PC Conspiracy

I had driven over an hour on a rare visit to a client's home on a Friday. Wes opened the door, invited me in and repeatedly apologized for his desperate pleas that I make the long-distance visit. Wes's computer wouldn't boot and he dreaded spending a weekend, or longer, without it.

He led me to his home office, explaining that he had tried to boot his computer a hundred times. It always got stuck at the black screen with an error he didn't understand. I sat at his desk and pressed the computer's power button.

"It better not work for you," Wes joked with an uneasy laugh. He tapped his fingernail against his front teeth, staring at the screen, waiting for me to see the error that had frustrated him.

A moment later the Windows XP logo appeared, followed by an hourglass that soon became a mouse pointer. Wes's mouth hung open. He pointed to the computer and shouted, "NO!"

I stood to leave. "No! Don't you move," Wes said, pointing at me. "I'm not crazy!"

All I could do is shrug. I hadn't called him crazy. The computer functioned fine.

"Marco!" Wes yelled for his housekeeper. I considered saying "Polo," but thought better of it when I saw the anger in Wes's face as he glared at his, happy humming computer.

Marco entered. Wes pulled him by the arm toward the computer. "Tell Geoff this computer hasn't worked for two days!" Marco agreed, reciting Wes's sentence -poor guy, he seemed scared for his job.

I rebooted Wes's computer three times before he reluctantly walked me back to the front door. When the door closed, I think I heard him running to his office for another reboot before my car could get out of the driveway.

Dilemmas like Wes's happen all the time. I see it at least once a week. I show up and a computer problem disappears when I get near the computer. It's nothing I do. It's a cruel mutation of Murphy's Law -where something that can go right goes right at the worst possible time. It infuriates people. They accuse their computers of conspiracy and threaten physical harm to computers that seem to have no problem whatsoever.

I'm a victim of this phenomenon too. On more than one occasion I've sung the noise my car makes while an amused mechanic smiled at me and while my car purred like a kitten a few feet away.

Sure, I assured Wes that I believed him (a ploy to gain safe exit from his home), but am I convinced that he ever had a computer problem? I don't know. Maybe he should have video taped it.

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