Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The blue screen of death and the will to keep working

A couple of weeks ago, an ominous blue screen popped up on my work laptop. I was too clueless to panic, so I calmly walked the machine down to our IT department and begged for assistance. (I was prepared to fight off the admonition, “You’re supposed to e-mail the Help Desk” with the logical “How can I e-mail you if my PC’s not working?”) But I was greeted only with “You have the blue screen of death!” I didn’t much care for that comment, and I finally did start to feel something resembling panic.

Fortunately, IT worked its magic, and I was back in business. But several days later, I was answering e-mails when all applications froze. And stayed frozen. I couldn’t restart and I couldn’t shut down. Again, I marched down to IT. This time I was told to leave the laptop there for testing and given a desktop loaner. The loaner was fine if I wanted to start new documents or play Solitaire. But all my work was on my laptop!

A day later, still toiling on the loaner, I got a phone call from the IT tech. Her message was short and not so sweet: “Can you come down here?” I suddenly felt like I had taken a battery of medical tests and the doctor’s office called to say “The doctor would like to talk with you…privately… in her office.” You know it’s bad news.

The diagnosis? My laptop had a virus and malware that had irreparably messed it up. The action plan? IT would reinstall my entire system. Thankfully, our servers back up everything all the time, so my documents would be restored, and the standard Microsoft products would be there too. But I would have to reinstall all of my software that wasn’t company standard, like four Adobe products—and their upgrades. And reinstall I did, which took me hours and was not without glitches.

I soon discovered what else this procedure had cost me. All of my preferences, my Outlook format selections, and my Favorites for web-surfing needed to be set up again. I spent most of the next two days resetting or frantically sending messages to the Help Desk to restore files that hadn’t transferred over.

After exasperating circumstances like these, I always ask myself if full retirement wouldn’t be a better option than my part-time compromise. But what would I whine and worry about during those extra days at home? My aching knees or inability to open a vitamin bottle? Or, even worse, a meltdown on my home computer and no IT help anywhere in sight? At only three days a week (and never on Monday), work is good.

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