Jared D.'s time at the hardware store's paint department was mostly uneventful. At 16 years old, he worked over the summer to make some extra money before starting his sophomore year of high school. Day in, day out he'd guide customers to rollers, brushes, primers, tapes, and sponges. It wasn't as boring, though, when he got to use the paint machine.

The paint machine was pretty awesome — a customer would bring up a paint swatch, Jared would key in the color, and the machine would mix the appropriate amount of each primary and secondary color, producing something that matched the swatch. Even better, shortly after Jared started, a second system was added — one with an optical sensor that could find the closest paint match to any physical object. He'd then take its output and key it in to the paint machine. One side effect of the new system, though, was that it would crash somewhat frequently. And when it did, there was only one guy who could fix it: The Sage.

The Sage, also known as the Senior Paint Specialist, had been with the store for years. He was a 70 year old man with an ash-gray beard, white hair, tired eyes, and a raspy voice. He was always happy to help, but the staff tried to bother him as little as possible.

Since the Sage was off for a few days, Jared had to do things the old way — going through swatch booklets and finding the appropriate swatch manually. The scanner and the mixer were two separate systems, so he was at least still able to mix the paint. Still, after having the convenience and speed of the scanner, it was a pain to go back to the old method.

The system was down until the next time Jared and The Sage had an overlapping shift. "Jared," he said in a tone that was gruff but not unfriendly, "they say you're good with computers. I think I can fix it myself, but I might need a hand with this."

The Sage traced the manual with his finger, finding the exact instructions to fix the machine. Jared watched as The Sage's fingers twisted into the command necessary to key it in; except he wasn't typing, he was holding down each key that he pressed. Like a game of twister, he reached the point that he couldn't reach the remaining keys after about eight keystrokes.

Wow, that's a hell of a command, Jared thought. The Sage turned his head, still holding the keys down. "OK kid, I need your help after all. You need to press down-" he paused and glanced at the documentation, "the plus sign, the 'D' key, the 'E' key, and the 'L' key."

Jared eyed the keyboard — The Sage was already on two of the keys he needed. "Can you press the plus again? Is that how you do it?"

"Oh, yeah, I think so. It's been a while since the last time I did this." The Sage's right index finger released and pressed '+' again. Jared just needed the D and E, then the sage could do the rest.

After they finally hit the right combination, they stepped back and watched the monitor. Nothing happened. "Ah shucks. I might have to do something else with this hunk of junk. Thanks anyway, kid!"

Thinking he could still help somehow, Jared asked The Sage if he could read the manual. The Sage handed Jared the book and pointed to the troubleshooting page. "See, it's right here, kid."

The manual read:

If the scanner doesn't read objects or the keyboard doesn't seem to be responding, press the following combination: CTRL+ALT+DEL

Jared explained that it actually meant control alt delete; not some finger-contorting, carpal-tunnel inducing key combination. He restarted the system, and it came back up without any issues.

It was that day that Jared became the new sage.

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