back to article Helpdesk? I have a software problem. And a GRIZZLY BEAR problem

Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday frolic through readers' recollections of romps through the delights of help desk and on-site work. This week, welcome reader Frank who's shared a story from back when he did the 12 hour graveyard shift on a help desk. One night, Frank took a call in the wee small hours. Around 02:00 or 03: …

  1. wx666z

    Bears vs. alligators+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Canada is a lovely country, I had the pleasure of working in B.C. decades ago. Would move there if the weather was better. Now in FL. the last place I worked, before I retired, had a drainage pond complete with an alligator. The real problem was the wild pigs and occasional raccoons, particularly very early in the morning. The pigs could be quite aggressive. Haven't seen a bear yet...

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Bears vs. alligators+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

      Where I live here in BC we have bears every fall. They come for the apples and people's garbage. I don't get very close to them when they're really big but they're not too dangerous if you're not threatening. Here's a medium sized one (about 300 lbs.) munching apples in the tree in front of my house.

      1. ukgnome

        Re: Bears vs. alligators+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        well when I did on-call at a chemical factory I had seagulls of every size to contend with. I would rather bears or crocodiles.

        1. Chris King

          Re: Bears vs. alligators+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

          I had to deal with an aircon failure, and the engineer's report was five words long:

          "Seagulls have eaten the pipes"

          Having seen the local seagulls dive-bomb, kill and eat other birds, I could well believe it. They'll eat anything they can lay their beaks on, and they crap something that sticks to glass better than superglue.

          "So, were the pipes a starter, main or dessert then ?"

      2. Seth Johnson

        Re: Bears vs. alligators+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

        I noticed this.

        Coalmont is an old community which goes back to the Granite Creek gold rush of 1885. Although Coalmont has often been called a ghost town it still has remained a community and currently has about 100 residents. Click here to go to the Coalmont Community page.

        Wow. Impressive lifestyle choice.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Critters are a normal fact of life for field engineers ...

    ... A couple of my best producing hives are run by the progeny of a Queen Bee (RIP) pulled out of the old Fabian Avenue Telco in Palo Alto in roughly 1975.

    We deal with rats, mice, skunk, beaver, bear, puma, racoon, coyote, wild boar, etc. on a regular basis around these here parts.

    This time of year? The Geese are shitting all over everything ...

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Critters are a normal fact of life for field engineers ...

      I've had hilltop cellular sites knocked out by flying ants.

      They block the AC filters and everything overheats. It can be so bad that when you pull the filters out you have to contend with a few litres of what can only be described as "Ant soup" in addition to 4-6 inches of dead ants on top of the filters.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        Re: I've had hilltop cellular sites knocked out by flying ants

        Sounds a bit "Phase IV" to me!

  3. Steve Button Silver badge

    Arctic Monkeys

    They've sped up to the point where they provoke you

    To tell the fucking punch-line before you have told the joke

  4. AbelSoul

    Small, yapper type

    We have anywhere between one and four dogs roaming the office here, one of which is small and grizzly, but thankfully no bears.

  5. frank ly

    "Have you been disturbed by beasts ... ?"

    You should have experienced a particular manager I once had. (Shudders at the memory)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of the following converation.

    Circumstances: general supportive call, nothing serious then the caller starts rasing voice in a panic

    caller in panicky voice "oh..ohhh..."

    support worker: "what is happening"

    Caller: "Fire. There is fire in my kitchen. What do I do??? can you help me?"

    Support worker: "Is it a small fire? Is it too big to put out yurself?"

    Caller: "No...No... I cannot put it out...can you help me"

    Support worker: "You nedd to get to safety and call the fire-service".

    Caller: "No I can't leave and phone"

    Support worker: "Why not?"

    Calller: "Because I'm holding the phone."

    Support worker: "Hang iup the phone and get to safety now. Then call the fire-service"

    1. TRT Silver badge


      I was once (2002) demoing the ISDN video calling system between remote sites of the college where I worked. Steerable cameras, zoom, multi-way calling, the lot. I was located up at a certain film studio which has now become incredibly famous thanks to a certain series of films about a wannabe wizard. The catering was being provided by the catering students from another campus, entertainment by the performing arts students. We had the mayor, a handful of MPs, a cabinet minister, loads of local business heads, many local headteachers etc. The whole of the training studios (a repurposed WW2 RAF officer's club) had been decked out with film props - mother Alien and auto guns, a squad of stormtroopers and Lord Vader, R2D2 & C3P0, the robot from Judge Dredd, the Aliens drop tank (totally awesome by the way, but f***ing uncomfortable to ride in). Anyway, I'm linked up to the main campus and another satellite campus, and the guys at the other end are panning around my cameras looking at all the cool stuff.

