My desk is not sacred. It sits in the middle of a large room, adjacent to a communal work table and no one seems to recognize that it, and by extension, any object upon it, is proprietary. Granted, it's the nature of my job that I'm often not at my desk: I'm on the shooting stage, at the film lab, at the rental house or off dealing with some other vendor. On the other hand, the minutia on my desktop from my pencil cup to my inbox to the constantly shifting collection of coffee cups would indicate that this space belongs to someone and should probably be left as it is.

But noooooooooooooo! First, my pens get stolen by the fistful. Second, anyone who strolls by feels they can use my phone and write on my scratch pad and sit in my chair if it suits them. Third, they all use my pro-sumer copy/fax/scanner that can do all sorts of fancy stuff, the one that's mine, as in I paid for it out of pocket and it cost more than two different cars that I owned in college. At least I can talk the company into buying me toner once in a while.

For all my bitching, most of this is pretty innocuous. I can get more pens and pads and half the reason that I have the copier is to make others' lives easier. There is one thing that sticks in my craw, though.

People will try and use my computer.

Now, I've worked in a number of movie offices in which there is a public terminal or two set up if a non-office person needs to get on the web or type something. This is not one of those offices. Moreover, even if it were, my computer is obviously not the one. It's covered in stickers. The desktop is highly customized. Oh, and I run a operating system that most people can't negotiate without a hand to hold. Sure, I lock the screen if I'm going to be gone for more than a few moments but that stops no one. If I get up to run to the bathroom or to escort someone from the lobby, invariably I return to find any one of the two-hundred n'er do wells that we employ dragging their soiled boots all over my corner of the information super-highway. Most of the time they also find that they are borderline helpless in using Linux, even the idiot-simple version of Linux I use, and are then indignant that they can't make use of the computer that wasn't there to use in the first place.

I thought this was one of the unspoken laws of modernity: One does not fuck with another's computer without express permission. All kidding aside, a laptop is a very private place. Digging in someone's computer, for even a few minutes, can reveal all kinds of personal information from financial documentation to family secrets to sexual fetishes. Only a person's bedroom is more private and really only because there's a one in three chance that said person might be in there and asleep. It's somewhere one simply does not venture without the say so.

There's all sorts of damage one can do on a computer with which they're not familiar. They could accidentally bollocks up a document that's taken days to perfect, inadvertently delete a crucial file, bump "reply all" on the wrong email. They might leave URL's in the browser cache or images on the screen of which bosses or significant others might not approve. Most likely, they'll just spill their coffee on it but fucked is still fucked.

This could be my Pagan upbringing, the idea that everyone is entitled to a certain amount of sovereign space, an inalienable degree of privacy. Maybe most people are fine with others having access to their hard drives because they have a faith in basic human decency that I lack. Maybe all of my coworkers are assholes.*

Am I wrong about this? Is a computer really a much more mundane item, a tool like a screwdriver or a hair dryer that can be freely passed about and I'm just overreacting or is a computer more like one's castle in cyberspace with rules of propriety analogous to the flesh and consequences world?


*May of my colleagues feel that I'm an asshole so I feel justified in saying this in that way that pots may speak to kettles.

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peony said...

It's not just your Pagan upbringing. It's common (albeit often not so common) decency and respect for another human being's thoughts and work. How does one respect oneself without respect for others? If you are using a laptop...lock it in a desk drawer. If you are using a desk model, lock the keyboard in a desk drawer along with locking the screen. (And I love the "word verification" I'm seeing below and will be asked to type -- twartian. Any guesses on a meaning? It's a great word.)

Rakanuj said...

I've often considered concocting elaborate traps for those foolish enough to go near my computer without asking. Visions of porcupine enemas come to mind...

I'd compare your computer to your house. It contains all your stuff, is decorated and arrayed (or disarrayed) to your liking, and anyone caught snooping around should be assumed to be stealing or stalking.

Now houses have guest rooms, just like computers have guest accounts. Perhaps it would make you more tolerant of the keyboard-clawing cloven hooves if you set your screen saver to force a login, and then enabled a guest account.

Then again, I'm with you if want to suspend a razor sharp axe blade to permanently correct the handsy.

peony said...

and yes, I do know the "word verification" is supposed to be a random set of letters. But this site often has some intriguing compilations...this time it's "dorionit". We really need to create meanings for these words. Let's get Dory on it.

RawkStahr said...

Firstly: I don't think posting a few signs would be out of order;

Secondly: Alert those in the office with whom you work, since there's probably at least one person in the office at all times, to tell people to bugger off if they glance over and see someone other than you on your lappy-top;

Thirdly: Is there a picture or two of me on this desk? If not, there needs to be. I can take care of this, if you want.

Fourthly: word verification = DISTRI -- 1) the Italian form of 'destroy'; 2) (slang) the way a Southerner pronouces 'destroy'

Joe Visionary said...

Not only do we all have novell network passwords, most of us even have bios passwords because most of us have been working with computers even before the Imsai and punchcards.

... oh, yeah, I work in a TV studio maintenance shop for a major broadcaster.

waldo said...

Even the ignorant arrogance required to stroll up to someone else's computer and start trying to use it would probably pause at a cleverly worded sign...say...'DO NOT USE THIS COMPUTER'.
I've left the optional accompanying terseness to your discretion.