Tech Support Employees And Their Outragous Stories on the Job

By: Mark Smith | Last updated: Sep 26, 2023

We have all encountered tech support in some capacity, one way or another. Oftentimes times tech support is the make-it-or-break-it people during times when we are in ultimate technical crisis. We aren’t always the most patient when we are in crisis nor the easiest to get along with.

It is understandable since often times when you get to tech support, matters are time sensitive, but have you ever stopped to consider the point of view of such support? Here are some of the most outrageous tech support encounters that you wouldn’t believe.

Going Above And Beyond

Pro tip: You don’t do any work on Friday in IT. If it goes wrong, you’ll be there all weekend fixing it. So, in the spirit of being careful, Friday afternoon drinks were a tradition. 4 pm Friday was happy hour, and the responsibility for arranging the drinks fell to me. No big deal right? Except that this was the day that I finally got an unlimited account with the local drinks store that would be billed to the company automatically. I wasn’t going to waste it.

I did not waste it. Our small 10-person company got rip-roaringly tipsy. There were cans stacked to the ceiling. Chips had fallen liberally to the floor. Someone couldn’t find a bin and filed a chicken wing in the file cabinet, under “C”, for chicken. It was one of /those/ sessions where everyone is just a total mess.

Around 9 pm, after five solid hours of partying, we broke off and headed into the night. I wandered down to a nearby bar and watched some bands play for an hour, downed another pitcher, and smiled to myself that the week had ended. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. The next event made my stomach churn.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I ran outside, tripping up the stairs as I went, managed to steady myself against a signpost, and answered. It was the CEO. The primary and secondary route servers were down. I stood frozen in time for an instant, the same way a deer looks at the headlights of an oncoming car, and then asked him to repeat himself.


I cannot stress enough that these two servers were the most important thing our company had. They, in and of themselves, were the primary thing around which our business existed, and all other things were secondary to them. My state was by far the biggest, with some of the biggest content providers in the country attached.

And this was the first full network outage we’d ever had. And it was my problem. And I’d consumed enough drinks that my blood could have been used as a fire accelerant. I yelled…something, and ran off in the direction of work. It was only when I bumped into the glass front doors before they opened that I started to realize how far gone I was.

When the elevator arrived at my floor, and I bumped into both sides of the hallway before making it to the door, I knew I was in trouble. That hallway was only 20 feet long. But it didn’t matter. My wallet hit the card reader. I’d made it.

Habit’s a funny thing. You get so used to the noises, clicks, beeps and responses that you realize something’s wrong in an instant. Something had gone wrong in this instant. There was no response from the card reader. An error, surely? Interference, something new in my wallet? I dug the card out, throwing my wallet on the ground, and badged it on its own.

Nothing. Not an “Access Denied” six beeps, or a “Card Format Unrecognized” five beeps. Nothing. The lights were on, but no one was home. A few feet away, the keypad for the alarm was lit up like a headlight convention. All the lights were on, the screen totally blacked out. No beeps for keypresses. Just…nothing.


Source: Shutterstock

The blood drained from my face. The route servers were inside, suffering some unknown fate, our customers probably getting more furious by the minute, and I could not open the door. AGAIN. No, sod it. I wasn’t taking any more of this security system’s issues. I was getting into this datacentre, security system be darned.

You all know what I’d tried before, and I knew as well, so I didn’t bother trying again. My tools, once again, were behind the locked door, and then the light went on over my head. I can’t…go through the door…I can’t…go AROUND the door…I can’t go…UNDER it…but can I go OVER it!? This is the logic of an in-his-cups engineer: Try all the dimensions!

There was a chair that we left outside for people working outside, so in my infinite wisdom, I dragged the chair over to the wall and lifted a ceiling tile. I then hoisted myself up into the ceiling. This did not work as well as I’d hoped because I was not very strong. I kicked and pushed off the wall, scrambling to push myself up onto what I now realized was a very thin wall.

For those not familiar with a suspended ceiling, metal rods are drilled into the concrete block above, and a grid pattern hangs below it. Inside those grids are weak, light tiles basically made of a combination of cardboard and plaster. Looking at the predicament I’d gotten myself into, it became apparent that the only things that were going to support my weight up here were the tie-rods into the concrete.

So I’d hold onto the rods with my hands, and lying prone in the ceiling, then distribute the rest of my weight along the horizontal connectors. I’d drop down onto the file cabinet at the far end of the room, about 15 feet away. This plan was flawless. And it worked…for about six of the required 15 feet, upon which point my hands slipped and I fell through the centre of the ceiling tile, towards the floor below.

By some insane miracle, I landed mostly on my feet, scrambling ungracefully to regain balance, coughing up ceiling tile dust and God knows what else. Probably asbestos. When the coughing stopped, I ran over to the security panel, pulled the power, and plugged it back in. It beeped a single happy POST beep and hummed to life, making normal sounds instead of the endless buzzing it had been making before.

My access, was restored, I quickly found the problem: A circuit breaker had tripped, and due to a wiring error on the part of an electrician at some point, both route servers had been wired into the same circuit. With a dustpan and brush, I set about cleaning up the nightmare my dramatic entrance had caused.

It was not a small mess—ceiling tiles are about five feet by two feet, and this one had exploded. It took about an hour. After finally sweeping up all the mess, putting the ceiling tile I’d broken to get up there back together, and replacing the one I’d broken getting down, I walked my butt out the door, feeling smug that no one would be the wiser for my ceiling entrance, and I’d have a grand story to tell. Or so I thought.

Monday morning rolled around and I was the last one in. My co-worker Aaron stared at me. Aaron: What the heck did you do to my desk?
Me: Wha?

I walked into the office and stared in horror. I don’t know what the heck I’d cleaned up but it looked like someone had hit a bag of flour with a baseball bat. It was everywhere. How gone was I? What did I spend an hour cleaning? And how in almighty did I diagnose an electrical circuit being miswired and split with no electrician tools of any kind? I have no idea.

But what I did know was how to break in. So I documented the procedure and added it to the Tech Support Wiki.

chhopsky (Reddit)


A Big Mouse Problem

I owned a computer shop. We donated to a local county nature center by installing a network on the campus, which consisted of several one-story buildings elevated a few feet above the ground on pilings. We ran the cables and installed the networks in the required locations, and installed and configured the routers.

We have learned that it never works to give things for absolutely free because then there is no end to what people will ask for, so we asked them to pay the wholesale cost of the cable… that’s it. Everything else, including labor, was free.

About a year later they started having random network ports go intermittently bad, and the problem seemed to be getting worse. They asked us to troubleshoot. We went out, found the problem was that rodents had bitten into some cables in multiple locations. Sometimes but not always this severed one of the wires at the point of the bite, but sometimes the wire would still work.

This intermittent fault took several hours to figure out. Since they had not actually bitten chunks out of the cables, just bitten into it, the cable appeared undamaged visually. The way we found the problem was to run a hand down the cable looking for a kink or something and feeling the little nick. Close examination showed the bite. Once we knew the problem, it required rewiring a few runs and telling them they had a bad mouse problem, and to get an exterminator.

The diagnosis and repairs took 16 man-hours on-site (two people, all day). For this we charged only for the actual cost of the replacement wire itself. I couldn’t believe what happened next. About 30 days later, I get a call from the county accounts payable.

AP: “We have found conclusive evidence of fraudulent billing on invoice (the bill for the network diagnosis and repair) from your company. Since the amount is under $100 and this is the first instance of a problem from you, if you agree with the assessment and promise never to do this again, we will ban you from doing business with the county for one year. If you agree, we will send paperwork to that effect”.

Me: “(!!) No way will I agree to that. This was a donation of our time, and we only charged for the wire so it wasn’t a freebie. We did nothing wrong. Why do you think we did?”

AP: “We ran the diagnosis and bill by our IT department as a random check. They said there was no possible way your explanation of what was wrong and what you did to fix it could be true. You can dispute this, and we will have a hearing. But if we do this and it goes against you, you can be permanently banned from doing business and may even face charges”.


Source: midjourney

Me: “I want the hearing”.

So here we are at the hearing, before a county board of something or other. This is where it all came out.

AP to their IT guy: “Look at this invoice. Do you remember us asking your opinion of this? What was that opinion?”

IT Guy: “Yes. It said the network was losing connectivity to specific drops, and the problem was due to a bad mouse. I said there was no way a bad mouse would have that effect, especially on other computers on other ports”.

Council Guy to me: “Do you disagree with this? Can you explain how a bad mouse could do that?”

Me: “Yes. It bites the wires”.

IT Guy: “…What?”

Me: “Look at the invoice. It does not say “a computer had a defective mouse”. It says there was “a bad mouse problem”. Rodents. Bit. The. Wires. We installed new wires. We donated our labor to do so, and provided the wire at cost”.

IT Guy: “That…does make sense”.

AP: “Well, OK. We’ll drop this one. But we’re going to be watching you!”

garycarroll (Reddit)

Unicorns Do Exist

Some time ago, I got possibly the best bug report ticket ever filed. A piece of software I’d written would completely mess up under extremely specific circumstances, upon encountering web pages written in a way I thought completely insane. What I naively didn’t realize is that a lot of web pages are written in a completely insane way.

So, one user happened to run the software on one of these little HTML monstrosities, and it broke. An average user, if they would even consider such extreme measures as reporting the bug, would write something like: Expected behavior: It works. Actual behavior: It doesn’t Reproduction steps: Visit a website.


Source: Pexels

I’ve seen way too many tickets like this. This user wasn’t an “average” user though. This guy was a unicorn. The bug report included a link to a tiny page hosted on a VPS of his that would cause the bug to occur. He had enough knowledge and did enough testing on his own to write a minimal example that still triggered it. I still have that ticket printed out and pinned to the wall right above my desk.

Permalink (Reddit)

Take A Load Off

Here I am, another calm morning before the storm. I sip away at my Dr. Pepper and take a bite of donut. The queue is clear and the emails are quiet. Then, as is to be expected, the phone rang. I clear my throat and pick up the receiver with a cheerful “Hello, how can I help you?”

“Good morning, my computer won’t connect to the internet”.

We run through some basic troubleshooting, have you restarted the computer, is the cable plugged in, are the dummy lights on, is your computer turned on. Still nothing, so I resign myself to a brisk walk down the hall to see what’s going on.

As I enter the room, I begin double-checking everything we talked about over the phone. The cable is plugged into the computer, the indicator lights are on, but they keep flickering out for a second. Seeing this, I begin tracing the cable back to where it’s plugged in. This room is set up terribly by the way, so the Ethernet cable is run around the room so the person can have their desk where they want it.


Source: Shutterstock

As I trace the cord, I find out that it goes through a closet, then out the other side and into the wall jack. I go to check the connection and notice the cable is tight, really tight, like I can’t move it an inch tight. The effects of my Dr. Pepper start to take effect and the connections are forming. I open up the closet and find the culprit. 

