back to article User left unable to type passwords after 'tropical island stress therapy'

Last Friday your correspondent snorkeled on a tropical island, but this Friday it's time for another edition of On-Call, our weekly column in which we recount readers' tales of being forced to take on tricky jobs for tricky people. And this week reader “Mal” brings us a story with a tropical island element, as he told us that …

  1. David Roberts
    Paris Hilton

    Nailed it in one

    I think....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nailed it in one

      I have witness some secretaries with those claw-nails typing as fast as any other...

      1. James 51

        Re: Nailed it in one

        There was one lady in a plcae I worked had who had very long nails (not sure if natural or artifical, guessing the later) and could type very quickly but all the letters had been scratched off her keyboard.

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

        Re: Nailed it in one

        Me too - on an old fashioned typewriter, to boot. And, boy, could she type!

        1. Colabroad

          Re: Nailed it in one

          They're also great for getting SIM and micro SD cards out of phones, as the lady at the local phone shop demonstrated when I went for a repair.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Nailed it in one

            You DON'T use your nails as tools. My flatmate keeps telling me this. At least twice a week.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Nailed it in one

              it helps if you don't clip one down to use as a temporary screwdriver, yeah. question is, do you use what you clipped off, or the part still attached?

    2. swm Silver badge

      Re: Nailed it in one

      Reminds me of the apocryphal story of a well-endowed key punch operator who complained that the key punch machine was inserting random spaces. The repairman, after observing her punching for a while suggested she go "freshen up" and that the problem would be solved when she returned. When she left the repairman didn't touch the key punch but raised her chair an inch.

      This fixed the problem.

  2. Olivier2553

    After vacation

    It always takes me one hour or so before I manage to type at any reasonable speed, like I lost some muscle memory.

    Now, talking about grooming, or the lack of thereof, we once had a new colleague that was lacking any kind of grooming (or he had a serious medical condition), his stink was so pungent one could not stay in a closed room with him. Luckily, he was on probation, no need to mention he never did it.

    1. Chris King

      Re: After vacation

      "Now, talking about grooming, or the lack of thereof, we once had a new colleague that was lacking any kind of grooming (or he had a serious medical condition), his stink was so pungent one could not stay in a closed room with him. Luckily, he was on probation, no need to mention he never did it".

      Yep, I had to deal with the occasional Mr (or Miss) Smelly, but one year I had to deal with Mr Vile. He was a real-life version of Foul Ole Ron (buggrit millennium hand and shrimp) but his Smell always stayed at his side. You know it's bad when someone stinks out the room SO badly that you have to open the windows for several hours afterwards... in the middle of winter.

      One of the local supermarkets employed him, but people tended to queue up for other tills rather than risk being tainted by the Smell.

      1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: After vacation

        Worked with a Mr Bean type character (dress style, mannerisms, life outlook), he commuted in from Taunton daily, one week his car was in for repair (Putting down - It used to have a mohawk that looked like a flock of Albatross's had shat on it) & he checked into a B&B, with no change of clothes at all, no hygiene products & slept in his underwear.

        By Friday he was ripe to say the least.

    2. Montreal Sean

      Re: After vacation

      BO...

      When I worked as a sysadmin at an accounting firm years ago, we got a new HR goon.

      You could smell him the moment he entered the parking garage 6 floors below.

      The smell of stale coffee, stale cigarette smoke, stale sweat, poured off him in waves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: After vacation

        when I was at Uni back at the start of the 90s we had a lab tech that you could smell as soon as you were on his floor. And he was called *snigger* Mr Wiffle

    3. The Mighty Spang

      Re: After vacation

      I worked with a guy whose BO stunk the place out at a place in Basildon in the late 90s. on top of this he was *the exact spitting image* of Poindexter out of revenge of the nerds. hair. glasses. skinny. suit. daft voice. the lot.

      eventually the director had to have chat with him in his office, which must have been bloody unpleasant.

      he also drove an orange morris marina.

      actually this was the place i got the nickname 'better than god'... as the previous guy called himself 'god' as he thought he was a genius programmer. i came in and fixed the (stupid) problems he had created so therefore i was 'better than god' :)

  3. macjules

    Government staff: need I say more?

    "My email is not working please can you send someone to fix it?"

    Sent via email.

