Throw a drowning man a helpline

Good afternoon, Dear Readers, and after recovering muchly I bring you another tale of woe from the Heckler. I wrote this last Christmas, from the depths of Her Majesty’s Prison ‘Technology’…

I am no nerd (well…alright; I am, a little bit) but even I acknowledge the necessity of the evil that is a modern PC. I can print, e-mail, do most of the basics, and even set one up. I have basic skills. I can use computers as well as most people and better than quite a few. Which is why my father, the Elder Heckler, is such a source of computational anguish.

He has no grasp whatsoever. There are blind nomads in Tibet who regard wheels as suspiciously modern and unproven contrivances but who can nevertheless type faster than he can. I am, in consequence, the household’s expert. This is why I found myself setting up a brand-new PC over the Christmas holidays. At least, they began as holidays. They eventually turned into a kind of Compaq Gulag, where every movement was dictated by, and every moment filled with, adjustments to the new PC. The strength of my feelings is perhaps most clearly conveyed by my DVD choices over the three weeks I was home: Papillon, The Great Escape, The Mackenzie Break, The Shawshank Redemption, Cool Hand Luke, The Green Mile…

Things started off well enough. A brand-new Compaq PC, with Packard printer and Samsung flat screen monitor, was bought and taken home and the packages drooled over by those lost in a sense of newly possessive pride. Then I was left to it.

It took me 40 minutes to set things up. Of those 40 minutes, 25 were spent working out how on earth to connect the speakers. The sockets were hidden, the cable looked like no audio cable I had ever seen before and there wasn’t a whisper about them in any instruction booklet or on any diagram. Eventually, however, all was set and off we went, turning on the power for the first time.

Things went absolutely swimmingly until we actually tried to start doing things. First of all, connecting to the internet. “Dad, do you want an Anytime contract, where you pay a flat fee each month; a Broadband connection, which is far and away the best option; or a Pay As You Go deal, which no one uses anymore because it’s slow, unreliable, and potentially the most expensive of the three?”

Naturally, we paid up and went. So, to go with our new Wanadoo Pay As You Go account, I set up a new e-mail address. Which refused to let anyone but me use it, despite everyone using exactly the same user name and password (“Must be the woman’s touch,” remarked my brother, nastily, after it had refused him access three times in a row and then let me on without a quibble).

This, clearly, was utterly intolerable and so on to the helpline I went. “Roight you be, there, sorr,” came a rolling voice in an accent we might term Comedy Irish. “Now what’s the problem?”

I explained as best I could. “Roight, now let me just log on to your account meself…” Diarmuid said from the other end of the line. There was a longish pause, in which I could hear much tapping of keys, then “Bejazus, sorr, the whole system’s fecked at our end. Hauld onto your underpants a minute…” There was a rising babble of voices, in which the only discernible comment – and I promise you this is absolutely true – was “…it’s spreading disruption faster than a snapped corset…”, then Diarmuid came back on the line. “Roight, sorr, we’re rebooting our system, so you’d best be leaving it till after lunch.”

“By ‘rebooting’ you mean…?” I asked.

“That’s right, sorr, we’re giving it a damn good kicking. But in a technical way. Enjoy your lunch, now, sorr.”

After lunch I discovered that the internet was working as it should and so I started into the mammoth, two-hour downloading of the Norton components we needed. To while away the time I decided to watch a DVD.

Instant problems.

Back to the helpline.

“Let me show you how it doesn’t work,” I said, impressing even myself with my ability to show a DVD down the phone. I held the phone up to the speakers and treated the individual on the other end of the line to the sound of Mr & Mrs Smith played at half speed. “You see the problem?”

“Ah, dis na foine, foine ting,” he said, reaffirming my belief that I was asking IT advice of the Fon of Bafut. “Dis na bery bad DVD driver. But fix ’im in no time, in foif step.”

“Five steps?”

“Dis na way we go. Na firs’ ting, uninstall the CD/DVD drive. Ting two, kill black cock in white chalk circle under new moon in der middle der night. Ting tree, go have big drink an sit dere small time on ’e larse. Ting fo’, paint tower in na dead beef blood down na both way. Ting foif, reinstall na drivers and watch na bad movie.”

The next morning the DVD was working as it should have and all was well until that evening, when the Elder Heckler announced that he wanted to send an e-mail. Two minutes later he was out of the study. “Why can’t I send an e-mail?”

“You can’t?”

“There isn’t even a Send button on the Outlook toolbar. Look, I just want it set up the way it is at work.”

“I don’t know how it’s set up at work.”

“None of your cheek.”

Back to the helpline.

“Roight, sorr, what can I be helping you with this time?”

“I want to set up the computer to electrocute the next person to touch it.”

“Ah, the Brits is it, sorr?” asked my new-found friend.

“Seriously, though, how do I link Wanadoo into Outlook?”

“No problem sorr, let me just learn meself…” There was yet another longish pause, then Diarmuid came back. “My colleague says, draw a white chalk circle…”

So this my year, my only resolution is to leave computing strictly alone. I’m running out of chickens.

Here is your moment of Zen – the second Youtubed Starlingford movie:

(The music playing dimly in the background is Mazzy Star ‘Into Dust’ – a track I can’t recommend highly enough.)

About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
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