While I was tearing up the many credit card offers (I am pre-approved for unwanted revolving debt, hooray!) and shredding the invitations to refinance my mortgage (If you cannot spell my first name right, I probably don't want to trust you with managing the transfer of my 30 year debt) I was humming along to some music that was playing on the computer, which was merrily belting out some tunes from my MP3 collection. Suddenly I had a memory tickle the back of my brain. Well, it was less a memory and more a flashback to last Saturday when I was working in Art Show. As many of you already know, my brain can be a moderately scary place sometimes. This chunk of grey meat that commands me is prone to making associations between wholly unrelated items with only the slightest provocation and I will inevitably blurt something out that garners me a number of funny looks from whomever I might be around at the time. The funny looks I've grown accustomed to (twenty-six years will eventually take the novelty out of anything), but that doesn't make the actual experience of it any less perplexing.
In this case I think the memory happened to crash down upon me like a biblical flood baring down on an unsuspecting peasant town because of an association based on my environment. Saturday afternoon last week I was in Art Show and was doing much the same task that I was engaging in tonight: I was listening to music, shuffling between two points in a confined space and sorting an overwhelming number of papers. Most of the data entry was done and we were open to the public, so convention attendees were flowing in and out of the display space. Occasionally somebody would stop by to ask a question about the bidding process (Your badge number is your bidder number, just like the very large sign you are standing in front of says. Next!) or to inquire about some other topic. One couple happened to stop up at the front desk and, being particularly astute, noticed that WinAmp was running on my laptop so that we could listen to the music I'd brought along on my portable FireWire harddrive. Something I need you to know, dear reader, is this: what comes next is not an embellishment. I have in no way altered this for your amusement. These words were actually said to me with great conviction and in perfect sincerity.
The young lady of the couple takes a look at my laptop, spies WinAmp perking along merrily in the corner of the screen, clasps her hands to her cheeks and says: Dude, WinAmp will corrupt your computer! It happened to me! Not wanting to be left out, her accomplice nods vigorously and adds, It's true! I was there and I saw it happen! She loaded WinAmp and then her computer wouldn't boot!
To say I was caught completely off-guard by this is something of an understatement. Apparently laboring under the assumption that silence followed by a blink and a muttered "That's fascinating," is an indication on my part of rapt interest, contestant number one wrests control of the topic from her friend and continues on in loving detail. I am treated to a three minute tirade that explains with great depth and emotion how the system was completely fragged and she had to buy a whole new hard drive to install so she could make the machine return the the land of functional computers -- and it was all WinAmp's fault.
I did not recall asking for Story Time, and I was left to stand there and try to find some sort of suitable respons. After a good three seconds, the only thought that my shattered psyche could assemble was Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Why do they always gravitate towards me? Last year I had the wanker who couldn't understand that XMMS is not WinAmp. This year I have... this.
Let's break this down, shall we, my good friends? They're asserting that a program (One that has been around for what, nearly a decade now?) is somehow responsible for the total and utter corruption of this young lady's operating system. I recognize we are talking about the land of Windows, where such occurances are not completely unheard of, but this stretches the boundaries of my ability to suspend disbelief. WinAmp is a media player, people. It does not contain spyware. It does not corrupt systems beyond the ability of the operating system to boot unless you happen to kick the plug out during installation (and only if you follow that abrupt power-down by thoroughly whooping the shit out the hard disk with a seven-pound maul). It does not tinker with your registry to reassign drive letters. It does not force the execution of Lithuanian refugees. It does not control orbital weapons platforms. It does not fink you out to the Internal Revenue Service. It. Fucking. Plays. Media. Files. Nothing more.
Occam's Razor dictates that the simplest explanation for something is usually the correct one. So let me put their scenario on the table alongside one of my own concoction, shall we? Play along at home, my friends, because there's going to be a quiz on this.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I dunno about you, but I'm going to take "Option Two" for $300, Alex.
It's profoundly annoying to me that people can take their isolated incident (and this one is isolated, because I've found all of jack and shit on the web that corroborates this story) and somehow inflate it in their minds to be something akin to gospel truth. What disturbs me more is that these people didn't seem at all to notice my lack of interest or belief in what they had to say about the viability of the software. Part of being jaded and cynical means growing accustomed to people overlooking the use of simple logic -- and let's face it, fen are not exactly what I would consider bastions of sanity and reason -- but these two really took the cake. Further aggravating me was the fact that they did NOT pick up on the vibes of "Yes, yes, now run along and play somewhere else, for I dislike you." I did not engage them in conversation. I did not, at any point, say "I am intrigued and wish to subscribe to your newsletter." I do believe I told them something akin to, "Funny, I've used this program for 7 years and have never had an issue." I know my voice was filled with sarcasm and derision -- so much so that if I'd tried to be any more curt in my tone that I probably could have collapsed space. Yet they stood there, nattering on, apparently expecting me to LEAP INTO ACTION AND UNINSTALL WINAMP RIGHT THEN, BASED ON THEIR LONE EXPERIENCE!
I think not.
You know the old addage that goes, "Don't take diet advice from a fat person?" Well, something similar to that applies to the technology field, and these folks were a fine example of it. I've been noodling around with computers of various architectures for more than three-quarters of my time upon this planet. In that time span I've seen some spectacularly stupid shit happen with machines, particulary during my stint as a technician for Best Buy. Yet in all that time I have never witnessed anything of this nature. Seeing as how my brand-new laptop was running fine and had in point fact not caught fire upon the loading of WinAmp I wasn't about to interrupt my music just to satisfy their delusions. I also wasn't about to engage them in a debate about the possibility that the were just idiots who couldn't troubleshoot their way out of a wet paper bag.
In retrospect I must admit that I am not sure if they were trying to bait me (some of the fen in this fandom are, along with being stupid, also notoriously overzealous on the topic of Open Source programs being morally if not technologically superior to commercial applications) or if they honestly were trying to save me from the horror of a crashed Windows installation, but I wasn't going to play along. Eventually they left the function space and let me get back to my work, but they left me with one of those memories that I will undoubtedly cherish until my dying day.
It would seem there's just something about me that attracts this type of foolishness (How is it I alone am so lucky?). Being on staff means I have to spend the entire convention trapped behind the table, so I guess situations of this nature are inesecapable. I wonder if next year somebody will attempt to chastize me for using electricity to run my machines. That would be beautiful (And, I dare venture, will undoubtedly have to be written upon my admittance form for the psychiatric ward).
Hey, takaza? Is there any chance you can coax the board to ratify a provision for health insurance in the case of a complete mental break?
You see little sister don't miss when she aims her gun