back to article Waiter? There's a mouse in my motherboard and this server is greasy!

Welcome again to On-Call, our weekly sharing session in which readers unburden themselves by sharing memories of nasty jobs. This week meet “Charlie” who wrote to tell us he used to have a gig maintaining point of sale systems for a a restaurant chain. Charlie wrote to tell us about the day “I was called to one of the units to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not surprised in the slightest

    Once did a stint in a fast food chain and things you'd find floating in the milkshake flavours out me off them for life.

    Annon because I was young and needed the money...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

      Anon because you were the one putting the unspeakable things in the flavour...?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

        Clearly none of you have ever been near a late night /24 hour and quiet maccy'D or equivalent run by bored teenagers rather than a properly responsible manager.

        The poster above is probably right.

        A "friend" of mine told me similar stories of ahem, food hygiene issues caused by boredom, and indeed by corporate rules on reducing wastage. I can fully believe it.

        Also anon so I don't get asked for details - just ask for something to be cooked fresh in front of you if the restaurant is quiet, and don't take anything ready-made.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

          I used to work at BK (does anyone ever work there when they are not "young and needed the money"?), and one tip I picked up is to always order a non-standard item (ie order extra pickles, or no cheese or whatever) so that it has to be made freshly for you.

          1. Andrew Moore

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            A friend of mine always ordered a cheeseburger with no cheese...

          2. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            I order my burgers plain.. and once that too 3 attempts to actually get a burger of just the meat in the bun!

        2. Tom 7

          Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

          Nothing wrong with a bout of food poisoning - boosts the immune system and works out cheaper than weight watchers.

          1. Chris Jasper

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            I can attest to this, just lost half a stone thanks to a greasy kebab

        3. paulf
          Paris Hilton

          Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

          "I'm lovin' it"

          1. Trade marked advertising slogan of McDonalds Corporation, an operator/franchisor of Fast food restaurants characterised by the golden arch styled "M" logo and Children's clown mascot Ronald McDonald.

          2. What the teenage employees are doing to your burger out the back when they've run out of mayonnaise (or just to see if you notice).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            When I were a lad, a late-night food van used to be parked in our town centre on Friday and Saturday nights, ready to feed all of us rolling out of the nightclubs, pissed, stoned and starving.

            One evening, before the regular crowds arrived, a passing copper noticed that no-one was visible in the van and opened the back door to investigate. He found the owner knelt on the floor, bashing the bishop over a tray of frozen meat. Fortunately he was arrested before his pleasure came to fruition. This time.

            When this story got out we had the great displeasure of joking that we'd been eating wank dogs and hand burgers for the last few years. Well, you've got to laugh...

            1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

              Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

              One of those catering establishments where the customer cook comes first

            2. Stu Wilson

              Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

              There was a similar complaint, from the late 80's, in a town I worked in at the time where the local fish 'n chip shop owner was busted, somewhat ironically, for busting his nut in the batter used for the fish, et alii, prior to dipping the fish and frying.

              He got nicked because one of the old dears who worked for him came into work early for her pay packet and then narked on him to the local rozzers. At court he said he'd started doing it "because he hated everyone who came into the shop, and wanted to put one aver them all"

              Cue jokes about baby batter, sausages etc

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            " "I'm lovin' it" [..] What the teenage employees are doing to your burger out the back when they've run out of mayonnaise"

            And here I was thinking that their infamous "Double cheeseburger? I'd hit it" campaign was just an unfortunate misunderstanding of yoof-speak from some clueless ad exec.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Heh heh, check it out, Mouse Burger, and French Flies!

          "Clearly none of you have ever been near a late night /24 hour and quiet maccy'D or equivalent run by bored teenagers rather than a properly responsible manager."

          Uh, huh huh huh huh.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

          I used to work in a town centre public house, and one quiet day one of the lads decided it would be fun to create yellow ice by peeing into the large industrial ice maker in the cellar....

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: I'm not surprised in the slightest

            My dad has always worked for breweries, delivering beer around London, since the days of Watney's.

            You ask him before you go to a gastro-pub for a meal, because he gets to see their cellars, where they often store all their food. You'd be amazed at what you find down there.

            I mean, beer, you're probably alright with (it's in metal kegs, and gets pressurised through waterproof pipes, so the chances of contamination are low from a fresh keg), but whether or not the burger is cooked fresh in front of you or not matters not if it's sitting in moudly, damp, rodent-infested conditions.