      "Woah!" One said. "I'm surprised they let you have a pyro license."

      "Huh? We didn't ask for one, I don't think."

      "Well then the kitchen's on fire."

      I looked behind me and sure enough, with 5 minutes to curtain, a deep fat fryer had developed a stuck thermostat and gone up like a rocket. Flames licking the ceiling, we had to rip out as many tea towels and fire blankets as we could find and smother the bastard. Tried dry powder layered in the tea towels and CO2 extinguishers to cool it down as well, but the bastard wouldn't go out. Burnt through six damp tea towels. You wouldn't believe how much energy must have been in that thing. It was covered in so many tea towels in the end it looked like an Arab trying to keep warm in the Arctic. Eventually we got the sodding thing under control just as the curtain went up, and managed to carry the table and the fryer outside where it could burn itself out to its heart's content.

      When I got back to the video conferencing kit, my colleagues were cracked up. They had been watching the whole affair from afar and finding it utterly hilarious, but the worst thing was that the video feed which was supposed to be of the show had been replicated to the big screens in the main hall where the rest of the student body was watching in.

      No animals were harmed in the making of this drama.

      1. I Am Spartacus

        Re: Ha!

        Thank you. That brightened up an otherwise dull day

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Ha!

          I have to say that my immediate concerns on seeing the fire were

          (1) Thank God I took my daughter (aged 6) to school already and she's not still here (I'd taken her to see the cool stuff in the morning).

          (2) Fuck! I hope my boss doesn't get incinerated. I think that's a sackable offence, and it wouldn't look good on my CV.

          (3) I wonder if that's the ONLY full-sized model of the Alien Queen that they made. Christ, if that gets destroyed by fire I'm in the shit. We'd never get that out in time if the building goes up.

          1. BebopWeBop

            Re: Ha!

            re: (2) - but f he has been incinerated, who would know it was your fault - maybe an opportunity for promotion?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Ha!

              Caught on camera...

          2. Ian Mason

            Re: Ha!

            (2) Fuck! I hope my boss doesn't get incinerated. I think that's a sackable offence, and it wouldn't look good on my CV.

            I don't know, it can be useful to say honestly to a future boss, in a certain tone: "The last man to say that to me burned to death."

            I've been known to say "The last man who borrowed tools from me and didn't bring them back is dead. And not of natural causes". Which is *entirely* true - and naturally I omit that the twat wrapped his bike around a tree while riding too fast on too much beer. RIP Dave.

      2. macjules

        Re: Ha!

        Oh Christ I can remember that! Laughed like hell at the time, mostly since I hadn't t made the screwup. Thank you very much though.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Back in the 70s, we had a party line. Saved a bit on the phone bill. For the less chronologically advantaged amongst you - you were paired up with a random nearby house - and shared a phone line. Both could receive incoming calls, and had different numbers, but only one of you could make outgoing calls a the same time. This also means you'd pick up in the middle of their conversation and could hear or join in.

      So my Mum looks out the back window. Sees the people on the other side of the garden's kitchen is on fire. Picks up the phone to dial 999.

      Neighbour: Get off the line! I need to call the fire brigade! My house is on fire!

      Mum: I'll call them for you. You get out of the house! It's not safe.

      Neighbour: Get off the line! I need to call the fire brigade!

      Mum: Let me call them for you. You get out of the house.

      Neighbour: It's my fire! I'll call them.

      Mum decided that logic wasn't going to win out, and hung up.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. TomPhan

      0118 999 881 999 119 7253

      I once had a user call me to report that their monitor was on fire - I promptly passed them onto hardware support.

  7. Kleykenb


    It's just a Grizzly looking for a CheeseBurger. They'll be fine @MacDo.., if they've got some ready.

  8. Simon Harris

    Not exactly a grizzly but...

    One time when I was working on a weather station data logger I was brought down by a guard dog as nobody had thought to tell security that we'd be working late in that part of site.

  9. Chris King

    No big animal stories...

    ...but I did have a colony of bats roosting over my head in my last job.

    For the most part, they were no trouble at all - I'd occasionally hear a thud as one of the youngsters took a tumble, followed by some frantic scrabbling as they'd build up speed for lift-off back to the rafters.

    One incident did lead up to us having to seal up a couple of their entry/exit points. Somebody reported a strange smell in one of the labs, and I discovered that the dirty little sods had picked one corner of the lab as their latrine - there was a pile of fresh bat guano behind one PC, and a tiny little face staring down at me from the hole in the ceiling.

    Rats were another occasional hazard of that job, being in a rural setting. They just loved chewing on fibre optic cables !

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: No big animal stories...

