Tech Support

Yesterday I found myself on both ends of tech support, giving and receiving - and in each situation, things just would not do what they were supposed to do, and I could not figure out why.

Over the last five years or so, "explaining the Web to senior citizens" has become a larger part of my job. I'm known for my charm. It is difficult to be charming when one is confined to dialogue like "Are you on the home page? All right, when you go to the Community dropdown menu, go to Class Notes but don't go over to that second dropdown menu that appears on the right. I know that you want the most recent Class Notes page to show at the top of that dropdown menu and that it's at the bottom now, but bear with me a minute. So click on that Class Notes link in the first dropdown menu. Do you get to a page with text that begins "It's a sunny November day . . . ?" Is that the text we've been talking about? Where did it come from?"

And as is often the case, I was unable to solve the problem or answer the essential question. The only way I could save the situation was to haul out Yul Brynner from The King and I: "Is . . . a . . . PUZZLEMENT!"*

My poor colleagues have heard me comment many times that it's a cruel irony that I, an English major, should be in the position of having to explain technology to MIT graduates. But, as one of my volunteers pointed out several years ago, "Robert, we were at MIT before there was a computer science program!"

Not long after, I found myself in my volunteer's place, completely flummoxed as to how to change a P****p***t template or layout or whatever from one custom thingy** to another. These moments - how shall I say this? - they don't bring out my lighter side. But being the supplicant for tech support is an important reminder to me that I need to bring what I can cheerfully and sympathetically when I'm appealed to for assistance.

*"Always leave 'em laughing" is valuable professional advice.

** Thingy: an all-purpose technical term that means the aspect of the device you're working with at the moment that won't do what you want it to do.