by Patrick Haynes
What do you think of when you think of PC Technician? You might be imagining a woman holding a flashlight while peering into a computer case to find the source of an electrical failure. Perhaps you see a man installing crisp blue LED fans alongside a custom window panel for a gaming PC or struggling on a keyboard to troubleshoot a blue screen of death on an old copy Windows 98. Although these tasks come with the job, entering foreign territory and encountering strange new situations redefine the expected roles within the field in unexpected ways.
One role that PC Technicians might have is that of the detective. After I arrived on the scene, my “suspect” said, “Sure you know what you’re doing, slick? This computer done leaked all the oil out the engine. Now, I know I didn’t have anything to do with that mess, so it must be on account of you. I for damn sure ain’t gonna pay to fix it.”
As I do offer free repairs if assembly issues exist, I wouldn't have a problem complying. However, something bothered me about the way the issue was described. First, a computer contains no engine. Therefore, an engine leaking oil wouldn't be feasible. Second, the only oil within the entire system would be found covering the ball-bearings located inside the fans. If removed, this amount of oil wouldn't be enough to grease a standard marble. Besides, there were only three fans total within the case, so there wouldn't be enough oil to leak or pool. On inspection of the PC, I noted a sweet smell that reminded me of something.
I removed the side panel to find a clue in the form of a resinous layer of a dark amber liquid coating the bottom of the case. The substance climbed up the internal walls, coated the graphics card, and slipped through the top-mounted exhaust fan. On the outside of the case, right next to the top exhaust, there was a slight residue that looked as if something had been partially wiped up. Returning to the inside of the case, I put my finger into the viscous resin and brought a bit of the substance to my tongue. At that moment, I had solved the case. It was none other than Dr. Pepper.
Another role that PC technicians might take on is that of the animal rights activist. After arriving to correct a failed Windows boot, I noticed that the PC was inside of a large aquarium. The case had a 3-inch diameter hole crudely made in the bottom right side panel. In the aquarium, urine-soaked wood chips and feces surrounded the computer and led inside the hand-made entrance. A mixture of the excrement coated the edges of the hole and discolored the metallic finish. Near the discolorations were splotches of fresh blood. The sides of the hand-carved tunnel had a visibly sharp edge to them.
From this pathway, a small mouse ran out and left a small trail of blood. The mouse had bloody feet, and its body was missing tufts of fur. As I looked over the mouse, I heard something caught in one of the case’s internal fans and saw a clump of mouse fur blow out the exhaust port. Then, five more mice ran outside of the case. Each mouse had bloody feet, bruises on the ears and legs, and inflamed bald spots. The last mouse to exit limped out and rolled onto its side as if to rest.
After I questioned the owner about the condition of the mice, he said the following:
Nobody gives a fuck ‘bout them damn mice, boy. This backroom gets icy as hell ‘round this time of year. It’s not like I can afford to heat every fuckin’ room in the house. The little shits are lucky I keep this PC runnin’ 24/7 so my snake can have a warm meal come feed time.
I argued that even though the mice would indeed die, he was endangering the snake as well as the mice because of the avalanche of bacterial growth fueled by cascades of excrement coating the daily reopened wounds on the mice’s feet.
In response, a broad ridge carved its way across his forehead, and his eyes narrowed. Then, he marched toward me, stopped a foot away, and said, "Get your animal lovin' sissy queer ass out my damn house." This event prompted me to leave and call the only group I could think of to handle the situation: the ASPCA. The representative assisted me in filing a report over the phone. Within six days, I received a courtesy call from the organization. They expressed their gratitude for reporting the issue and informed me that their investigation of the man’s property found 13 additional counts of animal abuse, which lead to his arrest.
Another role that PC Technicians might take on is that of the psychologist. My client was explaining to me why he would be unable to continue the payment plan for his daughter's PC when he started to cry. I told him that we could go inside to talk about what's on his mind. The first thing that he said was that he had a diagnosed gambling addiction and that his condition was under control until the other day when he purchased a scratch-off ticket. He mentioned that it was the first ticket he had bought in 5 years. I asked him why he purchased the ticket after already doing so well in recovery.
After a moment, he said phrases such as, “It was because I was doing so well that I bought another ticket," and "I felt too strong for that actually to become a problem again."
Afterward, we talked about how he went back to the store later that day and bought 300 dollars of additional scratch-offs, and how he was glad that his actions didn’t hurt his daughter. I looked at him and said, “How do you think your daughter would feel if she knew that you spent the money for her birthday present on yourself instead?” He started sobbing again. Through his tears, he asked for an extension on the payment plan and made a promise of double the expected payment. I declined and explained that I wouldn’t let his daughter go without her birthday gift if he only promised that he would put her first in his decision making in the future. It's been another five years and that PC, although now old, is still running strong along with the promise that he made.
Perhaps PC Technicians aren't one-dimensionally skilled laborers after all, nor are any jobs involving such an unpredictable factor as another human being. From solving a case using clues or reporting an inhumane act against a snake's meal to listening to a man struggling with his vices, the act of aiding people in their computer-related woes becomes an experience that transcends the description of one who merely works on computers.