Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
COMPUTER BUG MAKES THE ROUNDS
Well, it finally happened. After many years of enjoying the high-tech world of web surfing and email, I got nailed by a computer virus. The little cyber-critter was attached to an email I received, and as soon as I opened the message, it secretly copied itself to my computer’s hard drive. When I discovered a few days later what had occurred, I had already sent out over 100 infected emails to my (former) friends and my (they wish they were former) relatives.
Fortunately, it wasn’t one of those really destructive computer viruses. Some of the really nasty viruses will delete files from your hard drive and disable your operating system. Others will give you a sore throat, runny nose, and body aches. And still others, the worst kind, will create digital images of you in a compromising position with Janet Reno and automatically emails the virtual photographs to your friends, your employer, the local newspaper, and all area clergy. Very difficult to explain at that point.
The computer virus with which I was infected is classified as a “nuisance virus,” meaning it acts just like an annoying, 12-year-old younger brother. (And it was most likely written by an annoying 12-year-old younger brother, a genuine geek-in-training who gets out his frustration about being tongued-tied around girls by creating mischievous nuggets of software code and sending them careening through cyberspace.)
If a computer is infected with this nuisance virus, once each month it will suddenly display a dopey message on the screen. As far as I can tell, that is the only bad thing it does (although my nose has been noticeably more runny of late).
Once I discovered that I had the computer virus, I quickly removed it from my system. (“Quickly” being defined as spending ten hours doing research, making phone calls, downloading patches from the Microsoft website, installing a virus-scanning software program, and finally pouring a gallon of extra-strength Lysol disinfectant all over my computer.)
I was tempted to play dumb (usually I’m not playing) and not inform my email contacts that I had sent them the virus. But my conscience got the better of me and I sent everyone an apologetic message explaining what happened and how it can be corrected.
The various responses to my message were quite interesting. Some people said, “Hey, that’s the breaks. Thanks for the warning and keep writing.”
Other folks were a bit more alarmed. “What does this mean?!” they asked. “Will my computer blow up? Will our house catch on fire? Will my kids get cancer?!”
“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “Nothing bad will happen.”
But it was extremely difficult to explain over the phone how to detect the virus and, if present, what steps to take to remove it. Even computer experts have a hard time explaining technical things to each other over the phone, and so in my case—one computer illiterate talking with another computer illiterate—it was hopeless.
Finally I said, “Yeah, now that I think about it, your house probably will catch on fire. I suggest you move out of town immediately—and buy a new computer while you’re at it.”
The most surprising response to my warning message, however, came from people who said, in effect, “How dare you do this to me?! I though we were friends! Remove my name from your address book and never send me another email…ever! You’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”
Sheesh. They acted like I did something immoral and disgusting. Some pimple-faced geek zapped my computer, I unwittingly forwarded it to others, and as soon as I realized what was going on I took steps to correct it. What was so shameful about that?
But then it finally dawned on me that computer viruses are often compared to sexually transmitted diseases. During this whole ordeal, I heard or read the following statements regarding computer viruses:
No wonder my (former) friends were treating me like Typhoid Willie—or even worse, Willie Clinton. They automatically assumed this problem occurred because I am a promiscuous and philandering computer libertine. Well, I’m not! (I’m not quite sure what some of those words mean—the Thesaurus assured me they’re appropriate—but whatever they mean, I know I’m not that.)
At this point, I can only say my hard drive is definitely clean, and you should not worry about having email relations with me. (Trust me, babe, I’ll still love you in the morning.)
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