Friday, December 12, 2008

Attention: Your insipid giggling demeans us both

I'm accustomed to people not knowing obvious things when they call in for tech support. Typically, when someone calls in, they're aware of their own level of titanic ignorance and there are three common reactions. The first, and most common, is hostility. Confronted with his or her own lack of knowledge, the caller reacts with unveiled hostility and defensiveness. The second, and least common, is to simply accept the lack of knowledge and attempt to move forward. The third is to be apologetic and submissive.

You would think the third option would be the most pleasant for the person providing assistance. It is not. The apologetic ones tend to overlap the "I'm computer illiterate" group. These are the people who have no trouble admitting that they're cretins because they don't want to change. They're proud of it, because it means someone else can do the work. They keep tech support in business, but they also keep the techie's cardiologists and psychoanalysts in business.

Yesterday, I met a new subset of this group. I had several calls that all went the same. The caller, by the sound of her voice, was in all cases a woman in her late twenties to early thirties. In all cases she was utterly ignorant of basic computer processes (the star of this had her computer for eight months and just found out how to turn it off from the start menu last week. Yes, it was vista, but all it takes is one web search to find it out. For emphasis: Eight months.)

And in all cases, they'd make the statement of ignorance, and then they'd giggle. "Oh, I'm pretty much computer illiterate. Tee-hee-hee."

I didn't notice it much the first time but it kept on happening. It dawned on me that this person wasn't giggling nervously. They were attempting to be cute to compensate for being uninformed. I don't know that she was doing it on purpose and I suspect it was simply habit. The sheer gall of the tactic, however, was demeaning in a way the caller did not realize (or at least, I hope she didn't realize). The assumption was that I, as a man, would be lured into a more helpful position if she came across as a helpless twittering little girl. A secondary assumption was that acting like/being a bimbo would cause her mistakes to be more easily forgiven.

Sorry, you're just a user, I assume you know nothing and are are undeserving of both a computer and a share of the planet's precious supply of oxygen. You don't need to be forgiven, because I expect so very little of you.

This person, were I to guess, went through life using a tittering, vapid persona to avoid responsibility and to dodge expectations of competence. People were fooled by this. They were more than willing to let her play the airhead. After a time, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Denied avenues of self improvement by her giggling faux anti-intellectualism, reasonable human expectation far outpaced her dazzlingly stagnant mental abilities. In short, pretending to be a bimbo has made this woman into a bimbo.

So I say to my small audience, please, when something makes you feel unprepared or ignorant, don't try to brush it off with a giggle. It demeans the whole species. Instead, accept the situation and take the time to learn and overcome. You'll find it is far more rewarding.