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Dharma Bytes

Do you know what to do if your laptop crashes thousands of miles from home? Hear one man's desperate search for tech support on the island of Bali.

Dharma Bytes
by Gideon Bosker

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Dear Rudy,

On the third day of vacation in Bali, my lifeline to the world snapped faster than I could say 'giga-byte'. My laptop crashed. No warning. No nothing. So I asked my driver from the Amanusa resort to find an authorized Apple Dealer.

"We don't have many apple orchards here," he said, "But our snake fruit and mangoes are wonderful." I clarified that I was looking for Apple, the computer company, and he was back on the the horn. "There is only one Apple dealer in all of Bali," he said. "It's called Adi's."

"Let's go," I said. "And please, hurry."

We snaked through Denpasar, and there, between a Buddha emporium and a sarong shop, was a sign that read "Adi's Computers." Beneath a thatched roof, 15 men and women were probing blunt, rusting instruments into disemboweled Apple computers, vintage 1985. So here I was in an Indonesian cyber-cemetery for out-of-date computers wondering, "Is Bali the place where my trusty machine will go to a higher Hindu heaven?"

"Anyone here speak English?" I asked, scanning the workshop for assistance.

"Your computer not booting up?" said a young man in halting English. He looked like he had shaved for the first time last week.

"Can you fix it?" I asked desperately. He smiled, took the laptop out of my hands, and began tapping the gunmetal gray shell of my computer with his fingers. For a minute or so, he just kept tapping, in what I interpreted to be the computer repair equivalent of a kick-the-tire test.

"Are you an authorized Apple Dealer?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. Then he put his ear to its surface and listened as would a doctor to his patient's heart.

"Do you know what you're doing?" I inquired.

"Yes," he said and then started unscrewing every nut and bolt in the cover. I felt I was watching a barber perform open-heart surgery. I wondered, is this kid qualified to enter the inner silicon sanctum of a machine that has every essential file I own? Before I could even consider the implications, my laptop already sat eviscerated on his felt-covered workbench, just like all the other lifeless computer corpses strewn around the shop. Then my worst fears. This nice young man, pray to Buddha, began knocking all the circuit boards in my open-faced laptop sandwich with his fingers. He jiggled wires, pried protective plates from the modem and hard-drive, and ruthlessly jammed connections together with his fingers, as I did with Erector sets when I was a kid.

"Hey, aren't you going to test it with some electronic gear?" I blurted with disbelief.

"No," said the authorized Apple repair child. Then, after doing little more than performing random, deep Balinese massage on the vital structures of my laptop, he put the cover back, and flipped the POWER switch. On the screen, there suddenly appeared the smiling Macintosh logo and all the other icons on exactly as I had left them two days earlier before my computer had crashed.

"I don't believe it," I said. "It works. What did you do to fix it?" The kid stared at me, silently.

"You've saved my life. Thank you. What do I owe you? I want to pay you well."

"20,000 rupiah," said the young man, with a twinge of embarrassment. I thought for a moment, and ran the exchange rate in my head. He was asking me for $3.18.

"Here's 50,000 rupiah," I said to the kid with appreciation. "Keep the change and thanks again."


Gideon Bosker, along with Lena Lencek is co-author of "The Beach: The History of Paradise on Earth" (Penguin Viking, 1999). Their next book,for W.W. Norton & Company, is "Wish You Were Here: The Making of Vacation from Antiquity to Modern Times"

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