Illustration: Yao Yao

Keep Calm and Call IT

A guide to dealing with tech support

When your screen freezes, you can feel it in the pit of your stomach. How can that document be gone? Just, gone? What sort of cruel, godless universe is this? Then comes anger as you engage in percussive maintenance, but the computer fates respond to your beatings by going completely black. Then bargaining, “I will redo the whole chart if you just come back. Don’t take all the other data, you malicious slattern of an office appliance!” After you hold in the power button a few times, sorrow takes hold. Color fades from the world and you wonder if you should just end it all. But, you eventually come to a realization that something bigger than you is taking place, that there’s nothing you can do because this is all part of the natural order of things—you’re going to have to call for some tech support.

As anyone working in an office can attest, the most unpleasant part of the experience happens after the person meant to help you finally arrives—the person who invades your work space asking way too many questions and offering loads of unsolicited advice you neither agree with nor understand. At the end of all of the insults, waiting, and tutting, you may find yourself wanting to just quit your job and join the circus. So, here’s a handy guide to prepare for your inevitable tech support situations.

When the person wearing a plain shirt, jeans, and sneakers with a numb, bored expression finally shows up, you cry for help:

My computer won’t start!

Wǒ de diànnǎo kāibuliǎo jī le!


They, of course, have to ask you a few questions first. Be warned: during this process, your intelligence may be insulted and your pride will be hurt.

Is it plugged in?

Chāshàng diànyuán le ma?


Is the monitor cord loose?

Shìbushì xiǎnshìqì de liánjiēxiàn sōng le?


No and no. Finally, the tech guy or gal reluctantly takes your seat. But if it was a simple problem, things would probably be over already. The tech guy, of course, will make sure you know how many other people have made the same mistake and exactly how he feels about it. So they whip up some magic and your computer seems resurrected, but with an unfamiliar interface consisting only of text and codes that might as well be written in Martian. They declare:

Your operating system is damaged and has to be re-installed.

Nǐ de cāozuò xìtǒng sǔnhuài le, xūyào chóngxīn ānzhuāng.


With that they pull out a stack of 光盘 (guāngpán, discs), several or all of which are probably pirated. Remembering the last time your system was re-installed, you ask:

Do you have an operating system in English?

Yǒu Yīngyǔ de cāozuò xìtǒng ma?


Of course they don’t. But, hey, perfect time to practice your Chinese computer terminology, or randomly stabbing at tabs in the dark, depending on your Chinese ability. Also, there are far more pressing issues:

Can my files be retrieved?

Wǒ de wénjiàn néng zhǎo huílái ma?


They, ever so annoyingly, answer you with more questions:

Have you saved it? Where did you save it?

Nǐ bǎocún le ma? Nǐ bǎocún dào náli le?


Have you backed it up?

Nǐ bèifèn le ma?


Ashamed, you confess that you saved it on the 桌面 (zhuōmiàn, desktop) and you never bothered to backup anything—because you’re not a nerd. They throw you one of those looks intended for imbeciles and repeat the phrase you know all too well.

I’ve said it so many times, don’t save files on your desktop, it’s very easy to lose them during reinstallation.

Wǒ shuōguo hěnduōcì le, búyào bǎ wénjiàn cún zài zhuōmiàn shang, zhèyàng zài chóngzhuāng de shíhou róngyì diūshī.


Get into the habit of backing up your files regularly; this will save you a lot of trouble.

Yǎngchéng dìngqī bèifèn de hǎoxíguàn huì jiéshěng hěnduō máfan.


While trying your best not to commit homicide, don’t say:

Cut the crap and get on with fixing it. I’m in a hurry!

Shǎofèihuà, gǎnjǐn xiū, wǒ zhāojí yòng!

少废话,赶紧修, 我着急用!

You don’t want to piss off the guy who fixes your computer—especially since he can tell you weren’t busy and knows the last thing you Googled was, “Are unicorns real?” So you have to resolve to do the opposite:

Got it. No problem. I will definitely pay more attention next time!

Míngbai le, méi wènti , wǒ xiàcì yídìng zhùyì!


At some point, you may find yourself pining for the halcyon days of pad and paper over the hateful robot box that has just betrayed you. But such is the price we pay for modernity. A wide range of 故障 (gùzhàng, glitches) might hit your office that the tech support personnel are needed to fix.

You: My computer crashes a lot.

Wǒ de diànnǎo jīngcháng sǐjī.


Tech support: It may have been infected with a virus. What anti-virus software do you use?

Kěnéng shì zhòngdú le, nǐ yòng de shì shénme shādú ruǎnjiàn?


Here follows a whole lecture of anti-virus software reviews. It’s so long that you want to say: “I don’t care, just tell me which one to get.” Or he will suggest:

You opened too many files at the same time and your computer’s configuration is too outdated; it’s time for an upgrade.

Nǐ tóngshí dǎkāi de wénjiàn tài duō, diànnǎo de pèizhì gēn bú shàng, gāi gēngxīn huàndài le.


And then your IT wizard will tell you all about 中央处理器 (zhōngyāng chǔlǐqì, CPU), 内存条 (nèicúntiáo, memory chips), and 显卡 (xiǎnkǎ, display card), which you don’t care about because it’s all witchcraft.

You: My printer stopped working.

Wǒ de dǎyìnjī bú gōngzuò le.


Tech support: Have you tried connecting it to another computer?

Nǐ yǒu méi yǒu liánjiē dào lìng yī tái diànnǎo shang shì yi shì?


You: But I don’t know how.

Kě wǒ bú zhīdào zěnme nòng.


They sigh and throw you a disappointed look once again before getting to it. All the while, you wonder why they aren’t more grateful; after all, it’s simpletons like yourself that keep them employed. But tech support only serves to remind you how stupid you are—until there’s a problem they can’t fix. Then it’s the fault of the technology, internet dragons, or some such rot.

You: My internet connection is unstable. It keeps breaking off. I often can’t even open a web page.

Wǒ de wǎngluò tèbié kǎ, lǎo diàoxiàn, jīngcháng lián wǎngyè dōu dǎbukāi.


Tech support: Try to clean the cache and reconnect to the network.

Shìshi qīnglǐ huǎncún, zài chóngxīn liánjiē wǎngluò.


They will try a few things but when those don’t work, you’ll be told to take it up with your 网络运营商 (wǎngluò yùnyíngshāng, internet service provider). At this point you just have to accept that you are in China where the internet speed is generally, shall we say, torturous.
At the end of the day, with all your ignorance and indifference to computers, the most useful piece of advice you may get from tech support is an old adage from the very beginning of technology:

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Nǐ shì guò chóngqǐ ma?



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