Yesterday I got a call from a previous client, Caesar, saying he had a friend who needed a computer fixed.. so he hands the phone to his friend. After a few details I ask where I can go to pick it up. His friend says I can pick it up at his workplace.. a hamburger place in Old Town Temecula
So, of course I ask, “Which one?”. He says, “You can’t miss it.. it’s the biggest burger place in Old Town.” Wanting some specific details I ask him two more times and twice more he exclaims, “Oh.. it’s the biggest burger place on the Old Town Strip.. you can’t miss it.”
So I take him at his word and go to Temecula. I go to the biggest burger place in Old Town Temecula (Mad Madeline’s BBQ) and knock on the back door leading into the kitchen. A guy opens the kitchen back-door and I say, “I’m Henry, the Computer Guy.. I’m here to pick up the broken computer.” Now.. this guy looks at me like he has no clue what I’m talking about. And I’m speaking to him in Spanish since I’d heard him speaking Spanish as he opened the door. He asks around and tells me, “Nope, nobody here with a broken computer.” For the moment, let’s call this guy, the Kitchen-Guy.
So I go to the sidewalk and call Caesar, who referred him. No answer. I try calling the number the client gave me so I can find out exactly where he works.. no answer there either. I decide to drive to Caesar’s house since I remember where it is. Get there, nobody home. It’s almost 1pm and I still haven’t eaten so I go to my favorite Chinese place only to find out it’s really gone downhill. I leave with indigestion and decide to try driving to Caesars’ home one more time.
I get there and the wife answers the door. “I’m looking for your husband’s friend, the one with the broken computer.” She says her husband, Caesar, is at work, but she doesn’t know anything about a broken PC. So I go from there to see her husband at Rosa’s Cantina, where he works. I get there and find him right away.
“Hey Caesar.. I’m looking for your friend, the one with the broken computer.”
“Oh.. he’s working at the burger place on 5th street.”, he says.
“I was just there three hours ago and nobody knows anything about it.”, I reply.
“Maybe he went home early, try visiting the house up the street at the end of the block on the right hand side of 5th street. Somebody there might know where to find him.”
So I go to the house up the street from the burger place at the end of the block and knock. Nobody home. Again I try calling the number of the client to find out where I can meet him to pick up his computer. Still no answer. I get back in the car and as I’m driving away I see a guy riding a bicycle up the street towards and past me. Just out of curiosity, I make a U-turn and follow him. Wouldn’t you know it.. he goes right to the house I had just knocked at. I re-park and knock again. The bicycle-guy opens the door.
“Hey, I’m Henry, the Computer Guy.. I’m here for the broken computer.”
“Ohhhh!”, he says as I get my hopes up that I’ve finally tracked down the elusive PC. “Yah, right. You need to talk to my room-mate, Victor. He knows all about it.”
“So where can I find Victor?”, I ask.
“Victor is at work right now.”
“And where does Victor work?”, I ask.
He then tells me… .. “Oh, at the big hamburger place down the street. It’s right over there.”
“But I was there earlier today, at Mad Madelines, and nobody knew what I was talking about.”
He says, “No, Victor works at ‘Texas Lils’, right behind the big burger place on the street.”
“You mean Mad Madelines?”
“Right. But behind it, at Texas Lils.”
Okay, as I get back into the car, again, I’m thinking at least now I’m making progress. I go back to the big burger place parking lot and this time I go into Texas Lils and ask the first waitress I see, “Can you tell me where I can find Victor?”.
“He’s over there.”, she says, pointing at the kitchen where I see another Mexican guy working the grill.
I walk up and say, “Hola, Victor.. I’m here for the broken computer.”
He says, “I’m not Victor.. Victor’s in the back.” So he calls for Victor.
Out comes this young kid about 20 years old that I recognize as the bicycle-guy’s room-mate from the house I just left, I had repaired his laptop two years ago. “Victor, I’m here to pick up your computer.”
“Why?”, Victor says, “My computer isn’t broken.”
“But your friend Caesar told me.. anyway, do you know any friend of Caesar’s with a broken PC?”
“Oh..”, he says, “You must be looking for Gerardo.”
“Where can I find him?”, I ask.
“I’ll take you to him, follow me.”
So now.. I’ve really got my hopes up that this bizarre journey is about to end in success. It’s been over four hours I’ve been driving back and forth across Temecula, but now it seems the end is in sight. I follow Victor and guess where he takes me?.. right back to Mad Madelines, where I had first started looking. Victor is talking to this ‘Gerardo’ through a small window into the kitchen but I can’t see who he’s talking to.
“Gerardo!.. the hombre that fixes computers is here to get your computer.”, Victor says. I can’t make out what’s being said after that so I poke my head into the little window to get into the conversation and finally get a look at this ‘Gerardo’ person.
As if none of this seemed surreal up until this point.. this is where it just went off the deep end.. I kid you not, this is what I see when I look through the small window into the kitchen..
I see the same Kitchen-Guy I had first talked to, at the back-door of the kitchen earlier that day.. he is the guy with the broken computer! The Kitchen-Guy is Gerardo.
“You’re the one with the broken computer?!”, I asked.. trying to appear calm and sane as best I could.
“Yah. It’s not working. Something wrong with it.”, he says.
“BUT.. I JUST TALKED TO YOU four hours ago.. remember??!” I’m not sure if I was shouting at this point yet.
“Oh yes.. I remember you.”, he says.
“So.. when I told you back then that I was here to pick up the broken computer.. you said you didn’t know anything about it. What was that all about?”
“I don’t know, but my computer is broken, can you fix it?”, he asks.
I try to calm down and figure at least the last four hours will result in finally picking up the computer. So I re-focused, took a deep breath and said, “Yes.. I can fix it. Do you have it here or is it in your car?”
Now.. I couldn’t believe it. This is the God’s-honest truth. He tells me, “Oh.. I forgot to bring it. It’s not here.”
I wanted to leap right through that window so bad.
“But..”, he says, “I have it at my home.”
I’m thinking, I’ve come this far, I’ll go to his home and pick it up. So I ask him, “Is there someone home so I can go pick it up?”
“Yes.”, he says.
“And what is the address?”
“It’s right over there.”, he says as he points somewhere in the general South-by-South-West vicinity of the planet.
“Well, but I mean.. where is the address? So I can drive over there.”, I ask again.
“Oh.. it’s not far. You just go over there..”, again he points, “..and you will see it, you can’t miss it. It’s my house.”
“And the address is??”, I ask one more time.
“Right over there, you can’t miss it. It’s just on the other side of town, past the big street.”
That’s when I finally gave up. Four and a half hours to find out I should go somewhere in the general direction of the ocean and pull up to a house that I apparently, “..just can’t miss.”. Nope, I’m done.
“Or, you can come back tomorrow.”, he says.
“No.”, was all I could say.
“Because I won’t be driving out here again.”, was all I could say.
I did get his phone number and told him next time I’m in the area I’ll give him a call. Or he could just meet me at a Starbucks some day after he gets off work.
And when he asks me which Starbucks I should meet him at, I’ll just point in a Northernly direction and say, “The one over there.. you can’t miss it.”
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.