Computer issues here in Costa Rica present a “mixed bag” of things we’ll miss and not. Today was definitely a day that fit into the “things we’ll miss” category! We spent $160 and got back not one but two repaired and perfectly working computers as opposed to the non-functioning borderline-crap we took in.
See these pictures?
They might not look like much to the casual eye, but the one of David sitting on the sofa catching up on his email is significant since he’s basically been without a computer for the past several weeks. We think that carrying the laptop in his backpack on our trip to Salt Lake City just resulted in one bump too many and the first time he tried to use it up there the screen was all black with little fringes of light around the corners. Clearly some type of video display problem, but we were clueless about what type of problem or how reasonable it would be to fix it.
We returned from Utah last week and made the trek almost immediately down to our wonderfully funky little Mac repair place in San Jose and demonstrated David’s blank screen. We left it with them with instructions that if it wasn’t too expensive, just to go ahead and repair it, but if it were a major problem to call us first since it’s an old laptop that’s already been repaired several times and hardly worthy of a major investment.
My computer, on the other hand, has worked fine for the nearly 4 years I’ve had it (having had to replace my previous one after our tour bus was broken into on a trip over to Manuel Antonio back in ’07) but early this year the screen started acting funny. I was initially freaked out thinking I had some impending computer meltdown on my hands, but I discovered somewhat bizarrely that if you could put a bit of “pressure” on the screen (like by pulling it slightly forward toward you and putting a bit of tension on it) it would work fine.
But if you have to use one hand to hold the screen in place, that puts a pretty severe crimp in your keyboarding productivity, so I discovered that a nice piece of masking tape stretched from the bottom, up to the top corner of the screen and around to the back would put the necessary tension on the screen and keep it mas-o-menos working.
Now, this method has a number of disadvantages to it, and when we were in Salt Lake City in April, we took the computer to a Macintosh repair place to discuss options. Their bench charge wasn’t too bad (something like $45, pretty close actually to our guys here in San Jose) but that only got you a repair sometime within a week or so. For an additional $75 they could move you to the front of the line, although unfortunately the day I was there inquiring was Friday, so it still would mean being without the computer at least all weekend, and then possibly some future days if they had to order parts.
So, after looking at about $120 just for them to look at it, then probably as much as several hundred more for a new screen (the most likely scenario), it just seemed like too much money to put into a 4 year old computer and I figured I could buy a helluva lot of masking tape for several hundred dollars!
Fast forward. David talked with the repair folks yesterday and discovered that they had, indeed, been able to fix his computer. The specific problem got a bit lost in the translation but the good news was clear enough — the charge was only $60.
We’d shown them my computer last week when we dropped off David’s and asked if it might be possible to bring it down when we picked up David’s and have them actually look at it and see about a repair all within the few hours we would be able to leave it. They agreed, although they did say that their regular minimum charge of ¢22,000 ($44) would go up to $60. We readily agreed and headed to the big city first thing this morning.
Four hours later they called to say it was all set, and with slight apologies said it would have to be $100 total rather than the $60 because they’d had to replace some parts. Aw shucks, if you insist.
So, while we’ve missed having easy accessibility to computer purchases (and the repair place is definitely somewhat of a hassle to have to drive to), we will very much miss having a great home-grown type of repair place where $160 buys you two complete computer repairs. Before they let us leave the shop today, they even disappeared into the back rooms and came back having replaced several of my keys where I’d actually worn the letters off (!) so that the computer not only worked better, it looked better.
The Costa Rican culture of “figure it out, repair, make-do, make parts, make it work” sure comes in handy. Yep, definitely on the “we’ll miss” list.