by Steve Brewer
Scripps Howard News Service
December 10, 2004
This is especially true for those of us who work in home offices. We depend on our computers, but we're out here all alone, far from the assistance of any tech-services department that could bail us out when things get dicey.
We have a tenuous, love-hate relationship with our computers. We love how easy they make some jobs. We love the instant access to information. We love e-mail and that sense of connectedness to the world.
We hate, hate, hate our computers when they go wrong.
Owning a computer is like being married to a felon. They make life exciting at times, but you just know you'll wind up with a broken heart.
They lie to you. ("This download will take 12 minutes ... 47 minutes ... two hours, 36 minutes ... 14 days.") They cheat on you (adware, spyware) and try to dip into your money (spam). They bring home the occasional virus. When you need them most, they lock themselves up and throw away the key.
We try to salvage the relationship. We lose many man-hours (not to mention a lot of hair) attempting to repair our own computers.
We don't really understand how these machines work, so we're afraid to go poking too deeply into their twisted bowels. Our answer to every glitch is to reboot and pray.
When that doesn't work, we inch along through System Restore and various other lifesaving programs, only to end up back where we started - with all our important data frozen inside a block of plastic on our desks.
When all else fails, we call a toll-free number, where we reach a technician who directs us through the very same steps we just tried. Since this technician can't actually see our computers, s/he is simply running through corporate protocols - educated guesses about what might be wrong. In the end, all the customer gets out of this interaction is a bill.
After going through this rigamarole a time or two, home-computer users recognize we're simply lucky whenever our computers function properly, and we don't want to do anything to disturb that.
We treat them so gently, you'd think they were teetering on the corners of our desks, ready to commit suicide. We don't want to do anything unusual that might push them over the edge. We don't want to download anything, ever. We don't even want to perform routine maintenance for fear something will go wrong and we'll end up in that most dreaded place of all - The Frozen Blue Screen of Death.
Since we clearly can't manage our computers ourselves, what we home-office workers need is someone who's always on standby to fix or maintain them - a Household Nerd (trademark registration pending). When a computer acts up, we could call in the nerd, who would correct the problem while we go out to a relaxing three-martini lunch.
We could designate a spare bedroom for the nerd - sort of like a maid's quarters - and arrange for his care and feeding. Pay him a regular allowance. Provide him with his own computer to keep him busy between repairs.
It would be exactly like having a teenager in the house. But unlike the typical smart-aleck teen, the Household Nerd really would have the skills to remedy our computer woes.
And mend our broken hearts.
Redding, Calif., author Steve
Brewer's latest book is called "Boost."