Family Helpdesk

If there’s one thing that every person of the technical persuasion fears, it’s the helpdesk call from the family. Mom or Dad are on the phone and they’ve got some sort of virus or they’ve deleted some sort of template or they want to hook a new wireless router up their circa 1983 green bar line printer. They’re infuriating calls and I can understand why everyone dreads them. What’s funny is that I do not get them, and it wasn’t until today that I knew why.

I thought it was because when I was first learning about computers, things didn’t always go 100% smoothly. Well, perhaps I understate things here. Back in the day, I use to break the hell out of every computer in the house. Regularly. I’m better now — honest. Years of depending upon technology entirely for my income has made me a much more sensitive and appreciative user of computers and networks. Some wounds never heal, though. Bringing down the home network twelve hours in to a fourteen hour job that my dad was running, I always though, was one of them. Thus they never call me when they have computer problems.

Maybe they thought I was too busy. Perhaps they just didn’t use computers any more. I didn’t really care. I was happy so long as I wasn’t having to restore a corrupted registry from 1,000 miles away at 8:00 on a Saturday morning. A phone call my mother received during my most recent visit gave me the real reason why they didn’t ask me for help: they get the helpdesk calls from the rest of the family.

My aunt called my mother early on a Saturday afternoon asking for help with her resume. It turns out that she wanted to put something in small caps and didn’t have the foggiest notion of how she might go about that. Mother walked her through the steps over the course of five minutes or so and went on to ask my aunt to email the resume to her so she could look it over. Apparently this was also a process that my mom would have to walk her sister through; she started with asking her to save the document. "How do you do that?"

I had instant and ultimate appreciation for my parents never calling me for computer help. They don’t have to — they already know more than enough to keep themselves running, and they are the helpdesk for a good chunk of the family. So thanks, Mom and Dad, for staying up on things and not giving me any family helpdesk war stories to tell. I’m sure my son will thank you as well when I start bugging him for help twenty years from now because I honestly don’t know how annoying it really must be to get those calls.

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