Practicing Safe ComputingOne day not long ago I switched on my computer and a strange thing happened. Instead of greeting me in its usual happy manner it displayed the blue screen of death. You know, the one in which it’s filled with so many undecipherable error messages it looks like a hexadecimal bulimic purge after a big meal of bits and bytes.
To fix the problem, I took the scientific approach. I turned off the computer, waited about five seconds and then turned it back on. Being highly technical, I’ve found this sometimes works, especially on temperamental PCs. Sure enough, my laptop whirled back to life, proving all was well by taking what seemed like weeks to boot. After all, we are talking about a bloated PC that came bundled with a bunch of unusable software that does nothing but take up space.
Not being one to fall for the old fat-and-happy-PC routine, I immediately started calling around for a qualified computer repair shop until I found a place called The Computer Clinic. As you might imagine, The Computer Clinic employs people who call themselves computer doctors.
The idea of a computer doctor intrigued me. I pictured this 20-year-old UC Berkeley drop-out wearing a white lab coat over a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt, frayed Doc Martens, and thick black-framed glasses, held together by several pieces of strategically-placed duct tape. Instead of a stethoscope, the computer doctor would carry thumb drives loaded with diagnostic programs in one pocket and a stale Twinkie in the other. It seemed sort of pretentious for such individuals to call themselves doctors, but what the heck? My computer was “sick,” so I decided to give this place a try.
HEALTH CARE REFORM FOR ALL MY DEPENDENTS
When I arrived at The Computer Clinic, the receptionist handed me a bunch of forms. “We need your name, e-mail, reason for visit, insurance company…”
That last part threw me. “Excuse me, did you say insurance company?”
“Yes. But that’s only for businesses that insure their office equipment against liability. You know, like water damage, earthquakes, tornados, or 13-year-old hackers employed by Julian Assange. Does that apply to you?”
“Oh,” I chuckled. “No, it doesn’t.” I walked away grinning. For a minute I thought they were expecting me to claim my laptop as a dependent.
Taking a seat in the ultra-modern waiting room, I went to work filling out the paperwork. It was obvious somebody had a grand giggle when they created these forms. I was expected to respond to questions like “Has your computer ever experienced a Trojan horse?” “Does your computer indiscriminately share data with unprotected computers?” And my all time favorite, “What public and private networks has your computer ‘penetrated’ in the last 12 months?” Such inquiries implied that my laptop was capable of sneaking out on Friday nights to cruise the boulevard with wayward iPads. I kept waiting for them to ask if I’ve noticed any liquor missing.
Once completed, I gave the forms and my PC to the receptionist. Judging from the plush leather chairs I knew my brief visit was going to cost big bucks. I went home and tried to resume my writing career on my dad’s old Smith Corona.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA LOLITA
When I returned the next day, the doctor who had treated my computer asked me to step into his office for a private chat. “The problem,” he said in a reprimanding voice, “is that your computer is infected with 13 viruses!”
“Ma’am,” the accusing little snot replied in a low voice, “Are your social media habits getting a little too socially permissive?”
“What are you saying?” I didn’t like where this was going.
“Have you been exploring some questionable tweets?”
“Ew, gross! No, I…”
“Do you know where your thumb drives have been?”
Suddenly, I felt very intimidated (not to mention cheap and sleazy). “Of course I know where they’ve been. You don’t honestly believe that I’d stick my thumbs just anywhere, do you?”
He looked at me askew.
“I mean DRIVES,” I corrected. “I wouldn’t stick my thumb DRIVES in just anyone’s… um… oh holy hell on a hot taco, I use a keyboard protector. Isn’t that enough?” The nerve of this little wiener-neck attacking my Web morals!
“You obviously don’t practice safe computing.” He tossed me a scary-looking leaflet that had a picture of a laptop with a skull and crossbones emblazoned across its screen. “I’m prescribing this vaccine program. It will cure your PC and inoculate it against further infection.”
“I can’t believe this is happening. I always thought I was so careful.” I said, feeling like some tramp who’d accept data from anyone who was willing to put out.
“Times have changed. The days of freewheeling shareware, software swapping, and bootleg programs are over.” He retrieved a Twinkie from his lab coat pocket, unwrapped it, took a bite, and then shook it at me. “What do you think this is, the nineties?”
“Fine,” I said, wondering which of my careless friends had unintentionally sent me a diseased e-mail. “Can I take my computer home now?”
“Yep. Fortunately, there’s a known cure for the viruses your computer contracted. But next time you may not be so lucky,” he said, licking the last of the creamy filling off of his fingers. He extended a sticky hand, which for some strange reason I felt obligated to shake. Then his beeper sounded, causing him to race off to the next crisis, while I stood there looking for something on which to wipe my germy, Twinkie-tainted hand.
Epilogue: I have since dumped my old laptop and got a MacBook. Turns out that PC was a bit of a hussy after all.
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Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.
For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her hilarious book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.com.