Why you need an IT guy in the family

You need an IT guy in the family because things fall apart.

Centers do not hold.

Also things like mail programs get corrupted. Other things get messed up because Firefox crashed.

Then, when you are whimpering in the corner, because you haven’t a clue how to deal with any of it, your Elder Son, who is back in school to get all kinds of mysterious computer certifications, comes in. Behold the IT guy: he is a hero in the mold of classic heroes. He is grave, but compassionate. He scolds you for being a ‘puter pansy, tells you you really can do all of this, yourself, but then takes pity. He knows that even if you can get past your techno-terror, it may take weeks for you to do what he can do in an hour or so, and then you still won’t be dotting all the i’s and crossing all the tees.

As he takes over your desk and keyboard, he will tell you about Linux. He cheerfully admits it’s for geeks, but that ordinary people can easily use it if they will only try. He allows that most people are not willing (or too busy) to apply themselves with diligence, and that Linux users are analogous to car mechanics who care deeply about every aspect of their engine, while the rest of the computer-using world is populated with “I just want it to go and not blow up” types.

“But why wouldn’t people be more curious?” your IT guy will say. “Why wouldn’t they want to learn more? Math and Science make me sad, do you know why? Because it is all like a great unending serial novel, and I know I will never read the end of it; I will die before I know it.”

He will have no opinion about the Icons all around your desk, except to note that you have a lot of them.

Told that you are looking (endlessly) at laptops, your IT guy will click and type and click some more, and he will argue against the Mac Probook. Acknowledging the usefulness of the Mac, he will disdain the price and suggest that “everyone says they love it because they wouldn’t dream of suggesting they’ve paid that much for something they don’t love…”

Then, because he is a fair and amiable sort, he’ll admit – as files are recaptured, resorted and reloaded – that yes, most people will tell you to buy what they use, because everyone loves the thing they use, and wants to think it is the best value for their needs.

“Vista,” he will tell you, after listening to you prattle about things you have read, “is a fine operating system, much improved.”

If you ask him, however, about a Dell model that makes your heart lurch because it is such a pleasing and comely shade of cherry-red, he will look away and tell you he does not follow the market very closely.

And then, when your broken things have been repaired and the crooked path made once again straight, he will go sit at his own computer, where he will compose beautiful, funny, compelling music that he will share only with other geeks. When you suggest there may be a market for a fantasy-opera with a moral (we’re so tired of Wagner, aren’t we?) he will shake his head sadly, because you do not understand; nothing can be made public until it is perfect. These things take time. A great deal of time. Getting a composition out to the public is not the point of composition. You serve the muse, draw on inspired moments and build a portfolio. Then when the time is right, if all circumstances are aligned, you take it out, brush it off and when it is perfect, all things come into themselves, in a fullness of perfection.

While all this is going on, the younger son – much less placid, patient and peaceful than the first – will dodge in, ask for the car, refuse to say why he needs it and careen back out the door to the beats of the pop music he is composing and recording as a demo. Things must happen immediately. Waiting is stupid. Perfection is unimportant. By the end of the year, he expects to be a star, and what do you mean that’s not possible; don’t you know who he is? Of course things will work out. “Things always do work out for you in life, if you just have the right attitude and a bit of flexibility.” The younger son has appeared and vanished again in the space of a few mouseclicks.

“He must learn patience,” the Elder Son will say. “He rushes with foolhardiness, into the great unknown.”

I love my kids, but they could not be more different. They’re both “certified geniuses” according to whoever thinks up those tests, both artistic, musical, creative, inventive, curious, math-and-science loving and fair-minded. Elder son is utterly fearless about approaching and interacting within the interior world of screens, monitors and the universe of ideas, “out there” in the vast, unlimited ‘nets. He is cautious to a fault and sometimes hobbled by the instinct toward perfectionism. Buster is fearless about taking on the flesh and blood world, flinging his arms wide open to the universe “out there” – the vast throng of people he plans to make friends with and eventually rule. He is not always cautious enough and can sometimes be hobbled by pride.

And the truth is – despite all of my best and worst days of parenting – these two are pretty much precisely the people they were on the days they were born.

