Thursday, March 10, 2005

I didn't touch it!

In the interest of fair play, I will now tell a story about me doing something dumb in grad school. A few weeks before The Doktah’s proposal, I needed send out an email, and for some reason that I can’t remember, I couldn’t use my computer. The Doktah had gone home for the day, but I knew she wouldn’t mind if I borrowed hers.

Now, the email I was sending included a file attachment. At the time, there were only two ways to send email attachments through our server: through webmail or through a program such as Netscape. But webmail at my school was still in its infancy, and I forgot that it was even a choice, so I was left with the option of changing the email preferences in The Doktah’s copy of Netscape.

The next day, The Doktah sent out an email to everyone on her committee confirming the date of her proposal. A little while later, The P.I. came into the main lab and asked her if she knew that the header of the email said it was from me. Then she started to get some questioning replies from the rest of her committee. Confused, she went into her Netscape profile and found my name as the identity.

Meanwhile, I was happily typing away on my computer at the desk next to hers. “Um, Mo?” The Doktah said. I took off my headphones.

“What’s up?” I said.

“Did you change the profile settings on my Netscape email?”

“No,” I said. I wasn’t lying. I truly believed that I hadn’t changed anything.

“Are you sure? Because I just sent out a really important email to my entire thesis committee, and the header says it’s from you.”

“Huh,” I said. “That’s really weird! Because I didn’t change anything.”

The Doktah pondered this. “Um, I think you must have, because it’s changed.”

I started to feel defensive. “But I didn’t change it!” I said. I don’t know what was going through my head, but even faced with the incontrovertible evidence of my tampering, I still believed myself to be innocent. I didn’t remember changing the settings, so I couldn’t have changed them. I was apparently working with the theory of computer gremlins. I just kept saying “I didn’t touch it!” with increasing agitation while The Doktah tried to explain to me that, clearly, I had.

I eventually realized that I obviously changed the settings, and apologized for making The Doktah look like an idiot to her committee. But I still like to imagine the scenario from her point of view. Imagine trying to reason with an irrational lunatic who just keeps repeating one phrase. “I didn’t touch it! I didn’t touch it! I didn’t touch it!”

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