Sunday, November 11, 2007
Broken in Many Places
One of the many useful lessons my mother taught me in childhood was to beware of places offering "Canadian and Chinese Food." What you look for is Chinese food alone, she said. If they're offering Canadian and Chinese, they don't really know how to make either. Thus we have not eaten in Smile Restaurant.
This week was marked by a number of situations in which I wished I had such clear instructions. My student M. was admitted to hospital this week with a serious situation that we thought might affect her ability to complete coursework and graduate in December. Thankfully, that has not happened and she is back home now and able to pick up where she left off, having only missed one week of school. At the same time, an enormous, expensive piece of equipment was returned to my workplace after repair, and didn't work. The technicians with whom we have a service contract for this item are in Maryland and Germany. They did not seem concerned because the piece worked when they had it. They kept offering none-too-helpful advice such as, "It sounds like the computer you've got it attached to has a memory problem." In the end it turned out to be two separate problems, one of them a hardware issue with the very piece they had sent us, and our techies diagnosed and fixed both problems, no thanks to the vendor. Thursday night, when both situations were still up in the air, I had the following dream.
My right foot wasn't working properly and I could see the cables poking through the skin, so I called the right-foot technician. He came and looked at it and assured me that, although the problem was manifesting in the foot, it was actually a knock-on effect related to a problem emanating from my leg. He advised me to call the right-leg technician. I called the right-leg technician, but his waiting list was so long that I was referred on to right-side administration. They suggested that the right-foot technician probably should be called back for further testing and consultation, and to re-wire the cables while I waited for the right-leg technician to have an opening. At this point I woke up in a cold sweat.
I have to be grateful I work in a place where the technical staff will work doggedly at fixing a problem until they get it fixed--two and a half days, as it turned out--and where nobody acts as if you're the problem when it's your equipment that dies. "There are only two kinds of computers," one of our IT guys told me: "Those that are broken, and those that are going to break." I never heard this before but when I think back to my lifetime of computer ownership and workplace use, it is literally true. As for my student M., well, next time the cables begin showing through her right foot I will advise her to find a holistic technician who looks at the whole cyborg.