Every Thursday morning, way too early in the morning, I have a meeting with my church's construction committee. We're charged with overseeing what is for us a major building project, over $2 million in the first phase, to roughly triple the size of our church facility. I chair the committee, and as part of that role I record the meeting notes.
Recently, I've taken to going to a local, locally owned diner fter each meeting to have breakfast by myself. I'm learning how to do sudoku puzzles, and it takes me roughly the same amount of time to eat my breakfast and work one puzzle, with perhaps an extra cup of coffee if the puzzle is one of the more difficult ones. It's a most enjoyable tradition!
This past week, after my breakfast, it didn't make sense to go home afterward because I had a meeting in town before too long. I decided to go to Panera to use their wi-fi while writing up the notes from the meeting. It seems like a terribly shi-shi, Gen X thing to do, but that's probably just because I'm so far from Gen X I have no clue!
So, I took a table along the wall near an outlet, in case one should become necessary. A young woman was at the next table, and the one behind her soon became empty, I noticed, as I worked on getting past the Panera "Hi, here you are at Panera, please be considerate of others when we're busy, and OK now you can click here to get on the network" page (Hint to Panera: ever heard of Firefox? And why would that not work when Netscape does??)
Soon a pleasant-looking, professionally dressed 40ish man came in with his laptop and took the vacant table behind the young woman. I wasn't paying much attention, but I was facing that direction and did hear him making small talk with her (she sitting with her back to him and trying to be nice about wanting to be left alone).
When he mentioned that his screen dims so much when on battery power that he can barely see it, I looked up. He had a Dell. I have a Dell. She had an Apple. So of course she was wouldn't be of any assistance.
It had taken me a while to figure that out about my Dell, too, because the fix isn't in a control panel or anywhere in XP, it's on your keyboard in a Dell-specific configuration. The blue "Fn" key can be used to directly access a variety of system settings, with corresponding blue icons on the keys. Screen brightness is controlled by using the Fn key and the up or down arrows. If you look carefully, the blue brightness icons are on those keys ... but who looks carefully at their keyboard? Or reads the user manual?
So I called the guy over, asked him if he has a Fn key on his keyboard, and showed him the trick.
He was elated. "Wow!" he said. "You should do consulting!"
Of course, I do, but it didn't seem important to tell him that.
Back to his table he goes. Tries it. Yep, it works, by golly. "Thanks!" he said. "Really, you should go in the business!"
I had to smile at that one. "I am in the business," I said.
"IT?!?!" he asked, animatedly.
It's been a long time since the IT world has been dominated by men. I started doing IT work back in those days, and in a way I kind of miss seeing the surprise of people who discovered how goldurn competent I am in something they thought was a "guy" kind of career.
So I don't think his surprise was necessarily based on any foolish, "Women aren't usually competent at computers" nonsense. I think he was just expressing enthusiasm and amazement at his luck finding someone in Panera to help him with his problem.
At least, I hope that's what it was. Because, even though I kind of miss that sort of surprise, it really is a better world without it, and all that it implies.