Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tales From the Lab Assistant's Desk

I work across the hall from the foreign language TA offices at the university. I'm the computer assistant, so I guard the copy machines, tell students it's not my job to lend them dry erase markers or help them pay their parking tickets, and pretend I'm doing something useful for 5 hours or so every day; it's a pretty sweet gig. I learn a lot of things as well, like lately I've been learning that the secret to making somebody really REALLY uncomfortable is to stand way too close to their desk with a group of your fellow TAs and converse in a foreign language while occasionally casting sideways glances at the lab assistant in question and laughing (It's apparent that I need to learn Italian and pay a visit to the Asian Studies TA office sometime soon.)

Another thing I've learned is that the title of Teacher's Assistant doesn't necessarily make you any more logical or competent than, say... the average 5 year old. At the risk of sounding like any more of a jerk, I'll just let the following recent conversation between me and one of the TAs speak for itself:

TA: Hey, I think there's a problem with one of the computers in the lab.(Insert vague rambling description of problem that eventually equates to "it's acting weird".) I think it's a virus. It corrupted my flash drive. Can you fix it?
Me: (After getting up and taking a look) Well, if it's a virus, I can't really do anything to fix it. How about I give you the number for tech support and have you call them to explain the situation?
TA: No, I can't. I'm not a TA this semester, only winter semester. I just stopped by because of the computer.
Me: What? Never mind, I just need you to call tech support because it would be better if you explained the situation to them than if I tried to relay it.
TA: But, see, I'm not a TA this semester, I'm only here because--
Me: That doesn't matter. You're here, and you know the situation better than I do. It would be better if you explained it to the tech guys, cause I'm not really familiar with the situation like you are. I can even call them on my desk phone and do most of the talking, I just need you to explain the actual problem to them.
TA: But I can't, I'm not a TA this semester, I'm just here cause I'm worried about the computer.
Me: So... why does that prevent you from talking to tech support about a situation you understand better than me so we can fix the computer?
TA: Because, I only work winter semester. I'm just worried about the computer.
Me: Just... never mind. I'll call them, you go... not be a TA somewhere else
.... Hello, Tech Support? SI lab. We've got another vague situation up here.
Tech Support: Language TA office?
Me: Yup.
Tech Support: Just hang tight, we're on our way. Jimmy! To the tech mobile!

... Turns out I just had to turn off the computer and switch it back on and the Deep Freeze would fix the problem, so unfortunately, that makes me the moron here, but you get the picture. It helped me learn that I don't need to be intimidated by TAs because apparently it's my job to explain to them that they are still capable of being of use to the human race even if they're off duty. It's sort of like how I stopped being afraid of professors after the second or third time I had to help one of them understand why their word processor was covered in red squiggly lines.
Like I said, I learn a lot in this job.


Meg said...

What?! There's a tech mobile?! I want a ride! Too bad I'm on the other side of the country.

The Erin said...

Oh yeah, they've made a lot of changes since you've been gone. We all get to wear capes now too.

Meg said...

Dang it! I should have stayed in Utah! Also, the verification word is "swooft" which is just too awesome not to mention.