Occasionally, I’m asked to help a friend with a computer problem. Or the friend of a friend. Or just random people who come across my blog.
But I don’t mind it. I enjoy working through problems, and I always learn something new.
When I worked at one of the first internet service providers in Seattle, I got to know a guy who had endless problems with his computers. This was back in the days of dial-up internet, and he could not get any of his new Windows 95 computers online.
After trying to walk him through the problems over the phone he asked, “Could I hire you to come to my home and fix all my computers?”
Up until this time, I’d only made one house call, and that was to a woman who was the friend of a friend. I spent more time looking for her home than I did repairing her computer. In fact, I spent so little time at her home that I refused to take any money. I felt good about myself and the service I rendered until I found five twenty dollar bills shoved into my coat pocket a few days later.
I eventually decided I could use the money and told this man I’d be willing to come to his home. He was happy and asked, “What’s your rate?”
What is my rate? I’d never thought of it in those terms. That makes it sound like a job. Computers were more a hobby, and it felt strange to ask people who needed help for money. He could sense my hesitation.
Finally, I told him, “Let’s see if I can fix your problems before I take anything from you.”
He gave me his address and directions to his home on Mercer Island. I’d never been to Mercer Island which is one of the most expensive zip codes in the US. All I knew about Mercer Island was that it was home to Paul Allen, who hung out with Bill Gates before they started Microsoft. A coworker told me that it wasn’t uncommon to see Allen’s helicopter taking off or landing on the island.
That weekend, I left my one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill and drove over Interstate 90 to Mercer Island. The island is flush with vegetation which makes it difficult for outsiders to find their way around. I eventually found the address I was looking for, but all I could see what a giant gate. Where was the house?
I noticed an intercom near the the gate, and was told to pull my car through where I’d be greeted and told where to park my car.
By now, I’m thinking, “What did am getting myself into?” followed by “Why does someone need to show me where to park my car?”
I didn’t have to drive far to realize why I’d need someone to show me where to park because the first thing I noticed was a lineup of red and yellow Ferraris in the driveway. Surely, he didn’t want me to attempt to parallel park my VW Passat between his Italian beauties.
We spent more time talking cars than I did fixing his computers which didn’t need a lot of work. I spent at least four hours at his home. He explained that he was the owner of luxury car dealership in Seattle that focused on collectable autos. He was incredibly kind and accommodated my numerous questions about his cars.
I don’t recall much of that conversation because I was in a giddy daze.
I do recall telling him I knew more about German cars because I’d lived there for a few years. And then he said something that’s stuck with me for nearly fifteen years:
“The Germans make solid machines. But the Italians create passion! Whatever you do in life, do it with passion”
I left his home that night with a check made out for far more than I deserved.
But it was his advice and friendship that night that enriched my life.