Most of the office had just upgraded to Windows 7, so I was certain that the problem was that she couldn't find the correct category to tweak the mouse settings. I gladly followed her through the maze of cubicles.
But as we arrived at her newly arranged cubicle, I noticed something strange. She had a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers lying out on her desk next to the mouse. She didn't have any settings up on her screen at all.
Pulling the old switcheroo
She picked up the mouse, pointed to the buttons, and said there must be some kind of trick to getting these things off because she hadn't been able to do it so far. She was actually trying to pry off the buttons on the mouse so that she could "switch" them.
It took me a moment to hide my surprise and amusement. When I'd gotten my voice and expressions under control, I explained that we would actually be changing settings on the computer that would allow her to "switch" the mouse buttons. Luckily, it was much easier than physically manipulating the actual buttons.
Understanding dawned in her eyes, and she seemed relieved that it was so much easier than she'd been anticipating. We put her tools back in the toolbox and I showed her how to change the mouse settings. I inspected the mouse and was relieved to see that there hadn't been any damage done from her fix-it attempts. It worked just fine.
As we were talking about how she could easily switch the settings back when she wanted to use her right hand again, I took another look at the mouse. It struck me that the two buttons were not mirror images of each other. I mentioned this and asked her how she had planned on putting the buttons back on once she'd pried them off. She did a double take, laughed, and said she hadn't thought that far ahead.
This situation was more fun than average since it happened with someone I knew well, so we could laugh about what might have been. And it serves as an easy reminder about troubleshooting. Now when I'm helping a user and think we're on the same page, I look at a mouse as a reminder to make sure to clarify who, what, when, where, why, and how whenever I offer any suggestions. It's saved me from more than a few repeat scenarios.
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This story, "Stand back -- major mouse dissection in progress," 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.