I Need Somebody's Help

by Eric Delpozo | 10/12/98 5:00am

Recently I had some trouble with my computer. This was not nearly as shocking as, say, weather. It doesn't matter what kind of computer you have, or how far into debt it forced you to plunge, or how many languages you can swear at it in (for example: "!a ti no me gusta, computador!"). The fact is it's going to give you some trouble sooner or later, and almost always right after you drop it down a flight of stairs, which is what happened to mine.

However, problems with the monster of technology -- i.e. Mothra -- are nothing new. Top anthropologists report that even the most primitive humans had their complaints when it came to newfangled stone tools. "Dammit, Bob," they would say, "what the hell am I going to do with a stone? Why does everything have to be so newfangled these days? And why, on TV, do they always show cavemen dragging women around by the hair? Everybody knows you can get a much better grip on the forearm." Of course, owing to a lack of knowledge of the English language, these statements would usually come out something to the effect of "Ugh," which the other primitive humans would view as a threat and consequently beat the speaker over the head with a newfangled yet beautifully crafted stone tool.

Fortunately for us, technology has advanced since those primitive days. Over the years humans have created a newer and ever-more capable array of stone objects, including but not limited to hatchets, muskets, jet fighters and nuclear warheads, not to mention Director "Oliver," who won an Academy Award for revealing to the American Public shocking new Hard Facts about the JFK assassination, most of which I fail to remember, because I fell asleep during the opening credits.

For years people have been constitutionally obliged to call other people for assistance with their technical misfortunes, to no avail. In fact, the following are the Official Rules, void where prohibited, for becoming a service representative:

a) You must be alive.

b) You must be willing, at a moment's notice, to employ nonsensical technical jargon in the hopes of getting a date.

c) You must be very adept at putting people on hold for no reason, other than the fact that they have an important problem that you don't want to deal with.

d) Your name should really be "Wilbur."

Here is a sample conversation between a mild-mannered housewife and her Apple Computer Technical Representative, taken from our extensive archives:

Housewife: "Hello. I am a housewife, and I have a problem. No, not that I am a housewife. I have a different problem. My computer just sprouted arms, legs and teeth and has threatened to start a revolution."

Wilbur: "My, that does seem a bit problematic, now doesn't it? Please hold."

[30 minutes pass.]

Housewife: "Hello?"

Wilbur: "Oh right, it's you again. Have you tried reinstalling the system software?"

Housewife: "I would have, but your Devil Machine (system 8.1) has got us all held hostage in the kitchen."

Wilbur: "Hmm ... he is not acting like Apple Software at all. Perhaps his floating point co-processor is malfunctioning. Might I add that mine is working just wonderfully."

Housewife: "Would you like to go out sometime?"

As you can see, anyone can be a "technical assistant," and it may just be good for your "social life." That is, what is left of your social life after sitting at a terminal all day and listening to other people's problems. I am surprised that more technical assistants do not call those depression help lines. It would be interesting to see who could keep who on hold longer.

We certainly have come a long way as a race. Or more specifically, as a race with a set of problems that we never find out the answers to. I called a computer technician with some questions regarding my Apple Performa 636, a number obviously used to designate the minimum amount of error messages that the machine is capable of displaying at once. He told me to throw my computer out and buy another one. It would be extremely difficult to make something like this up. And, for the record, it was.

Fear not; in the future we won't have to worry about getting useless advice from corporate representatives, because they are slowly being removed in favor of automated systems. That's right -- soon we will be able to get useless advice directly from computers instead, saving us the hassle of getting the opportunity to ask questions when we need something clarified. It'll be just like attending state college.