In the average office kitchen, you may find pronouncements intended to smooth the bumps of the communal experience. Favorite reminders include:
- "Your mother doesn't work here."
- "Clean up your own mess,"
- "Anything left unlabeled in the fridge after 5 pm on Friday will be thrown out. Anything more than one week old will be thrown out. No exceptions!"
And, of course, the classic:
- "If you drink the last of the coffee, MAKE ANOTHER POT. This means YOU. Sincerely, the irate and caffeine-deprived."
True, despite these dire warnings, you will occasionally see people slinking out of the kitchen with the last of the coffee. But, for the most part, people understand a certain amount of upkeep is necessary in any kitchen. As grown-ups, we know that there aren't little magic kitchen faeries (or mothers) to tend to our feedings.While we may be dismayed to discover that our luncheon leftovers were indeed thrown out, we understand that it was our fault for failing to take the ten seconds necessary to write our name on the bag. The rules makes sense: we all know the stench that grows from half-eaten tuna sandwiches.
But for many people, this same level of reasonable participation fails to sink in when it comes to computers. These people harbor the sentiment that computers should be able to do whatever we want, whenever we want, without us having to ever, metaphorically, make another pot of coffee or run the dishwasher. This just isn't so.
Recently, I began volunteering at a small business with precisely one computer. In this situation, I find myself in the unlikely role of computer whizunlikely because, having come from a background working in tech companies with uber geeks, I was always the slow one, viewed, with my lack of a cell phone, as borderline technophobic. Finding myself anointed with expert status simply because I understand how to practice good computer hygiene came as a surprise.
In fact, my understanding of basic computer upkeep and cleaning comes from my time in those tech companies. Periodically, I would receiving messages from the bowels of the tech department, missives such as "Anything left on the E: drive for more than two weeks WILL BE DELETED" and "Do NOT open attachments. They may be viruses. No exceptions!" I learned that it is much, much more pleasant to remove a virus before it takes hold of a computer, much in the same way that it's easier to clean a refrigerator before the potato salad ferments and penicillin mold begins growing on the bread.
Imagine my surprise, then, when working on the communal computer, I discovered that that virus definitions hadn't been updated for over a year. The computer was overrun with spam add-on programs and partially functioning viruses. If it had been a refrigerator and not a computer, it would have gotten to the point that, while it still kept things cold, the rotting smell every time the door opened would just about knock you down. It took me hours of updating virus definitions, running scans, uninstalling useless and spam-oriented programs and updating the software with patches to get the computer back to what I consider clean and reasonable working order.
The computer is now (metaphorically) defrosted, and complete with a nice box of baking soda to handle minor odors - I set the virus software to update the definitions automatically.
The moral of the story is this: computers are tools. If you fail to take reasonable care of them, they will eventually cease to work. Computers, like refrigerators, can't clean themselves. They also can't make coffee. Your mother doesn't work here.