They are both, in a way, from outer space. Elder Son has always been the quiet dreamer of a planet, and Buster has always been the impatient supernova; they circle around us, in their own orbits.

Our mysteries are all before us, every day.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Diane

    “…these two are pretty much precisely the people they were on the days they were born.” Oh, isn’t THAT the truth!

  • saveliberty

    It speaks well of you and your husband that you have two very different sons.

    BTW I love my Macbook. It took a lot to get used to it and now I look forward to using it at the end of a day (in front of a PC).

    I may feel differently if I worked on a Macbook and had a PC to use at the end of the day. :D

  • cathyf

    Well in my family it’s mom, dad and WonderBoy who are the computer geeks, and WonderGirl just puts up with us.

    I used to work in videogame programming, which is a collaboration between programmers and artists. Our art director (my office mate) explained to us the Theory of Computer Juju. You see, some people have computer juju, and some don’t. And when you have it, things just work for you that won’t work for people without it. Well, so the AD would have something weird happening on her computer, and she’d say, “Cathy, help…” and I would walk over to her desk, and when I got within about 3 feet, it would just stop doing whatever it was doing. So sometimes she’d say, “Ok, I really need to get this done. Could you just stand right there next to my desk for the next five minutes?” And as long as I (or one of the other programmers) would stand there, the computer would be cowed into behaving properly.

    “Yeah, right,” you are saying. But you would be surprised at how much data is explained by the Theory of Computer Juju! So, anyway, that’s the technical explanation for Elder Son’s talents — he has lots of really good Computer Juju.

    (And you know about Magic Smoke, right? All electronics run on Magic Smoke. We know this because if you let the Magic Smoke out, they don’t work anymore!)

  • Karen

    I love to read your blog – this one touched my heart – what blessing – that your sons are “created” and even bigger blessing that you realize who created them.

  • dick

    Strongly agree with Elder Son on Linux. I started using it by accident and problems with Windows. The Windows partition got messed up and when I went to re-install I found the backup from the OEM would not work. I stayed with Linux and find that it works better than Windows ever did and now I would not change on a bet. I don’t do computer games and there is no other reason for me to consider Windows. Also the Linux is free and will work on just about any computer while the Macs will only work on Macs. Thus my use of Linux.

  • Karen LH

    Of course if you had a Mac, you could also install Linux AND Windows, and run whatever you felt like running that day.

    Your sons sound delightful.

  • http://ejhill1925.wordpress.com/ EJ Hill

    All of our offspring are geniuses. They must be since they have all begun to speak another language and all without formal instruction. Either that, or I just stopped speaking English.

  • Barbara Gamper

    Success is becoming the person you always knew you were. Don’t know who said this but I often quoted it to my younger son who is the IT in my family.Quietly questioned everything til he understood what others took for granted.Has patience and perserverance. So different than the elder who is /was crazy popular,loyal and protective.So logical,too. Both are fine men. My daughter cherished them both as they did her. She too, has always had the qualities she needed to become a successful woman. God’s creations are mysterious wonders and blessings.

  • http://templeofmut.wordpress.com/ Mutnodjmet

    My son is the IT guy in the family — and he is 7 1/2 years old.

    I have often observed that two siblings in each family set often manage to be the exact opposite. My brother and I are great examples.

    That is why God has only blessed me with one child — he is exactly what I can handle best. Anything else, I am sure I would fall apart.

    Prayers to you and your fine sons.

  • dellbabe68

    What a wonderful tribute to your sons! I skipped over the computer issues since they give me hives. My screen right now has to be jerked around so the lines stop. Ask him what that’s about, would you? ;)s

  • http://nhaggin.freeshell.org/ Nicholas

    You see, some people have computer juju, and some don’t.

    Being the son of a chemical engineer, I tend to call it “electron affinity.” There are even varying degrees of it among IT folk…I’m one of three admins for a supercomputing cluster upon which we’ve been doing some heavy maintenance these past couple of days. On the first day, after making a batch of changes that left things in a half-screwed-up state, I couldn’t log in until the guy who had originally set the machine up walked over and stood in front of the console. Apparently, it’s scared of him but not of me.