There are coats hanging from the Ethernet cable. We’re talking big, heavy coats. The poor cable was under so much strain that it was being ripped apart. I quickly removed the coats and then made the person aware that Ethernet does not make for a good coat rack.

Once the weight was removed, everything started working again and I was off to finish my breakfast.

nerkortek (Reddit)

Not So Useless After All

I used to work at a small structural engineering firm with about 10 engineers as a project engineer, so I used to deal with client inquiries about our projects once we had released the blueprints for the construction of the project. Most of the time we did house projects that never presented a challenge for the construction engineer.

Most inquiries were about not finding stuff in the blueprints. If you have seen a structural blueprint, you would know that space is a valued commodity, so being a Tetris player is a good drafter skill. Then this call happened. I introduce to you the cast of this tale:

Me: Your friendly structural engineer. Big Boss (BB): The chief engineer of the company and my direct superior (gotta love small companies), aaand Incompetent Construction Engineer (ICE).

So one day we received a request to do the structural design for some houses that were meant to be on a suburban development, basically the same house with little differences built a hundred times. In that type of project, every dollar saved can snowball pretty fast so we tend to do extra optimization that on normal projects might be overkill.

Source: Shutterstock

Because of this, some of the solutions we do are outside what most construction engineers are used to. That was the case for this project.

ICE: One of the beams you designed is collapsing.

ME: Are you certain? Can we schedule a visit so I can go take a look before we start calling our lawyers?

ICE: Sure, but I’m telling you we followed your instructions to the letter, so I’m confident it was your design that was deficient.

Before going to the field, my boss and I decided to do a deep review of the project. We rechecked the blueprints, ran the models again, even rechecked the calculations by hand. We found no obvious mistakes on our part, so we started getting on a battle mood. We were going to shift the fault to the construction company. #1 rule of structural engineering conflict solution: It’s always the contractor’s fault.

We put on our battle outfits (visibility jacket, helmet, and steel-toed boots) and went to see the problem.

ICE: See, the beam is collapsing! We had to scaffold it because it kept deflecting more and more!

Now, we could SEE the beam getting deflected at simple sight, and that shouldn’t be happening. We asked ICE for a set of blueprints and started checking. Then we saw the problem. A column that we had considered and that was central to the design was nowhere to be found, neither on the blueprints ICE gave us nor the real thing.

Keep in mind that it had no apparent reason to exist because it functioned differently than the usual designs.

BB: Well, it appears we messed up. The blueprints that we sent them don’t seem to have THAT column. I better start calling the lawyer and insurance because it appears to be our fault.

I was not entirely convinced. Remember, I had just reviewed the project, so I was confident that column was on the final blueprints. We usually delivered a set of signed and sealed blueprints and a digital PDF version so they could make copies and give them to their people more easily.

So I asked ICE for the sealed blueprints…and surprise! The column was there. I was free to breathe again, rule #1 was not bypassed.

Now it was a matter of knowing WHO messed up.

ME: The blueprints you gave us are inconsistent with the ones we sent. Did anyone modify them?

ICE: Oh, sure I did. You put a column there that was too expensive and was doing nothing. I asked one of our engineers if we needed it for some code compliance reason and he said that if it was not structural it had no reason to be there, so I deleted it on our working version of the plans.

That was all we needed to hear. We just went to his boss, told him he had modified the blueprints without our say so and that we were not liable for the failure. That day there was one construction engineer job opening and some happy workers got extra pay by rebuilding that part of the house.

If a structural engineer says something is needed, then you better believe it is. Oh, and it’s always the contractor’s fault. I’m so happy to work in an industry where “The client is always right” doesn’t apply.

srpiniata (Reddit)


Know Who You’re Firing

Back in the Dark Ages, around 1993, I worked for a medical transcription firm as their Systems Administrator. We were doing some cutting-edge IT stuff, in getting transcriptions printed at the hospitals remotely, things like that. It worked really well, until it didn’t.

I was the only Systems Admin in this city, so I was on call 24/7 and was averaging three hours of sleep per night, when I could go home and trying to catch little catnaps here and there when I could. Anytime something would go wrong on the hospital side, I would have to go to the hospital and fix it.

A few months after I started, two of the Vice Presidents from the corporation relocated to my city, since we were the most productive city with the highest profits. The first thing they did was come up with an excuse to fire the current director, then they took over operations themselves.

At that point, my job went from taking care of our systems to taking care of the doctors’ computers too. I did what I could, but I was also sending out resumes. Then I was told to go to a hospital and see why the printing stopped. I remember this day. I hadn’t been home for two days and had been going nonstop for 18 hours.

I get there, and someone had unplugged the modem. I plug it back in, a call comes in and jobs start printing. This doctor walks over and tells me that one of the vice presidents told him that I would go out to his house and work on his home computer. I politely explain to the doctor that I can’t do that, and that I’m heading home to get some sleep.

Source: Shutterstock

Then I head back to the office to pick up a few things before heading home. As soon as I walk through the door, I get escorted straight to the vice presidents’ office. Both vice presidents and the office manager are there. They proceed to start chewing me out.

I just started laughing at them. I’m the only person in 1,000 miles that knows anything about this system. They lose their temper and tell me I’m fired and I have to leave immediately. I really said, “Thank You”. Then left.

This was December 15th, my oldest son’s birthday. On the way home, I stop at a Mom & Pop computer store where I know some of the people to drop off a resume. They tell me that they have no openings right now but will call me when they do. I talk to a couple friends while I’m there, then head on home.

The only thing I’m worried about is telling my girlfriend that I got fired. I walk through the door, and she’s at work. I see the answering machine blinking, so I hit play. It’s the Mom & Pop Computer Store saying their primary Novell Engineer just quit, and asking are you still available. I call them back and let them know I’ll be there tomorrow.

That began a much more peaceful career, with better pay, rotating on-call and most every weekend and holiday off. By the way, the medical transcription firm imploded. The vice presidents were fired. They floundered for about a year and were bought up by a competing firm.

Sarrish (Reddit)


All In A Day’s Work

My friend bought a Netflix box for a tv, and when it wouldn’t work, she asked me to come set it up. I couldn’t get there until after work, and when I did it was working. She said she called Google to fix it (it was not a Google product, nor does it use any Google services) so I thought she googled the company number and had them fix it.

Source: Shutterstock

I wanted to show her it wasn’t Google she called, so I checked the caller ID. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Google. After a while on the phone a Google tech support guy helped her set up an unrelated product for free. I guess Google really is a helpful service.

n1222333 (Reddit)


Oops, My Bad

I got a message from a friend saying someone they knew wanted to replace the broken screen in their laptop, and that they already had the replacement screen. I got in contact with him, and he asked if I could come to his place of work to replace the screen. I said I would as long as I had permission from his boss, turns out he was the owner of the company.

The next day I showed up at his work and he gave me his laptop. He showed me to an empty desk in the accounting/stats department, and I replace the laptop screen without any trouble. He was in a meeting so while waiting for him to finish, I hung out in the accounting/stats department. I see two older gentlemen working on an excel spreadsheet, one was reading off each number while the other was putting it into a calculator, and reading the results back.

Source: Shutterstock

They were doing this to calculate the sum of hundreds of numbers and started over twice. I thought was about to blow their minds—I was really about to ruin their lives. I introduced myself and showed them how to get excel to do it automatically for them, and I said, “this way it will only take you minutes to do a sheet instead of hours”. I then heard a loud “You are all fired for incompetence”.

Turns out the owner had been in the doorway listening. After everything settled down, he told me, “I have been waiting on that sheet for two days, and you did it in under a minute”. He ended up giving me $200, and has sent a lot of work my way over the years.



Don’t Cut Out The Middleman

This happened at a university in Germany, around the turn of the century. The physics department had quite a nice setup for the students. At the beginning of term the new students had their accounts created by one of the student supervisors. I was the middleman between the student supervisors and the real techs who kept the system running.

So I somehow got stuck with the support when the supervisors didn’t know what to do. One day a student, Samantha Melina Butler, was sent to me. She was quite into computing but had no idea why she had problems with her account. She was able to access her account, but she couldn’t write to some files. On the other hand, she had discovered that she could read nearly all the files in other people’s accounts—even in the accounts of some professors.

Source: Shutterstock

I asked her to log into her account and opened a terminal. I looked at her files, but everything seemed in order. She shouldn’t be able to access this stuff. Suddenly I looked at her username. She had asked for her initials: Samantha Melinda Butler: smb. When I looked that up, I saw the student supervisor had made a big mistake.

Samantha and had all the rights of the “ServerMessageBlock” (smb). And every user was a member of the group smb. The student supervisor who had created Samantha’s account didn’t even get why this was his fault.



Not Your Usual Day At Work

This story has been causing me grief and I just need it to share it to finally feel calm. I live in Mexico and things are not exactly pretty. Thankfully I know how to watch my back and don’t make enemies, but sometimes, destiny catches up with you.

I had finished my training and got a certificate that allowed me to work in a computer store and repair computers. I arrived early, everything was normal until 1 pm. A guy comes in and wants his hard drive wiped clean and a brand new copy of Windows 7.

I didn’t ask many questions, just took it to the back and started working on it. I gave the case a nice cleaning and removed the dust, boot it up, then manure hit the fan. I hear the front glass break, and people started yelling. This man starts yelling at my boss and the client who initially came in to get down, and before I could react someone comes to where I was and shoves me down.

Source: Shutterstock


Me: Nothing!!! I didn’t get to touch it! I was just cleaning it!!!!

Them: LIES!!!!

Me: Check it yourself, everything is intact!

I heard someone else come in and take the PC away. It felt like hours until they decided to retreat back and run away. Once I recovered from the shock, I stood up and headed to the front. My boss was on the phone, crying. I didn’t even hear the sirens…then I noticed the original client was missing.

I was not allowed to see the security footage, but the client was taken away, he was identified as a cartel member, and his body was discovered hours later. If it wasn’t because I needed the money, I would have quit immediately. I never learned what was in that hard drive. I’m better not knowing.



White Knight Moment

I spent five years doing IT consulting in a rural town about an hour from Portland, OR. I’d periodically involve myself in the more interesting and complex cases we’d see from our walk-in customers. One day we had a woman come in. She caught my eye because she was in her late 30s or early 40s, and actually quite attractive.

She had short, platinum blonde hair and bright red lips, and was dressed and styled like she was transplanted right out of a 1950s era magazine ad. One of our bench techs greets her and starts talking to her. Right out of the gate I can tell this is going to go badly.

She is panicked and, by the sound of it, tin-foil hat levels of crazy. Well, there goes any desire I had to flirt with her and maybe see if I could buy her a drink. I listen in on the conversation anyways, because it’s at least a change of pace from the monotony of my day-to-day.

