Crazy but true tech support stories

An IT support specialist remembers the calls that made him push the mute button while he pulled himself together

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One evening after hours, he called and left a message that mystified us all: "The ball is bouncing. It is bouncing. And exploding!" he exclaimed in his endearing accent. When I called him back the next day, he repeated the story, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out what he meant. He just kept saying, "The ball is bouncing, the ball is exploding!" During the call, a number of my coworkers collected outside of my cubicle, listening to the conversation, trying to supply tips, and giggling quietly.

[ Users are by no means alone when it comes to hard-headedness in the IT world. See "Stupid user tricks 3: IT admin follies" and "True IT confessions" for real-world tales of folks who should know better fouling up. ]

Then it dawned on me. The screen saver! -- set by someone to the "bouncing ball" that shatters when it "hits" the screen edges. I asked him to move the mouse. "What mouse? There is no mouse!" he exclaimed.

"Press the space bar," I said.

"Oh! The ball went away!" he cheered.

I began to explain to him about screen savers, and as we were talking, he stopped suddenly and exclaimed, "The ball is bouncing again! The ball is exploding again!" I patiently explained that when this happened, all he had to do was move the "mouse" or press any key. And I made a note in his account to turn off his screen saver the next time someone worked on his PC in person.

What did she just say?
Users can say the darnedest things, and you're not always sure if there's a hidden intent. At one company, with a trainee technician on the phone with me, I was talking a client through a server swap. We had backed up the client's original Unix server to tape and needed her to disconnect the cables to it, slide in the replacement loaner, and hook up the network, power, and other cables to it.

So I explain this to the woman, who responds by saying, "So you want me to crawl under the table to do that, right? Well, luckily I'm good on my back." Before the trainee tech could gasp or laugh, I hit the Mute button, then explained that client come-ons do happen. Was that the case here? I don't think so; her tone was more daringly playful than anything. My tone, when the mute was off again, was standard "neutral tech." There are some lines you don't go near, much less cross.

Umm, I don't see a footpedal in your manifest
One of the challenges of phone support is that you can't see what's happening. And that makes for some amusing false leads every once in a while -- it's almost the blind leading the blind.

At one job, I was helping a client install a new PC, with me giving her directions over the phone as she unpacked the box, connected the cables, and so on. At some point, she asked me how to set up the footpedal. "Footpedal? That's odd," I thought. But we did occasionally sell imaging systems that use footpedals to help navigate the display and control, such as for zooming.

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