Thursday, April 15, 2010

3000 Mile Service Call

“I can’t open my DVD drive.” That’s a typical call from a client. But this client is my mother, and she lives 3000 miles away on the opposite coast.

Normally, I hop on my bike and pedal to the client’s house. I can be there in 20 minutes almost anywhere in the city. Not so for my mom. I have to try to fix her computer problems by talking to her and sending her emailed instructions.

This problem was sort of my fault. Normally my mother doesn’t want to open the DVD drive on her computer. The DVD drive has nothing to do with reading email, surfing the web for news and comics, or writing letters, which are the reasons she wanted a computer.

Long story short, I bought my mom an exercise DVD. I thought she’d play it on the TV in her living room. But she bought a new couch. Her new couch is bigger than the one she had when I visited her a few months ago, and there is no longer room for her to roll out her yoga mat at a distance far enough from the TV screen that she can see it when she’s lying on the floor.

My niece had the brilliant idea that my mother (her grandmother) could play the exercise DVD on her computer. There’s plenty of room on the floor in her office for her to lay out her yoga mat as far as she likes from her computer monitor.

I called my mother to find out why she couldn’t get her DVD / CD drive to open. After a series of questions, I learned:
It has no button.
It has no light.
It has no little hole where you can poke a bent paperclip.

I tried to tell her about double left clicking on My Computer. Once that was open, she should Right clicking on the drive icon, and then Left click on Eject from the drop down menu.

I should not have given all those instructions so quickly. Round two. One step at a time.

We had to find My Computer on the left of her screen in the upper half.

We had to find the icon for the CD drive (not DVD).

We had to figure out which was the right button (Right button) on her track ball. Somehow when you can click both the left and right buttons with the same hand, this confuses most of my clients.

When the menu finally popped down, she told me Eject wasn’t on the menu.

Then she said the menu disappeared. We started over. I have become incredibly patient with computers. Especially computers that I can’t see. I used to have a program that let me see my clients’ monitors and remotely operate their computers. But I make my clients use firewall programs that prevent attacks like this, so I can’t do it either, any more.

Working with distant computers is a sort of meditation. The misbehavior is an errant thought. Wait and it will pass. Do not believe for a moment that the misbehavior is important. It’s just temporary. Sanity will return. The computer will cooperate.

We started over.

This time, she found Eject on the menu. She left clicked it. She said nothing happened. I asked her to look carefully at the drive. It might have just popped out a little bit.

“Where is the drive?”

She had expected a message on the screen. She hadn’t looked at her computer. She keeps the computer on the floor under her desk, so her desktop will look clear and uncluttered. When she looked down, the drawer was wide open.

“Put the disk in with the Word Side Up.”


“Push the drawer closed.”


A box came up on the screen showing the exercise movie file by name.

“Double left click the icon to the left of the name.”

“Nothing happened.”

“Is the name highlighted?”


“Then press the Enter key.”



“My screen went black.”

“Good. That means a video player is loading.”

After a while... “I see the video. It’s playing.”

“Is there a list of things it can do?”


“Do you see your mouse arrow?”


“Can you put your mouse arrow on the 2nd item down from the top of your screen?”

I call it a mouse arrow, even though I know it is on a track ball. My mother is used to my weirdness in this department.


“Do that, and then left click.”

“Hey, the movie is starting.”

A while later she emailed me back. She found it difficult to balance during one of the exercises. Otherwise she could do everything. She was pleased.

Success! A 3000 mile computer support issue, closed. And my mom can do exercises in front of her computer. Yay!

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