Tech Support


I have become the de facto computer guru in the family.   Did I complete years of specialized training?  Have I spent a lifetime putting together complicated mainframes, or networking computer systems in multinational corporations?   No.  What happened was, my brother asked me, “How do I turn this thing on?” and I replied, “Probably with that button right there.”

I’ll admit, at first it was flattering.  People sought me out, hanging on my every word.  It was great!  Great, until things evolved from casual conversations about batch files and hard drive overlays (I know, that’s old school stuff, but this was the ‘90’s) to full blown tech support marathons on the phone.  And let me tell you, there is probably nothing on this planet more exquisitely frustrating than attempting to walk a computer illiterate through a simple procedure over the phone.

A typical call went like this:

Caller, frantically:  “My computer’s broke!  Help me!”

Me:  “Okay, first click start.”

Caller:  “What?”

Me:  “It’s down there, on the left.”

Caller:  “Wait…I can’t see it…”

Me:  “Bottom left of your screen….”

Caller:  “I can’t…oh, there it is.”

Me:  “Good, now click it and go to programs.”

Caller: “Click what?”

Me:  “Start.  Move your cursor…”

Caller:  “What?”

Me:  “The little arrow.  Move it over there and click it.  With your mouse.”

Caller:  “Click the arrow?”

Me:  “Uh…”  Deep breath. “No, move the arrow, with your mouse, so it rests on the start button.  Then, with that little clicky thing on your mouse, click start.”

Caller: (after a long silence, peppered with intermittent heavy breathing) “Which clicky thing do I click again?”

Family computer experts are why the suicide hotline was invented.

Really…what is it with these things and otherwise intelligent people?  I know folks who can take  car engines apart and put them back together blindfolded, but who will swear to me on the phone that the F8 key doesn’t exist.  I know one guy who could probably MacGyver a wad of chewing gum and a lawn chair into a moped but turns into a blithering idiot at the mere mention of the words “control panel.”

It’s not brain surgery.  Or maybe it is.  Maybe somewhere there’s some poor schlep in an operating room stuck in the middle of a complicated procedure screaming for the phone:  “Get Finkelstein on the line, stat!  I’m lost here!”

And poor Finkelstein, who seconds ago was passed out face first on his keyboard, answers the phone groggily.  He listens for a moment, nods calmly, and says, “Slow down, man.  What we’re going to do is a little thing I like to call an endonasal approach to skull based surgery…”

Now I know formatting a hard drive is way easier than brain surgery.  But so is clicking the start button or opening the control panel, for God’s sake.  Open your minds, people!  Free yourselves!  Read a manual!

I decided to end the frustration of my little family tech service and hire an Indian guy to screen my calls–it was time to outsource.  I had just settled into my sofa for an uninterrupted night of the Science Channel, when my Indian friend, holding his hand discreetly over the mouthpiece of the phone, well, interrupted me.

“Where’s the start button?” he asked.