Mars to Earth

Mars to Earth

They say that re-entering earth’s atmosphere from space can be hard. If you come in too quickly, you burn up, like a meteor. The trick is to enter at the correct speed, matching your trajectory with the rotation of the earth — as much as possible. Even then, it’s a balancing act that could result in a ball of fire, and could hardly be described as “easy”. It is similar returning to “normality” after 2 months of living day-to-day in our RV.

Fortunately, we live in a beautiful town and have wonderful friends and family here, so re-entry was something we didn’t dread, like burning to a crisp. That still didn’t make it any easier. I think that the lessons we learned made…

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The Dungeon Master

Gandalf with iphone.jpg

The following story is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I was in the cave, patiently observing as my Lady in Waiting researched a mysterious problem with my Macbook. I was at a "genius" bar, but this was not an official Apple storefront. It was a knock-off. The bar was more of a "Smarty Pants" bar rather than one worthy of Mensa inclusion. I waited patiently, enjoying the spartan design of the cave and the hipster music floating in the air. 

M'Lady continued to search for answers on her company Mac, while I stood on the other side of the bar, feeding her details. Next to me, a new victim approached and asked for help. He held his iPhone out in front of him, like a pet rat that had mysteriously gone motionless. He was obviously in a bad way. 

"One moment, Sir." She greeted him without taking eyes from the screen in front of her. I'll summon Gandalf, he'll know what to do. 

A wisp of smoke mysteriously appeared, and through it stepped "The Wizard". (I'm fairly certain the smoke was generated by The Wizard, but it could have been a laptop burning. I’m not 100% sure). His ragged beard was red like the layers of earthen minerals embedded in a prehistoric mountain cliff. His spectacles were thick, and battle worn with smudges from obvious encounters with dragons and other mythical beasts who spit annoying liquids on your face. His eyes, weary from many late nights as Dungeon Master, or from leading leagues of Legends. This was no amateur. 

"How may I assist, kind sir?" His said with a slightly detectable bow. 

The young man in waiting, his plain blue hoodie unzipped to reveal a plaid shirt, presented his quest, "Um, yah, my phone won't charge very good anymore."

Gandalf's beady eyes narrowed. There was intensity in them. He hath seen this before. 

“Lay it in my hand.” His outstretched palm bore fingernails stained yellow with the remnants of cheese puffs – a common war-time nourishment. The young man laid it upon the wizard's twitching, chubby fingers. 

Gandalf tightened his grip around the phone, and carefully brought it closer to his face for inspection. He turned it over to peer cautiously into the charging port. “As I suspected.” He said confidently.

He lowered the phone and looked unwaveringly into the young man’s eyes. He did not even need to clear his throat. “Fortunately, we offer a special port repair service. It is $29.95 and the work is 100% guaranteed. If for some reason it stops working again, we will service it again at no charge.” He went silent. His gaze did not falter.

The young man contemplated for a moment, then responded, “Well, um, I guess so. How long will it take?” 

As I watched silently on the sidelines, I could understand his concern. The technicians in the back were already overloaded with repairs and the neighboring advisors were quoting other customers “days” for devices they were dropping off. But this was an emergency. This was his iPhone.

Gandalf did not hesitate in his reply, “It should take less than 30 minutes and it can be done immediately.”

Gandalf obviously had some authority with the technicians in back. The young man perked up. “OK, I guess so then. I pretty much need my phone to work.”

“Very well.” Said Gandalf, and he opened the drawer in front of him, at the “Smarty Pants” bar. He rummaged for a few moments then seemed to find what he was searching for. 

“Ah!" He said, while removing the P.R.E.D. (Port Repair and Extraction Device). It looked strikingly familiar to a paper clip. I’m pretty sure it actually was a paper clip. He un-folded the device to extend the point.  

“You never want to try this procedure yourself, at home.” Gandalf warned. “You could destroy my precious…your precious.”

He proceeded to dig and scrape the inside of the power port with the paper, I mean, extraction device. He thumped the bottom of the phone on the counter top a few times and some micro crud fell out. 

“Bingo.” He said, as if he knew he would be successful. He blew some magical clearing breath in to the port for good measure. 

The young man stared in disbelief. I stared in disbelief. Gandalf smiled a gratified smile. “I’ll escort you now to the other counter where you can submit your renumeration.” He led, and the young man followed. I can only assume this fellow was elated that his repair service only took 45 seconds rather than the full 30 minutes Gandalf quoted.

I watched as he reluctantly pulled his wallet from the worn and imprinted back pocket of his jeans. He slowly pulled the barter plastic from the sheath, eyes somewhat lowered in concession, and handed it over. He did not speak. 

“That will be $29.95. Sméagol will finish you off now. Good day sir.” Gandalf motioned to the figure at the collection machine, and bid farewell to the young man while simultaneously beginning his return to the Smarty Bar. Before reaching it, he had already greeted his next target, “How may I assist, kind madam?”

My spellbinding was broken by the exclamation of My Lady in Waiting, “Ah ha! I think I found something. Have you tried to restart your Mac?”.

“Yes, I have.” I said without trying to sound sarcastic. “Please don’t charge me for that."