Doctors Make the Worst Patients

Written by Dan Carlson@minutiaeman

Published October 25, 2007

It may be a cliché, but it’s also very true. Doctors always make the worst patients. But that principle doesn’t just apply to medicine; it’s also applicable any time an expert in a field needs assistance from another expert.

Take, for example, technical support. It’s not the primary definition of my job, but it’s a big part of what I do. Every day, I field questions on a ridiculous variety of subjects, from the mind-numbingly mundane (my iPod’s screen is frozen) to the delightfully obscure (I can’t reinstall the operating system because it won’t recognize the hard drive as a valid install destination, even though it sees the hard drive just fine). It’s my job to make sure that I think of all the possible causes of a problem, any potential consequences for changing certain settings.

So naturally, when I encounter a problem with my own equipment, I’ve already got a vast repertoire of experience to draw on for solving the issue. Most of the time, that’s quite sufficient to solve the problem. But every once in a while, there’s a real puzzler. I’ll pull out every trick I can think of, try different solutions... and usually forget an obvious alternative answer to the problem.

An answer like, say, plugging the damn wireless router into my ethernet port instead of trying to administer it wirelessly. In my defense, administering a router wirelessly is treated as perfectly acceptable where I come from, because of the tools that we use. But I came to take it for granted, and so completely forgot about it when the router froze up and needed a firmware update that refused to be installed wirelessly.

Oh well. Lesson learned, I hope!