Monthly Archives: July 2014

Just accept the interruption

A friend of mine has a 20+ year approach to technology’s sometimes mysterious snafus that includes large dollops of worry, outrage, and insistence that the explanation be both forthcoming and parsible in spite of his lack of both techpertise and underlying tech interest. While he was working in an institution with a relatively large and skill nuanced IT staff, disasters like lost connectivity, nonworking passwords (as opposed to forgotten ones), and awkward software updates were handled by his walking away from the situation after placing a phone call for help. However, he’s on his own now and, after a few years of simply ignoring glitches until they became intractable mires, he’s learned to call for troubleshooting help and follow the steps his provider, his equipment vendor, or I (depending on the specific bump) suggest.

However, when the “fix” doesn’t immediately work and yet smooth working order seems to be restored after a (usually brief) lapse of time during which he knows no further adjustments have been made, his demand for law and order sends him into new bouts of need to have the unparsible parsed.

Yesterday I hit upon a successful solution to that post-snafu catastrophyzing. And it startles me completely: I reached into my conversational bag of analogies and went 19th century.

His hardwired internet connection had ceased, although his home wifi was working fine. He had called his provider and worked through their coached steps to no effect. He then called his hardware company’s troubleshooters and worked through the steps provided by that coach, still to no effect. He got mad, abandoned all for a trip to his local, returned and found all in working order. Simply not acceptable! He phoned me to share his arguments about the unnatural order such “self healing technology” suggests.

“Imagine, ” I suggested, “that it’s 1888. You are walking along a country road next to your horse, the two of you just footing along companionably, your hand lightly resting on his harness. Suddenly, he stops abruptly, ¬†jerks his head, and stamps the hoof closest to your own foot, missing it, but giving you a moment’s turn. You let go of the harness and he runs off just a small way, and then parks himself, refusing to budge, even to nibble the apple you offer. You check for fly bites, a sting site, a rock caught between shoe and hoof. Nothing. You eat the apple and by the time you finish it, your pal the horse gives you a nuzzle and is willing to set off along the road with you again. And so you do. “

“The horse is now fine?” my friend asks quietly.

“Yup, and you’ll never know what set him off. And it doesn’t matter. All is in working order, and you even got a snack before you two got home.”

“Got it.”

Well, we’ll see, in the long run. For now, though, it would seem a horse story can address tech anxiety like no tech logic ever has.

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