Hello, IT support, how can I not help you?


My father in law has recently been dragged kicking and screaming into the current century, by the tax department. He now owns a computer, and has “access to the interwebs”. He had no choice but to buy a computer because – as an accountant – he was required by law to put his clients tax returns in online.

With any normal person, adapting to this new regime might be tricky, but would eventually become second nature. But we’re not taking normal people here.

If you knew my father in law you’d know how insane this situation sounds. Suggesting that he’d become familar with it soon enough is enough to induce death by hysteria.

My father in law has yet to fully understand mobile phones, and he’s been using those for over a decade. One day he might yet learn how to send or read a text, but that day is not in the near future. He can make and take calls, but anything further than that is untrod territory.

It’s not just an ineptitude with the technology, but a total incapacity to take care of the phones that astounds me. Every time he gets a new phone as part of his phone contract, he promptly breaks it, and then I have to dig up an old and forgotten phone from my phone graveyard and give him that to use. Luckily I had quite a long run with nokias in the days before phone recycling. And now I never recycle phones, knowing that he’ll need one. He’s out of the luck when he breaks his current phone though – the only phone I have sitting at home waiting for him is a pink motorola razr which I hated and replaced within a month!

He doesn’t just break them, he anhialates them. If you could humiliate a phone, he’d do that. He treats them like dirt.

One of his phones went missing for a week, and was finally found – or to be more accurate, identified – as the lump of molten and mishapen plastic found in the ashes of the pot belly stove.

Another phone had one of those mini joysticks, which he snapped off after three days, making it impossible to select the menu, or do anything other than answer incoming calls and make puncture wounds in your thumb.

A compact phone that slid out to reveal the keypad became totally inoperable after so much soil from the allotment got wedged inside the sliding part, and a flip phone with nice big oversized keys which I chose specially for him had the screen smashed to pieces when he sat on it. At least, that’s what he tells up happened to it. I’ve never seen a phone screen quite that destroyed, and I sit on my phone all the time.

So with this information about my father in law and technology, you’d hardly think that – having bought and set up a brand new PC for him – a single session with me teaching him how to use his new computer was going to produce an internet whizz, would you??

And of course it didn’t! Was that the storyline you were expecting?


I gave him a crash course on how to use it, how to open a browser, and how to get to the tax office website. I set up his email and we wrote down the passwords so that he’d have them safely saved away. I tried to show him all the various things he needed to know. But I had to leave without connecting him to the internet, as we had to wait for the BT box to arrive, and that would be up to him to connect.

Then I had to go back home – 5 hours drive away – and wait for the call saying “help, how do I connect this damn thing?!” which of course came very quickly. And amazingly, it went smoothly, he got onto the internet, got to tax department website, inserted his ID and password, and got logged in.

It seemed like smooth sailing, but it didn’t last very long. A few weeks later the next help call came though.

And this is where it gets funny, because despite my crash course with him, we had no common terminology to use in a phone conversation.

I said “ok, now in the window that is open right now…”

he interrupted with “the window’s not open, I can’t get to it.”

“Why not? What’s happening when you try?”

“The curtain is stuck under the computer’s box thingy. Anyway, it’s cold out there, why do I need the window open?”

Seriously, yes. We did have an interchange that was practically that. I had to start explaining – without the benefit of being there beside him – what a window on a computer was. I had to ask him to describe to me what he was seeing, and after 5 minutes of listening to the weirdest sounding description, I realise he’s describing the background image.

Some things were easy to identify – like the windows start button at the bottom left. Others not quite so simple. Once we got onto the web pages that he needed to access I had no clue what he was seeing, as he was using his special tax ID to log in.

Eventually I gave up, called in some local help, in the form of a family friend who lived nearby, and was an IT whizz in comparison to my father in law. She got the problems ironed out, and astoundingly, he started putting tax forms in online with great success.

Other than the tax department, I didn’t expect my father in law to dabble much in the other areas of the internet. I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t find him uploading photos of his allotment to facebook any time soon.

The last time we went up, he’d just had a problem with the computer shutting down – it was stuck on the shutdown screen. He told me that he’d pulled the plug out, but when he put it back in, the computer was still stuck in shutting down. That was because he’d pulled the monitor’s plug out, rather than the computers. By the time I saw the computer, it had successfully shut down anyway, so I just turned it back on. He thought I had fixed it by osmosis.

Everything seemed to go smoothly from that point on, although I don’t think he ever once checked his emails.

Mr Boxer Shorts recently took the girls up for a school holiday visit, and reported the frankly unbelievable news that his dad had got a new router and set up wifi on it. All by himself. And apparently had been handing out technical advice on computers to his friends and neighbours.

He still can’t send text messages though.

Photo credits: D G Burns, lucasrag

Categories: crazy people


  • Elly Lou says:

    My mom is still trying to find the “any key.”

  • Amy Phillips says:

    Pretty soon, he’ll be starting a blog and then where will you be?
    You are more patient person than me, I CANNOT explain the basics to anyone, I’m so bad at it. When someone asks for help, more often than not it ends up with me saying “Here, just let me do it.”