A few months ago my younger daughter turned six. Attempting to make myself useful before the birthday party, I was hanging a large piñata, when my better-half approached me and whispered provocatively: "Man, please follow me to my office."
Instant cold sweat. When I get such invitation from a beautiful woman, I get serious performance anxiety and I know why: I'm going to be asked to perform the last manly job.
Fast forward to last month in Mexico. Dangling from a pair of hammocks (no flu yet, thanks for asking), two 40-something men are discussing their relevance to their families, and especially their wives. We have no argument about our true "killer application," the last true manly job on earth.
Last week I got a strong confirmation of my value from a professional woman: she's in charge of user experience in a large Silicon Valley company and an electric engineer by training. Despite that, she defers any hooking, plugging, and installing to the nearest good man.
We all agree that the last manly job on earth is Home IT support.
Back to that home office scene: The task I was being asked to do was described quickly and nonchalantly.
The Wife: "I bought her five Hannah Montana songs on iTunes and it would be really nice if you could play these exactly as we cut the cake on the front lawn. Ronni will be so excited!"
Me, mumbling: "How much time do I get?"
The Wife: "Five minutes."
Sounds easy: go to the nearest Mac (we have six at home), move the songs to the nearest iPod (we have four), and play the songs in front of 25 kids.
First attempt: iPod cannot play the songs through my Mac laptop because of some "rights" issue. (Why didn't I get one of these iPod speakers I designed for Logitech?)
Second attempt: Our central audio system has speakers around the lawn (not my idea, previous owner loved copper in walls.) Idea: hook the iPod directly to the system and voila! Not so fast. The system does not like digital music and somehow refuses to connect with a lowly iPod.
Third attempt: Burn a CD (fast), load the CD to the CD changer that is hooked to the central audio system... and VICTORY! Just on cue, my precious little one got her Hannah Montana exactly as the cake was cut. I was declared Dad-of-the-Month in the neighborhood.
Three months later, The Wife summons me again to report there were rumors that Best Buy might have a supply of Nintendo Wii's, at 7 a.m. on Saturday. With our oldest daughter's birthday coming soon, I couldn't really argue against the Wii. I truly believe it's the best gadget created in the last decade (so sorry, iPhone).
We got the Wii and now I had another manly chore to perform: hooking it up to our Surround-Sound (7.1) Marantz multi-channel crazy box. Remember Charles Bronson crawling behind enemy lines to save the world? Now imagine me crawling behind the AV cabinet with an S-Video cable in my mouth and the same crazy-eyed look.
For the first week the Wii, was in 1920's mode—black and white image, no sound. The only thing missing was the Rag-time piano score to fit the visual. Naturally, I was feeling the heat: "Should we ask the neighbor?" "I can call Best Buy and ask them if they have someone to fix it." "Dad, that's so lame."
Now you understand my increasingly acute performance anxiety, right? Eventually, a week later, I managed to reconfigure a channel to be digital enough for the Wii and analog enough for the Marantz... and bliss! Wii playing in full sound, surround 7.1 and all. Again, Best-Dad-of-the-Month award was merely pending.
Last weekend I was approached by the authorities yet again: "We are visiting my sister in London and they have such a wonderful TV there and I was thinking that we could install a SlingBox there and one here and we could share TV channels."
Last manly job or not, a man eventually has to draw a line in the sand: "Honey, I designed a dozen or so SlingBoxes, yet I am really scared of hooking one up!"
Gadi Amit is the president of NewDealDesign LLC, a strategic design studio in San Francisco. Founded in 2000, NDD has worked with such clients as Better Place, Sling Media, Palm, Dell, Microsoft, and Fujitsu, among others, and has won more than 70 design awards. Amit is passionate about creating design that is both socially responsible and generates real world success.
Read more of Gadi Amit's The New Deal blog