After a few minutes of her going on about how her husband is spying on her through all manner of devices, my bench tech looks back at me with a can-you-please-come-help-me-and-make-her-go-away look on his face.

I oblige, as I appreciated that the front-line guys respected me enough to ask for my help on these things. I walked up front, introduced myself as the supervisor, and told her that since her issue was so unique and serious, it’d probably be best if our more senior staff handled it. Now that I was seeing her up close, I could tell that under her classy outfit and Marilyn Monroe-esque makeup was a deeply distraught woman.

Her eyes looked baggy and tired. Like she had been up too late crying. Obviously, at this point I’m just playing along. This isn’t my first rodeo, and generally what happens is the client claims some individual or agency is monitoring their computer. We tell them our hourly rate for forensics, and suddenly the men in black suits watching them aren’t that big of a deal anymore.

Source: Shutterstock

Now, to be fair, we actually did specialize in computer forensics and data recovery, working extensively with the local department and a handful of firms on a number of cases where they needed expert help. We even had a guy on staff full-time who wore that hat most days.

The local officers were pretty small-time and farmed out at least some of their computer-related work to us on contract. In the cases where people did want to pay, we would do our due diligence, and prepare a professional report of our findings accordingly. We would meet with attorneys and testify in court, as necessary.

Generally it was fairly benign stuff like gathering chat logs and browser history for a divorce proceeding where one spouse accused the other of cheating or something similar, and wanted evidence to back that up. Back to the client at hand. She insists her husband is monitoring her every move, tracking her vehicle, monitoring her computer, and recording her in her own home. Here’s where it gets interesting.

She claims that she knows all of this because he has told her about it. In fact, he has gone so far as to threaten her life if she tries to tamper with any of it. She says she has tried to apply for a protective order against him, but ostensibly without some sort of evidence of his behavior, nobody would take her seriously.

I give her the crazy litmus test and tell her that in order to gather evidence discreetly, we would need two of our senior consultants to investigate. $300 an hour, four-hour minimum. She pulls out her wallet. Well darn, she’s serious. We agree to start with her vehicle to check for signs of the GPS tracker.

She says she is parked several blocks away so her husband won’t know she came to a computer store (we were in a downtown area surrounded by retail stores). I grab my tool bag and holler at one of my colleagues to join me. The lady, myself, my colleague, and BOTH of our now intensely curious bench techs (all of us in matching company polos) follow this lady down the street to her car.

What a motley crew we must have been. We get to her minivan and begin our process of looking for this GPS device. Now, because of the way GPS trackers work, there really aren’t that many places they can really be mounted that are both effective and discreet. We spend some time looking around the undercarriage, rocker panels, and even bits of the interior.

Nothing. Just as I’m starting to lose faith that this may not be quite as exciting as I had perhaps hoped, I make the big discovery. I find the thing. It was tiny, not much bigger than a flash drive, and mounted behind the front grill. But there was something odd.

It wasn’t an active device. This device did not provide real-time tracking, rather it used some internal memory and a couple AAA batteries to log GPS data for days at a time. At some point, when the van was not in use, the guy would grab the GPS device, upload the data to his laptop, maybe swap batteries, then remount it to the car.

Good god, this lady was very much indeed Paranoid And Rightfully So. Now that we’ve established that she isn’t insane but that she actually is being tracked by her husband, the tone amongst our team became drastically more serious. Obviously, something sinister is going on, and we aren’t sure what, but by the sound of things this lady really is fearful for her life.

She has entrusted us to gather evidence and help her get a protective order against him, which is something I think all of us took quite seriously. We show her the tracker and she breaks down into tears because it’s the first evidence she has physically seen. We take photos of it, and carefully install it back where it belongs. I sort of assumed that a GPS tracker on your freaking car would be proof enough for a judge to issue at least a temporary protective order, but she seemed insistent that she would need more evidence to make it stick.

Our next moves have to be conducted very deliberately. She claims that her home is bugged, and so is her computer. We will need to go onsite to investigate accordingly, but it will have to be at a time when both her husband isn’t home and when we will be able to quickly create a report for her, leaving her enough time to get a protective order before the day’s end.

We couldn’t chance him coming home later, reviewing whatever it was he was recording, and finding out that she had taken action to have him investigated. It wasn’t going to be for at least a week before there was a time that was just right. We made arrangements with her back at the office and I offered to walk her back to her car.

She accepted, and on the way she confided in me many of the personal details of her life and her obviously horrible relationship with her husband. In the interest of protecting her privacy I’ll simply say that it sounded like she finally figured out how manipulative he was, and when she said she wanted out he wasn’t about to let that happen.

I asked her again if she really was afraid for her life. Her reply broke my heart. The sincerity of her “yes” was both scary and hard for me to hear. I asked her if she had thought about getting any protection like a weapon, and she said she had, but that he would notice the large sum of money needed to purchase one missing from their joint account.

As the gravity of the situation weighed on me, I offered to let her borrow one of mine. She was awestruck, but I assured her that it was completely okay. At the time, I had several, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate situation for someone to have one. My car was parked close by, and we walked over to it.

I tried to gather some idea of her familiarity with them as the thought of giving one to more or less a complete stranger, especially one that might not know what to do with it, was unsettling to me. It sounded like she had at least a basic understanding of their function. In my mind the pros of her having at least some means to protect herself outweighed the cons, so I moved forward.

We went over the basics of how to use it safely. She was crying, and frankly at this point I pretty much was, too. I gave her my cell phone number and told her to call me if she needed someone to talk to. We hugged for a while before parting ways. It wasn’t a romantic hug or anything, it was that kind of hug that’s exchanged when someone needs to be held.

Like, when your best friend tells you his mom passed or something. She needed the comfort of knowing that she wasn’t alone, that at least one person took her seriously, and I’d like to think that I gave her some hope that things would be okay. The next week was tense as we prepared for our investigation.

My co-workers and I spent considerable time discussing and researching ways to triage her computer to look for evidence, as well as how to approach the search of the house. When the day finally came, we arrived onsite at the specified time armed with our forensics tools, flashlights, laptops…anything we might need.

I set to work immediately on her computers (a home desktop and a personal laptop) while two of my colleagues began their search of the house. I removed the drives from her PCs and I made a clone of both drives. Once cloned, I put the PCs back the way they were and began mounting the cloned volumes and investigating. At first, nothing. Then, I found it. 

It was hiding in plain sight, and it was a tag registered to SpectorSoft Corporation. Guess what they sell? Yup. Surveillance software. The PC was running something called SpectorPro, which was capable of monitoring all of the users’ activities, browsing history, keylogging, even sending remote screen captures to a mobile phone or email based on target keywords. It was the full nine yards for monitoring.

I screen capped everything for my logs, shut the system down, and swapped the clones for the original disks to put everything back the way it was. Not too long after, our other two guys found some evidence of their own. Two separate (and frankly, rather rudimentary) cameras hidden in the master bedroom.

One in the closet in a shoebox, one in the smoke detector in the ceiling. All things considered, they were pretty low tech. The contents of the memory cards would have had to be moved off at least once a day, and the battery probably changed at least as often. We didn’t touch anything. Lots of photographs were taken.

We went back to the office and compiled all of the evidence into a document for her, and I passed the disk images onto our forensics guy for further evaluation. I met with the client later that day to present her the report so she could furnish it to the court. The gratitude she had for us was absolutely immeasurable. We didn’t charge her for our services.

Getting to play a role in stopping her sick husband from engaging in whatever it is he was doing was payment enough. I’d like to tell you that I know how this story ends. I’d like to say that the guy was put away forever, and my supreme IT prowess and white-knightery wooed her into my arms and we lived happily ever after. But frankly, I don’t really know what happened. But there was one development.

What I can tell you is that about a week after we gave her our report, I met her for coffee at a place across the street. She looked visibly better. Her puffy, tired eyes were gone, replaced instead by ones that seemed to glisten with warmth. Her skin was radiant and beautiful. She was smiling, for the first time I’d seen. An immense weight had been lifted off of her, and it showed.

She told me that she was temporarily living with her mom and dad, that a restraining order was in place on her estranged husband, and that she was finally filing for divorce. She told me that for the first time in a very long time she felt safe, and that she felt happy.

In the parking lot, she hugged me, both of us teary-eyed, and we parted ways. For me, it proved to be one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my career.



Oh, Vladimir

When I started working for my current company, there was a customer who was already infamous. He was one of those people who was known only by his first name. Everyone knew exactly who you were talking about when you said you’d had to take a call from Vladimir.

They tried to protect me, as the newbie, from Vladimir as long as possible, but one day when I’d been at the company for maybe six months it just couldn’t be avoided. No one else was available but me, and he was in a royal fury. The operator called me up, apologized to me (even she knew who he was) and told me that she had no one else to take him.

I reluctantly agreed to take the call. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is the exchange the operator had with him immediately before she passed him to me.

Operator: I’m going to pass you to our newest tech.

Vladimir: (shouts) I don’t want somebody new! I want somebody who knows something!

Operator: (shouts back) She knows a lot, Vladimir!! (slams down receiver, passing him to me)

Vladimir’s a fairly intelligent guy, but he gets frustrated super quick, and has a very hot temper. I swear, sometimes when he calls us he doesn’t want his issue to be fixed, he just wants to let us know the torment our product is putting him through.

He calls us to be a martyr on the line and shout at us about how terrible the product is. And my first call with him was one of those. Luckily, the operator was right. I knew a lot. I had picked up on our products super quick, and the issue he called me about was a piece of cake. The hard part was getting him to shut up long enough to tell him the solution to his issue.

I managed to calm him down and fix his problem. But this backfired on me, hugely. Not long after that I had become his favorite tech. It had very quickly gone from, “I don’t want to talk to her!!!” to, “Get me her! Nobody else can solve my problems, nobody!!”

Source: Shutterstock

I learned to read his moods like a medium reading tea leaves. Sometimes it was best to meet his fire with the cool exterior of a nurse at a mental hospital explaining why we don’t hit other patients, and other times I could only get his attention by spitting flames back in his face.

Other techs could always tell when I was talking to Vladimir because they’d hear a one-sided conversation that went something like this:

Me: Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. VLADIMIR!! Pause. You know I’m trying to help you, right? Do you want me to get this working for you, or not? Pause. Okay, then let me explain what’s happening here…

Many times in my career I’ve compared what I do to the TV show House. Tech support is a lot like diagnosing a patient. I frequently tell my techs, “Customers lie,” (playing on House’s “Patients lie”) and every time I say it I’m thinking of Vladimir. This is why I swear sometimes he’d call up just to try to prove to me that our product is bad, because he’d frequently lie to me about what did and didn’t work.

