My previous family doctor joked that when attending a party he would never tell anyone else exactly what line of work he was in. If he did, the response more often than not would be a listing of various ailments and symptoms, quickly followed by a request for an exact diagnosis. Quite apart from the fact that the act of performing a full examination might have been something of a party killer (or perhaps it could have been a slightly left-field swingers party starter) the last thing that most doctors would want to do after working an 80 hour week is to bump that up to 81 hour week. At the time this party repartee contrasted starkly with mine. When I announced that I worked “in computers” I would typically receive dis-missives: “I don’t do computers”, “they’re over my head”, and most damningly of all, “oh…”.
Then computers and, in particular, use of the internet, started to become commonplace and responses to my IT profession confession morphed, ranging from the urbane, “I’m trying to do a mail merge on Word but it’s printing one address per sheet of paper, what do I do?”, through to the near-confessional, “so how do I make sure that no one else sees my browser history.”
Things have changed again. Computers and technology gadgets are now the modern day equivalent of cerebral car talk: everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, how to do it and how you should be doing it too. Tech talk has now become something of a pissing contest. Years of accumulated experience on the front line now count for nothing compared with someone who has bought a Macbook Pro, and an iPhone, and an iPad, and has managed to get them talking to each other, and has never had any problems whatsoever and, ipso facto, anyone who has had any problems whatsoever in a situation remotely resembling this utopian situation must be a brain-dead idiot.
Except, of course, when macho man (or woman) seriously buggers up their computer. This admission will typically come from a partner’s mouth rather than the horse’s. Subsequent conversation is typically a bad-mannered, chest-puffing, cock-strutting performance with one side happy to bat away all politic suggestions by using near-monosyllables: “tried that”, “didn’t work”, “no good”. What’s really going through the psuedo-wannabe-tech-head is, “we both know that I have screwed up my system royally and beyond help, but because, technically speaking, I do not know my arse from my elbow I intend to compound my problems by combining it with obstinate pigheadedness.”
Never mind. All this assumes is that I want to talk shop during my social life. Which I don’t. Unless I’m being paid by the hour. Show me the money.