      "Rats were another occasional hazard of that job, being in a rural setting. They just loved chewing on fibre optic cables !"

      Nozzit is great for discouraging them. Copious quantities moulded around entry/exit points tends to work a treat.

      (effectively: plasticene with large quantities of warfarin and bitrex mixed in. if the Bitrex doesn't discourage them the Warfarin means they won't do it for long anyway.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A problem with a text editor?

    Maybe it responded to the call to be Vi-olent!

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: A problem with a text editor?

      Maybe it responded to the call to be Vi-olent!

      Or it just decided to take a pico-ver the wall.

      Don't worry though; the bear wanders in, but emacs 'is way out again eventually.

      (it's the end of the week, my puns are feeble)

      1. Woza

        Re: A problem with a text editor?

        M-x remove-bear

      2. Fibbles

        Re: A problem with a text editor?

        Maybe it responded to the call to be Vi-olent!

        I don't gedit...

  11. Ian 62

    I had a medical emergency

    Whilst on a call to a north sea oil platform to fix a fax (yes fax) machine problem, the medic was very polite and apologized that he had to go, oh yes? Someones having a heart attack, to the noise of a 'code-blue' style tanoy announcement in the background.

  12. Erewhon
  13. Alistair

    animal influences on the job.

    Single grid feed 1440KVA transformer. Raccoon deciding that it wants up the pole, Phase 1 and Phase 3. Crispy critter. Battery and Diesel test (success). The carcass ended up staying in place, hanging off phase 3 for most of a year. I'm not certain why.

    Don't have grizzlies at this end of the sledding hill, but we do have raccoons, foxes, bats, geese, skunks, deer, coyotes and every once in a blue moon we'll get a black bear. Skunks and raccoons mostly go for the trash bins, but can cause utter hell with cabling since their claws will tear the shielding open, and raccoons will climb on *anything*. Notably *all* the external (power, AC c&c etc) cabling is armoured now.

    Personal worst case was finding (at the bottom of a rack in a rarely visited colo) a litter of skunks. I didn't get hit. But the clean up was very long and *very* difficult. (they had opened up the cut where the power feed lines from the diesel were coming through the wall).

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: animal influences on the job.

      Ha ha, that reminds me of Cyber Squirrel 1, the website dedicated to all the animals engaged in infrastructure-destruction terrorism.

  14. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Colossal Carnivore ...

    '... You're in a room full of sleeping bears'


    'You are in a wood.'


    'Yes, they obviously do.

    A bear has woken and emerges from the cave!

    Oh that's not pleasant


    'No, don't, just don't ...'

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Colossal Carnivore ...

      >BEAR LEFT

  15. Alistair

    Hero pic is incorrect.

    Wrong bear.

  16. Alien8n


    At the fulfilment job I had we had a falcon (from memory fairly sure it was a peregrine falcon, too small for a kite and too big for a kestrel) that decided it liked the warehouse so much it too up residence in the rafters for several hours.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Falcon

      Reminds me of one place I worked.

      One small loading dock was suddenly claimed by sparrows and pigeons as a perfect roosting spot, crap everywhere.

      Nobody knows why they suddenly decided to claim it, just because, I guess.

      The answer was to get four bird scarers that consisted of large Styrofoam balls with large eyes painted on them and streamers underneath that moved in the slightest breeze, Guaranteed to chase off birds.

      Within a week, three had fallen due to the bird crap piled on them, and the fourth had a nest on it.

      Occasionally some unlucky contractor would park their van there under the overhang, and return to find it rather encrusted.

      Local hawks would perch on the light fixtures across the tarmac and enjoy easy pickings.

      The long term solution? Don't use that dock, Worked well.

  17. Captain Scarlet

    Support Calls

    Nearest I have to that is a lady being attacked by her cat, which sort of isn't as interesting :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Support Calls

      They do attack keyboards though - in the absence of a piano to walk across.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. ratfox

      Re: Talons and towels

      If it was like any warehouse I've been, it stuffed itself to death with mice

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Talons and towels

          Ah. That's the problem. Starved to death. Server room, see? All the "mice" were remote.

          1. Afernie

            Re: Talons and towels

            "Ah. That's the problem. Starved to death. Server room, see? All the "mice" were remote."

            And you didn't even use the "I'll get my coat icon..." :-)

  19. rcp27

    Just thought I'd mention that grizzly bears are omnivorous, not carnivorous. Just sayin...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Does this mean that standard procedure, after it's eaten your leg, is to offer it a quiche. So that it doesn't eat the other one?

      1. Afernie

        "Does this mean that standard procedure, after it's eaten your leg, is to offer it a quiche. So that it doesn't eat the other one?"

        Yep, leg first, quiche second. It's a starter for the average bear.