He’d tell me whatever would mean he needed to be in a panicked state, up against a deadline that he could not possibly meet, all because our products suck. One time he called me up with an issue where I knew exactly what it was. I’d just solved it for another customer the day before. We were on a remote meeting and I could see his screen.

Vladimir: I tried everything and nothing works!

Me: Oh, I know what this is. You need to do <solution>.

Vladimir: I told you! I tried that and it didn’t work!

Me: (thinks) That’s impossible, it has to work when you do that.

Me: What exactly did you do?

Vladimir: I did <exactly what I told him> and it didn’t work! Nothing works! I told you!

Me: Can you do it again so I can see the steps you took?


Me: Vladimir, calm down. Can you do it one more time? Do it for me?

Vladimir: (calmer) Fine. I’ll do it again for you. See, I do this, and I click here, and I don’t see—Oh, it’s working this time! You’re the best! I always know when I call you up that you’ll fix it for me!

A few years later, Vladimir’s favorite support grunt (me) was promoted to manager. I was a working manager for a while, trying to manage my team and take calls at the same time, but that proved to not be very efficient, and after years of that I reduced the calls I directly took down to almost nothing. Vladimir was not pleased.

One day he was having a hissy fit and was demanding to speak to no one but me, even though he’d been told many times that I was now a manager and didn’t take direct calls. This particular day I was in and out of meetings about another customer who was legitimately having serious issues, and I couldn’t make time for Vladimir.

There were times when the operator literally couldn’t find me because I was bouncing between conference rooms and upper management offices. At one point the operator came and found me physically. She was crying. She told me about how upset Vladimir was, and how he was demanding to speak to me and wouldn’t let her pass him to anyone else on the team, and she didn’t know what to do.

I was livid. I still didn’t have time to call him back because that other customer’s issue was far from over and there were political ramifications I had to juggle, but I knew just what to do. I took a few minutes to write Vladimir a scathing email. I told him that it was not the operator’s fault that I wasn’t available, shouting at her wouldn’t make me come to the phone any faster, and that he was sabotaging his own attempts to get a solution by refusing to speak with the available qualified techs who were happy to help him with his issue.

I made sure he knew the operator’s name, and that he’d made her cry. Then I went back to trying to keep my other customer from hemorrhaging blood. Not long after I sent that email, the operator found me again, and told me that this had happened…

Operator: Thank you for calling, how may I direct your call?

Vladimir: Is this <operator’s name>?

Operator: (recognizes his voice, tenses up) Yes, it is.

Vladimir: This is Vladimir. I just wanted to apologize. I did not mean to yell at you. That was completely unacceptable of me.

Operator: Wow… t-thank you! That means a lot to me. Pause. Do you want to talk to tech support?

Vladimir: No, thanks, I just called to apologize. Have a nice day. Click.

That was one of my proudest moments as a manager, making Vladimir call back just to apologize.

He still calls us up every once in a while. I haven’t talked to him in years. He’s found another favorite, but every once in a while he still tells her about the way I used to do things, and tells her to go ask me for answers. He still lies to her. Sometimes she comes to me and says:

Tech: Vladimir says the last time this happened you told him to do this.

Me: I absolutely did not.

Tech: I figured.

And sometimes I still hear from someone else’s cube…

Vladimir… Vladimir… VLADIMIR! Listen to me!…



An Analog Solution

I’m not IT, I just happen to be one of the few in our office who knows his way around the computer, so I often get asked for help. Usually it’s just “My MSWord doesn’t work” or something, but this one really stuck with me.

Co-Worker: Help me, I have to complete this doc in 20 minutes but I can’t type anything

Me: What is it?

Source: Shutterstock

Co-Worker: Whenever I hit a button, Word just starts putting infinite spaces between letters

Me: Huh.

I go up to her computer. I notice at once that something is off. I look her in the eye, and without breaking eye contact, I move her phone away from the space button on her keyboard. She asks me never to speak of it again. 10 minutes later the whole office knows about it, of course.



Trust Me

I’m not tech support, but am tech support for my family.

Grandpa: My computer won’t work and I keep getting this error message.

Me: I’ll have a look at it for you.

Does a Google Search of error message

Me: You have some virus software. I’ll install Malwarebytes and remove it for you.

Grandpa: I don’t want you installing anything on my computer.

Me: But this will help.

Grandpa: No, I don’t trust you, I’ll take it to Best Buy.

Source: Shutterstock

Me: They’re not IT, they’re salesmen.

Grandpa: You don’t know what you’re talking about.

Surprise, surprise, it was never fixed, more malware was downloaded and now it won’t even boot up. He still won’t let me wipe and reinstall.



That Took A Turn

This one is two weeks in the making. I was instructed to reduce spending in IT by a certain amount before the end of the year. The company as a whole needed to cut 3 million in spending by end of fiscal year because reasons. I was specifically handed a list of “potentials” (AKA potential people) as a recommendation to cut (AKA fire).

First thing I did was collect all of those people. Then I gave them two lists. The number of phone line accounts vs the number of employees, and the number of fax accounts that are inactive. For two weeks those men and women worked hard. They found over 12k phone accounts, that cost 22.95 each, that belong to old users but were still active.

We did the audit on the fax system by determining who has not received or sent a fax in six months. We found over 37k accounts inactive. Of those, 9k had never logged in, 12k were old users and nearly everyone else had set up their e-fax and never used it. The rest were people who rarely faxed as a backup. They wanted their accounts to stay.

So far we were at a little under 1 million a month being spent on useless things. But I wasn’t done yet. I started to go through Vendor programs looking for similar instances. Today came with the promise of a company-wide supervisor meeting. I was about to blow their minds.

CEO: I am very glad all of you are here. As you know, the end of fiscal year is approaching and we must trim the fat, so to speak, for year-end financials and the IRS.

He goes on like this for 20 minutes and then has everyone go around the table. We aren’t supposed to say things like. “We terminated X number of users”. Instead we say things like, “We reduced salary cost by X percent”.

Source: Pexels

Accounting: Our department was able to reduce financial responsibility, in particular salary, by 12 percent, saving the company 80k a year.

CEO: OK very good. Marketing?

Marketing: We reduced financial responsibility by 45 percent. However, only one percent of that was salary. The rest was from programs we had used in the past but had stopped using. We were still paying for them, though.

Me: Which programs were those so I can mark them down?

In her response, she mentioned the stock program I had removed. The one we were paying for in IT. Not marketing. I let it slide.

Me: If anyone else has terminated a program, let me know please and I will take care of anything that needs to be taken care of on my end.

Two more departments tried to claim credit for my auditing work. When it finally came to my time, though, things really took off.

CEO: Well, we are just about out of time IT, I am sorry bu…

Me: I am sorry to interrupt but there is information in my report which is not only vital to this meeting, but will have major implications on everyone in this room and the company.

CEO: Ok. Proceed.

Me: As supervisor over the IT support area I have increased the salary responsibility by 20 percent as a way to save money.

HE: Come again?

Me: Using the list of suggested layoffs from HR, I gathered those exact people for a team to audit all cost-incurring systems that are utilized by the IT department.

Accounting: How does more employees save—

Me: interrupting him Using this audit, we have determined that there are over 100k accounts belonging to various programs, services, and paid software. These accounts either belonged to termed employees, people who did not even know they had the account, people who did not use the accounts ever, or people who simply changed computer systems.

CEO: So what does all of this mean?

Me: It creates the immediate savings of 2.3 million.

CEO: Whistles. 2.3 million. That is what I like to hear.

Me:  A month.

Yes, I dramatically revealed that 2.3 million was not annual, it was monthly.

CEO: So let me get this straight. We all here as a company have been wasting 24 million a year on things no one used, terminated employees, and discarded programs?

Me: Yes. And now it’s fixed.

CEO: Why was this allowed to happen?

ME: Your predecessor created this storm and we, as a company, inherited it. I never had the urge to look into these issues as they are not directly IT-related issues. I just refuse to fire my guys for no reason other than to save money. No IT employees are lost in this. In fact, we gained two. These two are part of a team in charge of all vendor accounts. They will approve, deny, create, change, and manage all vendor accounts. Look at it this way. Now we have an extra 24 million to spend on expansion of the company.



Well, D’oh

This story happened when I first joined my current company, and while I was not the one that actually had to deal with the problem, I was by-standing and heard the juicy parts from my mentor himself. Exactlytwo2 days before a major festive celebration, we get a call from a user who is panicking because his equipment failed and production had come to a screeching halt.

Now, I work in a company that services equipment in a country with a distinct west half and east half, separated by the sea. This is important, as we are based in the western half. The client was a major refining plant for the petroleum industry. As we normally do, we go through the usual troubleshooting steps.

Did you this turn on, is this connection active, yada yada. But the only answer coming from the user was “yes yes yes” with nothing seemingly wrong. This went on for about half an hour when suddenly our boss comes in. The client’s Head of Production had just called him and was apparently livid.

It turns out the machine had stopped working for more than an hour, and the production was severely interrupted until the problem got fixed. Now everyone was in a panic, as every hour the production was interrupted, the client was losing money in the tens of thousands and the client had the right to sue us for any damages that occur as a result of equipment downtime.

The Head of Production was not happy that their internal team was not able to fix the problem, and the client was not making any headway in fixing the problem via phone. To resolve the issue, the head demanded that support be performed immediately onsite. There was a big problem with this. Coming back to my earlier points: First, it’s the festive season. Second, they are across the sea, so traveling was a bit of a problem. Still, the head said money was not an issue and they would pay anything for immediate onsite support.

Cue my mentor, who was handed the unsavory task of handling the emergency. Immediately he grabbed his tools and sped off to the airport to grab the next available flight. At the same time, his wife had to pack some clothes for him from home and rushed to pass it to him at the airport.

Source: Pexels

Due to the festive season, my mentor didn’t have choices for flights so in the end he had to take a business-class flight that cost a ton of money. Upon arriving, he was whisked from the airport with a driver, sent immediately to the refinery, and granted immediate security clearance to enter the plant (anyone working in petroleum would know how big a deal this is).

By this time, a good six hours or so had passed since we received the call and it was well into the night. Greeting him in front of the equipment was the Head of Production, the original client who called, and various other senior management personnel, all anxious to see what the problem is.

My mentor is a guy with no chill, and he was also the one originally speaking to the client on the phone. He recounts this part.

Head: So, what is the problem?

Mentor: Wait, let me take a look (He starts to go through the normal troubleshooting checklists, but stops almost immediately)

Mentor: Are you sure you checked everything I asked you to?

Client: Yes! Everything, word for word!

Mentor: Are you absolutely sure?

Client: Yes!

Mentor: Do you remember what was the third thing I asked you check over the phone?

Client: Why does it matter? Just fix the problem!

