The scene from Vanilla Sky has always stood out in my mind, where Tom Cruise is yelling at the top of his lungs for Tech Support. It always seemed poignant to me. I rarely yell for Tech Support myself. I've been working with computers since I was 12 (starting with a Commodore Vic20) and have been in the computer field for some 19 odd years. In fact, I dread ever having to talk to Tech Support at all because they ask the stupidest questions ("Is the device powered on?"). I know, I know, they HAVE to ask those questions, because most of the people calling have no clue what they are doing. Can I just have a "press 9 for the Guru" button please.
But for some reason, everyone thinks that because I know so much about computers, that I should be their personal Tech Support to call up whenever they need. Typically, its my wife who has the most problems and I'm often asked to fix the Internet whenever she has a problem. She doesn't understand, nor care that she doesn't understand, that the bulk of the issues are specific to things I can't control. Like someone else's website, internet connection, etc. But she will eventually understand that short of hacking into the Citi website, that I just won't be able to put in better messaging to help her find her way.
A friend of my wife, whom she hasn't spoken to in months called and asked for me. She shot me the jealous eye until she found out that she was calling about a computer problem. As is mostly the case, I couldn't help and she eventually went to Best Buy for help where she had to pay them money, good money. Ultimately, its not about me being an expert, its about me being free.
The most recent incident (the one that sparked this rant) came from my mother-in-law. She came to visit us back over the holidays and was confounded that her AOL didn't look the same on my computer as it did back home. Nevermind the fact that at home she has the AOL application and that she was seeing the website version on mine. That my computer is a Mac had other issues as well, but I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say that I had a very entertaining week.
Over this past weekend she called in a panic and needed my help. I dodged the phone call for hours because I instinctively knew that it would not be something that I could help with, but would be obliged to try. When I could no longer avoid the conversation, I was asked how she could solve her problem of no longer having a forward button on her email. Huh? She did say that she had done something, to some such, and that it might have done it. Ok, so just reverse your steps. Unfortunately for all of us, that wasn't going to happen. I calmly explained that there was nothing that I could do to help and that she should call AOL for support (especially since she was paying them money to do so). I still spent another 15 mins on the phone as she kept asking questions that I had no way of answering. It was at the point that she found herself inside of her Windows Control Panel that I INSISTED that she call AOL before AOL was no longer the problem. Sigh!
But just as I was sitting there being all pissy about the situation, I realized that its not just us computer geeks who get that treatment. My wife being the Chef, is always asked about how to prepare one dish or another. My dad is a carpenter and is always asked advice on how to repair something or advice on how to remodel. So it isn't just me. However I have discovered a way to keep anyone from asking my advice more than once, something that my wife and father can't do.
"So you are having problems with: INSERT PROBLEM HERE (World of Warcraft, AOL, Email, etc.)"
"Ok, hit the Windows button and hit Run. The big button on your bar at the bottom. On the left hand side. Yes, that's it. Ok, now hit Run. In the menu. Yes, that one. Ok, now type cmd. Yes, its supposed to be all black and white. Great! Now type fdisk c:\, yes, just like that. Reboot when it asks. Just press OK, you'll be fine. It's rebooting? Perfect. Ok, your problems are now solved. Have a good day."