Who’s Helping Who?

Finale has a great technical support team, staffed by knowledgeable folks who are all very passionate about Finale. Scanning the room at a recent company meeting, I realized just how many MakeMusic employees had, at one time or another, answered technical support calls here, myself included. In fact, I continue to provide casual support at conventions and clinics around the world. But for today’s story I return to the distant past when answering support phones was part of my daily routine.

The year was 1989, MakeMusic was called Coda Music Software, and every member of our staff of sixteen performed technical support. When the phone rang and others were busy, even the general manager would pick up and help out. That said, I have to admit that our technical support training was a little more informal back in those frontier days!

I’d spoken a few times to one elderly gentleman – and I mean gentleman in every sense of the word. He’d politely call with questions that were easily answered, and he was effusive in his kind gratitude. He seemed to be quite prolific in his use of Finale, which I thought was pretty cool for a guy who sounded as if he were likely in his eighties. Sadly, I don’t recall his name (this was more than twenty years ago).

One day, he called after upgrading to something like Finale 1.2.6. He explained that he wanted to trash his previous version of Finale instead of having both programs on his computer. I proceeded to explain how to move the application and associated files to the trash.

Once we emptied the trash he indicated he had a question about a specific file, so I suggested he open it up. There was an appropriate pause, and then a longer pause. The he said, “I think my files were in the folder I just put in the trash.” My heart stopped. Had I really just told this nice man to throw away all his files? Indeed I had.

“Had you saved these files anywhere else?” I asked. Of course not; his music was gone. Today’s file retrieval services were not an option for us during the Reagan administration, so I had to tell this kindly gentleman that his work was caput. I was mortified.

I asked, “Were ALL your Finale creations in that folder?” “Oh, yes,” he answered cheerfully.

Then it happened: he soothed me! “My dear friend, Tom – may I call you Tom? You have been so helpful every time we’ve spoken. In my many years of living I have learned to let go of those things in life that are beyond my control – and even to let go of some things within my control. If those files are gone, then I guess something was telling me it was time to start over.”

“Start over? How much time do you have?” I’m thinking. But he was just as calm and kind as ever, comforting me when I should have been consoling him.

Some days later I received a nice letter from my friend. The header on the stationery stated his name, which as I said I do not remember. But under his name appeared, “Professor Emeritus Harvard University.” Wow.

This incident taught me a lot about humanity in the face of adversity. I understand that software woes and life’s other little tragedies pale in comparison to life-and-limb tragedies, but this great man gave me a little help in recognizing which are which.

Thank you, kind sir.

PS: This incident also taught me the importance of redundant file storage!

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