Mentor: The first thing we normally check is to make sure the PC is turned on (points at the CPU LED indicator)

Mentor: The second thing we check is to make sure the equipment is on (points to the machine LED)

Mentor: The third thing (he brings his hand to a gas control valve, rotates it, and a loud hiss is heard as the gas line pressurizes, and the equipment beeps) is to make sure the gas is on.

Client: ….

Head: ….

Everyone else in the room: ….

Mentor: I would like to go have dinner now

After more awkward silence, the head thanks my mentor for his effort and asks the driver to bring him somewhere for dinner. You’d think the story ends here, but there’s more! By the time the mentor finished his dinner, it was well past midnight, so he checked himself into a hotel for the night.

The next day he went back to the airport and found out that all flights were completely sold out for the next four days due to the festive traveling. He called my boss to inform him that he was basically stranded, and my boss just coolly said to him “Well, consider this as having a free holiday paid by the client”.

So he checks into the most luxurious hotel in the area and spends the next four days basically on vacation before coming back to work. In total we billed the client for ~US$10,000 for the flights, hotel, emergency arrangements, allowances etc. All for 10 seconds to check LEDs and turn a valve.

This is not including the losses from halting the production. It’s still one of our most memorable stories that we recount to new hires or clients in our industry. Sometimes we wonder what happened to the client, but he was transferred out of his role not too long after this incident.



The Old Switcheroo

This happened during my tenure at a mid-sized call center in 2001. Like most call centers, a ticket was required for any IT problem mainly because we had around 500 users online at any one time. Most of the users understood this and followed the rules pretty well. Except for the new supervisors.

Most were in their early 20s and it was usually their first time in any type of position of power. Hey, now that they have an inbox/outbox and their own stapler, they must be important. Liz lived up to this to a ridiculous degree. Every problem led to a panicked call to us followed by a dash to our office when told to open a ticket.

“This has to be fixed right now” she would wail “I’m a supervisor”. Since most of her problems would be resolved with a couple of keystrokes, I decided to nip this problem in the bud. As soon as she would call, I knew I had a couple of minutes as she made a mad dash down the stairs to pound on our door to plead her case in person.

Now Liz was just a stunningly good-looking girl so most of my co-workers (also in their 20s and as awkwardly nerdy as you would imagine) would jump to help her. I, however, was in my early 40s and fortunately immune to her looks. So I took to using a remote desktop to fix her problem while I knew she was heading towards our office.

Source: Shutterstock

I would begrudgingly follow her upstairs to “see” the problem, which was already fixed. She would swear that it wasn’t doing whatever before and that it must have fixed itself. After about the fifth time I did this, I dropped this on her. “Liz, I’m a happily married man and I just don’t like you like that. If you don’t stop trying to get me alone like this I’m going to have to go to HR”.

Liz started using the help desk after that, and me and my co-workers shared a laugh every time one of her tickets came in.



It Wasn’t Me

I used to be a shift team lead for a hosted outsourcing company that provided our own software to various financial institutions. Some of these companies were very small and only had a single box. Some were larger and had a pair of boxes. Others had more for different functions.

Some did all their own development, others paid us to do their development and bug-fixing work for them. One of the most important things we handled was physical backups. Each box had its own backup schedule, where it would back up to IBM Ultrium tapes. Each morning, one of our tasks was to remove the tape from the previous night’s backup, scan the barcode and send them offsite to our secure storage facility.

Once that was done, we’d make sure that the scratch tape for the next scheduled backup was loaded and ready to go. This one company we dealt with had both a live and test environment, and had their own in-house developers. Initially, they were both backed up nightly but due to a cost-limiting exercise, the IT manager on their side submitted a change request to limit the test system to one backup per week, to be carried out on a Friday night.

No problem. Amend the backup schedules and update the documentation to reflect the change. All sorted. I wasn’t there when all of this happened, but it was all included and documented on the shift handover report when our team took over, so we knew we didn’t have to load tapes for this particular box until Friday.

About eight months later, we received a ticket from one of their developers. This happened on a Thursday afternoon. I bet you can see where this is going. 

“Help! The library on the test system was just accidentally deleted. Please can this be restored from last night’s backup urgently?”

Source: Unsplash

My tech who received the ticket confirmed with me correctly that they were now on weekly backups on this particular box, and the most recent backup we had was almost a week old. My tech relays this back to the user in an email. The user calls back immediately.

“No! That’s not good enough, if that’s the most recent backup you have that means we’ve lost almost a week’s worth of critical work. I need to speak to your supervisor immediately!”

I duly took over the call. “Your colleague has just informed me that you’ve stopped backing up this system daily! This is unacceptable”.

“As I heard my colleague explain, the backup schedules are decided by your company. This decision was taken on your side to reduce the backup frequency from daily to weekly. You need to speak to your IT department for clarity on this”.

“I’ll do that, you haven’t heard the last of this!”

About half an hour later, another one of my guys gets a call asking to be put straight through to me. “Yes, this is John Smith, the Systems Manager from Company XYZ. I’ve just had an interesting conversation with one of my developers stating that you’ve stopped doing our backups that we’re paying you to perform. Just for your information this call is being recorded and I’ve got a conference call with our solicitors in 15 minutes whereby if this is not resolved satisfactorily by that time, we will be filing a lawsuit for the cost of our lost development work, and a recording of this call will be used as evidence”.

Wow, talk about aggressive. I explain to the guy that eight months ago, someone at their company submitted a change request that we reduce the backup frequency on this system from daily to weekly, and this was carried out as requested. It escalated from there.

“Well that’s just insane. Nobody here would have done that. I need the name of the person who submitted the request as well as the person on your side who actioned the request without verifying that the request was received from an authorized member!”

“OK, well I wasn’t on-shift when that change was made but it will have all been documented on our ticketing system, bear with me a second. Ah, here we go. So the request was made on April 12th this year by a John Smith, Systems Manager. That’s you, right?”

“Uhm, that’s not right, there must be another person here with that name”.

“You’ve got two John Smiths, both working as Systems Managers? Does that not get confusing?”

“No, erm. I don’t recall asking you to do this”.

“Well, we have the email saved to the original ticket, along with several emails back and forth where we asked you to clarify a couple of points, and also a scanned copy of the signed change form where you’ve written your name and signature. Did you want me to forward these over for your solicitors? Although I suspect you might already have copies of them if you check your sent items folder”.

“Erm, no that’s fine thanks. I’ll let the developers know that you can’t recover the file”.

“That’d be great thanks, is there anything else I can help you with today Mr Smith?”

He hung up. I printed off the ticket and dug out a copy of the call recording to forward around to the team, and I added this to my training guides for new hires as an example of why documenting everything is critical.



It’s All Downhill From Here

I received a ticket from a company we provide IT infrastructure and support to. The company is a marketing company with specific requirements and budget, so there was no going away from tower PCs. One day I received a ticket from their department manager asking me to remove the ugly boxes as they don’t need them.

I decided to call and explain about the boxes…

Me (On the Phone): Hello, this is IT Support

Department Manager (DM): Oh good, you’re calling to arrange collection, I would like the boxes collected in precisely one hour as we are going to a conference later.

We were talking about disconnecting about 40 PCs!

Me: No, I’m not calling to schedule a meeting, but to explain that if we remove these boxes, you won’t be able to use the computers

DM: Do you think I’m stupid?

Me: No, I’m just explaining that you won’t be able to use your computer without the computer being connected to the screen

DM: What are you talking about? I don’t look under my table to use the computer. Look you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, I want to talk to someone who knows about IT. Oh, I also want your first name and surname so that I can make a complaint!

Me: I’m not giving you my surname for data protection, and I do know what I’m talking about. Trust me, if you remove the actual computer, the box you are referring to, you won’t be able to use the computer.

Source: Pexels

DM: Slams the phone down!

I closed the job, documenting everything. A week’s gone by and we get an Emergency call-out, stating that none of their computers are working. We arrived to find all the computer towers have been cut free from their cages and removed.

Me: What happened to all the towers?

DM: I got a professional team to remove the boxes! See, it is possible!

Me: No I don’t see, now you can’t use the computers!

DM: What a lot of nonsense, just get the internet working so that we can use the computers again!

Me: No, what happened to the computers?

DM: Are you stupid or something? They’re here! referring to the monitors

Me: Ok, ok, what happened to the boxes?

DM: They took them to the dump

Me: Right, you are telling me that you threw away leased computers which are worth $1,300 each? I want to speak to your boss. Now!

DM: He’s in a meeting

Me: Get him now! This is very serious.

DM: Ok

DM’s Boss: First you refuse to do your job and now you pull me out of a meeting? Where are all the computers by the way?

Me: He threw them away and we need to get them back now as they had sensitive data on them.

DM’s Boss: Where are the computers?

DM: You mean the boxes?

DM’s Boss: YES!!!

DM: They are heading to the dump

We drove to the dump but there was no record of these computers being brought in. Two weeks later, the company suffered a data breach, which along with the damage bill caused the company to go into administration.



Be Still My Heart

I’ve been out of the office for about a month so the day-to-day happenings such as construction and desk moves have not been communicated to me. This morning I get to the office at 7:30 am and one of the facilities guys comes up to me and casually says, “The electricians are cutting power to the server room sometime today”.

Enter Panic Mode Now…

I state that they can’t just turn off the power to the datacenter. There is a process that needs to happen for downtime. People need to be notified, other buildings need to prepare for continued manufacturing without access to work orders, all that stuff. I start messaging management asking what the heck is happening.

Source: Shutterstock

Management asks if we can run on the generator while power is off. I have no answer for that so I run off to find the facilities manager and electricians to ask. The electrician informs me they did not need to turn off the electricity in the server room, they just need to do it for a portion of the office. My datacenter is safe.

If anyone needs me I will be hiding under my desk softly sobbing from this horrible experience.



Candy Crushed

I’m a Network and Server Administrator at a hospital, but I occasionally field help desk calls as well. So, one day I’m slow, so I’m helping answer some calls when one of our Switchboard Operators calls.

Me: IT.

Operator: Hey, I have a problem.

Me: OK, what’s up?

Operator: I’ve been playing Candy Crush on my phone and it keeps messing up.

Me: What do you mean? Is your phone disconnecting from Wi-Fi?

Operator: No, I just can’t seem to beat this level no matter what I try.

Me: trying not to laugh Uhhh, I’m not familiar with that application. Each department is supposed to have a Super User for their applications, which handles tech support between the users and the vendor. Have you engaged your Super User?

Operator: getting angry No, smart Alec, I didn’t.

Source: Shutterstock

Me: Holding back laughter as well as Jimmy Fallon on SNL I’m sorry you’re upset ma’am, but all I’m doing is trying to help you by getting you to the most appropriate channel for support of your issue.

Operator: I thought that you may have played this game before and that you may be able to help.

Me: No ma’am, Candy Crush isn’t an application that the IT department uses or supports.

