There is a special place in heaven reserved for those who have dedicated their livelihood to assisting the technologically illiterate. I’ve admitted many times that information technology is the last field I would ever want to get into. Leave me naked in the wilderness and I’ll be surviving calmly, but I’m comically inept when it comes to cellphones, computers, and various facets of new technology. I consider myself a pretty low-stress guy, but the sheer volume of accounts, usernames, and passwords required to function in today’s environment overwhelms me with ease.
I like to think that a hypothetical twenty-first century Jesus would’ve had an entire book written about his mastery of technology and aid to the less-savvy. Instead of helping the disciples rake in fish and turning water into wine, Jesus would breeze into a call center, snatch the headset off a weary-eyed IT rep, and start speaking in technological tongues. You’d hear elation on the other end of the line, and then astonished gasps across the room. “Who is this?” the bewildered callers would marvel, “Even the printers and the laptops obey him!” Not that being tech-savvy is as urgent a need as food and shelter in 2018… but we’re getting there.
My skills in the IT realm are woefully inadequate, which doesn’t pair well with a penchant for forgetting passwords. I log into Facebook via an “sbcglobal” address, an email I haven’t checked since I created it in the ninth grade. I promptly forgot my Apple ID and password the day I got my first smartphone, and so I haven’t gotten a new app in about 4 years. And God forbid I ever accidentally ‘log out’ instead of ‘shut down’ my Mac laptop. It operates on a completely separate account—due to forgetting my first Apple ID—whose password I also don’t know.
Thankfully, I have a wife who works in HR who can shake her head, shake her fist, and then assist her caveman of a husband in time of need. The other day, we decided I was long overdue for a bank account tutorial. Since we got married, we’ve merged accounts and use Taryn’s bank, and I’ve been lazily using the “play to our strengths” card as a cop-out to let Taryn handle all the hard parts of marriage while I happily-but-mindlessly mow the lawn and kill spiders. She was rather dismayed when my computer search history yielded “lava kayaking” but not our local credit union.
“What? I wanted to see if that was a real thing!” For the record, it is.
Because I work for the State of Michigan, protocol is a huge part of my life now. There’s a specific way to approach every task, and a particular method for documenting every aspect of everything I do. It gets tedious and frustrating at times, which has led to numerous calls to the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. Three things I am terrible at.
Often times, I think the IT gurus at the DTMB find my calls refreshing. Cute, even. The solution to my expense reports not being “submittable” was simply because I forgot to press the “calculate expenses” button. On several occasions, I simply needed a tech admin to allow me to reset passwords. A guy in his first week on the job talked me through the process of setting up a printer. Mundane fixes. The IT-equivalent of helping Grandma reach the Raisin Bran on the top shelf in the cupboard. It’s a piece of cake, but it still makes you feel good about yourself.
But I don’t mean to imply that I’m simply bad at this stuff. I’m cursed, I tell you. Because I also encounter problems that nobody ever encounters, for no reason, on a regular basis. For every simple-fix call to DTMB, there’s another that stumps even the best techsperts in the State of Michigan. I spent several weeks trying to track down the IT lady who serves Northern Michigan remotely, and once we were finally able to meet, I spent another four hours watching her fiddle with a laptop that had inexplicably turned into a lifeless brick. She tried every trick in the book and called every associate she knew, but my negative presence clearly overpowered her abilities. I ended up getting a brand-new computer, but since we couldn’t recover the old one’s files, I had to install everything from scratch (Read: The IT lady had to install everything from scratch). I’ve had numerous cellphones, printers, and computers die on me, to the everlasting consternation of IT reps across the map.
See, this is where twenty-first century Jesus and his high-tech miracles would really come in handy. It’s either anti-technology demons I’m dealing with, or perhaps I was exposed to powerful magnets as a kid; I also have an uncanny—and I mean, uncanny—track record for causing streetlights to burn out as I walk past.
All this is to say that those who work in IT deserve a mountain of credit for what they do. It can’t be easy dealing with a never-ending queue of ornery, impatient, technologically-disinclined customers, often over the phone. We often criticize organizations and devices for behaving the way they do (like the fact that a former AT&T phone needs twenty-four hours before it “authorizes” a new carrier to allow making calls… ridiculous). But taking it out on the IT guys and gals is a bit like shooting the messenger, except the messenger is also your translator and guide through this perplexing frontier that is constantly changing. And the rate of change is only going to accelerate as the future unfolds.
So next time you’re on the phone with customer service, or storming down the hall to the IT department, or waiting in line at the Verizon store, remember that what they do is incredibly important and often difficult, and that there will never come a day when these intrepid individuals are not needed. Blessed are the IT professionals, for theirs is the kingdom of the ever-expanding cyberspace.
Nick Meekhof (’15) graduated with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible.