Dateline: Intersection of Misanthropy Way & Hope Ave, where stand many a SysOp.
When I open my primary laptop, my first task is to close a box of messages that were left with me while I was away. I am not proud of or happy about this. However neither am I ashamed. As a person who operates mechanisms over the internet that are services to many users, the sad truth is that the majority of messages I receive while away are composed of two parts.
The first part is a demand for some sort of specialized attention over one of the services I offer. This may range from as innocent as “Hello friend. I think your [X] server is down” to “Your [X] service screwed me and I demand the special treatment to which I am entitled by gracing you with my existence!” … The second part of the message, which is not always present, but occurs at a rate I would estimate to be above 95%, is some form of “Actually, the problem was on my end. Thanks!”
Were there a SysOp of all SysOps – the way there is a Highest Leader of the Yakuza, whose word and actions govern and lead all other Leaders, and with whom non-leaders would never dare interact by mere code of honor, or what we in the west would refer to as common courtesy – I would not write him. However, were I forced to write him somehow, my letter would look like this:
“Not only is my problem neither important nor time-sensitive objectively, it also lacks any real personally-perceived/subjective import &or time-sensitivity. I am aware that you already knew that. Should I escape the captors who are forcing me to write you (under the duress of a katana’s blade being held to the jugular arteries of my wife and children), I will murder them in your honor, and of course – unless my wife and children remain alive, which will oblige me otherwise – I will then turn the blade on myself, jam it deep into my viscera, pull upward with all my might, & twist; I know this act of humility and sacrifice will not be enough to save my own soul, but I will hope it saves the souls of my family. Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter – a reply will not be necessary under any circumstance. Deadly Yours, – Joshua Ryan Nydel of The Grapevine Clan P.S. Again, Domo.”
When I open the door of my car, my first instinct is to feel anxious. Of this, I am slightly proud and happy. The anxiety is over that I do not know enough about my car &or about explosive-fuel-propelled vehicular transport in general to create my car from the ground up should it disappear. However, I am not ashamed, because I routinely study automobile theory, on the levels of physics, pragmatic application, and history. I do this on a regular basis, about 15 minutes out of each week, and will continue to do so until either I fully understand the service with which my sedan provides me, or that service is replaced with something superior.
It has been at least a decade that I’ve studied automobiles and transportation on a casual yet regular basis, and not once have I spent the designated 15 minutes on the phone with Homda customer service or the branch of City Hall that deals with roads and transport. This is not simply out of respect for the time of others, but also out of respect for my own time. For you see, my goal is to become worthy of that which I possess, and bothering those by whom was/am I provided with service would be a criminally inefficient method of arriving at my goal.
Note that I don’t believe “it is unethical to make use of a thing unless said thing is first fully understood from every possible angle” etcetera.. I simply believe in gratefulness for selfish reasons; the world looks more beautiful to me when I can feel gratefulness, and it happens to be that through understanding alone am I able to increase the frequency and intensity of that feeling.
Neither do I believe “it is unethical to request assistance” in any way shape or form. Although, personally, I will treat inquiring with a professional/specialist as a last resort option only after I’ve determined two things.
The first thing I need to determine is that I have reached the end of my capability of fully understanding my problem on my own. This may range from something as innocent as “Hey, self, you’re out of tomatoes.” to “Your car won’t start.” And I find that – not always, but at a rate I would estimate to exceed 95% – I am able to respond to myself with “Let’s go buy some tomatoes.” etcetera. But ~05% of the time, the second part of my message to myself would be the same as the first but augmented: “Your car won’t start, and you’ve exhausted your ability to resolve the issue on your own.”
In a case such as this, there is a third part to my inner dialogue. In this hypothetical example, it would be like this: “Not only have you done as much troubleshooting as is possible with your current skill-set, you’ve also boiled down your results into three piles of theories – those of no probable use, those of unlikely use, and those of probable use. It is now time to request assistance.”
A benefit to the approach to life which I describe is that – when I enter into conversation with the automobile mechanic, s/he notices two things.
The first is that I am knowledgeable enough about his/her field of specialty that a) my request for help is made out of necessity and b) it will be extremely difficult to rip me off without risk of a metaphorical katana being shoved into his/her metaphorical tailpipe.
The second is that I acknowledge, appreciate and feel gratefulness for that he/she exists, makes himself/herself available to work, and executes work that not every person can do by themselves. This makes him/her much more likely to want to help me, and much less likely to attempt to hold my need for service ransom.
My point is made, I feel. But I want to leave an afterthought:
A man might bring his car to the shop claiming he “hears a weird sound sometimes when he drives over 30kph” without the man insisting on the importance of the issue nor its being time-sensitive. A good mechanic may dismiss something like this. But I believe that the mark of a great mechanic is the one who handles such a claim for what it probably is – a man without direction, looking to interact with another human being. I can imagine all sorts of arguments against my distinction between good & great here, but my answer to almost all of them will be the same: “well, then you have too many clients.”
I guess what I’m getting at is – my katana needs sharpening, and you have to: 1) buy me a katana 2) buy me a car 3) drive me to the knife guy, where Hope Avenue meets Misanthropy Way. Right now. Me-me. Me want. You do. Do it now – (Ho-Ho) – That would’ve been unacceptable obviously, so here’s how I ended up choosing to close this MOTD:
The mathematics would suggest than on some timelines, someone who reads this actually buys me a sword; I’d use it to cut a tomato.