Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is This Helping?

Part of what I do as work involves an opportunity to give back to society. I call it my "Ability To Pay" Rate Scale.

Companies get charged the full, going rate. Likewise with people that live in starter castles in Springbank. Home trouble calls get a slightly gentler tally of the bill, based on the perceived expense of the neighborhood and furniture, and if I'm offered a beverage while I'm working. Non-profits get charged a much-under-market rate. Seniors (such as my beloved Nazi-transvestite-senior citizen, Walter) get charged a dignity-saving nominal fee, like $20 and a little, individually-wrapped chocolate from the bowl on the coffee table. Family and friends are encouraged to think kind thoughts or write me more substantially into their will.

Then, every once in a while, I make an exception to The Scale.

On Wednesday, I received a call from gravelly, sounded-like-he'd-smoked-too-much-in-his-life Dave, who claimed he couldn't "see" the Internet. He had recently got the computer from the Drop-in Centre and tried to describe to me what was (or wasn't) happening, but without much success. I quickly summed that I wasn't going to be able to help Dave without a visit. When I told Dave this, he told me he wouldn't be able to pay me right away as he wasn't getting a paycheque "until next week". When he told me where he was living (a run-down apartment in the inner city), I suspected that I was going to be working for free if I went to help him. I was feeling the need to build up some good karma, so I decided to help Dave.

I went to Dave's very-rough-looking place of residence - an uncleaned, cigarette-butt-filled one room rental which contained furniture that imagined (I later had this confimred) had been salvaged from the alley after other tenants had done their worst to them. It was here that I found, on a wobbly Ikea workdesk, his 10 year-old Windows XP box that was (indeed) FUBARed. As I proceeded to reinstall his operating system (about a 2 hour operation), I had a chance to chat with Dave and learned a bit of his history.

  • Dave's trade is painting, and although Calgary is booming he has been unable to hold a job as of late (confirming my suspicion that I might be working for free that day).
  • Dave has the Full Meal Deal with regards to Telus' internet and TV options. He pays $120 a month (about twice what I pay my internet and TV provider) and admitted he was a few months behind in his payments.
  • When Dave signed a 3 year contract for the Telus internet subscription, he had been provided with a brand new laptop. Why then (I asked) was I repairing a 10+ year old XP machine? It seems that shortly after Dave got the laptop, he had a few friends over for drinks a few weeks ago and those friends had brought friends of their own. At some point in the evening Dave went out on the balcony for a smoke, he came back to find that the laptop was no longer sitting happily on the coffee table. One of the guests' guests had taken off with the laptop. He called Telus and asked them to GPS-track it, as he was sure all laptops had that technology built in. When they told him they weren't able to do that, he gave up trying to find it. He hasn't file a police report because the person who took it he suspected was a crackhead and would just trade the laptop for a hit.
  • When Dave originally got his machine from the Drop-in Centre (for free), it worked. When I asked him why it has stopped working, he admitted he had been pretty drunk last night and had "deleted some stuff from the computer," but he couldn't remember what.

So here I was, 3/4 through getting this guy's computer back up and running, which I assumed he would use for some noble task like trying to better himself or find work. Instead, I realized that if I got the computer working and Dave didn't go on a binge tonight and delete critical files again, it would be only a matter of days before one of Dave's drinking buddies noticed he had electronics that worked (besides his 13" TV) and steal it out of his apartment.

I felt like I was wasting my time. Dave had been given things before and didn't have a good track record of taking care of them.

I did end up staying and providing Dave with a working machine. If I am doing good deeds like this, do you, gentle reader, think I should help the next "Dave" that calls, or find a better outlet for my kindness?