the Linux computers we install for disadvantaged kids. Most of the time, it is deeply gratifying and it assures me that I am in the right place within The Universe.
But it ain't all Unicorns, Glitter and Rainbows...
Many of you may remember that I suffered a minor knife wound when an angry and intoxicated uncle cut me for not leaving a computer in his nephew's home. They had a new car, a large screen TV and every family member was doing their best to imitate Mr. T's gold necklace collection. The family may not have had any "conventional" income, but there was a money pipe gushing cash into that house somewhere.
I'll leave it to you to figure out how.
We've run into stuff like this often in our work. Since 2006, I've been stabbed, had guns drawn on me three times, a door slammed on my face, a rock thrown through the back window of my car, I've been bitten by the family pet pig and gang members have demanded I pay them to come into "their" housing project to do my work.
When you work in rough neighborhoods, you expect rough behavior.
But not in the suburbia.
Mom has a tough gig. She is the single mother of twin 6 year old boys exhibiting obvious symptoms of ADHD. On top of that, she has an 11 year old son and a 16 year old daughter doing her best to emulate Paris Hilton.
Mom is herself disabled with a severe back injury and lives on Social Security and a meager child support payment every month. When MHMR contacted us, we of course responded.
I brought the computer into the house while the boys circled around me like twin tornadoes. It was all I could do to get into the home without tripping over one of them and taking them down with me. The mom stood in the kitchen watching the whole thing, seemingly unaware of the possible danger of me dropping a 25 lb piece of hardware on one of her little sweetheart's head.
I sat down at the desk in the living room she had set up for the machine and began hooking it up. One of the little cherubs kicked my heel rhythmically and asked me questions as I worked on my hands and knees under the desk.
"Does that puter have race cars on it? I want race cars. Does that puter have race cars on it?"
The evil twin yelled back.
"No! Dinosaurs. I want Dinosaurs on it. MOM!!!!! Make him put dinosaurs on it?
The first twin started screaming at his brother, demanding race cars. He picked up a boot from behind the front door and chased his brother into the nether-regions of the house. From the sound of it, the boot did find a soft, fleshy target.
The cable guy had been there at 10 AM that morning to hook up Internet for them. We had paid for 90 days of service for them through the Austin Prometheus Project.
After 90 days, they would start paying for it themselves.
I sat at the computer, changing some themes and wallpapers, enjoying the relative quiet of my immediate surroundings. I was just drawing a breath to tell the mom to bring the kids in so I could start showing them how to use the computer when I felt the nasty sting in my back.
"I WANT RACE CARS!"
Those were the words the first twin screamed just before he shot me in the back with a pellet gun.
I jumped up from the chair and turned around as he was trying to cock the pistol again. With one move, I snatched the gun from him and firmly belt-carried him to the living room sofa. I pointed my finger at him and told him firmly.
"If you get up from that couch, I'm going to take the computer away."
With gun in hand, I looked up and over to the kitchen to see if Mom was going to threaten him with time out.
She wasn't there.
I walked down the hallway and stopped at the first open bedroom door. The daughter sat at her mirror applying makeup with a trowel.
"Where's your mom?"
She shrugged without turning around and met my gaze via the mirror.
"Probably taking a nap". She made a pouty lip face and went back to her construction project.
I knocked on the bedroom door at the end of the hallway, guessing it was the master bedroom but no one answered. It was locked when I tried to open the door.
I went back to Madonna's bedroom and told her to watch her brothers while I made a phone call. I called CPS and told them the situation. It was less than 15 minutes before the caseworker arrived. I answered the door, gave her my business card and told her to call me if she needed any more information.
So yeah, our work is gratifying, but there are those days when you wonder how things can become so unbalanced in any given environment.
If anyone wants to start a pool, my bet is that the computer I left will be broken in 3 days from this post.
I'm just sayin'.