When you’re sitting in a chair in Mike’s workshop waiting to have your computer examined, it really feels like you are in the emergency room of a hospital . You can see people sporting pained and anxious expressions, waiting their turn. The current client looks on in anguish as their sacred laptop is opened up before their eyes, its guts on display to be examined and diagnosed. Mike even wears rubber gloves, which serves to maximise the surgical atmosphere.

If the picture being painted here seems too serious, you have to consider just how strong a relationship someone can develop with their machine, as Mike explains: “Laptops are so up close and personal. You’re holding it in your hands, sometimes for 12 hours a day. We’ve become so connected to our devices, especially a laptop. For me it’s a very, very personal thing. People have put time into it, and it’s maybe travelled and it’s got its own stories. I’ve had many, many big name DJs in here with their laptop, and it might be a bit old or beaten up or whatever, but they don’t want to give up on it because it has been around the world with them. The personal aspect is what makes it special; it’s not just a piece of hardware anymore. Some people have different attachments to their laptops because of what they use it for, or because of financial constraints. Sometimes people just want their files and they don’t really care about the device, other times it’s really an ‘Oh god, if I lose this, my life is over!’ moment. That’s how they actually feel.”

ComputerHospital7

And when someone is struck by the catastrophic feeling that their world is ending, they rush to Mike for a diagnosis and, hopefully, life-saving treatment. “This is the computer version of the emergency room.” Says Mike. “Sometimes I have to literally perform triage. I can’t drop one thing if something is going to take an age to do, so I have to be able to assess a problem really quickly and make a fair assessment. I want to give an answer straight away. It definitely feels like a doctor’s waiting room in here when I turn around and say ‘OK, who’s next?’”

One of the main reasons that Mike wants to give people an answer straight away is to help calm them down and allay their fears. “Here, instead of it being an overly clinical operation where you hand your computer over and it goes behind closed doors where all the magic happens, they sit down next to me and I take it apart in front of them.“ Mike explains his routine. “If something is not fixable, we’ll tell costumers honestly, but I ask them to not worry until then.”

ComputerHospital9

Mike is a big believer not only in letting people know as quickly as possible, but also in treating other people how he would expect to be treated himself. It’s a philosophy that informs the way he runs the business and influences every aspect of how the shop operates. He espouses a fair price for fair work. It can have a big effect on people, even families. “I had a case where the son of a family damaged his computer with liquid. The retailers official repair shop quoted €1500 for the repair and a month to fix it. I had it repaired the next day and it only cost €100. Two weeks later the daughter of the family damaged her laptop the same way and I saved that for €100 as well. After that the father came in with a bottle of Jameson Whiskey and gave me this old-style handshake and said he was really proud to meet me.”

It’s not the only time that Mike’s had such an enthusiastic thank you. In fact, it happens with remarkable frequency. “On our website we have this line ‘We offer exceptional service with complimentary hugs’. People often joke that I must be one of the most hugged men in Kreuzberg.”

ComputerHospital5

“I had an artist come in; someone had spilled water over his laptop. He had a film premiere that evening and when he arrived you could see his eyes glazing like he wanted to cry. After about two hours I called him and told him the laptop was fixed. On the laptop was the only final copy of the film that was premiering that evening. He was so thankful. He invited me to the premiere and I was thanked after the film. They even pointed me out in the audience. I got all mad shy!”

Medical doctors might get paid an absolute fortune, but that isn’t what drives them every day. In this way Mike is similar. When asked how it feels to be helping people in the way that he does, Mike’s response sums it up wonderfully. “It’s fucking amazing. Take away the money, take away the bottles of whiskey, take away everything, and just to see the look on their face, smiling and being shocked and awed that it can actually work again, that’s everything. That’s what it’s all about. This is what keeps me happy in my job all these years on.”

ComputerHospital10

More Information at Wolfcare Website
All Images by LOLA