Unrequited ICT love

I love ICT. I can't contemplate life without my laptop. Much more than a day away from the internet and I develop an ugly twitch. But ICT doesn't always love me. In fact, it has this nasty habit of sneaking up behind me when I'm least expecting it and smacking me around the head.

This time it starts giving me headaches even before I get into the ICT room. In my college, we have two ways of securing classroom doors. Either there's a lock, which can be opened with a master key, or a pin pad, for which you need the code. The day before my class is due to start I check out the room. It's locked, with a "proper" lock, not a pin pad. Through the glass panel I dutifully count 19 terminals inside. Oh joy, oh rapture. Exactly the number of students I'm expecting.

The following day, the class lines up outside the door. My master key goes into the lock. Except it doesn't. Go in, I mean. Whichever way I present it, it doesn't fit. "Looks like Stephen's lacking some key skills," says a wag. "You try," I say testily. It doesn't work for the wag either.

I run down three flights of stairs to the premises office, muttering angrily to myself. I'm told that some rooms do indeed have different keys. I hold out my hand for the relevant one. But it's not going to be that easy. "Are you tenured or hourly paid?" I am asked. "Tenured," I answer. "Full-time or fractional?" "Point five," I reply. "Sorry mate. I can only issue keys to full-timers."

"I'm 62 years old," I say. "I have worked in the college practically since it was a mechanics institute. And now you're telling me that I can't be trusted with a room key." Suddenly I get a dreadful premonition. This is what it's going to be like from now on. There are some temporary keys, my tormentor tells me, that you can sign out and bring back at the end of your class. My hand goes out again. Sorry, he says, you'll have to go to security for one of those.

I finally get into the classroom 15 minutes after I left it. As I've just run down and then back up three flights of stairs, I'm feeling a bit worse for wear. But for a few minutes things go smoothly enough. I give the students their log-ins and passwords. Hallelujah! They actually work. At least, for 17 of them. The other two are reporting "dead" computers.

I scrabble around on my hands and knees tracing cables and plugs. We turn the errant machines off and on again. Still nothing. I leg it back to my staffroom and call the ICT helpdesk. "Don't worry, we can fix them," says the chirpy voice. "And you're in luck, I've got a space on the jobsheet for next Wednesday."

Back in the classroom, a broken man, I let the students go. "Oh, by the way," says the last to leave, "we didn't like to tell you this, but the printer's not working either."

Stephen Jones is a lecturer at a college in London.

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