People are always asking me what I do. And I lie and say I’m a mortician. Because invariably the next question involves me figuring out how to cut down on their webmail spam. Or how to fix their computer. But there was a time in my life when I didn’t have the option of lying my way out of questions like that. Yes, in the beginning it wasn’t all the wine and roses of network engineering. I was an agent on the help desk of a major computer company. I’ve always said that everyone should spend a month on the help desk just so they can have the same low opinion of humanity that I do. In the six months I was there, I learned that you can never assume what people will ask. Ever. I could spend days talking about all the things I’ve seen and heard. Instead, I think I’ll share my three favorite stories from my tour of duty.
Unshiny Happy People
I received a call one night from a nice sounding old lady that can’t seem to get CDs to play on her laptop. I start to troubleshoot the issue, and nothing seems to be working. At about 15 minutes into the call, the following exchange occurs:
Her: Now, I have a question. Does the shiny side of the CD go up or down?
Me: The shiny side goes down, ma’am.
Shuffling goes on in the background…
Her: Oh, your fixed it! You are a miracle worker!
Here’s my vote for the return of the 8-track.
We, The (Ignorant) People…
A teenager calls me and wants me to help him copy a DVD. Like a movie DVD. Like a illegal-to-copy movie DVD. Informing him of this leads to this informative back-and-forth:
Me: I can’t help you, sir. It’s illegal to copy a DVD, just like it’s illegal to copy a tape or CD.
Him: You can copy a tape! It’s protected under the 3rd Amendment!
Catching me off guard with that one, I rattle off some garbage about the DMCA not allowing you to make copies of copyrighted material. Yes, it’s the law, but I still think it’s garbage. It got rid of him well enough. But it stuck with me. After the call, we looked up the 3rd Amendment. It protects you against quartering soldiers in your home, and was written in 1789.
Damn British. First they comandeer your house. Then they make copies of Men in Black. Will they never learn?
To have and to hold…or your money back.
As usually happens on late night calls, I get a drunk customer. So drunk you can almost smell beer through the phone. I ask him to verify his computer serial number. He can’t find it. I ask him for a phone number. He can’t remember. I try to search for his last name. He slurs it so badly I though he sneezed. At this point, I tell him I can’t help him without any info. He then tells me he wants me to help him break his computer.
Me: Sir, I can’t help you do that. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. I fix computers, I don’t break them.
Him: You don’t understand. My wife chats with men on it while I’m at work all day. If I break it, she can’t talk to them.
Even with the impassioned plea of a man whose keyboard it getting more action that he is, I had to decline. He wants to speak to my supervisor. I tell him my supervisor can’t do any more that I have. He insists. My supervisor takes the call while I listen in on another line (and yes, we can hear you). He goes through the same song-and-dance, and gets the same reply. He then reveals this particularly juicy bit of info:
Him: She talks to these men on the computer and then brings them home! She’s already brought three of them home and slept with them while I’m at work!
Rolling laughter from those of us out of earshot
Him: She also downloads pictures off the Internet of naked men and hangs them up in our bedroom!
Hideous laughter from us that interrupts phone calls for other technicians
Him: She even buys dildos! She has one that is this long!
We assumed this to be a length of about 12 inches, and began howling laughter that made the callers think we were watching Clerks or something.
The man then begins to complain about his life in general, as well as his marriage. He even counseled my supervisor to avoid marriage at all costs. At this point comes the greatest line every uttered on a call:
Supervisor: I’m sorry sir, but our company does not warranty your marriage.
Not only did I gain so much respect for my supervisor, but in the multiple retellings of the story over the next few days, we both became heroes. And for the life of us, we couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just hit it with a hammer. Maybe he was too drunk to remember how to use one.