A phantom menace gives IT the slip

A techie gets the runaround from a mysterious user and close-lipped staff while troubleshooting a problem at a remote site

The request seemed easy enough: Take a look at a minor but annoying problem affecting all users in a particular department. The call came from a remote site, but that wasn't unusual for the company where I worked, nor was the technical issue itself. However, an unforeseen challenge awaited in the form of an office phantom who apparently figured me for a chump.

This story took place about 10 years ago. Our company's IT department was small, and we were kept busy supporting multiple locations. For efficiency, we did as much troubleshooting work as we could remotely. This office was 15 minutes away, but the problem was simple to fix.

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I asked the head of the department if there was a computer I could use for the job. She told me the name of an employee who would be out of the office the next day. I contacted that employee and set up the operation. The following day, I logged in with pcAnywhere and got started.

About 15 minutes into the session, the mouse suddenly started moving on its own. Someone -- let's call them The Phantom -- had sat down at the computer that was not supposed to be in use. Right before my eyes, The Phantom opened up Internet Explorer and started surfing the Web.

I launched a chat window and verified that the user could easily see it. Then I sent a message explaining I was from the IT department and doing work on this PC, and I asked them to please use another computer.

I watched as The Phantom moved the mouse up to the X and closed the window. The mouse stopped shifting, so I figured the other party had agreed to my request and left. I closed The Phantom's browser window and returned to the task at hand -- but I was rudely interrupted as The Phantom reopened Internet Explorer and got back to Web surfing.

I popped up another chat window and repeated a similar message to let them know I was working on that PC. The Phantom closed the chat window just as before. I did it again; once more, The Phantom closed the message and kept using the computer. For those playing along at home, yes, that was three strikes.

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