This was the most humorous call I’ve gotten. What made it so funny is that the user was getting so mad that I couldn’t help her and that I was laughing at her. I mean, come on.



The Battery’s Low Upstairs

I had a person come up and say that they have been transferring some files for hours and it’s only at 61%. I have a look and find that they are not transferring files at all.

Source: Shutterstock

All they’ve done is plug their video camera into the computer, and the 61% is the level of battery remaining on the device. The person has been watching the battery drain for hours.



A Blast From The Past

About 15 years ago, I was a bright-eyed coder still in college. My family was poor. I often did some freelance jobs to afford a living in my college city. One of the companies I coded for was dedicated to importing metal, cutting it based on the customer’s preferences and selling it. I had coded them a simple local network program automating the preferences of the supervisors in the office and supervisors in the workshop, then it stored the data in their accounting program.

Today about 10 am, I received a call from their boss.

Boss: hello. We need you here in the city urgently. Your program stopped working.

Me: Excuse me? I do not recognize the number you’re calling from. Which program of mine?

Boss: Don’t you? I’m speaking about the program you made for our company.

Me: Oh…The one I made years ago? You’re still using it?

Boss: Yes we are. But today in the morning the program stopped working.

Oh, nostalgia…Anyway. I decided to troubleshoot quickly, learning about the details. Thankfully I have archives for all my codes, even my first-ever program. Of course, even coded 15 years ago, a program doesn’t suddenly stop working in a day. I try to find out what has changed. Nothing seems to have changed since yesterday. Maybe a blackout? No. Changes in network? Nope. Changes in any hardware? None…

It will indeed take time.

Me: All right, I guess I can’t solve it from afar. I seriously doubt it’s a problem in my code but just in case, I will provide you the source codes. It’s possibly a simple problem in hardware and you wouldn’t want to pay me for that. A local tech will do it for much less.

Source: Pixabay

Boss: Pay you? Why should we pay you? It’s your program. Fix it.

Me: (after a hearty laugh) It’s a freelance job I did for you literally 15 years ago. As you’re the witness to, it had worked well until this morning. Even if it was the product of a giant company, the support would have been dropped already. Think about it, Microsoft has dropped support for XP. You can’t expect me to offer free support.

Boss: We still want you to fix it. How much would you charge?

Me: I’m working for another company already. First, I’ll have to ask for unpaid vacation. Then I’ll bill all my expenses to you in addition to my rate per day. I doubt it’ll take more than a single day, though.

Boss: It’s too much.

Me: I know. That’s why I urge you to find a local tech and have him have a look. If it’s proven that the problem is my code, I’ll happily send you the source codes and then you may have it updated to your heart’s content.

Boss: I don’t understand why the passage of time should change it. It’s your program. You should fix it.

Me: It doesn’t work like that. Anyway, I’ll be awaiting your call from this number.

He hung up, still muttering about how it’s my program and I should fix it for free.

I’m dreaming about the future now.



Black Out

After recovering from my stroke, I was in desperate need of work. So desperate, I took an overnight shift at a webhost for tech support. Most nights it was pretty calm and people that called on my shift were usually just looking for more help with their website than just troubleshooting, but night staff had the time and it helped break up the monotony of the shift. Occasionally I would get gems like this.

I get a call and the guy is frantic on the phone. After finally getting him to confirm his username and password, I ask which website of his is down. I type the URL into my web browser and surprise, I get his website, no issues. After poking around some more, I still can’t find any issue.

Source: Shutterstock

It is at this point that we get into basic PC troubleshooting and the following transpired.

Me: Okay, are you using a MAC or PC?

Customer: PC

Me: Can you click on the start menu and type in CMD.

This is where the problem became excruciatingly clear.

Customer: I cannot. The screen is black

Me: deep breath Is there a light on the front of your monitor or your tower?

Customer: No

Me: deeper breath Is the cable plugged into the back of the device, and can you trace that cable back to make sure it is plugged into the wall? If you have a power strip can you see if it is in the “on” position

Customer: rustling I think it is, but I cannot quite tell

Me: What do you mean you cannot tell?

Customer: I can’t tell, it’s dark

Me: Dark?!? Can you turn on a light?

Customer: I could get a flashlight, but there is no power

Me: head desk I assure you sir, your website is up. You can check it again when you have power back.



Mystery Solved

This is a second-hand story told to me 20 years ago by someone who was already a veteran systems administrator back then, so it could have happened in the 80s or early 90s. The scene is a factory making heavy machinery. They are modern and the factory floor had terminals connected to a mainframe for tracking parts and whatever else they needed it for.

One day a systems admin gets a call from the factory floor and after the usual pleasantries the user says: “I can’t log in when I stand up”.

The admin thinks that it’s one of those calls again and goes through the usual: Is the power on? What do you see on the terminal? Have you forgotten your password?

The user interrupts: “I know what I’m doing, when I sit down I can log in and everything works, but I can’t log in when I stand up”.

The admin tries to explain that there can be no possible connection between the chair and the terminal and sitting or standing should in no way affect the ability to log in. After a long back and forth on the phone, he finally gives up and walks to the factory floor to show the user that standing can’t affect logging in.

The admin sits down at the terminal, gets the password from the user, logs in and everything is fine. Turns to the user and says: “See? It works, your password is fine”.

The user answers: “Yeah, told you, now log out, stand up and try again”.

The admin obliges, logs out, stands up, types the password and: invalid password. Ok, that’s just bad luck. He tries again: invalid password. And again: invalid password. Baffled by this, the admin tries his own mainframe account standing: invalid password. He sits down and manages to log in just fine. This has now turned from crazy user to a really fascinating debugging problem.

Source: Shutterstock

The word spreads about the terminal with the chair as an input device and other people start flocking around it. Those are technical people in a relatively high-tech factory, they are all interested in fun debugging. Production grinds to a halt. Everyone wants to try if they are affected.

It turns out that most people can log in just fine, but there are certain people who can’t log in standing and there are quite a few who can’t log in regardless of standing or sitting. After a long debugging session, they find it. Turns out that some joker pulled out two keys from the keyboard and switched their places.

Both the original user and the admin had one of those letters in the password. They were both relatively good at typing and didn’t look down at the keyboard when typing when sitting. But typing when standing is something they weren’t used to and had to look down at the keyboard, which made them press the wrong keys.

Some users couldn’t type properly and never managed to log in. Others didn’t have those letters in their passwords and the switched keys didn’t bother them at all.



Never Say You’re Sorry

My client provided a PSD file that she wanted converted into an HTML file. The PSD was 600 pixels wide. I sliced and diced the file, converted live text where possible, uploaded the HTML page to the server and provided her with the URL. I then get a frantic email which turns into the below conversation.

Client: This is terrible! Everything is so much bigger. It looks nothing like the PSD I gave you.

Me: What do you mean “so much bigger”?

Client: It’s huge! You have to re-code this so that it matches what I provided

Me: (utterly confused) So that I know exactly what the problem is, could you provide a screenshot of what you’re seeing?

Client: (Sends a screenshot of Photoshop and Safari side-by-side. They look identical)

Me: They actually look the same to me. They should both be 600 pixels wide. I didn’t alter the PSD at all

Client: (Tech savvy enough to know how to “inspect element” in Safari) Okay, yeah, it’s 600 pixels but why is it so huge?! This is unacceptable. I’m going to send this job to someone else to re-code.

At this point, I have no idea what to say or do. I decide to look at her screenshot again and this time I notice her Safari window says “33%”. Evidently the zoom setting on her Safari browser was at 300%, but in the screenshot she sent me, it was scaled down to fit on the screen (which defeats the entire purpose of sending a screenshot to show the discrepancy).

Source: Pexels

Me: Can you make sure you’re not zooming in in your Safari browser? Your screenshot looks like that might be the issue

(No reply)

Several hours later, the client emails me again for another project, not mentioning this issue at all.

Me: By the way, is that other project approved?

Client: Yes.

No apology or sign of humility. This client does this kind of stuff all the time. I’ll never understand how she is smart enough to know about pixel width and analyzing image properties, yet still pulls out stuff like this.



Burn It To The Ground

I’m not in tech support. In fact, none of my job descriptions ever included anything remotely resembling tech support. Yet, life finds a way… As a long-time nightshift worker who often hung out with the local IT folks, I was “promoted” to an honorary tech support role. It was a win-win (win-lose?) scenario for the guys as they could chill at home while on call, in the meantime I resolved low-level on-site issues and had something interesting (or at least different) to do in addition to my boring desk jockey job.

A few companies later, when the buzzwords “business intelligence,” “data analysis,” “data-driven decisions,” etc started to pop up on the corporate bingo, I was already involved in these things at my current workplace. As usual, my job description had nothing to do with it, but I had to manually create a lot of reports, and work with a lot of data.

I’m as lazy as it comes, so if I have to do the same task twice I’m going to spend an unreasonable time (trying) to automate it. The result of my laziness was a PowerBI dashboard hosted on SharePoint.  It had a lot of moving parts and tried to do way too much. It was also a horrible mess, but I tried to keep it as organized as possible. My team’s standard reporting tasks, which were taking usually an entire week at the end of each month, condensed down to a few hours, which in theory could’ve been less.

So, in addition to my standard role (which I performed “above expectations” according to my annual reviews) I was the local BI developer/data analyst/ad-hoc tech support. At every salary increase cycle I always had to ask for a salary at the top of the range of the role which I had on paper, citing the above reasons.

Source: Pixabay

The company always fought tooth and nail and it was always a painful and a bit humiliating experience. (Un)Fortunately, after a few years they decided that “Now that you’ve built these solutions, we don’t need you anymore, we only need to hire someone to maintain it. You are fired”. According to my contract this would mean I’m still employed for another 60 days.

I made sure to double-check everything and tried to make sure that everything goes smoothly when my replacement takes over. There was just one problem. By the time my notice period was up, they still couldn’t find anyone as they’d been advertising a wonderful “3 in 1” package. Yep, my successor was supposed to do everything I was doing…

My last day was at the end of the month, and I pushed out one more update under the watchful eye of my supervisor. As soon as they saw that everything had updated, security came in and my boss said to delete everything from GitHub as it’s an external site and a security risk. I tried to explain that it’s tied to my corporate email and it would be best to keep it alive and transfer ownership to my successor, but they wouldn’t budge and told me to delete it.

Okay then, let’s nuke it from orbit. I told them that there’s a local copy (duh) on my work laptop and also on OneDrive (not in my private folder) they said IT will take care of it. Apparently that meant a deep cleanse of my laptop without retaining any of the data (while the “she’s on maternity leave” woman’s laptop was still in a locker after four years…), so the only remaining copy was in my former team’s shared OneDrive folder.