  20. Florida1920

    I support

    the right to arm bears.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: I support

      you tube: Family Guy Right to bear arms

  21. sisk

    Unless you count the odd literal computer bug (as in "a fly shorted out my power supply", which I see at least once every couple years for some reason) I've only had one computer critter experience.

    I once got called in to help repair the damage after a friend's ferret managed to squeeze through an uncovered bay which was awaiting a new DVD drive. Somehow the critter managed not to injure itself while stuck inside the case. It did, however, destroy several cables, a stick of RAM, and the CPU heat sink mounting. By some miracle the motherboard survived the ordeal.

  22. Mark 85

    No bears here

    However, the building is 80,000 sq. ft. with raised flooring in the whole place. All we see are mice... lots and lots of mice whenever we need to access the network cabling under the floor.

    There are also the Jurrassics .. I think every office has them. When there's free food, doughnuts, or a pot luck, don't get in their way. They waddle but a lot faster than you'd think and if you're not careful you end up as toe jam.

  23. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

    The only beasts I've had to deal with are more akin to the Kwijibo than anything else.

    Nothing as exciting as bears, nor as funny (if disgusting) as mice, but these Kwijibos have an astonishing ability to bork any system imaginable and act as if they had nothing to do with it...

  24. Jock in a Frock

    Good for some overtime

    I had a squirrel get into one of my network POPs one weekend. It continually set off the PIR intruder alarm, resulting in a call out for me to reset the system. Made a fortune that weekend.

  25. a_yank_lurker

    Not Exactly IT but

    Many, many, many years ago I was working a chem lab and a squirrel? managed to short the main transformer feeding the building. A rather loud explosion, the transformer was next to the building and then darkness.

  26. SteveK

    Bears? Alligators? Pah, I have students.

    1. raving angry loony

      Students don't eat you if you fall down in class.

      1. x 7

        "Students don't eat you if you fall down in class."

        I can think of a few girls who could prove you wrong

  27. raving angry loony

    Bells and pepper spray.

    In Canada, it's common for us to suggest to hikers to wear bells (so as not to surprise bears) and carry bear-spray, which is basically pepper-spray with a different label.

    Trackers also know how to tell the difference between bear and grizzly shit.

    Bear shit has berries, small rodents, and is otherwise something that if you spot it get out of the area.

    Grizzly shit has bells and smells of pepper.

  28. x 7

    wrong bear in the picture

    The story is about a Grizzly (i.e.Brown) Bear.

    So why is the accompanying photo of a Black Bear? Nobody at el reg with any knowledge of American fauna?

    The two are quite different species and have quite different habits, habitats and risks. They can both kill and eat you though...

  29. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "Why'd I leave a power cable THERE?"

    Over Christmas, I walked into my office at home the other day, and there was a laptop power cable neatly coiled in the middle of the floor. Strange.

    So I went to pick it up, and it raised its head and stuck its tongue out at me. It was a 4 foot long garden black snake, not poisonous or even bitey, but still a shock when you're not expecting it.

    I put a blanket in the corner and he stayed there over the very cold part of Christmas break.

    He eats the &@^$%^ lizards that are shitting huge turds all over everything, so I'm happy to have him around.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "Why'd I leave a power cable THERE?"

      If you have laptop cable snakes, do you have monitor lizards?

  30. macjules

    Dealing with thieving, French seagulls ...

    I used to have a UK government-issue Dell, complete with an encrypted dongle necessary to boot the computer. On 'holiday' in France (well, '7 days WFH'). I left said dongle beside a plate of lunchtime cold meat, went to get some more food and came back to see an enormous gull wolfing down not only the meat, but the dongle with it.

    Luckily ServiceNow and IT support laughed so much that they overlooked the security aspect ..

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Dealing with thieving, French seagulls ...

      Meh... they TOLD you it was an encrypted dongle. It's really the firmware patch for the crappy DELL BIOS. Still, if I was on your help desk and heard that, I'd be ROFPML.

  31. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Two things :

    1. Got a call from a shebeen in Soshanguve - the PC in the damager's office was not connecting to the network. Took a shufty at it, and found rats have gnawed the network cable going to the damager's office. Replaced said patch cable, and all was well - but advised the client to get the terminator in to get rid of said pests.

    2. Whilst doing contract work at Tsitsikamma toll plaza, a huge baboon wandered around outside the toll plaza offices, and overturned the trash cans outside in search of something edible. I decided that somebody else can go and bother said baboon since I was not in the mood.

    1. raving angry loony

      make up your mind.

      First you call them "damager's".

      Then you call them baboons that overturn trash cans.

      At least make up your mind how to characterize managers. Both are correct, but some consistency would be good, at least in a single post.

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