My buddy Stan called.
He only calls for one of three reasons.
He either wants to borrow something or he wants me to hold something that he “borrowed”. If it is not one of those two things, he is in trouble with his wife, Daphne.
From the panic in his voice, I knew it had nothing to do with borrowing.
“Daphne left,” he cried.
“Sorry to hear that,” I told him.
“Yeah, and I really need her.”
“Maybe you should have thought about that before you did whatever you did.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
“I am talking about why she left you.”
“Dude,” Stan said, “she went to Walgreens.”
“Okay, let’s back up. Why are you calling me?”
“I need you to fix something.”
That surprised me. Stan can fix anything. The man is a wizard who knows what is wrong or not completely right with anything just by laying his hands on it – so long as whatever it is – is not biological or digital. Only people and computers baffle him, so the call must concern one or the other.
“It’s your computer?” I guessed.
“Exactly, Daphne knows computers but I don’t, can you help?”
He sounded so pitiful, I had to driver over there. When I arrived, he explained his problem.
“I need to complete a bid before the close of business in Tehran…”
I interrupted, “I didn’t think US citizens could do business in Iran?”
“Whatever…..” he said, “but I keep getting blocked by these annoying pop-ups. They want me to download software. They demand I change my password. They offer hot deals, but they won’t let me work. It’s very rude.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” I told him.
“The thing is,” he reflected, “they never bother Daphne because she really knows computers.”
But, Holy Moly, were they ever coming after him.
His computer was a virtual beehive of malware. I have never seen a system so infected with viruses, adware, Trojan horses and honey-pots.
It made me reflect on the virus metaphor.
I read somewhere that much of who we think we are, is not really us. Fully a third of our body is comprised of the bacteria and viruses that we host. Mostly they are benign, some even helpful – but there is a cohort that posses a power and agenda all its own. Not only does it affect our health but mounting evidence suggests our moods and behavior as well.
I hope to one day build this line of reasoning into a defense for everything I have been accused of – but in the meanwhile, I had work to do for Stan whose infected computer was, again using the biological metaphor, critical.
So I cleaned the malware entries from his computer startup parameters.
I shut off malevolent services.
I ran scans to quarantine and delete malignant executables.
I peeked, poked and prodded all the hiding places known to be frequented by virulent scripts.
I sifted through his registry.
Still the pop-ups persisted.
“I thought you knew computers,” Stan said.
“I only know two things for sure about computers,” I told him, “that the more I know about them, the more I hate them and that to err is human but to repeat an error 30,000 times a second requires a computer.”
Just then, Daphne walked in.
“Show Greg what you do to get rid of the pop-ups,” Stan said.
She remained contemptuously silent as she took off her scarf.
It was a long woolen scarf, one that twined around her neck multiple times yet still had the length to touch both knees – and from across the room, she snapped the scarf like a whip, catching the monitor with enough force to send it reeling.
When the screen spun to a wobbly stop, sure enough, the pop-ups were gone.
“See?” Stan said, “she really knows computers.”
I was dumbfounded. She hit the monitor, not the CPU where all the action takes place. Whatever she did was beyond my comprehension, still to salvage some pride, I pointed to the thin outline of a faint pop-up timidly materializing on the screen.
It offered great deals from Amazon.
In response, Daphne shot it a searing glare, one that I have not witnessed since Catholic grade school…
The pop-up emitted a pitiful “eeep!” as it scampered off the screen to return to wherever its kind comes from.
“See?” Stan said, “I told you, she REALLY knows computers.”