            A flash-cooking of, say, a pre-cooked burger like that can't kill everything it picks up, it just makes it appear edible.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am willing to bet this was a chain of Chinese restaurants, and the mouse/mice ended up in one of the meals.

    Handy tip #1001

    If ever eating at a restaurant in China, dont ever peek into the kitchen before your meal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Never had that kind of problem in China myself (not that I've been there that often), in the UK on the other hand.......

      The worst I had was a rib place where you had to walk through the toilets to get to the kitchen whose door opened directly into the toilets. How did they ever get away with that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'll get me coat...

      "dont ever peek into the kitchen before your meal."

      You're not allowed to peek anyway, you have to beij. Because it's not called "peeking" any more.

      1. W4YBO

        Re: I'll get me coat...

        What a terrible pun! I really enjoyed that. Makes me miss Dad.

        For those horrified by what you may find cohabiting the food storage, never read what the US Department of Agriculture (or your own local flavor thereof) allows into peanut butter, farmed fish, or bread. Gag a maggot!

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    We used to do silent alarms for the local CID - the later ones were a dictating machine and a PocketPhone but there were a few old ones on VHF with valves. One of those came back with a mummified mouse curled up under one of the valve bases.

  4. jake Silver badge

    So where does Charlie live?

    Their restaurants clearly don't have regular unannounced visits from the local equivalent of the board of health ... Or said visitors are on the take. Either way, I don't want to eat there.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    thousands of mouse turds and some liquid,

    Red liquid? That is mouse vomit and diarrhea after being hit with warfarine or one of the new generation "one hit" anticoagulants. I would stay very far away from that as well as from the restaurant which has used it inside the kitchen instead of traps.

    Otherwise mice in a computer are not anything new. I have dealt with quite a few cases of "server mouse infestation" in the days when I ran a computer shop. They are not as bad as squirrels and/or European (edible) doormice. Those do not just nest inside equipment, they also bring their food there (including poisonous bait). Also, mice do not carry the worst from the diseases you get with the bigger rodents (the squirrel family carries leprosy). In either case, today I will just write the whole thing off. My own health and life is too valuable to try to recover equipment that has become a rodent nest.

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Got a call from a pub (back in the days) - printer not working.

    So off I toddled, expecting the usual LPT cable issue.

    But it was not that, a family of cockroaches made said printer their nest, and a couple of roaches got caught up, and gummed up the printer gears driving the head back and forwards...

    And it stank of roach. That familiar smell. Disgusting.

    Cleaned said printer, it worked fine afterwards. Except for the smell.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Seen that one too

      Some of the older power supplies in computer equipment were emitting ultrasound which was attracting roaches like sugar bait. I forgot who made the supplies, but I already knew what was the problem the moment I opened the case and saw the familiar shape and label.

      It was guaranteed to be a shorted roach electrocuted between the high power transistors inside. The smell of burned roach early in the morning... It smelled like...

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Seen that one too

        "The smell of burned roach early in the morning... It smelled like..."


      2. Joe User

        Re: Seen that one too

        I love the smell of napalm burned roach in the morning. It smells like . . . victory!

      3. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Seen that one too

        Apparently roaches in the PSU is a problem for the PS4

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    And yes, I also got the chance of seeing kitchens - put me off some of the established restaurants for life.

    1. Stu Wilson

      Pet Food manufacturers are the worst

      I will never, in my life, ever forget the smell of a cat food manufacturer (if anyone remembers the UK lawsuit from the 90's about tainted cat food, it was them)

      Basically, congealed blood from thousands and thousands of tonnes of dead meat, seeping into the concrete and under the flooring. One contract sparky had to lift the flooring to find a fault with some network cabling, put his head down the resulting hole completely unprepared for the stench and subsequently lost his breakfast/lunch. He never came back.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pet Food manufacturers are the worst

        Horror film reference "Slugs" seem to recall that was caused by similar discard...:)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I used to work in the repair centre for an epos company, repair both the front of house terminals and back end server/computers.

    I've seen the remnants (and in the case of some insects still living!) evidence of what can be found in a all sorts of restaurant chains across the country.

    The back of house computers were very old, dumb machines, but they could take one hell of a beating. Downside, some people used to have them in the managers office, and the cases were metal... So they would use magnets to pin rota's, or other useful information to the front of them.

    Which wasn't so great for the 2 SCSI drives mounted directly behind the metal front casing.

    The front of house stuff were either beaten to death with bits smashed, or had some sticky liquid poured through/over them, or some combination of the above.

    One set came back after overheating due to concrete dust buildup; it was used as the cafe till for a live and large building construction project.

