The Computer Assistant

This was posted to a Usenet group by <>, who tells a tale from when he was computer-assisting his way through college.

"Welch Hall computer assistant; may I help you?"
"Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
[Instant voice-recognition: I know it's a particularly ditzy blonde French professor with whom I have had prior dealings.]
"What sort of trouble, Dr. B?"
"Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."
"Went away?"
"They disappeared."
"Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"
"It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."
"Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"
"How do I tell?"
[Uh-oh. Well, let's give it a try anyway.]
"Can you see the C:\> prompt on the screen?"
"What's a sea-prompt?"
[Uh-huh, thought so. Let's try a different tack.]
"Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"
"There isn't any cursor: I told you, it won't accept anything I type."
[Ah--at least she knows what a cursor is. Sounds like a hardware problem. I wonder if she's kicked out her monitor's power plug.]
"Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
"What's a monitor?"
"It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"
"I don't know."
"Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?" [sound of rustling and jostling]
[muffled] "Yes, I think so."
"Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."
"Yes, it is."
[Hmm. Well, that's interesting. I doubt she would have accidentally turned it off, and I don't want to send her hunting for the power switch because I don't know what kind of monitor she has and it's bound to have more than one switch on it. Maybe the video cable is loose or something.]
"When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"
"Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."
[rustle rustle]
[muffled] "Okay, here it is."
"Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."
[still muffled] "I can't reach."
"Uh huh. Well, can you see if it is?"
[clear again] "No."
"Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
"Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle--it's because it's dark."
"Yes--the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming in from the window."
"Well, turn on the office light then."
"I can't."
"No? Why not?"
"Because there's a power outage."
"A p--!"

This woman was good friends with my supervisor, who was also a French professor (still is, matter of fact--and in addition, she's now also my wife), so I couldn't deal with her the way I really wanted to, and was forced to explain sweetly and gently to her that computers needed power just like office lights, and if the office lights were out, then the computer was too, and that yes, if she hadn't saved her work she had probably lost everything she'd done so far in WordPerfect. But I could still fantasize:

"A power outage? Aha! Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"
"Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."
"Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from."
"Really? Is it that bad?"
"Yes, I'm afraid it is."
"Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"
"Tell them you're TOO STUPID TO OWN A COMPUTER!"

But that wouldn't have been a very nice thing to do, now would it?

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