On the campy, quirky, absurdly funny "Red Green Show" (It's a PBS comedy with Canadian accents), there's a bit they do called "The Experts". The host says "Welcome to the Expert portion of the show where we explore those 3 words men find so hard to say...I don't know". Geeks of all stripe also have trouble with this phrase. Imagine this scenario. You are at a social gathering sitting around and someone asks you what you do for a living. Now, before I learned my lesson I always used to say "I'm a computer programmer" or "I develop software" or "I work on Websites". Ah ah ah.... mistake. Now I tell them I study the social habits of microbes or something.
You see, the level of frustrations with computers among average folk is generally about 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. This is their opportunity to talk to a real expert - right? They've already spent hours on the phone with some kid just out of high school who finally told them the only way to get their audio driver working was to reinstall. Actually, I think that is in the script for low level tech workers - Paragraph 18, section C states, "If after working with them for 1.5 hours you still have no success, shift the blame to the OS and advise them to reinstall. Inform management immediately so we can change all our support numbers." Anyway, when they find out my occupation the conversation usually goes like this.....
Social Sally: "Oh, you work with computers... I have this problem..."
Mark: "Uh...(sigh) do tell...."
Socail Sally: "Whenever I try to print it says it can't find the printer.... do you know why?" (hopeful look on her otherwise regrettable face)
Mark: (thinking quickly) "Is your printer in the same building?"
Social Sally: "Why... yes of course silly, it's right next to the computer."
Mark: (still thinking of exit strategies) "What's the brand of printer?"
Social Sally: "Well I'm sure I don't know... it's Steely blue, not very tall and it has kind of a flashy light thingy...."
Mark: (think think!!!) "Uh... what's kind of computer is it?"
Social Sally: "Oh... it's uh... tan with a little bird in the corner?" (obviously she thinks her monitor is a computer).
Mark: (Hanging in there but no ideas yet) "Ok... what's the Operating System?"
Social Sally: "Office XP" (you'd be surprised how many people think this is an operating system)
Mark: "Noooo..... Your OS, your operating system, you know... 95, 98, XP, 2000... like that"
Social Sally: "Well... how would I tell?"
Mark: (...has an idea - but it will require penance later) "Ok... I've solved your problem. You are using a steely blue printer with a tan computer. You will either need to paint your computer steely blue... or paint your printer tan - or something close to tan. Keep in mind the color wheel dictates only slight variations. You see the color is important because it's a color printer - right?"
Social Sally: "That's right!! How did you know that... you are amazing...."
Mark: "Well I try... now if you will excuse me I have to go pray for forgiveness and change my phone number."
Now you must realize I'm being facetious. I've never actually lied to someone to get rid of them. However, after many years I've learned to say those 3 little important words that no one wants to hear from a computer expert - I don't know. Here's my new approach.
Social Sally: "I can't seem to print...do you know why?"
Mark: "Ah...I don't know... my advice is to go paperless. Have you heard of 'PDF' files?"
Gregarious Bob: "When I hit control F I get an error - do you know what to do?"
Mark: "Well... no I don't know what to do.... but I'd start with not hitting control F. It's sort of like putting your hand in a hole in the ground. Unless you are sure there isn't something nasty in there - I would refrain."
Mortified Myrtle: "I can't seem to log in to AOL - what's wrong??"
Mark: "I really don't know - perhaps it's time to switch internet providers. " (about 3 years past time actually)
Timid Trevor: "Why does my mouse make the cursor go all over the place?"
Mark: "Hmmm.... I don't know, but there are many excellent keyboard shortcuts that perhaps you haven't thought of..."
It's amazingly powerful to be willing to be ignorant. In fact, I think I'm on to something. What if more people were ignorant? The whole world could keep from pulling out their hair through the use of blissful ignorance. Sure we would forget some things like how to set the VCR clock and how to make a really good soufflé - but wouldn’t it be worth it in the end to see all those handsome heads of hair?