    A computer that required a CHISEL to get the dirt off the motherboard and CPU fan, unsurprisingly had to be marked as DOA and binned. I still had a crack at repairing it for pride's sake!

    1. Tim Jenkins

      Frickin' magnets

      Quadriplegic brother-in-laws very expensive powered wheelchair ground to a halt one Christmas Eve. Nightmare wait until after Boxing Day, plus expensive engineer call-out, to diagnose and remove novelty Xmas decoration applied to the mouth controller by doting sister, which was holding open a vital internal relay...

  9. Richy Freeway


    Once found a dead, dried up frog inside a customer's PC. They had no explanation as to how it had got there.

    1. John 110

      Re: Frog

      That'll be part of the ritual sacrifice that got the network working. (A rejected part, the gods of the Ether are picky about what they'll accept....)

    2. Barely registers

      Re: Frog

      Was this the Unseen University, maybe the bursar's machine?

    3. Stevie

      Re: Frog

      Real unboned raw dead frog?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Frog

        I found a jpeg of a dead frog inside a PC years ago; couldnt tell it it had been de-boned, as it was pretty dessicated, but it looked like a complete amphibian to me.

        As frogs dont turn up often, it may be the frog referred to above.

        I once had a boss who managed to wipe the accounts for a major international company by walking into the data centre with a large magnet in his pocket (dont ask); and leaning against one of the tape drive housings while sexually harassing one of the typists.

        (in the old days we would call this "chatting her up", but apparently.......)

      2. Shooter

        Re: Frog @ Stevie

        If we took the bones out, it wouldn't be crunchy, would it?

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Computers in reprographic shops are likely to get clogged up with toner dust. We had a SCO server in a remote site in client's premises in London. If I had to do any work on it which required taking down a floppy disk I also took a spare drive. I think the only reason the QIC drive survived was because it always had a tape in it.

    The end came when the lad who ran the shop rung up to say the ceiling had just fallen down and there was plaster all over his desk. After that we relocated the operation off-site.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Computers in reprographic shops are likely to get clogged up with toner dust."

      Or cigarette smoke, in the old days.

      Older macs didn't have doors on the floppy drives. Smokers at the keyboard plus fans inside == congealed smoke solidly clogging the floppy after a couple of years.

    2. John Tappin

      Link back to the early comments

      I actually watched a ceiling fan fall at McD's in Sutton, London when I were a lad...

      It did indeed spread dust everywhere, while narrowly missing people attempting to eat their cardboard burger shaped food.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Link back to the early comments

        I used to work at that very same McD's. Pro-tip: always get the most obscure burger on the menu. It'll be made fresh and not simply picked up off the heat lamp where its been sitting since 1992. Back in the day, at that McDs, it was the filet of fish. Still my favorite burger.

        1. Anonymous C0ward

          Re: Link back to the early comments

          You mean somebody actually orders the filet-o-fish? For real?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Computers in reprographic shops are likely to get clogged up with toner dust. "

      I found the best solution for computers in dusty environments was to reverse the PSU fan, ideally by taking out and remounting it the "wrong" way around. Slap a sheet of bog-roll over what is now the intake and tell the user to put a fresh sheet on every day. This massively reduced the numbers of service calls. This was some years ago so the PSU fan was usually the only fan in there. If there was a case fan at the front, then that also was reversed to become an extractor instead of intake.

  11. Huw D

    In a complete about face...

    I once had to deal with a computer that had some Charlie in it.

    Was setting up a user's own PC for a "Work from home" thing and the case was falling apart and the CD drive was not fitted properly. Thought I'd do them a favour and sort it out and discovered their drugs stash inside.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: In a complete about face...

      We have to know.

      What did you do with it?

      1. Huw D

        Re: In a complete about face...

        Took it out, re-bagged it, handed it back and advised them about keeping chemicals in an enclosed warm space.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In a complete about face...

          You're a better professional than I. I would have left the bag open in the PC , next to the fan air outlets, and let nature take its course. Would have made for a much happier office, except for slightly runny noses amongst the staff.

  12. Outer mongolian custard monster from outer space (honest)

    Had a electrocuted slug inside a wall socket for 220v once.

    I was on a conference call and noticed this smell with a sizzling noise coming from the socket and made my excuses and escaped, and popped the front off the socket to investigate (home office, my responsibility to fix).

    How it got in there to bridge live and neutral I have no idea, nor was it drawing enough current to trip the breakers, but hey, mains powered electric slugs. Thats a value add to any office.

