By Charles Hightower

"When the computer asks you a question and provides you with the possible answers, you should select one of the displayed choices." - All questions cannot be answered in simple responses. The computer should consider the infinite range of answers available to the human mind. For example, the question "Do you want to print the Customer Report? (Y/N)" should also accept the answer "P", because you might Possibly want to print the report.

"When the computer asks you to press RETURN to begin a task, you should do so when ready." - All other keys should be tried first, just to see what happens. If pressing every key except RETURN causes no action, then call the service bureau and relate that the computer is stuck.

"When you select to print information for a given day of the week, that information should appear on the printer." - No, you should select a day at random - say Thursday - and the computer will know that you really want - say Sunday - to appear on the report.

"When given written step-by-step instructions, you should follow them closely, as they were written for a reason." - All written instructions should be ignored. They were written by little people who sit behind big desks and have no idea how you run your business. You, as the liaison between your company and the computer, should choose the steps you feel are important enough to bother with.

"When given verbal step-by-step instructions, listen carefully, write down the instructions, and follow them closely." - All verbal instructions should be ignored. The technical support person only knows about computers, while you've been battling with the computer in your business environment for at least a couple of weeks. Choose your own path. When your path doesn't work, relate to the service bureau that you've found a program bug. Don't mention that you've ignored the verbal instructions, and demand that the service bureau fix both the program and your now corrupted data.

"Before you purchase an electrical power regulator, you should first investigate to ensure you get the right one for the job." False. All power regulators are the same, whether they call it a 'Surge Protector' and charge twelve dollars, or call it a 'Universal Power Supply with Backup' and charge several hundred dollars. Everyone knows the only difference is the metal box. Inside the big metal box is nothing more than one of those twelve dollar models. Also note that the power regulator should control static electricity generated by the operator, and should provide backup power to an unlimited number of computer devices for an infinite period of time.

"When the computer generates an error message, you should report it as quickly as possible to the service bureau." - Wrong. In doing that, you would be wasting valuable time. You should instead write down most of the error message and drop it into an empty tissue box. Once a month, or when you have time, call the service bureau. You should then select an error from the box at random, report it, and continue until the box is empty. All problems should be resolved within a total of 3 minutes, and no excuses should be accepted for any time delays beyond this.

"When your hard drive becomes full, you may need to ask for assistance in removing files you no longer need." Ha. Don't waste the expense of a long distance phone call. Why, most word processors allow you to delete files with the click of a mouse. Remove those in the current directory that you no longer need. Well, as long as you're in a removing kind of mood anyway, let's move back a directory or two and see if there's anything there we don't need anymore. Would you just look at all those files! You don't remember creating these documents! Obviously they were left there, wasting your hard disk space by the inept person who installed your computer. Go ahead and delete the whole group of them. Anyway, who in his right mind would have created documents with stupid names like or config.sys?

"When the computer displays the message 'Press any key to continue', you should press a key and go on with your job." - Forget this. You should call the service bureau and relate that you've looked for fifteen minutes, and that you can't find the Any key anywhere on the keyboard.

"When the technician takes remote control of your computer through your modem, you should pay attention and follow any directions you may receive on the screen." - Any messages the tech may send are only for your amusement. He does not actually expect you to follow these directions. For example, the tech repeatedly displays the message "PICK UP THE PHONE AND TALK WITH ME". Ignore the message. When the tech calls on another line, you should relate that you did see the message, but could not fathom its meaning. Further you should say one girl in your office thought it meant to pick up the phone, but you had no idea when you should do so.

"When the technician takes remote control of your computer through your modem, you should follow any verbal directions the technician may have given you prior to the connection." Don't waste your time. For example, the technician gives the instruction, "Pick up the phone if the communications light is unlit for more than 30 seconds because that would mean the communications link was unsuccessful." Thirty seconds? To be sure, let's wait four hours, then hang up the line to call and complain to the technician that he's taking too long. After discovering he was never able to connect with your computer, you should become angry that he did not ask the phone company to short-circuit your single-line phone so he could call and tell you he was having trouble. Further you should reveal that you did notice the communications light was unlit from the start, but that you were waiting for the technician to send a message to the screen by way of the non-functional communications link.

"If you discover a problem in a particular application, you should notify the service bureau, and ask to speak to someone in that division." - It's no fun that way. You should ask for someone in a different division. Let's say for example that you discover a problem in the Accounts Payable package. You should call the support company and ask to speak with someone in, say, General Ledger. You should go to great lengths to describe your problem in vague terms. This will keep the technician on the line for some time before he realizes you've asked for the wrong department.

"When the technician asks questions, answer all questions to the best of your knowledge." - You should answer all questions in the affirmative. Then follow-up with a question that makes the tech doubt your original answer. For example, the technician asks, "Have you made a backup recently?" Your answer (of course) is "Yes". Your follow-up question then might be, "What's a backup?"

"Don't be evasive - give the technician the plain truth." - Be evasive. If asked a yes/no question, reply with a long story that is tangent to the question but never actually results in an answer. For example, the technician asks, "Did you change the system date?" Your answer might start with, "We don't normally change the system date. It's not something we do on a regular basis, you know ..."

"Assist the remote technician by observing happenings at your workstation." Instead, appease him by saying you will observe, then don't bother. For example, you might say, "I just got an error on the screen in Statements with Update." The tech asks, "Okay, what printed on the printer?" Your answer is, "Nothing." Only after the tech repeatedly asks you to actually lean over and look at the printout should you bother to give him that information.

"Apply good judgement for simple problems." - Call the service center for all rhetorical questions. For example, you might ask, "I am holding two disks. Both have exactly the same information contained on them. One always produces disk drive error messages; the other does not. Which should I use?"