Oh, what was happening?! I even used my other laptop to download the latest wireless card driver for this laptop, stuck it on a thumb drive, and updated the driver. Nothing. It obviously was my laptop at fault and not my network...but guess what I did next?
Right. I tore my LAN apart and rebuilt it. By then it was about 2AM, and I was completely freaked out: my precious laptop - my connection to everything outside my house - my work, my friends, my parents, the news, television, access to web-search...wasn't connecting. Oh, my God. I was really upset! I was swearing like a drill sergeant. I had yelled at my dogs and nearly kicked my cat, and I'm pretty sure I flung a shoe at the wall in a fit of enraged frustration.
4 hours had passed, and I had done everything I could think of that made sense, and a number of things that clearly did not, and I was no further along than when I opened the lid the first time. While I was sitting there pondering the problem - and panicking - I told myself to slow down and think. Think. THINK. What was the last thing I had done with the laptop prior to the problem? Why, I'd set it down, of course....but! It had caught on my sleeve! Then my eyes registered what I should have seen immediately: the little green WiFi light on the top part of my keyboard was not lit. ...O, RLY? I looked at the side of the laptop, and what do you know? Yeah. There's a nearly invisible slider bar on it that turns the wireless on and off. I flicked it back on, and everything worked just as it should.
Panic over, I sat there feeling incredibly stupid. All that, over a tiny little slider bar I didn't even know existed *and* when I had another, perfectly useful laptop? Really? Yes. Really.
Moral of the story: Techpanic is utterly irrational and can happen to anyone.
If you're still with me, here's the point of my post: Be nice to people who are caught in it. They're going to feel plenty stupid and embarrassed enough when it's over, without any help from anyone else. In fact, it is what makes a lot of those angry people in support queues...angry. They *know* they're doing something stupid or ignorant, and asking for help in that situation puts people - especially people who are specialists in computers in some way, or in some other field - on the angry defensive right out of the gate. I know perfectly well that if I had called support during that little episode I would have been aggressive and very unpleasant, primarily because I was really embarrassed.
Being familiar with the pathology of this particular emotional cycle can be really valuable when trying to defuse someone in that mood: in order to actually fix a problem, you need a cooperative user, and angry people just plain don't cooperate very well. Getting them past the fear, rage and humiliation into a functional mode is the key to getting them off your phone, out of your inbox, and out of your queue.
Final thought: The above is impossible if you, too, are perceptibly angry.
Truly final thought: Never trust a telephone's mute button. ;)
P.S. For those that did not get the references, the titles of this post and the previous one are riffs on the immortal Hitchhicker's Guide To The Universe. Douglas Adams, you are greatly missed.