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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I checked her order manifest to see what system she got and to find out the footpedal model she had, so I could help her specifically. But the manifest had no footpedal in it. She then mentioned she thought it was an awfully small footpedal and was concerned it wouldn't work well with her feet.

The light began to dawn, so I asked her what brand of footpedal it was. "Dell," she replied. Bingo! It was her mouse. And it definitely did not belong on the floor.

An ergonomic step too far
For some reason, I've done lots of support work for doctors and veterinarians, who are some of the smartest people around. But they sometimes are -- how shall I put it? -- disconnected from the physical world.

Case in point: I got a call from one vet who had a mobile practice; she treated animals in a converted ice cream truck she drove from site to site. Her question was what joystick-style mouse did I recommend for her laptop. I did some research for her while she was on the phone, but all I could find were gaming joysticks, and those didn't seem right. So I asked her what she was looking for in a joystick and why she thought she wanted one. (I was thinking to myself that I might check with a rehab facility to see what kind of joysticks they could recommend, as they would be more familiar with devices designed for specific ergonomic or physiological needs.)

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Then I got her answer: It would be easier to operate the laptop with a joystick while she was driving. I explained in that neutral 911-style voice that it was probably not a good idea to use a computer while driving. I don't think she was completely convinced; it was clear she did want to end the call without getting some satisfaction.

So she asked me what kind of cleaner she should use to remove the Sharpie marks off her laptop screen. I wanted to say that they call them permanent markers for a reason, but restrained myself. She pushed for an answer, so I put her on hold and called the laptop's manufacturer, which made a recommendation but warned me that the ink would probably not come off. I found out later the manufacturer was right and the vet never did get the ink marks off the screen.

Dealing with a dead mouse
The ticket in the help desk system was short and sweet: "Tech on site: dead mouse." That seemed like an easy problem to deal with, so when I called the tech -- who had gone to the site to replace a drive in the client's RAID array -- I expected to be told what brand mouse and what type of connector I needed to put on order.

Instead, my colleague told me he had a real dead mouse: A pesky rodent had gotten into the sealed server enclosure without tripping the containment alarm, then died. Fortunately for him, the mouse corpse had desiccated and was easy to remove and dispose of. Fortunately for me, I was on the phone and didn't have to deal with it directly.

When support gets too dangerous
One of my earliest experiences in being a support tech involved running cables in a manufacturing facility. The place had robots moving about, machines processing various materials, you name it: lots of metal, lots of wires, and lots of obstructions. To do the wiring, I had to get in a cage and be hoisted over the machinery so that I could run the cabling above, winding it through and running it over various things -- many of which were highly conductive.

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