    We also had a rat eat the underground 3ph power to the server room here. It had burrowed across from a broken drain it was using as a run, since the cable double insulated and a metre underground inside a conduit under a poured concrete slab floor it was a surprising find. I replaced it with SWA, I figure if something can eat through that a metre underground its welcome to it instead of gnawing on me or a family member.

    Last rodent pain in the neck was a marten, which ate the rear part of the wiring loom on my sprinter van when it was parked near the garden. It had made a nest inside the chassis at the rear, and it was packed with stolen eggs and other stuff, and it had popped along the chassis for takeaway when its stash was running low I think.

    Could be worse, could have been the half a snake I found in the lawnmower one day. Mostly because I spent the whole time extracting it from where it had got wrapped round something keeping a eye out for the missing half.

    Ain't nature brilliant?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Train the rodents to attack the infrastructure of your enemies.

      Nobody would ever suspect...

      "A rat brought down Google last night" is much less attributable to malice than cutting a submarine cable in the middle of a war.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the Brits were deployed to Iraq they spec'd up protective covers for the JOCS computer equipment they were taking to stop the ingest of sand/dust/wildlife. This was of course, rejected due to cost.

    The bill for cleaning all the equipment and having it out of service whilst being cleaned was (of course) higher than the original bill.

    I wouldn't like to have had to open it up to have done the job.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The bill for cleaning all the equipment and having it out of service whilst being cleaned was (of course) higher than the original bill."

      I've had similar occurences and make a particular point of saying so when it occurs.

  14. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Pubs and bars...

    I used to work in the pub and bar (club) industry, before the smoking ban.

    The state of some of the returned PCs we got back was pretty terrifying... they were mounted in the DJ console in the clubs, could be anywhere in the bars. A combination of alcholol inbued sweat, dust, dirt and tobacco smoke and ash does pretty horrible things to the inside of a computer. The worst I remember had a matt about 2cm deep over everything on the inside, every part of it was sticky and it probably would have been worse if the fans sucking this shit in hadn't failed sometime earlier.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    - but whether or not the burger is cooked fresh in front of you or not matters not if it's sitting in moudly, damp, rodent-infested conditions.-

    Just an example from the posts above, many of which make claims about unsanitary things happening in bars or restaurants, but I am given to wonder whether any of the people making such posts have actually worked in a kitchen or bar, or are they just regurgitating (ahah) second hand tales they've heard?

    Before I got into IT, I spent many years working everything from burger vans to hotels to cocktail bars. I've worked kitchens, cellars and food counters of all shapes and sizes and one thing I can definitely tell you (as far as chain-food outlets are concerned anyway, I won't vouch for little independent places.), is that the hygiene standards are usually very high. Often higher than your own kitchen at home, I can promise you. Why? Because of something called the Food Standards Agency.

    If you get caught with so much as a skin of grease on a hob you're in for a fine. If you have 'mouldy burgers' in your cellar, unrefrigerated, then you are out of business and probably headed to a serious court case. It's just not worth the risk compared to simple cool storage.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I am given to wonder whether any of the people making such posts have actually worked in a kitchen or bar, or are they just regurgitating (ahah) second hand tales they've heard?"

      I've posted in the past about the things I've seen inside cash registers and computers (pub ones which were swimming pools internally, etc) but the single worst thing I consistently see is staff not bothering to wash their hands after using the toilet.

      If you want to judge any establishment, look at the toilets. If they're not clean and in a good state, then the rest probably isn't either.

    2. Lilolefrostback

      When I was in UNI, early 80s, I spent a summer working at a local restaurant. It was sufficiently disturbing that it took more than 2 years before I could stomach eating at any restaurant.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    At the workshop for a electronics retailer, where most of their tellies and computers are repaired, cockroach traps are a permanent fixture due to the amount of products being brought in, opened up, and lots of little critters wake up and run off to escape the bright lights they're suddenly exposed to.

    Also once found the remains of a snake across the power supply board of a TV. A poor lost pet from some time before had found a warm spot to hide.....

  17. tedleaf

    I had a mate who used to run a vintage motorbike parts etc site,he had a very large wooden workshop in his large garden that he stored parts and worked in and also housed his very old pc (also an ncr) while doing some gardening work one day he asked if I knew much about computers,so I said yes,hardware mostly,he asked if I would mind having a look at the machine in his shed because it was making intermittent squeaking noises,I thought fan or hdd starting to fail,but before I had even got the machine in position to remove side panel I realised what the problem was,he had an active robin's nest inside,it was very large old tower but mostly empty,so nest was on bottom of pc,they using same entrance,a missing blanking plate in back,I took plate off,saw nest and found a pair of tiny robin chicks,we quickly made up a wooden box and transferred nest to box and put pc back in place,with gaffer tape over missing blanker plate,put nest in box,put box on top of pc and left the shed overnight,he checked in morning and robin's were ok,they raised those chicks and used nest box every year after that...

