The Wide Angle: Of course I tried turning it off and on again

Published 7:59 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

I’m a sidekick.

That’s about all that I’ve ever been. I’m the kind of guy that runs beside you on the way to a mission that saves the world or at the very least the one who will agree to your idiotic idea. At best, if I’m a leader of anything it’s a ringleader of shenanigans, which is a great album name. So if you are the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly — you’re welcome and can I be an honorary member of the band?

Maybe saving the world is a bit much, especially because I’m talking about computer issues.

We haven’t had a real computer problem down here at the Herald for a while now, but it seems especially well-timed considering the amount of work I had to complete each day over the past few weeks.

Someone or something is looking at my calendar and thought, “hmmmm, he’s sending the next issue of Austin Living to press this day and is also trying to write three stories and that heap of bungled words he calls a column — let’s throw in computer trouble.”

To be fair, I have very little to do with anything computer related in this newsroom. I have just enough knowledge gleaned over the years to be dangerous. It’s usually a 50-50 draw on whether or not I get the problem fixed or complicate it somehow. That gets tilted in the wrong direction when unplugging it and plugging it back in doesn’t work.

Where did this 50-50 knowledge come from, you ask? Well Reader 11, it came after being the sidekick for our company’s Mac expert Lisa.

Lisa is amazing. She could have four computers up in front of her and you still feel like she is working solely with you and she does it so patiently.

When I can’t get a computer to start behaving, which if I’m to be honest with you is most of the time, my first call is to Lisa, and when she heads to a problem it gets fixed.

And she doesn’t even swear, which after so many years I thought that was a critical first step in fixing anything computer related. Seriously, ask our publisher Crystal Miller sometime.

Apparently, one needs to take a rational approach to working with computers rather than hurling threats of bodily harm at the non-functioning piece of … 

As of this writing, Lisa was still working on the problem, and I have every confidence in the world that she will get it resolved as I play the dutiful sidekick that supportively answers the simple questions Lisa asks and pretends I know what she is doing.

It’s been this way long before I’ve known Lisa, however. I’ve never understood how complicated machines work. There was once a time I thought I would start changing my own oil after laying underneath my car at the time with a lighter trying to thaw the starter one very cold winter.

I remember that day “fondly.” I was in college at the time when we suffered a cold snap that my poor 1984 Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme just couldn’t handle. I went out to the garage of my apartment complex, tried to start it and nothing.

I went down to the local garage in Brookings that I took my car to for oil changes and the like, and before they towed it down they suggested I try warming the starter using a lighter.

As I lay on the ridiculously cold cement floor of the garage with my tiny lighter — for an hour — I examined the bottom of the car, spying various things here and there and recognizing that I might indeed be able to change my own oil.

This was bolstered later when the car finally turned over and I was suddenly a mechanic. I stopped back down to my actual mechanic to tell them of my new profession in life after successfully getting my car back up and running. They were, as I suspected, impressed and verified that there probably wasn’t much else I needed to do except maybe drive it around a little longer. Of course, it might have been their way to tell me to take a flying leap with my nonsense.

It didn’t take long to realize that maybe a car is a little more complicated than simply taking a lighter to a starter. Apparently lighters don’t fix everything and you have to actually know what you are doing. That’s probably why my mechanics of the day weren’t overly concerned with losing business.

Just like Lisa though, they were always very patient with me. The other day I joked about  her patience — as I usually do — and her response was at least I’m a starting point.

A starting point for what I don’t know, but when you’re a ringleader for shenanigans anything is possible.