Sunday, August 19, 2007

Computer Guy

I love my job as a computer resource person at my school. However, I have noticed that people treat me differently now. I thought that I was the only person to feel this way until I read this article 10 Reasons It Doesn’t Pay To Be “The Computer Guy”. It was a very liberating experience for me. Finally, there is someone who understands how I feel! You must read that article before you read any further in this blog.

I had really started to believe that I was there was something wrong with and the way I interact with others. Socially, I am far from being the best adapted human being, but over the past few years I have noticed that people don't treat me the same as when I was a kindergarten teacher. I thought it was because of my complete lack of interpersonal skills, but it is it is because they see me differently.

Now, according to people around me, I am the all knowing computer expert. This a complete falsehood. I claim no extraordinary talents with computers. I do have some skills, but I have never studied computers for any kind of a degree. Everything that I have learned, I did it the hard way, by making lots of mistakes, and never reading the manual, but I kept with it, and I guess some things stuck.

Somehow, now I am no longer just an ordinary coworker. Normally, when the teachers come back from summer break they congregate in the hall and chit chat about what they did over the summer and complain about whatever is irritating them at the moment. If I show up, the conversation changes instantly. It might start like this, "Question. I can't get my email at home. Can you fix that?" There are about 8 to 10 people at my school who start every conversation with me by saying, "Question." I am not kidding. I do get a few hellos every now and then and some people do attempt small talk before a technology question comes up, but as a rule people react to me differently than they do to other teachers.

Some people alter the opening a little and say,"Quick question." Basically it is the same idea though. They are saying, "I am going to skip the basic small talk, I just need an answer from you so that I can quickly get away." I don't think that anyone realizes how this makes me feel.

I am really not complaining about the people I work with, I love them all like family. I have known many of them for years, and quite a few of them were at my wedding 12 years ago, but I have never really understood why their interaction with me has changed. At first, I was honored to have people asking me questions about technology, it made me feel important and smart. Now I feel more like a reference book- "lets flip to the index and get right to the answer."

The main thing that bothers me is that it doesn't stop. I like to help people. It feels good to know that I can make someone happy with some small thing that I know, but there are no boundaries. Work questions can come at any time. Personal computer questions can come at any time. I discovered when I first began this job that I could not eat with the other teachers because it was a constant stream of questions. I was not allowed a half hour of lunch and normal conversation. So, I eat alone, if I eat at all.

For example, I went to the Def Leppard concert on Saturday. I saw a couple of teachers that I work with and so I went up them asking them how they were doing and telling them about my backstage pass. One of them says, "Oh, you're in a good mood. Maybe now is a good time to ask you about my email. I can't get into my account." I thought about it for a second, and then threw my head back in gigantic laugh, and said, "That's a good one. You must be kidding right?" She wasn't kidding. I checked after I got back to work on Monday, and she had some sort of problem in active directory that I requested to be fixed. Is it just me that thinks this is more than just a tad out of line?

I have been called at home, grilled by family members, I have visited coworkers' houses, fixed computers that were not broken, and some that were, I have worked on personal projects, graduate projects, teacher's side businesses, made copies of things that clearly violate copyright laws, printed personal pictures, recommended personal technology purchases, and I am certain I have done many other things that I can no longer remember but do not fit into any of the above categories. For the most part I don't mind doing these things. I like to make people happy, and I often have a real problem saying, "No," to anyone. So, I am sure that I am at least partially to blame for where I have found myself.

Anyhow, I was very pleased to find that I was not the only person who had experienced this phenomenon. Now that I can see what is going on, perhaps I can take charge of the situation. Maybe, maybe not , but it feels like someone has turned on the light. Just knowing what is happening makes me feel better.

I do know that I am no longer going to accept anyone begining a conversation with me with the word, "Question," or skipping over the normal pleasantries of polite conversation. This much I am sure I can control.


kayakin.fool said...

I feel your pain brother... and you know we aren't the only ones...

Lisa said...

I love how you put into words something I've been feeling for the last few years...will it ever change?