  18. RhoganJosh

    In the office where I work, power and data outlets are housed in floor boxes covered with a heavy flap. We are constantly called out to PCs that have dropped off the network only to find the user has accidentaly kicked the cable, pulling it out of the port. On one occasion I opened the floorbox to find a perfectly mummified mouse lying next to the power outlets. It must have been in there ages..

    A story about a certain burger joints milkshakes. Nothing that would breach food hygene, but my friends who worked there told me that one day the new trainee forgot to add the flavoured syrup to the vanilla shake mix. It wasn't until very late in the evening that a customer actually noticed (and they had sold lots....)

    1. pxd

      Top Username!

      Have a thumbs up for your user name - very appropriate for this thread. pxd

  19. dan_in _ohio

    Vet Office

    I had to go to a Vet Office once when a "server" went down. The server turned out to be a 286 that the other pcs were connected to by a token ring network. It was the favorite spot for a cat that they had rescued, to lay. There was so much hair in it that you could not get a floopy disk in the drive (maybe 1/2 way in was as far as it would go). Opened the case and could not see the motherboard for the hair that was packed on top of it. ;^)

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Vet Office

      Might have been an IBM "PS/Valuepoint" running the PSI/IDEX system on SCO Xenix ... although most of those were 425SX/D machines (type 6384).

      I ran across many of them when I somehow became the "goto guy" to upgrade Vet clinics on The Peninsula because of Y2K problems... They were all around ten years old, had never been cleaned, were packed with fur, and still running strong. Most of the systems ran serial terminals off an IBM proprietary serial mux plugged into a board in the PC, but a few suckers paid for the Token Ring "upgrade" (and attendant cost of additional PCs instead of dumb terminals ... for a CLI-only based system!). I re-purposed several of these into Jr.High & Middle schools for the kids to learn the basics of un*x and networking. Three of the systems still work today and are still used in the curriculum, although now they run Slackware.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Run Away

    I remember opening the door to enter one Chinese take-out and a dying rat crawled out.

    I left - good bet if a rat couldn't survive what was going on in there, I couldn't either.

  21. Rtbcomp


    I worked for Burroughs in the UK who had ATMs installed in Midland Bank branches and my colleagues regularly had to clean vomit out of the machines, especially those installed at branches near pubs and takeaways.

    Luckily I never got trained on these machines.

  22. Mark 85

    Not a computer but the flame broiler...

    Back in my dark ages (just out of the military) I worked at fast food place that did the "flame broiling" thing for burgers. Won't mention the name of the chain but well known stateside).

    Came in one morning to a god-awful stench. The start-up guy and come in and fired up the broiler while doing his other work. A quick inspection and we found a large flame broiled rat had obviously decided that this warm spot would be a good place to sleep overnight. They had to shut the place down and actually order a new broiler as the stench remained even after a heavy cleaning. I found a new job before they re-opened.

  23. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Chain restaurant?

    If it's the type of place I think it is, then it is, at best, a cafe. Any place where you have to queue up to order your food then carry it yourself to a table is not a restaurant in my book.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Chain restaurant?

      Can I have fries with that downvote please?

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge


    BiL is a sparky who used to work in big hotels. One had an instruction to the waiters to ensure empty snail shells weren't thrown away. What sort of mollusc can't provide its own shell?

    1. Mark 85

      @Doctor Syntax -- Re: Slugs

      I asked my BiL who's a chef. Some shells break during prep so they clean the "used" ones for backup.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Doctor Syntax -- Slugs

        Did a stint washing up in a restaurant (for a friend) and was told not to throw away the shells as they would be reused. They used to buy shell-less snails from the suppliers, cook them and stuff into the shells. (Surely a snail without a shell is a slug???)

        Anyway, a few years later in a posh restaurant relaying this story to a colleague who had just ordered snails - managed to put him off eating them!

  25. Slatz

    Chinese restaurants

    Same goes for Turkish restaurants in the smaller cities. Sometimes the only way to tell the waiter what you want to eat is to go into the kitchen and point. That's when you see that roaches are the meat de jour.

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