I was a newbie on my first-ever team assignment to take out a company's old networking equipment and upgrade it to new.
We arrived and got started; everything went fine. After four hours we took a lunch break. Someone who worked in the building (for our purposes, "Bob") came to us and asked if we could take a quick look at his computer; he couldn't get the printer to work and the company's only IT admin was out at lunch. Being the overconfident newbie, I said, "Absolutely!"
[ The tech inferno is not buried deep within the earth -- it's just down the hall. Do the nine circles of IT hell sound familiar? | Follow Off the Record on Twitter for tech's war stories, career takes, and off-the-wall news. ]
It was a small office, and the printer was on the opposite side from the desk. I followed the USB cable from the printer to the computer, and the connections felt secure. I thought maybe there was communication issue, so I checked the software and tried a few test printouts. It had the printer listed, but wasn't doing anything at all.
I couldn't figure out why it was listed but not working. I happened to catch that the printer information was somehow saved as a permanent listing, and due to some sort of software issue (eventually resolved) it wouldn't say if it was even connected, which I figured out by hooking up a portable printer to one of the front USB ports.
At about this point, Bob decided to mention that he'd had issues connecting to the Internet as well, even before we got there to upgrade all the equipment. Before we'd started that morning, the IT admin had said he hadn't received notification that any of the computers were having issues connecting. This was odd.
I checked the computer again, this time pulling it out a bit to look at the layout. This revealed the reason behind every issue Bob was having.
The USB cable for the printer was plugged into the Ethernet port, and the Ethernet cable was in an open docking area (for added PCI cards in the rear of the case) with no guard on it. Correction: The guard was broken off by what looked like a hammer and chisel job, and the Ethernet cord was resting in the open area -- basically dangling inside the case. I couldn't believe it.
I looked at Bob and explained the problem with the printer, then asked why (and how) he had managed to pull the guard off. His response was priceless.
Bob said, "Well, I ran out of USB slots after I had my keyboard, mouse, phone, Webcam, camera, and flash drive all plugged in, and I didn't want to put anything else in the front slots because otherwise I might kick it and break it by accident. I noticed there was an open slot still in the back and tried to plug the printer into it, but it didn't want to go in very well, so I got a pair of pliers and a hammer and hammered it in. As for the Internet cable thing, the IT guy forgot to take the cover off, and I didn't know how to do it but noticed it could be pushed in, so I used the same tools to make a hole for the Internet cable to go in. It worked, and it went in much easier than the printer cable. Now what do we need to do get the printer to work again? And when is the IT guy going to let the Internet go to my computer?"
Yes, Bob really said that.
The IT admin had joined us by this time. We explained to Bob that the port the printer was plugged into was for the Internet and informed him that he had basically admitted to intentionally breaking company property; that the company policy listed restrictions of using the company computer; and that the Webcam, phone (unless using it to charge only), and camera weren't allowed to be connected to the computer unless otherwise directed by the company itself.
Bob was fired and fined. He later took the company to court and wound up getting charged for company harassment on top of the initial $20 fine. I also found out that he supposedly had a degree in IT support and an A+ certification.
The same night, I talked to my teammates about the incident and wound up with a headache trying to figure out Bob's mind-set. I've never face-palmed so hard in my entire life. How can someone make such a series of major errors and, apparently, not even notice?
Do you have a tech story to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.
This story, "If the cable doesn't fit ... use hammer and pliers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.