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My Computer Gets Along Just Fine Without Me

     I could go on vacation for a month – a year - and my computer would never know the difference. It gets along just fine by itself. Right now it’s happily scanning through my files, looking for viruses.

     Not because I told it to. Last night I was ready to wrap up my package deal with Travelocity when a yellow-framed rectangle rose up on my screen.  Within the rectangle, a message appeared. “I’m screening for viruses. Do you want me to continue?”

     “Does it make any difference?” I started to say, but on second thought… I smiled sweetly and said, “No, but thanks for asking,” and then I clicked as hard as I could and waited for Travelocity to come back so I could finish my reservations.

     The yellow lines didn’t budge. I clicked again, but nothing happened. Seconds later another message appeared. “Are you sure?”
Yeah, I’m sure. But… well, there’s that virus thing going around...

     “Okay, okay. Go ahead. Scan.” I clicked “Continue,” shut down Travelocity and went off to watch the news.

     Every half hour or so I came back to see how the scan was going. Maybe I could get back to Travelocity before dawn. But each time I checked, my computer was humming away, counting the files (s)he/it had inspected and logging how many of them had viruses. When the file count reached ninety-three thousand, I went to bed.

     I think this had something to do with last Thursday when my computer suddenly announced that our antivirus software was about to expire. I ignored it at first – (s)he/it doesn’t choose the most convenient times to make its announcements. The third time I gave in and clicked “Re-subscribe.”

     This took me to the Internet, straight into Symantec’s living room, where I was cordially invited to renew my relationship with Norton for another year. Only $29.95.

     Seemed reasonable. I did everything I was told. I gave my name, number and credit card statistics. And then it told me to click on “Close” to get to where I could download the software I’d just purchased. I did. I clicked on “Close.”

     It closed all right. The whole screen closed. Symantec was done with me.

     I knocked on every door I could find, trying to get to that screen, but nothing worked. Finally I clicked for help.

     Turns out, Symantec has this neat “Interactive Support,” where you can talk to a representative right there on the screen. ’Course the “representative” is a computer. Has to be a computer. It thinks like a computer.

     I asked my question and waited. A screen popped up with my question and seven answers below it. Every one of the answers was a question. Not one of them had anything to do with getting to the Download screen. The last question asked, “Did I answer your question?”

     I said “No,” and it said, “Reword your question and try again.”

     I reworded the question eight times. Every time I got the same screen back with the same question/answers. Finally I typed, “Oh nuts! Never mind! Forget it!”

     The next morning I got an e-mail confirming my renewal. In the middle of this e-mail there was an address with a hyperlink. Great! I’d finally get through to someone.

     Nope. ’Cause at the bottom of the e-mail it said very clearly, “Do not respond to this e-mail. This is an automatic response and your reply won’t go anywhere.”

     So it looks like that software downloaded itself last night and started scanning my files all on its own...

     Which makes it very clear – my computer gets along just fine without me. And until it starts coming around to check up on me every now and then, the two of us will get along just fine.

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