A month passed, and my former boss called me asking for help. They still haven’t found a replacement, unsurprisingly. Not wanting to burn any bridges and because I’m an exploitable idiot I told them sure, I’ll help, toss in a steak dinner voucher for two at a local mid-range restaurant and I’ll help. They were dragging their feet, despite the fact that my ask was significantly lower in value than what the contractor rate would’ve been and I knew they could expense it anyway.

After a day or two they gave in. I hopped on my bike, signed an NDA, got a laptop, and asked a team member to add me to the Teams channel so I can start working. As I started to poke around on OneDrive, I couldn’t find my backup folder. After a while, I went to ask my former boss where they moved it, as I can’t find it anywhere. His response made me almost do a spit take.

“Oh, we deleted them, didn’t seem important. There were only a couple of files though, I’m sure you can easily do it again”. Those “few files” were the result of hundreds of hours of experimentation, trying to figure out how the various systems work together, and without documentation there was literally zero chance of recreating it in a short amount of time.

“Can’t you just restore from that online hub thing?” Not really, as you specifically asked me to delete it despite my protests…I left without getting my steak dinner. A few days later, they’ve called me again asking me how much would it cost make a brand-new dashboard.

Apparently some corporate bigwigs overseas were using it for their PowerPoint meetings (remember, it included global data) and were pretty angry that the fancy charts were gone. I may or may not have found a relatively recent local version of the Git report, which I may or may not have used to do some of the number crunching as my old corporate laptop could barely handle anything. I may or may not have forgotten to mention this obvious security breach and billed out my hours as I’ve been creating everything from scratch.



That’s Between You And Your God

I have a horrible client. People like him should be forbidden from hiring web developers.

He calls me, mad:

Client: “Hey! I was under the impression that this website would work on a laptop!”

Me: “It does. It’s a website”

Client: “So if I were to get on a laptop right now, you’re telling me it would work?”

Me: “Yes…Like I said, it works on a laptop”

Client: “How in world would you know that?”

Me: “Well, 1) I wrote the website, 2) this ain’t my first rodeo, and 3) I USE A LAPTOP!”

Source: Shutterstock

Client: “You have a laptop?!”

Me: “Yes! You’ve seen it. It’s my primary computer”

Client: “And it works?”

Me: “Yes!”

Client: “Neat!”

Me: “Do you have a laptop?”

Client: “No”


Client: “Should I get a laptop?”



The Harpy Rises, The Harpy Falls

I have been working my way up the food chain at the little IT company I’m with. The clients I deal with, I treat much like I did customers at Starbucks. Compassionate, caring, empathetic, blah blah good customer service, blah blah. And this has put me in good favor with all of our clients that I’ve dealt with.

One in particular is a mid-size, regional company that specializes in giving sociopaths a lucrative opportunity to exploit people less strong-willed than them. I’ll let you determine the field. They are not my primary “station,” but I help out there when the ticket queue gets overloaded. We can call them SlimeCo.

Most of the folks there that I deal with, while slimy in general, are quite pleasant towards me. I’m the cheerful guy with the laptop who doesn’t make promises and just does what needs to be done, unlike the three other burnt-out techs stationed there who make hard deadlines they never meet. But there is one woman here who is beyond help.

Ever see that episode of Kitchen Nightmares that had the husband and wife pair where the wife was just completely convinced she could do no wrong and that everyone was out to get her? That’s this woman. Not literally, but a bit-for-bit duplicate. She is a problem for everyone, and my pleasant demeanor doesn’t mean anything to her because I’m just trying to ruin her life.

I avoid her like the plague because I have more important things to deal with than her 15 tickets about the same goddarn stuff that has been resolved over and over again. We’ll just call her The Harpy from here on out.

It’s the fourth of July, and I’m up at my friends’ cottage for the long weekend, and it’s 2 am. It happened so quick. I get a call from a number I don’t recognize. I answer, because at 2 am it could be important. Something could be wrong at home, or with my family or what have you.

Me (groggily): “Uh…hello?”

Source: Shutterstock

The Harpy: “Finally someone answers. Aren’t you guys on call or whatever?”

Me: “I’m sorry, who is this?”

Harpy: “Who do you think it is? It’s The Harpy from SlimeCo. My goddarn laptop keeps restarting”.

Me: “How did you get this number?”

Harpy: “Why does that matter? You’re IT. You’re on call. That’s how it works. Fix my laptop or I’ll have your job”.

Me: “This is a personal cell phone and I’m not on call, ever. We don’t have ‘On-Call Support’“.

Harpy: “If I can get a hold of you, you’re on call. And this laptop you gave me isn’t working. It keeps restarting and I need it to do my job”.

Me “I’m 200 miles away, I have no internet access so I couldn’t remote in if I wanted to, and it’s a holiday weekend. SlimeCo is closed until Tuesday”.


Me: “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do. I’m not going out looking for an internet connection at two in the morning on a holiday weekend just because you decided you need to work right this second. I’m not even a dedicated SlimeCo technician. I’m only there when support is needed, and I haven’t been in the branch since last week”.


Me: “You know what? You’re right. I just need you to submit a ticket so I can get to it in the system and I’ll head right over to the nearest Starbucks”.


Me: “Yep. You’re right. Go ahead and place the ticket and I’ll head right on over to Starbucks and remote in and get this all taken care of for you right away”.

Harpy: “GOOD”.

She hangs up. I immediately put my phone on silent. My laptop is sitting comfortably in its docking station back at the main office, 200 miles away, the nearest Starbucks is about 40 miles away, and I go back to bed, about ten feet away. I check my phone in the morning.

61 missed calls.

14 voicemails.

Two hundred and thirty-nine emails.

Alternating between personal attacks fired off like text messages and submitted tickets. Funny how her laptop was stable long enough to submit around 50 tickets and another 180-ish emails.

I blocked her number after that. I got into work today, and my boss had a similar situation. She kept calling his phone, long into the night.

Boss: “You’re nicer than I was. I just told her to enjoy her holiday weekend and hung up”. But here’s the best part. My boss spoke with upper management after, and when I came into that office (as I normally do on Wednesday), I was immediately escorted to the board room by two security guards. The President, CFO, Chairman of the Board, SlimeCo’s lawyer, our IT firm’s lawyer, and my boss were all at the table.

I found out my boss had threatened to file a proper suit as a result of The Harpy’s behavior, on my behalf. It was explained to my boss and I that The Harpy, while an obvious problem, is a high-earner for the company and they would not fire her. However, it was discovered through an internal investigation that she had, in fact, gotten the numbers of all of the techs out of the CFO’s Blackberry.

We don’t know how she got into the Blackberry, but what we do know is that the CFO left his Blackberry unattended, which is a serious security compromise and also a breach of the contract between the company and my IT firm. Some very strong words were exchanged between SlimeCo’s officials and my boss.

The lawyers agreed that it was, in fact, a serious breach of contract leaving any data available to unauthorized users, and it was made clear that the contract in place would be terminated at the end of the meeting. It was later explained to me that, given the nature of the breach, we’d basically have an “all hands on deck” situation where every available tech would report to SlimeCo and start pulling servers, switches, and any other leased equipment.

Estimated time of dismantlement was about two and a half hours. There was also the phrase “wood chipper for hard drives” thrown in there. I don’t know if this was literal or a figure of speech. For the next two hours I was not allowed to leave the room.

My boss, his lawyer, and SlimeCo renegotiated the contract on the spot. A 36% price hike, increased security improvements, and a couple of other things that went right over my head. The lawyer then pointed out that I was still well within my rights to, and asked if I would be, seeking court action. I asked what my options were. Before he even got it out of his mouth, SlimeCo started talking about a “settlement” to keep me from going any further.

Without going into too many specifics there, a check was cut (and immediately cashed because they ain’t gonna play me for no fool). The Harpy was put on actual probation, my boss gave me the rest of the week off—billed to SlimeCo—so I can have an actual vacation, and I’m no longer going to do any service at SlimeCo. Not the outcome I expected, at all.



Some People Can’t Be Helped

So among the literally thousands of calls I’ve had in my four years in tech support, this guy really took the cake. It was the apotheosis of all those calls. It was the most infuriating yet (in hindsight) hilarious call I’d ever had in my life.

He came in on a fairly quiet Saturday morning, and the conversation started quite normally.

Me: “Good morning. How may I help you?”

C (Customer): “Yes, hello. I just woke up to my wife and kids complaining there’s no internet and the television isn’t working either”.

Me: “Oof, that’s quite inconvenient. I’m going to have to check where the issue might be and try and fix it”.

C: “Thank you”.

He gave me his postal code and house number, I confirmed his details and ran a scan on his address. There was absolutely no signal. I needed to do a basic troubleshoot with him first.

Me: “Do you know where your modem is, sir?”

C: “Yes, it’s next to my front door”.

Me: “Good. Could you please tell me which lights are on or blinking on it?”

C: “There are a couple of lights on…not as many as usual, though”.

Me: “Is the ‘online’ light on?”

C: “No”.

Source: Shutterstock

Me: “Ok, your modem is not receiving any signal, then. I’m going to have to test if the problem is in the modem or the signal towards your house. For that, I need you to turn off your modem for about 30 seconds. Could you please do that?”

C: “Umm, no?”

Me: “……. I’m sorry?”

C: “That sort of thing is YOUR job. I’m not touching that modem”.

Me: “You only need to pull out the power cable, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in”.

C: “Like I said, that’s YOUR job. Send someone over to fix it”.

I was not sure if he was joking or not. I was just baffled at the hard turn this conversation had just taken.

Me: “Sir, there is a basic troubleshoot we need to run with all our customers that solves like 90% of all—”

C: “I don’t care! I’m not getting paid for this, so I’m not doing your job! Now send someone over!”

Me: “I can’t very well send our technicians over, just to restart your modem, sir”.

C: “You can, and you will, and you’ll compensate me for the time I haven’t received any of your services!”

Me: “I don’t care much for your tone, sir. Either you cooperate with our standard troubleshoot, or I cannot help you”.

C: “You’ve got a pretty big mouth there, missy! What’s your name? I’ll issue a complaint against you!”

I gave him my first name, and he demanded to know my last name.

C: “Scared to give me your last name, hm?”

Me: “No, just not obligated to give it to you. You’ve been very rude to me, so I won’t give it to you”.

C: “You think you’re so high and mighty because you’re on the phone! I know where your HQ is! I’m driving over there right now, and you’d better make sure you have your eyes open when you come out, [my first name in a mocking tone]”.

I snickered at the thought. He lived about 175 miles from our HQ. Plus, he only had my first name and he had, of course, no idea what I looked like.

Me: “If you would rather take three hours to get here and then another three to get back home, rather than taking 30 seconds to restart your modem, you’re welcome to do so. I’m now terminating the call and issuing a threat warning. Have a lovely day”.

I hung up before he could respond and reported the threat to my manager. He made note of it and put it through to our second line to pick this further up. I wish I could say the story ended there. Unfortunately, it continued as soon as I resumed taking calls. Not five minutes after I got back to work, I got him on the phone AGAIN.

