"Welch Hall computer assistant;may I help you?"
"Yes,well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."
"What sort of trouble?"
"Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."
"Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"
"It's blank;won't accept anything when I type."
"Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?" "How do I tell?"
[Uh-oh. Well, let's give it a try anyway.] "Can you see the C:\> prompt on >the screen?"
"What's a sea prompt?"
[Uh-oh. Let's try a different tack.] "Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"
"There isn't any cursor;I told you, it won't accept anything I type."
[Ah--at least they know what a cursor is. Sounds like a hardware problem. I wonder if they kicked out their monitor's power plug.] "Does your monitor have a power indicator?"
"What's a monitor?"
"It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light to tell you when it's on?"
"I don't know."
"Well, then look at the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"
[Sound of rustling and jostling]"Yes, I think so."
"Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."
[pause]"Yes, it is."
"When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"
"Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."
"Okay, here it is."
"Follow it for me, and tell me if it's securely plugged into the back of your computer."
"I can't reach."
"Uh-huh. Well, can you see if it is?"
"Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"
"Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle--it's because it's too dark"
"Yes--the office light is off, and the only light I have coming in is from the window."
"Well, turn the office light on then."
"No. Why not?"
"Because there is a power outage."
[This person was good friends with my supervisor, so I couldn't deal with them the way I really wanted to, and was forced to explain sweetly and gently that computers need power just like office lights, and if the office lights were off, then the computer was too, and that yes, if they had not saved their work in WordPerfect it was probably lost. But I could still fantasize:]
"A power outage? Aha! Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"
"Well yes, I keep them in the closet."
"Good! Go get them, and umplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it right back to the store you bought it from."
"Really? Is it that bad?"
"Yes, I am afraid it is."
"Well, all right then, I suppose. What do I tell them?"
"Tell them you are TOO STUPID TO OWN A COMPUTER!"[slam]"
...but that wouldn't have been a very nice thing to do, now would it?