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Saturday, March 19, 2011


Right now, San Diego State and Temple are in their second overtime, grinding forward to one or the other being eliminated from the tournament. It's just a wonderful time of the year for anyone who is remotely interested in sports. Or humanity. But, as I've said before, I do have a biased opinion that everyone should enjoy sports at least a bit. But it's probably because I enjoy them a lot.

Earlier this afternoon, I went to a swim workout and was sharing a lane with a gentleman whose comment at the wall to his lanemates was, "I always end up in a lane with all girls." Which was followed nearly immediately by "Don't take it that way, though." Though I did not bother to ask "Which way?," I assumed he intended it as it sounded, as a nine-year-old boy might, to indicate he was grossed out by girls and disappointed to be stuck performing an activity with them. I didn't say that a lot of men might consider his predicament a lucky position to repeatedly find themselves in. And I didn't suggest that he should build a treehouse at one end of the pool allowing him the benefit of a "no girls allowed" sign. I actually moved up a lane, so inspiring was his comment at the time to my own performance ambitions. Thanks, that guy. You had me workin' overtime.

San Diego State won, by the way.

In another moment of "Wow, I never knew that could be so pleasant! Maybe I shouldn't be such a raging cynic and pessimist," this week, I had an incredibly delightful experience receiving assistance from an IT guy by phone. My internet access was missing, and I actually wanted to stay on the phone with the gentleman who was helping me. He was so nice. And it made me think of the anonymity of the whole process. So, I decided I would like to write a fictional scene based on the help desk. And you, my beloved guinea pigs, are my audience.

The Help Desk
It was as pleasant and sunny a day as any Thursday could be when my internet connectivity went away on my laptop. My coffee was delicious, traffic had been light, and now the email checking and world updating that would complete my ease into my work day, and eventual march toward productivity, stalled. The little thingy at the top of my computer screen that looked both like a signal being sent to the world and the seating chart for the Hollywood Bowl would make its best attempts to turn all bands to darkness. But the stripes flashed futilely before they rested in grey and were interrupted in their center by an exclamation point, notifying me no internet connection was available. Exclaiming it, as a matter of fact.

It was too early for exclamations and this kind of excitement. I was trying to have a Thursday be as easy as Sunday morning, Lionel Richie-style. Hello? I've just got to let you know, I wonder where you are...internet.

Was there a nuclear meltdown in Japan? Was Libya still a country? Who had picked whom in the NCAA tournament pool? No way to know with the exclamation point spanning from orchestra seating to row ZZ.
And my boss called. I actually needed to be able to do work that involved my email inbox.

I restarted my computer.
I changed a few settings.
I had no idea what I was doing. It was time to call the help desk.
I navigated the phone tree until a real live person answered.

"Hello, may I have your user i.d.?"
"Can you spell that please?"
"Ok, thank you, please let me repeat that back to you, B as in boy, a as in apple, r as in railroad, t as in toy truck, h as in hat, o as in octopus, l as in love, o as in octopus, m as in mammal, e as in exoskeleton, w as in windshield wiper. Is that correct?"
"Thank you."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Yes, please do."
"It might be several, actually."
"It is the primary job duty of my position to answer questions. Please proceed with comfort in your inquisitive nature."
"Ok, thanks. Is that a standard list of letter distinction words? Or do you get to make them up as you go? And do you ever change things up? And would you have said toy car for t?"
"No no, car starts with c."
"That would be confusing for the person in need of help."
"I guess."
"But no, the example words I used were not the words issued to us in our training manual. Well, some were."
"A as in apple?"
"Yes, and b as in boy."
"Pretty standard,"
"Yes. A while ago I realized my job afforded me the opportunity for creativity, which I missed. So many days I'm following process flowcharts in our manuals. If-then scenarios. It does not leave much room for new ideas. So the letters seemed like one place I could make my job less tedious. "
"Do you ever not repeat?"
"What do you mean?"
"O as in octopus. There were octopi for my name."
"Hm. I hadn't thought about it. But I don't think I do."
"Yes. You would always get more than one octopus. Never an octopus and an otter."
"Well I guess that's nice. Octopi need friends. Someone to swim with. But I guess an otter could swim too."
"Hmm. That's true. But maybe not in the same water as octopi? I don't know."
"Me either."
"How long has L been like that?"
"I don't remember. It's been a while."
"Is L always love?"
"That one made me smile."
"Love will do that."
"It just seems nice to share. Most times people call me feeling very unloved by their computers. So it's like a verbal hug. But still professional."
"I felt it."
"I think this is the first time anyone has confirmed something works without me."
"What do you mean?"
"You did my job. I usually have to give people information before they tell me something is working again. But you've told me L as in love works."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"No, please don't be. I've already helped you before even trying to understand your technical problem. And I never talk about love this much at work."
"Oh, are you in love?"
"Yes, yes I am. But she doesn't know it. It's a woman who lives in my building. She gives her mail such careful consideration every time she takes it from her mailbox. Even junk mail. It is such concentration, such care. I love to watch her get her mail."
"I'm sorry, that must sound creepy."
"No, it sounds like you really like her."
"I do."
"Maybe you should talk to her."
"I can't! I can't."
"I just can't. I am so nervous in person. I can't talk."
"But you're great on the phone. You sound very nice. Very polite."
"Thank you. But it's different in person. I can't. I can't do it."
"Could you practice? Maybe start with 'Hi' and then build up to conversations?"
"No, I really can't talk in person. I sweat. I stutter. I look like a crazy person."
"That's not good."
"No, it's B as in bad."
"Hm. Well, have you thought about sending her a letter?"
"A letter?"
"If she loves her mail, maybe you could just mail her something. Introduce yourself. See if she responds."
"That's not creepy?"
"Well, it probably is a little bit."
"I dunno. Maybe try it. If it doesn't work, follow the other line on the troubleshooting chart. And talk to her."
"I can't."
"I'll write. But what do I say?"
"Just introduce yourself. See if she writes back. Say you enjoy correspondence. And mail. I don't know."
"But don't tell her you watch her."
"No. Not that. Oh, my internet is back."
"Oh! Your problem has fixed itself."
"And maybe yours?"
"M as in maybe."
"M as in maybe. Hey, not to be creepy, but can I call you again for help?"
"Please do."
"I will. I want to know how the letter goes."
"Alright, give me a week."
"Ok. Well, have a good day."
"You too. Thank you for calling the help desk."
"Thank you."

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