Me: “Good morning, this is [name] from—”

C: “HA! There you are! You think you can just hang up on me!? I’m taking this to court! I’m cancelling our services as of RIGHT NOW!”

Me: “I’ve issued your violent threat, which we’ve recorded, by the way, to our second line, sir. I’ll add that you wish to end your contract. They’ll call you back within two hours. Goodbye”.

I hung up again and he thankfully didn’t try to reach me again after that. I did learn afterward that he had, in fact, taken this case to court…and lost. His services were cancelled five months before the end date of the contract, and he had to pay for the remaining five months. I hope it was worth it to him.

I did not press charges for the threat since I never took it seriously. I mean, I literally laughed it off. Thinking back on it still makes me snicker. I’m imagining him driving for three hours, arriving at our HQ, asking all the women who left the building their names in the hopes he could do God knows what to one of them, then driving back home for three hours (not to mention having to stop for gas, which costs a lot here) and still have his wife and children complaining they have no internet or television. Idiot.



User Loser

A customer of ours has all their server and networking equipment support through us and the helpdesk services from another company. I went on-site to investigate a network issue when I was suddenly interrupted by a very aggravated employee of theirs. She is insistent I would come fix some issue on her workstation like RIGHT NOW.

I explain to her I can’t, we don’t do their support. The following conversation unfolds:

Me: I’m sorry, but I don’t do user cases.

Her: WHAT did you just call me??!

Me: (puzzled) A user?


Source: Shutterstock

After that there’s no calming her. She fumes on about being insulted and listens to no voice of reason. In the end I just ignore her and finish my work. The next day my boss comes to me about having received a complaint about my conduct. He says he’s very surprised about the accusation as I’m normally pretty calm and professional about what I do.

I explain to him what had happened, and my boss bursts into laughter and walks away.



They Are Out To Get You

So yesterday was strange, to say the least. We had a meeting that was scheduled for noon, so the beginning of my day was pretty mundane. At noon I walked into the conference room for the video review. The head of IT was in there as well as the executive vice president of IT and technology. The conference started hilariously as none of them could get the head of HR’s video working.

I walked her through how to fix that as it was a simple error.

Me: Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?

HR Lady: Oh duh. Should have known it was something stupid like that.

We started the conference and HOOO BOOOY. It quickly became clear to me what was going on. She was gunning for me hard.

Her: So I have in front of me 19 complaints against you this year. Can you explain these?

Me: That’s it?

Her: Clearly not expecting that. Uhh yes. How do you explain it?

Me: Well as you well know, each complaint is different and most do not have merit.

Her: So you are saying these complaints were made…incorrectly?

Me: Yes that is exactly what I am saying.

Source: Shutterstock

I then pulled out the same folder she probably had.

Me: On Feb 12th, this man complained that I refused his request.

Her: Good one to start with. Explain it.

Me: He wanted me to put a folder on his desktop that would allow him to transfer items between his local desktop and another server. This was not possible. I offered him several alternative options but he refused each one.

Her: So this was impossible?

Me: Technology wise of course it is possible. But the solution would never EVER get the approval.

Her: Let’s move on to the next one. A different user claimed that you were rude to her on the phone and hung up on her.

Me: let’s play the call log.

The call log is me being professional while she politely berates me on the phone…until she cusses me out. I end the call and send it to HR.

Me: Your predecessor said I handled it well.

Her: Ok let’s move on to the lady who had to wait for extra days to get her laptop back from you. She said you helped her three days in a row and finally took an extra four days to get her laptop back to her.

Me: You mean the lady who yelled in my face? Yeah, I remember her. I had to go to the hospital that Friday so none of my work got done.

Her: I see the note here. You thought you had a hernia but it turned out to be a UTI?

Me: Thanks for repeating it here…Yes. Anyways, the point is her laptop was finished within two hours of me returning to work. The four days she is talking about is because we had a three-day weekend.

The meeting went on like this for well over 30 minutes as we ran through each complaint with only one that was legitimate. That was when I misread a technical error and had to fix it 30 minutes later. Oh well. Then came the real kicker.

Her: Let’s talk about the fire you started.


My Head of IT: HE STARTED!? (same time)

Vice President: Wait what?

Her: Per your report. The fuse box was overloaded when the third rack of servers plugged in and started a fire inside the wall that ended up burning out most of the building.

Me: Yes that does sound correct. What you’re failing to mention is that the circuit breaker was not an actual circuit breaker. It was a bypass installed to bring the building up to code. The fuse box had cabinets built over it so that the owner could hide it. That’s why it caught on fire.

Her: How was this missed.

Me: I don’t know. I am not an electrician, I am not a state building inspector, I am not omniscient, and I am certainly not omnipotent. I went in to set up an office.

Her: You appear to have an excuse for everything.

Me: Yes it’s called “Cover Your Butt”. You literally have that on a poster in your office. But then it got ten times worse.

Vice President: (to me) OK, That is far enough, you have made your point. Remember that she holds your job in her hand.

Head of IT: Like a small bird. (Yes, they really said this)

Vice President: Thank you. So you do need to show her some respect…that being said. (Talking to HR Lady) He is right. (Turning to me) Do you want to keep your job?

Me: Yes.

Vice President: Then never take a disrespectful tone at a member of the senior management again. I expect a written apology to her by the end of the day. No further action needs to be taken here. (Turning to HR Lady) As for you.

HR Lady: Yes?

Vice President: You will apologize to both of them by the end of the day yourself. While he was disrespectful, he is not wrong.

He then stood up and gathered his things.

Vice President: Hopefully this is the last I hear of any animosity towards upper management, or animosity coming from upper management. Good day people.

He left and I went back to my desk, apologizing for the attitude I took with the head of HR. At 4:55 PM the email came in from the head of HR apologizing for her role.



Not My Problem

I was a student back when this story takes place and during the summer I managed to get an internship as IT Admin. The work was quite nice, I was doing helpdesk stuff but also things with servers. Anyway, support of users was one of my tasks. The company was from the automotive sector—airbags/seatbelts etc.

I was working in a production plant connected with offices, so I had to support both facilities. One time I get a call. That was unusual, as we always reminded users to write tickets, which were responded in real-time so it took like 10 minutes before I contacted this incident submitter. Call was more or less like:

“For God’s sake, what are you doing with the scanners? The whole line has stopped and we are completely blocked now, we can’t do anything without them, they’re not working and showing errors”. The line was about a 10 minute walk from my office so I stayed on the phone while I was walking there.

“Ok, tell me what is going on, calm down”.


“Please calm down, we have not been doing anything with that line for months”


At this point I was already thinking about different ways of ruining her, but still played it cool. I finally arrive at the line and ask her to hand me a scanner. All the people from production line were standing there with crossed shoulders and looked at me like “Here you go, you messed up so fix it huh” and the leader said something like “Oh here you are, now make it work”.

Source: Pexels

The scanner was nothing fancy, all you had to do to make it work usually was enter a username and password. So I take the scanner and look at the screen. Back at her. Back at the screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Were you asked to change password recently?”


“Because the screen says that you have typed the wrong password 5 times and you are always reminded that after this, the scanner blocks for 20 minutes. And by the way, you have three backup scanners so why you didn’t use them? You messed up, not me. And it’s not ok to talk like that to any employee of the company, so I will report it to YOUR manager. We have call recording enabled on our mobiles” (we didn’t, but she could never know).

“Ugh….ummm, emmm”.

“Yeah, bye”.

I told the story to her manager. She apologized officially to the whole IT team, brought some of the cheapest cookies from the store, and basically pretended to be sorry.



Catching On

Like most people, I too have parents who are largely tech-illiterate. But over the last two years, I’ve been making a conscious effort to get my parents (especially my mom) to understand computers better. I’m a big believer in the ol’ give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, and he can have food for life mentality.

So rather than showing mom how to resolve her every problem, we go through a process of: what do you think is wrong? and how are you going to solve it?

Now admittedly, things do get incredibly frustrating in this process, and it can often take ~1/2 hour up to 1 hour to resolve issues. BUT, it has slowly been working. So today, mom came to me with a problem, and as usual, seemed to explode it way out of proportion.

Mom: My phone is broken.

Me: What do you mean?

Mom: The camera doesn’t work.

Me: What do you mean exactly?

Mom: When I go to the camera app, it says connection cannot be established

Me: So have you tried anything to resolve it?

Mom: I turned it off and on again. But that didn’t work.

Me: Uh huh.

Me: So then I booted the phone into recovery mode.

Me: (cue disbelief)

Mom: And then I wiped the cache partition.

Me: (sustained disbelief)

Mom: But when I rebooted the phone, it still didn’t work. So I thought the problem might be larger than that.

Me: …

Source: Shutterstock

Mom: So I went onto several forums, and a lot of other people describing similar problems said it turned out to be a hardware fault.

Me: How the heck did you know how to do that?

Mom: I Googled it.

Me: (cue jaw drop) So…I guess your phone is broken.

Mom: Yeah. That’s what I told you in the beginning.

This is the same person who two years ago didn’t even know how to use the volume buttons on her phone, now troubleshooting all on her own…Mom, I am so proud of you. You’ve now been granted admin privileges.



The Phantom Hand

This happened last week:

Boss: Hey, I didn’t know we could print on our fax machine

Me: Sorry? That’s not a printer, just a fax machine

Boss: Nope, it prints as well. (This is all while showing me some pages that came from the fax machine). I printed this document and it came out of the fax machine instead of the printer. I was surprised myself.

Me: It is not possible. The fax machine is just a fax machine.

Boss: Well, then where did this come from?

Me: I have no idea, but the fax is not a printer.

Boss: I will prove it to you. I will print this other document.

Me: Go ahead.

10 minutes later

Boss: Hey, the fax machine is finally printing. It took a bit but it is now printing that document I told you.

Me: Seriously? This can’t be. The fax machine is not a printer. Let me see and I try to figure out what’s going on.

I printed out the journal report from the fax machine and I see the last entries are from a number in Hong Kong. I check the number and it belongs to our branch in Hong Kong, so I give them a call. Finally the puzzle is solved.

Me: Hey boss, I know what’s going on with the fax machine.

Boss: You realized it is a printer as well?

Me: Have you been to Hong Kong lately?

Boss: Yes, I was there last week for some meetings.

Me: Did you try to print anything while you were there?

Source: Shutterstock

Boss: Yes.

Me: How did you manage to get your printouts to come out of the printer over there?

Boss: I had to configure their printer in my notebook

Me: Have you checked you are not still printing in the Hong Kong printer?

Boss: Why?

Me: Well, you have been printing all the time in the Hong Kong printer. The printer is beside a secretary, who thought your documents were very important, so she faxed them to us.