It happens to all of us, when after a long, taxing day, you can't string together two coherent thoughts. Due to mental exhaustion, we make mistakes and overlook minor details. I don’t mind helping users in such cases. In a couple of minutes, I can fix the tech problem, remove one worry, and help them get on with their day.
And if the help desk call happens to come on a Monday, there's no telling what to expect.
A disappearing act
The payroll department had been working hard to meet a deadline. I got a call from an employee who was panicked that something was wrong with her PC.
I asked for more explanation and she said she was in Windows Explorer and there were no scroll bars to move up and down or left and right in the directory to see all the files. I asked a few questions but quickly sensed this would be easier to troubleshoot in person, so I made my way over.
When I arrived at her cubicle, she demonstrated that there were no scroll bars. I asked if I could sit at her desk and take a closer look, and she stepped aside, still agitated.
I inspected the PC and could see that she had the Windows Explorer window maximized. I tried shrinking it, and the scroll bars appeared. But when I sent it back to full screen, the scroll bars disappeared again.
This hadn’t taken much time at all and I thought I’d figured out the problem. However, I wanted to be sure so that I could explain it to her as clearly as possible.
Once again reducing the window size, I scrolled to the bottom of the directory and noted the last-saved filename. I then maximized it to full screen, this time looking for the file I had just made a note of. There it was -- problem solved. The scroll bars had once again disappeared, but viewing the full screen displayed the complete directory, so there was no need for scroll bars.
I explained this to the user and showed her on the screen. She smiled sheepishly and said sadly, “This is only Monday morning.”
Check the basics
One of our users shuttles her work PC (a laptop) home every night so that she can complete reports that often need to be filed the following morning.
She maintains an external full-size keyboard, mouse, and monitor at each location in order to cut down on the periphery that she would need to carry. We also installed security software and a complex login procedure on the laptop to prevent any unwarranted access when she is outside of the office.
One Monday, I got a frantic call from her. She’d had a particularly grueling weekend of work and needed to access what she’d completed, but couldn’t log in.
When I got to her office, she quickly demonstrated that the computer was not accepting any input from the external keyboard. She was distressed about it not working, but she disclosed that her biggest fear was that she had been hacked.
I tried the keyboard and got the same result: None of the keys produced screen output on the external monitor. I tried the laptop keys and voilà, there was output.
I traced the cord from the keyboard to a pile of papers on her desk. Yup, there it was -- it hadn’t been plugged in. I didn’t say anything; I simply plugged the keyboard into the laptop, verified it had output, showed her it was working, assured her that she hadn’t been hacked, and wished her a good week.
From her response of relief and exhaustion, it looked like it was going to be a long one.
Sometimes the obvious is right before us, but our mind refuses to see it. We can use a little help to connect the dots.