    And yes, the magic smoke must be kept inside the electronics at all times.

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  • vanderleun

    And when all that is written shall come to pass and thou shalt get thyself a Mac, behold, much of your life and the life of those about you shall be restored to full fructification.

    And, lo, these long and grinding moments of inscribing thy sufferings and the redemption, shall all pass away. And thy life shall return all its moments to thy true purpose….

    So let it be written. So let it be done.

  • http://gmsplace.com GM Roper

    Far from being a geek, I know just enough to be dangerous. Fortunately, I have a friend who is a geek and he is just a phone call away.

  • Piano Girl

    What a beautiful post about your two precious guys!!! Give them a big hug for me…I want to hear some of that music they’re working on.

  • dry valleys

    I am the younger in my family, I have an elder brother who in fact teaches IT in a high school. So I am relevant to this post :)

    I think having an IT wiz on tap has actually made me quite lazy & got me lagging behind a lot of people. I would probably never have gone online at all if not for the obsessive need to express myself!

    On the face of it we are as different as two people could possibly be, but I don’t know if there exist similarities, or if an outsider would think we actually had a fair bit in common.

    I’d actually like to read a very long study about myself, if someone would commission one. It would be all about my history, my relations to others, my views etc.

    Do your kids know about your blogging? It would be really surreal if they didn’t, but take an interest in blogs & somehow turned up in the comment threads, having no idea who you were, & only gradually was it realised that you were related :)

  • http://deacondean.blogspot.com Dean

    I’m in the middle of setting up my wife’s new Dell laptop. She had been complaining for a couple of weeks that her desktop was becoming too slow and acting funny, so I went online, found an inexpensive Dell offering, then added a few personal enhancements (e.g., larger hard drive, more RAM, Vista Home Premium) and ordered it for her. Took about 30 minutes and it arrived a week later.

    BTW, I use XP at work and have switched to Vista at home. I really like Vista better.

    Never had occasion to use a Mac, but friends swear by them. I just happened to develop an affinity for Dell brand stuff about 20 years ago, and have stayed with them (although now that my #1 son works for HP I do give them a closer look!).

  • http://www.reflectionsbykris.squarespace.com Kris, in New England

    What sweet observations about your sons.

    I am thankful that my IT guy is my husband – affectionately referred to as The Oracle. Or in your world, Elder Son. As he too is fearless when it comes to the computer and all that it entails – but much more cautious elsewhere. Patient – to a fault.

    Whereas I am the Free Spirit – Buster. Ready to embrace anything and everything – instant gratification isn’t fast enough.

    Which means when my laptop at home fails to operate at the supersonic speed I expect – I pound it and The Oracle fixes it.

    It’s a great relationship.

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    I don’t have any IT person in my home – I only have the Wonder Cat who detests computers! I just exercise some patience and a certain amount of bad language and somehow things keep rolling along fairly well.

    It seems to me that you have two truly splendid sons, E, and that doesn’t surprise me a bit. They were raised by a superlative mother.

  • Tracy

    I bet you have read Thomas Merton’s “The Seven Storey Mountain”. Your boys sound like him – the older boy is Merton as he described himself after he became religious, and your younger boy sounds like Merton while he was still at school. I haven’t read that book in years, your blog reminded me of it. I think I’ll read it again!

  • Gina

    For my last laptop purchase, I gave in to temptation and got a Macbook. It was a colossal waste and I dislike it heartily. I’ve taught myself to do the basics, but can’t wait to get rid of it even though I loathe Windows too.

  • Dr. Bob

    I’m the family IT guy. I’m an IT architect who works for a living with large servers. I had very little experience working with itty bitty machines a.k.a PCs, until my kids went to college with their own PCs. They’d come home with their machines virtually unusable and full of malware and viruses, so I got a LOT of experience with cleaning them and getting them back in tiptop shape.

    For what it’s worth, I’m also the family top wrench (head mechanic) – keeping the cars running and in good shape and diagnosing those strange noises and unusual behaviors.