Experts Among Us

Recently I had a problem with my home laptop where
everything worked correctly, except for internet access. 
The only way to get on was to continuously disconnect and
reconnect, especially if I was switching pages. 
Very frustrating, to say the least. On the evening before
it had gone bonkers, I finished an article that I was going
to upload Saturday morning.  What normally takes me a
few minutes took me hours. Talk about a long morning.

Eventually I did get it uploaded, and then spent the rest
of my morning trying to solve the problem myself. First
check for a virus, reboot the system, rerun the virus
protection... over and over again.  Then, as most parents
with teenagers will do... I called the kid over.  Mitch (my son)
worked on it for a bit and got it to working temporarily, but
he did tell me, “Dad, it's going to come back. It’s “self-generating”, and I’m not sure it’s a virus. You’re going to have problems until you can find out what it is.”

He was right about that.  The very next morning when I turned it on it was back to its old tricks.  There wasn't much else to do except send it to the computer shop for repair.  If it was a car I could probably tell you what to do with it, but not this.  It's beyond me.  In the mean time I went on with the rest of the weekend and left the computer alone.  We had plans to see a few friends for lunch that afternoon, and as casual conversations go I was soon explaining my frustrations with my computer.   Everybody had a solution to the problem, and I'll have to admit some of their solutions sounded pretty convincing, but after being in the repair business as long as I have, I knew better.  At least the best advice given was where to take it.  I knew seeking professional help would be better than all of this arm chair diagnosing.

I hear the same kind of thing when I’m behind my counter.  Someone will come in with a problem and sure enough they have already talked to a friend or relative who has the ultimate answer to their problem.  And, of course, I'm supposed to use that information and make the needed repairs.  Because… well… you know why… their friend is an “expert”.   I'll admit once in a while they’ve got it right, but more times than not it's “control-alt-delete”,  and start all over with the original symptom.  Too many times the symptoms and the arm chair expert aren’t on the same page.  I'm sure when I take the laptop in it will be the same story there as well.   So I'm going to approach this laptop debacle with as much care as I can.  Let's see if informing the person behind the counter the symptoms I’ve found, answer his questions as best as I can, and not add my own two cents worth of arm chair diagnosing will lead to a quicker repair.

“Hi, can I help you?” the guy behind the counter said.

“You sure can.  I'm having a problem getting on the internet with my laptop.  Could you check it out for me?”

He informed me of the initial examination fee and what he was going to do.  He said he would call as soon as he knew something.  Now with what limited knowledge I have, and from what my son could figure out, along with all the input from friends and other arm chair techs it appeared to be a cut and dry “remove a virus” and all would be well.  Now that the expert has it we’ll find out soon enough.

The next day I got the call from the computer repair shop. “Well, there's nothing wrong with your laptop, sir.  It doesn’t have any viruses, and it looks like someone has recently cleaned up the hard drive,” the repair guy tells me.

“Really, hmm, so what’s the reason I couldn't get on.  My son did a bunch of clean up stuff before we brought it down to you, but even then it wouldn't get on line,” I said.

“Chances are it's your server or your router acting up.  I’d take it back home and hook it up directly to your server and bypass the wireless router.  Then see what it does.”

I paid the man for his time, even though I was somewhat skeptical of his results.  Probably no more than some customers are when they leave my shop after I tell them what’s wrong with their car.  But, I'll take the experts’ advice and do as I was told.  When I got home both the wife and my son had their laptops out and were pluggin' away on the internet.  I might as well try mine before proceeding with the repairman's instructions.  Sure enough it still had problems getting on the internet. 

“Mitch, let's try what the guy said to do,” I told my son. 

We disconnected the wireless (after mom got to a stopping point with what she was working on) and hooked his laptop up direct, and as expected it worked just fine.  Then it was my turn, sure enough it worked perfectly.  Turns out the guy was right.  It was some sort of glitch in the wireless router.  I did call down to the repair shop to tell him the results.  He wasn’t surprised; he knew… he’s the expert.

He went on to tell me, “Since all the other laptops are working, and it's just yours my guess is the configuration between the two is not compatible. Put your son on the phone, and I’ll walk him through how to check the configuration on both laptops and router.” (A true expert knows who to talk to.)

All said and done with, a new wireless router solved the problem.  So what did I learn from all of this?  That expert advice is far more reliable than arm chair diagnosing. You may think you know what's wrong, but an expert in the field will most certainly have a better idea of what to do than yourself.  Telling the technician what the symptoms were without adding, “I think it's this” or “My friend who works on computers told me it's this” really added to a quicker solution in my opinion. 

I wish this happened more often at my service counter.  (But I won't get my hopes up.) Everyone has somebody who’s experienced a similar car problem, and will usually add their own “expertise” to the conversation.  Occasionally while I'm at a restaurant, a ball game, church, or a school event I'll catch a conversation about a car problem from the next table or from a group sitting close by.  Sure enough someone will have an opinion of what's wrong.  That's all fine and dandy... but let's keep that for friendly conversation and not part of the explanation to the expert.   Granted, there's some so called “experts” in every field that aren’t experts.  It’s bound to happen that you'll run into one.

To find a reputable shop, ask your friends, your relatives, etc... Their opinions do matter, just not when it comes to being an expert, unless they are one themselves. 

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