Working With a Screen-Toucher

Yes, It’s true. One of the people I work with touches his computer monitor with his fingers. I never suspected that a place like Apple could harbor such people.

Today we were in a meeting discussing our project. He’s doing the database stuff; I’m concentrating on the presentation layer (see my previous rants about HTML). We were sitting side-by-side, each with his laptop open. On his screen was a dump of the data structure he was sending over to my code. “Here is the list of …”

Actually, I’m not sure what he said after that. I was staring in horror at the end of his finger, where it was pressed firmly against the surface of his screen. “Data list value array,” my co-worker said. I heard none of it. Here’s what I was thinking: Fingerprints. Photons baffled and confused. Acidic oils burning through the surface. Pixels, suffocating, twisting in agony. His screen was covered in fingerprints, the oils from countless screen-touchings built up into a layer that my eyes could no longer focus past.

“Will that work?” he asked.

“Um…” I replied. I wondered what it was that he was talking about. I wondered how he could work when his screen was—

His hand shot out, left index finger extended, directly at my screen. My lovely, lovely, screen, only three weeks out of the box — pristine, innocent of the bruising touch of errant digits. Nooooooooooo!

Perhaps it was my sharp intake of breath that interrupted the course of his rampaging digit. Perhaps he’s already aware that while touching one’s own screen is one thing, touching the screen of another is quite something else. The tip of his finger stopped just above the surface of my virgin monitor and hovered there, twitching, as he described something about something. There was a corner of my mind sending up a flare that perhaps the actual words that my co-worker spoke might be important. The signal was lost among the klaxons and Emergency Broadcast System alerts that demanded that every neuron be devoted to ongoing analysis of the motion of The Finger. The Homeland Security lobe of my brain was altering the threat level meter a dozen times per second, adjusting duct tape and adrenaline with every minute vibration of the chemical-weapon-bearing heathen on the doorstep. The threat level never dipped below ‘orange’.

After two draining seconds the threat receded. My screen, even now, does not understand the horror that nearly came to pass. (Or does it? My laptop shares an intimate network with thousands of others. Perhaps there are legends and stories that pass between them. Perhaps those other computers smile to themselves at the excited puppylike banter of my computer — “Wow! I’m running MySQL server!” — while the grizzled veterans roll their eyes. Meanwhile, the old-timers quietly admire the stoicism of my co-worker’s laptop. “Someone did that to me, I’d just kernel panic,” the headless X-serve in its air-conditioned enclosure says.)

Meanwhile, my co-worker thinks he’s told me stuff. I was sitting right there and looking where he pointed, so I must have been paying attention. I’m reasonably confident that he was speaking, I think I would have noticed if his voice stopped. Probably. He isn’t talking now, however, so he must be waiting for me to say something.

“I’ll be working on that next,” I say. “Can you send me a summary in an email?”


10 thoughts on “Working With a Screen-Toucher

  1. I’m with ya. Nothing else much to say. Yuck.
    I hate those screen cleaner products. They in fact don’t.
    I think one of the house keepers once wiped down my work computer when she was new. Trying to be diligent. My screen was smeary for a long time after that.

  2. I am not a screen toucher. However, I believe I must live with some, because the home computer monitors display spreadsheets and facebooks with erroneous dashes, spurious specs, and confusing smudges, all of which stay stubbornly fixed relative to the monitors’ edges while I madly drag the window here and yon in an attempt to move the bit of text I’m reading to a non-eclipsed spot.
    And here I thought it was a Internet Explorer bug…

  3. I am not a screen-toucher, but I will cop to being something nearly as bad: I’m an feed-at-my-desk-eater, sometimes even a finger-food-feeder-at-my-desk-eater. While most of the time I’ll remember to include a pants-wipe of the hands after a peanut butter and jelly bite, I’ll admit I may occasionally skip that step. So my keyboard and mouse are under more than the usual onslaught of atmospheric dust particles settling attack: sticky fingers, splashing soup, crumbs on the mouse pad.

    At least I don’t eat at other people’s computers, though.

    • I am also an eat-at-keyboard person, so perhaps I’m a bit of a hypocrite. However, unclean keys do not reduce the utility of the device the way a smeared screen does.

  4. I often have to point to things on my students’ screens, but I never touch the screen. I use a pen or pencil as a pointer and keep it a half-inch away from the screen’s surface.

    My own computer is worst after Pat has borrowed it.

  5. Technology is moving faster than our ability to break habits. I’ve only had my fancy-schmancy flat screen monitor for less than a year, and I still have to consciously remind myself that I’m not supposed to touch it. Because for 14 years prior to that, I had an old NEC monstrosity that took up half my desk and sucked down electricity like so many frozen Cokes but had no problem at all with being poked, prodded and tapped thoughtfully with whatever pen I happened to be holding at that moment.

    Don’t judge me.

    • The touch screen on my phone doesn’t bother me, that’s true. I keep a screen condom on it and I clean it after every use, but I have managed to tune out the smudges and smears.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *