"Are you still with me, Meg?"
I think he and I both knew I was never with him in the first place.
His name was Antonio and somewhere in the world, he clocks in at Microsoft and talks to morons like me on the phone all day long. I have talked to many tech support people who after our call ended must’ve quietly left their cubicle and beat something to a pulp with a baseball bat.
But Antonio was different.
His heavily-accented voice was laced with patience and compassion, as he explained yet again that I needed go to my Control Panel and select something or other which would fix the error message that kept popping up when I opened a Word document.
Within the span of our almost hour-long conversation, a fight broke out in the living room when Logan went into Connor’s house on Minecraft and took some kind of sacred thing.
"Logan, you’re a thief!"
Logan screamed on the floor until our 12-year old boxer woke up and started barking.
Antonio took it all in stride, and he laughed as I told Logan through gritted teeth that stealing is a crime. Then, when we tried to uninstall and reinstall the Office program, it became obvious that the problem was more complicated than what I could handle.
Antonio tenderly proposed the same thing he’d asked to do earlier in the call.
"Can you give me permission to remotely access your computer?"
My heart raced; I am not that kind of girl.
If I allowed it, his cursor would roam my most private places — my computer files.
Remote access gives the technician the ability to see into your computer and fix the problem. That part of it is great, because the person who knows what they are doing takes the reins. But in a world filled with identity theft, sex trafficking, and creepy people in general, it’s not easy to trust a stranger with personal information.
I debated my choices, and then in one swift, liberating, moment, I accepted Antonio’s offer to get more personal. Intrigued yet horrified at his little red dot racing around my laptop screen, I leaned back in my chair and waited to hear his voice.
"OK, so we are going to minimize this screen," he said.
I groaned — wishing I would have changed the homepage picture when I had the chance. It currently featured a close-up of my left nostril and upper lip which was a lovely family fishing photo accidentally blown up five hundred times its original size.
From my deepest thoughts in a file labeled "My Journal" and unfinished manuscripts, to all our picture albums and tax returns dating back to 2013, it would be easy to learn everything you need to know about the Duncans in a few mouse clicks.
And though Antonio does this all day long, and probably noticed none of that, I found myself analyzing everything he said and did to decide if I could trust him.
I hate that I am cynical about people. Call it smart or overly cautious — either way, it’s tragic. We can now connect with the entire world from our living rooms and explore places we may never otherwise see. With this kind of power, our society could be moving mountains.
Instead, too many use it to harm and destroy, and it makes us fear each other.
But as Antonio explored my computer — he talked about his two kids and that they also fight over video games. He was working overtime that night and couldn’t wait to see his family for dinner. I told him my husband works a lot of overtime too. The more we talked, the more I realized how much his life resembled mine.
Finally, when the problem was solved and as we said our goodbyes, I felt like I made a friend. I also felt more at ease about the safety of my information.
Then, when another accusation of Minecraft thievery rang out from the living room, I shook my head.
Who can you trust these days?
Meg Duncan has lived on the same corner in Hannibal for most of her thirty-something years. Raising two boys and one husband, she writes about real life because it is far better than fiction. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Courier-Post.