I avoid house calls to fix computers. Yes, some big-name computer support companies do service home computers, but ask any independent IT consultant and he'll tell you that fixing a home computer is risky. You'll likely have to fix any future problem that computer may have -for free -because the home user will erroneously see new problems as related to your fix of the first. For some reason, perception of IT work is different (and more accurate) in a business environment.
For two weeks my client, Carl, tried to get me to check his sick, home computer. Each time he tried to pin me down, I stammered, dodged and even touched my finger to my earpiece to feign a phone conversation until I could sneak out of the room -all just to get out of doing a home visit.
Finally, I had exhausted all options except rejecting him flat out -a cruel act to a desperate, broken-computer victim. With a pathetic Carl staring at the floor, his hands in his pockets, I agreed to take a look.
His face lit up and he began to describe the problem. He said the computer wouldn't boot into Windows. For weeks he had pressed the power button and after a cryptic message appeared on the screen, the computer froze every time. He said he unplugged it for a few days to "cool off." He even had one of his technically inclined friends take a look -all with no success.
At the house, Carl was gone, but his eighteen-year-old heavily tattooed, shirtless son led me to the sick computer and pressed the power button -complaining about how much web surfing he was missing.
As the computer started, I wanted to see if the hard drive was spinning so I rested my hand on top of the case with my fingers spread to feel for vibration. The computer booted perfectly into Windows complete with a happy Microsoft chime. We both looked at my hand. I lifted it slowly and after blowing on my fingers said, "I think your computer will be fine now."
All the boy could say was, "Nunt UH!" His wide eyes looked back and forth between my hand and the "healed" computer. I asked if there was anything else I could fix in their home as he led me back to the door -his face still incredulous.
Magical computer healing within my proximity happens frequently and I don't know why. Few things make clients angrier than when their computers behave perfectly while I'm present. I've seen clients curse because their spreadsheet saves without an error while I stand beside them. I've seen a desk get kicked because the monitor won't flicker while I watch. It happens. Computers instigate.
I can only conclude that computers sense operator frustration and are inclined to antagonize. If I can find a way to bottle and sell whatever about me sometimes scares them straight, I just might start a home computer service business -and sell tickets to watch.