Keyboard spill stymies spreadsheet slob

A user's slovenly ways make basic tech support harder than it has to be

Keyboard spill stymies spreadsheet slob

Respect is a two-way street -- or at least it should be. In IT, we work hard to show users that we care about their problems, acknowledge their time and workload, and do what we can to meet them where they are. But in return, there are some basics users can do to show us they care about our time and the technology we maintain for them.

The call came in: "Help, I was working on a spreadsheet and spilled water on my keyboard. Do you have a new one?"

Like any viable IT department, we always keep extras for such occasions. I informed the user I would be there shortly to replace the keyboard. I went to the workshop, grabbed a new replacement, and started to the user's office.

Unpleasant environment

When I arrived, the user had left for a coffee break since they were unable to work. But I saw that my first challenge would not be assessing hardware functionality; it was getting to said hardware in the first place as the office was cluttered with stacks of reports all across the floor, barely leaving any place to walk.

I found a way through the maze and got to the desk. I untangled the sodden keyboard, which still dripped water, and began to trace the connecting USB cable through the stacks of paper. Of course it went over the front of the desk through more stacks of paper and boxes before entering the base of the desk to return to the PC that resided there.

The mouse's cable meandered through a similar path, so I had to make sure I had the correct one. This was not the first time I wondered why manufacturers don't use different colors for the mouse and keyboard cables.

I finally had the keyboard switched out and verified that the PC recognized it by typing a few entries in the active spreadsheet that was still displayed on the screen. The PC had no screensaver or lock set, so everything was still active.

One would think that a 25+-year employee would have at one time or another read one of the emails emphasizing the importance of locking their machine when leaving it unattended, but apparently not. (As an IT department we were restricted by upper management for deploying this with group policy.)

I left and happened to pass the employee in the hall. I gave him an update, reporting that I had replaced the keyboard and the problem was fixed.

But that's not all

No sooner had I gotten back to my station than the employee called again, stating that the keyboard only worked to enter data in column F, but displayed nothing in column G. I went back to his office.

Sure enough, nothing displayed in column G, though I could see it information in the formula bar. I immediately saw the problem and told him to highlight the column and change the text color. Problem solved. Apparently, the water had triggered a key combination that changed the text color of those cells to white, thus they appeared invisible.

Sometimes I wonder if some individuals have 25 years of experience, or one year's experience 25 times.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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