Keyboards, condescension come together on a tech call

In this IT tale, a help desk analyst troubleshoots an email problem -- and discovers one user's definition of tech support

For a year I worked at an upscale law firm as a help desk analyst.

During my first week at the job, we got a call from a difficult attorney who was always having problems, so one of the senior analysts and I headed to her office to fix the problem of the moment.

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This particular issue was that every so often when she was reading emails, the email would close; when she tried to open the email again, the message would pop up, then close again very quickly.

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We finally got to her top-floor office. Her assistant called the attorney to announce our arrival and, after a few minutes, allowed us to enter the office.

The attorney was not having the problem anymore and could not show us anything that even resembled the reported issue.

I did notice that she had an L-shaped desk, and that under her desk the keyboard swiveled left and right and up and down.

This got me to thinking that she was probably trapping the upper-left part of her keyboard under the left portion of the L-shaped desk and constantly depressing the Esc key.

Since I was new, I quietly mentioned this possibility to the senior tech who escorted me up. The tech said "that's interesting" but didn't mention anything to the attorney, who was brusquely waving us to the door.

About an hour later, the same attorney called in again -- this time very upset that the same issue had restarted and that she was in the middle of reading a very important email that she couldn't reopen.

The senior tech that escorted me up was on another call, so I went to the attorney's office alone. Sure enough, the keyboard tray was swiveled under the L portion of the attorney's desk and depressing the Esc key.

I very politely pointed out that the tray was in this position and depressing the Esc key, and I explained how that would cause the problem she was experiencing. The attorney looked down, moved the keyboard out from under the desk, and tried to open another email. The email opened fine and she got back to her work.

I started to walk away, but she stopped me by saying, "Wait a minute, I might need you to fix this again!"

I said, "The swivel keyboard is just too far under the desk to your left. If you lower it just a tiny fraction or raise it so the keyboard can't fit under the desk, you won't have this problem again."

The attorney stared at me with the most exasperated look and, in the most condescending tone I have ever heard, said, "I'm not in IT, so I don't adjust keyboards."

I then realized the level of support she was expecting and asked if I could adjust her keyboard. She stepped away from the desk and allowed me to fix it.

I adjusted the keyboard tray just a fraction of an inch downward so that the keyboard did not touch the desk anymore. Then at her request, I sat in her assistant's area until she was satisfied that I had properly adjusted it.

After 30 minutes she called me back in and said I had fixed the problem; however, the new adjustment to the keyboard tray hurt her wrists.

I offered to adjust the tray upward and experiment with moving it to one side or the other, but she quickly said there was no need -- she would suffer through for now.

I guess you can never underestimate the level of support some people want, need, or are looking for.

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