of you very much but especially you, Helen. If you so much as think of leaving this town without the hug you promised me, I will sick a geek on you.


Rebecca Q said...

My Mom IS a crazy woman. So crazy she makes others feel much more special than she herself feels. Thank you so much for posting this most dear letter on your site. My parents have enjoyed their computers and have even given your advice to many of us. Mom and Dad have answered our questions (us "young" - in the computer age people) about computer problems, ideas, hopes and wants. A good bit of that info came from you. Mom has told me many times how helpful you have been to her and Dad. Thank you again for being almost as thoughtful as my Mom.

Jim Fisher said...

Thank you, Rebecca. I'm glad this article reached you and yours. Happy holidays. - Jim