We meet Cactus Jack.

Nome frequently chides me over my tendency to bash the competition. She says it is tacky when I talk trash about Gateway, Compaq, Dell and the rest of the “package” computers. She also thinks I should lighten up on computer stores like Fry’s, Comp USA and the rest.

One day a customer overheard Nome chewing me out over a comment I made about Dell’s lack of customer service.

He said, “If you think Paul is bad you should hear “Cactus Jack,” up at Rainbow Computer. Paul can’t hold a candle to “Cactus Jack” when it comes to bad-mouthing the competition”.

Nome decided then and there that we should pay a visit to “Cactus Jack” at our first opportunity so that I could see how unattractive competition bashing really is. “A dose of my own medicine” she called it. The following Saturday we drove up to see “Cactus Jack”

Rainbow is ranch country community off highway 15 south of Temecula. Cactus Jacks computer store was at an unmarked cross roads about a mile east of town. The sign said “RAINBOW  COMPUTER  EMPORIUM -- If I ain’t got it, you don’t need it”. We walked up the steps and across the wooden porch through the door. “Cactus Jack” scowled at us from where he sat behind the cash register.

“What the hell you want, can’t you see I’m eatin my lunch”.

He waved a half empty whiskey bottle at us and belched. He was a short stout man with a drooping salt and pepper mustache and a sweat stained, misshapen cowboy hat. I knew right away that I was going to like him.

Nome whispered, “Be quiet and listen, I’ll do the talking”. 

“Hello Mr. Jack”, she said pleasantly,  “we’ve been computer shopping and want to know how your computers compare”.

Jack squinted at her suspiciously, “compared to what”.

“Well” she hesitated, “how about compared to Gateway Computers”.

Jack rolled his eyes. “Them meadow muffins wrapped in cowhide don’t deserve to be called computers. We call em “Gate Crashers.”

Nome blinked and took a step backwards, “What about Compaq”.

Jack leaned forward and smirked, “Compaq’s you say? I hear the folks at the factory in Texas call em “Comebacks”. They say every one of em gotta comeback to the factory at least three times before they work right”

Nome met his smirk with an innocent smile. “And Dell?” she asked.

Jack snorted “They sure knew what they was doin when they named it to rhyme with Hell. You cain’t even get the case off’n one of them hogs without bustin somthin loose, Then  there’s nothing worth lookin at inside of em anyway”.

Nome continued, “How about IBM and HP?”  Jack stood up and leaned forward across the counter toward Nome. His pale blue eyes barely showed through his squint. “Whar I come from if a man ain't proud enough to go by his rightful name he ain’t considered to be much force. Don’t never trust nobody that goes by initials.”

“Well” said Nome, “the people at Fry’s said” –

Jack interrupted “That second hand junk store. The only thing they know about

is sellin service contracts.”

What about Comp USA?” Asked Nome.

Jack spat into a coffee can on the counter and wiped his mouth with his sleeve “You mean Comp Mexico? Them buzzards is owned by TeleMex. If you want to get a computer at one of their stores you better hurry up. They aint gonna last another year.”

Nome shot a triumphant glance at me. “So I gather that you would recommend we buy a Computer made here at your store.”

Cactus Jack glared at her. “I don’t know why you’d jump to that conclusion. We ain’t no better than anybody else. Here lately I’ve come to think we might be worse than some.” With that Jack belched again and sat down hard in his chair. He was winded.

Nome started backing toward the door. I told her to go ahead and I’d be out as soon as I said goodby to Jack.

I joined Nome in the car a few minutes later and as we pulled out of “Cactus Jack’s” parking lot she said, “what on earth could you possibly want to say to that terrible man”. I looked in the rear view mirror. “Cactus” was standing in his doorway.  “I just had to kneel down and kiss his ring. We were in the presence of greatness”.