Just in case President Obama nominates me for a Cabinet position and someone says I haven't given full-disclosure on everything, our son Nathan owns Computer Central in Brazil. On average one computer a day, exempting Christmas and New Years, was brought into Computer Central for repair in 2008. Presumably there would have been two more if the store had been open Christmas and New Year's day.
Of those arriving with "issues," maybe 20 percent had some kind of hardware failure. In talking about them like something alive, we all tend to forget PCs are electric things which just plain wear out like everything else.
The other 80 percent which come in tend to be bleeding from owner inflicted wounds. Mostly this means the poor defenseless computer was taken on a vicious excursion across the Internet, and is suffering from computer lag. These computers almost ways come with an explanation which begins with the words "my child..." or "my grandchild..." The Internet, it should be reported, can be a very evil place indeed for a child or grandchild to travel. There are untold legions of evil doers out there who at very least desire to prove they can destroy your computer, and at most find a way to also steal some of your money.
To repair even the simplest problem, or so I'm told, takes about two days of running scans and updates and a lot of other confusing computer talk stuff. These two days starts when they can get to it, which has meant a delay of up to five days! (Computers do not, in fact, come in one per day; but tend to arrive in Big bunches.) I hasten to point out that I myself know almost nothing about computers; I just compile statistics like the one which began this blog. But, statistically repairs take an absolute minimum of two days and probably averages closer to five. It is this delay which reveals a new epidemic apparently stalking the civilized world -- Computer Withdrawal Syndrome.
CWS (as we professional statisticians call it) reveals itself roughly one hour after the user entrusts their precious "baby" into the hands of an unknown and detached technician. Arriving home they find no way to check e-mail or surf the web, not even to play Solitaire! It would be better if the power were off entirely -- at least a person would have distractions from painful computer vacuum. The first impulse is to call no later than the next morning to see how "she" (occasionally "he") is doing? This is done in spite of being told they will be called as soon as something is known -- told verbally and in writing; and being told no one can get to it for three days.
As my principle "job" at Computer Central is triage -- deflecting things the technicians really shouldn't have to bother with -- and I get some of these "just calling to..." calls. After enough calls you begin to become a little hardened. Left to me I'd probably say something like: "You brought it to us because it had a problem, why can't you give my boy time to fix the darn thing?"
Then it was MY grandchild who had "used" MY computer! Now it was my baby that was sick.
Because of the snow last week I knew Nathan's work had slowed down a bit, and he is my favorite son (at least this week). I therefore left my baby with him. As soon as I got home that day I began to realize how truly addicted I am to these things and how traumatic CWS is. I always thought I used the computer, only to find it was the other way around. It didn't bother me at all to bug Nathan about what was wrong with mine, and how soon could I get it back? Being his favorite daddy (and threatened with telling his mother he didn't love us anymore), we got it back in a record setting two days!
Beware of CWS -- be sensible with your Internet cruising and avoid letting anyone under twenty-one anywhere near it.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.