Friday, June 19, 2009

How to Get Mad at Your Computer

You know, technology is great, when it works. When it doesn’t work, bad things happen.

Like when you’re peacefully cranking along on your PC, and a pop-up window advertising virus detection takes over your screen and then shuts down your machine. None of the prescribed re-boot sequences work. Your computer is dead and so are you, deadline-wise.

Hackers! One summons images of medieval torture chambers to punish these meddling miscreants.

We’ve been blinded by science, all right, or blind-sided, depending on one’s point of view.

Mr. Tech Manners knows. He had two unpleasant confrontations with technology this week, once in a busy office - and the other alone at home.


Mr. Tech Manners was at the publisher’s office and wanted to print out his latest masterpiece. He entered the common printing room, surrounded by people in cubicles. He laid down the article, pushed the PRINT button, and breathed a brief sigh of relief just before the printer emitted a sickening grinding sound.

He tried to open the printer, using a diagram on it, no doors would open.

He checked the paper bin and it, unbelievably, it had sufficient paper. Then he noticed that the printer had gone into a strange new mode, “SCRU_U” flashing on its status LCD.

Mr. Tech Manners spied the “Printer Service” phone on the wall and lifted it. It was dead. He could feel his temperature rising. He silently counted to ten, but kind of quickly.

Then he remembered the second rule in a time of crisis. Ask the receptionist.

He proceeded warily to the receptionist’s station, but she was gone. Maybe even gone for the day, he thought with a shudder.

Mr. Tech Manners returned to the printing cubicle. He placed a clearly-lettered “Out of Order” sign on the printer, tip-toed out of the building and drove home.


Mr. Technology Manner’s computer at home is narcoleptic. It goes into sleep mode at odd times, and when it drops off to its sweet reveries sometimes it doesn’t want to wake up again.

For anything.

And it seems to fall off to sleep most often as he is about to make a deadline. He wonders sometimes if it can sense his frantic keystrokes as the feared hour approaches.

Like yesterday. The screen just went black. “Not Now!” he shouted. "I haven’t saved the best part!” Mr. Tech Manners tried all the prescribed ways of waking the damn thing up, but nothing.
Now normally, Mr. Tech Manners is a peaceful man, but some things really set him off. Computer problems are one of them.

Mr. Tech Manners eyed his mouse and it began to look suspiciously like a baseball he could throw at pointblank range through the monitor screen. That would hurt it. It would know who’s boss then.

Or yank the laptop out of the dock and throw it through the damn window. Mr. Tech Manners paused for a second, savoring how good it would feel to hear the infernal thing smashing to pieces on the driveway.

The worst thing was that he knew the machine was in total control. He was just an anguished spectator of his pathetic dependence.

He imagined it like an old submarine movie. The hacker captain grabs the microphone on the bridge and barks, “Attention all chips. Our man got an extension on today’s deadline and we are looking at a 7:55 PM shutdown. Is everyone clear on that?” All the chips blink back affirmative. “OK, printer ready for paper jam as our Plan B?” The printer makes a faint beep to signal that it is.

As he was leaving the room to find a blunt instrument to apply to the problem, the screen blinked on again. He carefully stepped back to his chair and sat down. Everything was there. He tentatively began to type. It worked. He finished the article very, very quickly, sent it off, and decided he had had way too much technology for one day.


Mr. Technology Manner’s advice about how to get mad at your computer? In social or business situations, if something goes wrong with your office technology:

Keep your cool

Follow directions

Seek help, and

Be thoughtful of others.

But when you are by yourself, he told me, you are on your own. ”Just do what comes naturally”, he chuckled. “When you’ve tried everything, just go out and chop down a tree or something. It’s better for your mental health.”

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