Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hello, I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC.

I give a lot of talks. Sometimes, my talks are to large audiences. One day a few years ago, I was giving a talk on the differences between men and women when it comes to the development of commitment. There were around 600 people in the audience. This is one of my favorite things to talk about, so I was in a good mood and ready to have a groovy time. (Yeah, I said “groovy.” I’m bringing the word back.)

So, picture this. I’m standing at the podium, the audience is all ready, and I’m maybe 4 minutes into my talk. Just getting going. It will not shock you to know I was using PowerPoint. While PowerPoint can be over done, I think it’s exceptionally useful for talks like this where I want to make a number of points very clearly and not be misread. I also had some nice visuals to depict concepts I wanted to put forth.

Back to 4 minutes into the talk: Freeze. I don’t mean the room grew cold, though it was Summer and I’ve always hated over-refrigerated hotel rooms on those hot muggy days. But, no, the room temperature didn’t change; it was just fine. What got cold feet and froze wasn’t me and it wasn’t the room; it was my PC. I’m a PC. My name is Scott and I’ve always been a PC. (Up until now.) There are many reasons for this, but they do not matter to our story. Generally, I’m quite a geek and have had great success over the years with PCs and keeping them running smoothly.

So, what would you do in my shoes? You are in front of 600 people, you have just begun your talk, and your computer crashes. Of course, there’s nothing for it but to restart the PC. This was a total blue screen of death crash. Ctrl, Alt, Delete was not happenin.

Side tip on giving talks: If you live by technology don’t die by technology. I remember once watching someone else’s keynote address at a conference when their computer froze and they spent 20 minutes—really, 20 minutes—in front of the audience painfully working through fixes to get started again. That’s a bad thing to do in a major talk. It is not only boring, it makes the audience anxious as your anxiety and frustration flow into them. If your equipment fails, just keep going with your talk. If you are multi-tasker like me, restart the equipment but proceed with your talk—even if you’ll be needing to buy a new laptop later that day. The show must go on, and talks like this are partly a show. (Related tip: Always bring a printed copy of your notes with you.)

As a speaker, I’ve always used just about whatever happens in the room that’s interesting as part of my talk. I mean, why not? Life is short and stuff like this is an opportunity. There was an interesting dialogue going on now in my head, standing there, audience waiting, while my computer was restarting: “Hmmm. PCs. PCs. What is it about PCs? Maybe I should really be using a MAC, at least for stuff like this. MAC people don’t ever seem to be fiddling with their computers just to get their tasks done. Heck, with a PC, something that worked perfectly well yesterday can’t be counted on to work today. PCs give you that exciting edge of life, feeling, where you just don’t know. How boring would it be to have a MAC and just have things work all the time? How realistic is that? Hm. . . . I got it.”

Okay, back to the audience. This turned into one of my favorite moments in my history of giving talks.

How is marriage like the difference between MACs and PCs? Or rather, how are differences in marriages like MACs and PCs?

Most marriages, and I mean perfectly good, worth working on, solid marriages, are like PCs, not MACs. Just as there are many more PCs in the world than MACs, and there are many more PC marriages than MAC marriages. (BTW, if you think I’m talking about what type of computer you have at home or in your briefcase, you haven’t shifted yet to the more abstract level. I’m not talking computer equipment now.)

Here’s the deal. While the people I know with MACs are not always perfectly happy with their MACs, they are mostly a seriously happy lot when it comes to computing. They turn on their computers (which look gorgeous, of course), they do what they meant to do in getting on their computers, they don’t think as much about the computer as they do about just doing their tasks or following their interests, and then they move on. How simple. It starts up, you click on some things, you happily compute, and when you are done, you do something else. And none of your time involves searching for some error message on Google. Now seriously, that’s not my experience with PCs. PCs are something else.

PCs add a sense of deep mystery to life that is more in tune with the way life really is. PC people are living closer to reality in some cosmic sense.

Some people have MAC marriages but most people have PC marriages. You know you have a MAC marriage if it just works most all the time and you don’t’ think about why it works or how to make it keep working. You know you have a PC marriage if you have to frequently reboot, install a patch, update something, scan for problems, or simply endure the fact that something is not working today that worked perfectly well yesterday. PCs are exciting. MACs? Oh, they are so boring.

I think some people end up in MAC marriages—again, which are much more rare than PC marriages—simply because of luck. Others do so because they are very careful in the right ways about how they partnered up. For some couples, they simply had compatibility, attraction and a big ole helping of easy-going-ness. (Those with MAC marriages should not be arrogant; being thankful would be more the thing or else you may find your MAC starting to slow down.)

Most marriages, and this includes very good marriage, are PCs. They take effort in order to keep doing the work of life. The truth is, in healthy marriages that have enough of the right stuff and that are not dangerous, the work is worth it. Sadly that message is regularly undermined in our culture. But it’s true, and much research supports the point. There’s no getting around the work. It’s just part of life in a PC marriage. And remember this, those of you in PC marriages: You have the opportunity of getting that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from overcoming things together. MAC marriage people can only dream of that joy.