In a world of rapidly increasing technology, which I understand about as well as I do the theory of relativity, which states that my youngest relatives, who happen to be my grandchildren, know more about this stuff than I do, there is one question that stands out as the most vexing of all:
How many months of my life have I spent waiting for that little circle on my computer screen to stop spinning?
To get the answer to this and other confounding computer conundrums, I tapped two tech titans, Karen Woodward and Vinny Demasi, who are among the nice, talented and very helpful IT folks where I work.
“The little circle used to be an hourglass, and you had to wait for it to fill up,” Vinny said.
“That’s why it seemed like an hour before I could do anything,” I recalled.
“Now it’s a spinning circle,” Karen said. “If you look at it too long, you’ll get dizzy.”
“I’m that way already,” I told her.
Karen, 63, who has been in the computer field for 19 years, and Vinny, 30, who has been in the business for nine years, work on the Help Desk and have patiently and expertly helped me and countless colleagues with problems ranging from the simple, like signing in, to the complex, which involves rebooting.
“My definition of rebooting,” I said, “is putting your foot through the screen.”
“Then you’d have to pay for a new computer,” Vinny pointed out.
“And,” Karen added, “you’d probably break your foot.”
When I said that computers run the world and that IT workers are the linchpins of our existence, Karen said, “I wish I had put that on my self-evaluation.”
“Break into the system and add it,” I suggested. “I’d do it for you, but I don’t know your password. I can barely remember mine.”
“That,” Vinny said, “is one of the problems we deal with every day.”
There are plenty of others, he continued, like when people call to say that their computer screens are upside down.
“Have you asked if the people are upside down?” I wondered.
“If that were the case,” said Vinny, “I’d go over and take a picture.”
“We get calls for everything,” Karen said. “Your coffee maker doesn’t work? Plug it in. But if your computer is on fire, we can’t help you over the phone.”
“We’d recommend a fire extinguisher,” Vinny said.
“How about marshmallows?” I suggested.
“You could stick them on the end of a ruler,” said Karen.
“Most of the time, it’s not that extreme,” Vinny noted. “The people we deal with are really nice — when they’re not yelling at the computer — and we like helping them.”
It’s true, Vinny acknowledged, that older people such as yours truly aren’t as computer savvy as younger ones.
“I have three grandchildren, ages 5, a year and a half and 1, and they’re more technologically advanced than I am,” I said.
“I have a 1-year-old granddaughter,” Karen said. “I was babysitting her the other day, and my daughter texted me on my phone. All of a sudden I saw this little finger like a toothpick scrolling up. She already knows what to do.”
“My 1-year-old daughter knows how to go on YouTube,” Vinny said. “On my phone, she skips ads in the bottom right corner. She pulls the bottom up to show related videos.”
“Even I didn’t know that,” Karen admitted.
“I didn’t teach her,” said Vinny. “She saw me and my wife doing it. Kids are really smart these days.”
“It’s a good thing there are child labor laws, or they’d be working in IT,” I said.
“And take our jobs,” said Vinny.
“Then,” Karen told me, “you’d have to ask a toddler to show you how to get that little circle on your computer screen to stop spinning.”