A lonely, dusty white ceiling fan hung down the center of a dismal, nearly abandoned store. It spun lazily. The halogen lamps buzzed and burned brightly casting light on dusty old boxes precariously stacked with antique typewriters to the more modern day computers. Some machines were whole with giant price tags on them, while others were damaged or completely torn to shreds.
A guy dressed in a blue polo in the center of the store rested his elbows atop of the clear glass surface and rubbed his eyes. His badge read Jay, etched in plastic. His fingers combed through disheveled black hair. He sighed and stretched up, forcing himself to look at the older woman standing pensively before him. She had a few gray hairs scattered across her dirty blonde top. Crow’s feet showed outside her hazel eyes and she wore a light yellow collared blouse with tan slacks. A heavy, gray rectangle lay between them.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but there isn’t anything more I can do to help you,” Jay said carefully.
“Do not call me ma’am,” the woman stressed.
“Susan, I apologize,” Jay corrected.
“Sandra!” she shouted in frustration. “My name is Sandra! Are you even listening to me?”
Jay rubbed his eyes close and pinched the bridge of his nose in embarrassment. “Yes, I am,” he said quietly. “I’m so sorry,” he begged. “I just had a new baby and it’s difficult for her to sleep… so that means me too.”
“I’ll gladly wait for someone else then,” she said as she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow. Her sight rested on the door to the back room.
“Sandra, my coverage is coming in three hours,” Jay explained.
“You’re going to make me wait three hours,” her tone laced with fury.
“No,” he explained after a pause. “I don’t think you have to do that.” Sandra craned her head forward as the wrinkles in her forehead intensified. Jay breathed in and exhaled secretly. “Personally,” he began carefully, “I think this program, if installed, should prevent any issues you might be experiencing with your machine.”
“So the answer is pay money to fix this,” she bounced back.
“For security? Yes. If that’s what you want or need.”
Sandra looked down past the rectangular plastic block, twisting her lips. She shook her head after a moment. “I’m being hacked,” she said finally.
“Sandra,” Jay started, but the wired phone next to him blared. Sandra shook her head and rolled her eyes. “The device you own is like a home,” he continued, raising his voice over the ringing.
“And I’m being invaded,” she rushed to interrupt.
“Exactly,” Jay exclaimed, relieved that she finally understood.
“So put money into it,” she asked with a frown. “I don’t follow.”
“It would function the same way if someone had access to your home,” Jay struggled to say as the phone continued to ring. Sandra stared with her lips pursed, glaring at the phone. Jay lunged to his side and ripped the cord out of the phone. “Replace the locks,” he said after a sigh of relief.
Sandra looked at around at the foreign monuments that adorned the space around her. One was a camera that had two flash lenses and a black line underneath it. She swore it smiled it her. She wasn’t keen on returning the smile back. She shook her head. “I don’t see why I should do that.” Every response, Jay took it like a shot to his body in a boxing ring.
“Sandra, this isn’t the only option,” Jay rallied after his shoulders dropped. “Before that, I said you could also keep up to date with software updates. Updates typically improve security.”
Sandra pressed her lips together and shook her head after a moment in silence.
“Is that not okay, Sandra?”
“I watch the news,” she said as she swayed with her arms crossed. “Experts say stay away from software updates.”
“All of them?” Jay asked incredulously.
They locked eyes and stood in silence before she collected her thoughts. “Maybe I’ll just wait for the next person,” she said with steely eyes.
“Sandra,” Jay said patiently, “I can appreciate how important this is to you.”
“Why do you keep saying my name?” she asked, squinting her eyes.
Jay blinked. Did he say it right? “It’s your name,” he said cautiously. “Should I not say it?”
Sandra took an uneasy step back and looked over her shoulder and at the security. cameras above.
“Ma’am,” Jay called out from behind the glass counter. Sandra lowered a warning gaze to Jay.
“How would you like me to proceed with your machine?” Jay said quickly, diverting her attention. “Would you like me to cover the cost of the antivirus program? I can do that if you like.”
Sandra collected herself in her thoughts and shifted her weight on her heels. “What’s the catch?,” she said after a short bit of silence.
“No catch,” he said in return.
Her eyes darted around the store. “You just want to get rid of me,” she finally confessed.
Jay looked around the empty store. “No, I don’t want to do that, but I do see you appear to be afraid to use this computer.
“I am,” she rose her voice. “I am. It’s…” Her voice trailed off.
Jay studied her as her stance changed. She grasped the sides of her elbows and froze. Her eyes distant.
“May I ask you a question,” Jay asked carefully. “What do you need this computer for?”
Sandra’s eyes returned to the conversation. “I don’t. It’s my son’s computer,” she said with a sigh.
“Oh,” Jay said as his shoulders relaxed. “What a relief. So you just want to make sure it’s fine for him?”
“Yes,” she answered hoarsely. Sandra twisted her head as she turned to the entrance. Jay searched for her eyes. Did he see tears?
Jay’s mind raced over the entire conversation. “What did I miss? Did I say something wrong,” he thought. “Do you know if there’s information that’s on here that needs to be saved,” he asked.
“All of it,” she answered as she turned back to him. Her eyes were clear.
“Okay. Do you know if it’s saved?” Silence filled the air. “There are a few ways you can save information. Some are free. Some are paid. Is there anywhere you can contact him to see if there’s something specific he wants to save?”
Sandra cleared her throat. “There was a document he was working on,” she said, holding her elbows and pointing with her nose. “It was a long one.”
“All right. “Do you know where it was or what program he used?”
Sandra tiptoed in. “There,” she answered. “The blue and white icon.” Jay studied her eyes and nodded as he opened the program. She cleared her throat more vocally. “Do you know if there’s a class I can take to know more about this stuff?”
“Yeah,” Jay’s said as he lit up. “There’s lots of places you can go to.
I also teach this stuff part time.”
Sandra nodded weakly.
“Okay, I see it here,” Jay said exuberantly.
“Please be careful,” Sandra exclaimed, standing upright.
Jay saw how tense she was. “I will,” he answered warmly. “Do you know where your son would want to save this to?”
Sandra blinked. “My email. Gmail.”
“Okay,” Jay answered. “Okay I can send this to your email. Do you want to type your email here?”
Sandra nodded as she bit her lips. Her fingers shook as she pecked each key. “I have to finish this,” she whispered to herself.
“All right. It’s sent,” Jay said with a smile.
“Thank-” Sandra’s voice broke. “Thank you,” she corrected herself.
Jay leaned in. “Is that all the information that you care about?”
She nodded again. Her eyes lowered as tears welled up.
Jay reached for her hand on the counter and held it. A stream poured down her face silently.
“Ma’am,” Jay said.
“Don’t call me ma’am!”