When Franke Lauria said, "Click on the 'My Computer' icon," he says, the customer told him, "I'm a Protestant and I don't believe in icons." "Why don't you click on the little picture called 'My Computer,'" Lauria replied. "Is 'little picture' okay?"
Lauria has worked in computer technical support for nine years. When he gets together with his colleagues, he says, they often complain -- and laugh -- about the antics of users.
Like "the client who sent me an e-mail saying that his e-mail wasn't working," says Lauria. "I e-mailed him back, 'Are you sure?' He wrote again: 'Of course I'm sure. Do you think I'm an idiot?'"
Or the user who was having trouble with his keyboard. He had soaked it for a day in his tub filled with soap and water. Afterward he washed each key separately.
Computer users can in turn have their own problems with technicians. "Alex was the consummate information-technology geek," says Lauria. "But he knew less than he led you to believe he knew. So this programmer walks in one day and says, 'Alex, how's my computer coming along?' Alex says, 'Oh, the hyper-threading on the ISA port is causing an overload on your RAM buffer.' It didn't mean anything. Of course, the user was only confused. After the guy left, I said, 'What the hell was that?' 'They don't know anything,' Alex said. But he didn't know either."
Alex is now a character in the new 35-minute independent film ComputerGuySitcom. Lauria produced and directed the film and plays the main character, Nick, who comes to California from New York and starts his own computer-support business. With a lead-in by stand-up comic Mike Faverman, the film will open in San Diego at the Museum of Photographic Arts' Jacobs Theater on November 7.
"Nick just came from the Bronx," says Lauria. "He is experiencing the fury and intensity that I had when I first got here [also from the Bronx, 15 years ago]. Nick is quick to anger. He doesn't get the cultural difference yet. He thinks people out here are out of their minds."
The cultural difference Lauria has in mind has to do with how quickly people become acquainted and how deeply they get involved with each other. He tells the story of a confrontation he had in his first year in the Navy in San Diego. After a political discussion with some other sailors, Lauria says, "I wrapped up my thought by saying, 'That's only my opinion.' Someone who had not yet been privy to the conversation said from out of the blue, 'Your problem is you're afraid to express yourself.' 'I don't know you from Adam,' I said. Back in New York, there would have been a fight."
By contrast, Lauria recalls running into a buddy and his girlfriend in those early days. Since the couple had already spent a lot of time together, Lauria greeted the girl warmly. "I went to give her a hug," he says, "and she froze like a piece of wood and looked at her boyfriend. He knew it was okay. But I thought, 'Do my underarms stink or what?'"
ComputerGuySitcom tries to shed humorous light on similar issues and those having to do with modems and hard drives. Lauria hopes the film will gain the attention of television producers in Los Angeles. "A limitation we ran into, though, was that we didn't shoot on a formal set. The sitcom sets in L.A. are covered with lights, and they shoot each scene with four cameras. We had one camera and two lights in an office. As a result it looks more like a film than a TV show."
As a novice filmmaker, Lauria says he was amazed at what film editing can do. "If you don't like the lines spoken on set," he says, "you can practically edit them to have the actors say something else."
Lauria has also gained a greater understanding of the ways in which actors can deliver a line. He cites a scene from Seinfeld in which Jerry is dating a girl who has his phone number entered into her speed dial. "If she was mad at him, she'd move him back," explains Lauria. "Jerry says, 'She uses the speed dial as if it were a relationship barometer.' Kramer is at the table reading a newspaper when George asks, 'What is a barometer, anyway?' And Kramer says, 'It's pronounced thermometer.' The scene was hysterical. But if you had only read those lines on a page, it wouldn't have been funny."-- Joe Deegan
Museum of Photographic Arts
Sunday, November 7
1649 El Prado
Info: 619-238-7559 or www.ComputerGuySitcom.tv