Did you hear about the dead mouse? Hilarity at the help desk

Tech support's prime directive: Solve the problem at hand -- and save your laughter for later if you can possibly help it

Did you hear about the dead mouse? Hilarity at the help desk

You know that old quote about two countries separated by the same language? The problem can sometimes plague tech support and the users we serve as well. Hopefully, after the guffaws subside, they know we're laughing with them, not at them.

Here are a couple of my favorite examples of user misunderstandings.

File under "confusion"

We were preparing to do work with our data center. We’d alerted users to the task at hand and took steps to make sure it impacted them as little as possible. Though we were set to move servers and machines, there would be only a short window when one department was without one server.

The time arrived and we busied ourselves with the task. Overall it was mundane -- a few minor problems here and there. We settled back into our normal routine.

However, we found out the next week that perhaps we were a little too thorough with our communications.

A user from the department that underwent the downtime reported an emergency with her computer: All the information from her J: drive was missing. It had happened when we moved the server -- she hadn’t been able to find the files since.

However, her explanation of the problem didn't quite make sense. We asked her why she thought it had happened when we’d moved the server, and she said, “When you moved the server, the files must have fallen out of the bottom. I’ve looked around the office and couldn’t find them. Why didn’t you put them back?”

Like all good IT pros, we try very hard not to laugh in front of users, but this time we were so surprised that we couldn’t hold it back.

To our credit, we recovered fairly quickly. To the user’s credit, she was very patient with us. We explained how files physically falling out of a server was impossible and assured her that the files must be somewhere on her computer and easy to find. She was relieved, though a little embarrassed.

A few minutes’ work on her computer located the missing files: They’d been dragged into another folder somehow. We dragged them back to their original location. Problem solved.

Good for a laugh, yes -- but also a reminder that our technical world has so many parts that aren’t physically easy to understand if you don’t work with them day to day.

Mouse moves

A user's hysteria can be tech support's walk in the park. Nonetheless, the goal remains the same: Help them get on with their day. If you happen to get a chuckle out of it, the more power to everyone.

A user called in a panic -- his mouse was not moving. (First of all, I assumed he meant the cursor and not the actual mouse, which was a correct deduction. But you never know.)

Once I’d made sure we were on the same page about that detail, I moved forward with the deduction process.

Me: “The next thing to do is turn the mouse over and see if the light is on.”
User: “How do I do that?”
Me: “Pick the mouse up, then turn it over.”
Short pause.
User: “Oh no! There’s a red light on. What’s wrong with it?”

First, keep your composure while reassuring the user. Then ask him to unplug the mouse, plug it in, and try again. Success!

In the end, these simple user issues give us bright moments in otherwise uneventful days.

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