    (Still have that one archived btw)

    1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      I regularly get "I can't get on the internet. Is your email server down?"

      No dear. Just because (OSX) mail says it cannot connect to mail.<our-domain>, doesn't mean the problem is with us.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        It isn't the preserve of Government staff. It's any staff that thinks they're above having to use a computer, and above having to learn or appreciate how to use one.

        My mother-in-law-to-be is one of these. Refuses to use a computer, then wonders why I don't help her when she's stuck with something. This causes problems between me and the wife-to-be, and she doesn't like it when I tell her I've already shown her that twice, she should have remembered what I did and done it.

        1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

          At Wolfetone, Re: your MILTB...

          I was in a similar situation with my Father In Law To Be & his brand new E-Machine. He would call me up asking how to do $X, I'd tell him I'd be over in a few to show him, then spend a few minutes creating a How To sheet on explaining exactly how to do $X.

          Step by step instructions, cropped screenshots with text lables pointing to things needing attention, & essentially "holding his hand" without actually holding his hand.

          When I arrived at his place I'd lay the How To sheet down beside his computer, patiently go through it with him, & make sure he could apply the fix all by himself. I would rarely get a repeat call for the same issue, unless he had lost the sheet. He kept them in a binder labled "How To's" & would go back to it if he had the same problem, since I had already given him the answer. It wasn't that he wasn't smart enough to remember such things, he was a math prof & could run rings around most other folks in his field, but he knew SFA about *computers* which made my How To's invaluable to him.

          Give it a try, make a physical print out of the details on how to fix the problem, & walk with her through it. She'll eventually stop having to call you with repeat requests, saving you for those times when the feces REALLY hits the oscillating oxygen moving device.

          It'll make things a hell of a lot better between you, MILTB, & the SWMBO. Cheers, and enjoy a pint on me! =-)

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

            It's always nice to get a "customer" (business or family) who not only doesn't know something, but is also knows that they don't know it and is willing to admit the fact. Almost makes it possible to enjoy your work sometimes...

            1. psychonaut

              Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

              " who not only doesn't know something, but is also knows that they don't know it and is willing to admit the fact. "

              a rare find indeed. these are my favourite customers. makes a nice change from most of them

          2. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

            My dear mother does something very similar. (including written notes on how to power on the mac.)

          3. F111F

            Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

            I walk my wife through the steps, but being a nurse she writes my directions down in her medical shorthand. That avoids "computer speak" from me, it reinforces the actions to take in the correct sequence, and it's in a form she's comfortable with.

            1. My Alter Ego

              Re: At Wolfetone, your MILTB...

              Yup. I've learned that it's easier to show people how it's done and let them write down in their words what they should do. Then I get them to follow their own instructions to make sure they've got all the steps.

              I tried to create a flow chart for the printer, as I got fed up of being told "the printer isn't working - it says ink low". I probably should have put the XKCD Guide to understanding flow charts beside it. All paths did end in "have a coffee" though.

        2. swampdog
          WTF?

          Mother (or in-law)

          I've given up with mine. She once had a bad experience as a budding typist on (what would have been) an old IBM twin floppy wordstar box. She then, as a budding author, purchased an amstrad PCW ??? (I forget) with a daisy wheel and one floppy. Oh, if only it had had two. She got muddled swapping disks.

          Someone gave her one of those motorola (x-files era) flip top phones. When it died I bought her a samsung gt-xx (gingerbread) smart-phone. "Ah! Computer!" she thought and promptly went to tesco to buy a cheapo phone on their tariff that has a flip-top (because that would work the same). It didn't so she doesn't use that either. I suggested the internet. I offered to pay for it. Nope. Demon spawn!

          If ever I plugged my laptop into one of her tv's, she'd bin it.

      2. Andrew Moore

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        >I regularly get "I can't get on the internet. Is your email server down?"

        I get "Is the internet down?"

        1. Allan George Dyer

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          You get a question? I thought the more normal form was, "The Internet is down!!"

          Next time I'm told that, I'm booking a three-month trip to "fix the Internet"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            I had an aging relative who was quite contentedly using a BlackBerry Bold for emails and phone calls with no complaints - it just worked. Then her mobile provider decided that she needed an iPhone and sent her one with no instructions on how to set up her email (provided by her ISP). So I was called and told that her email didn't work on the iphone and it needed fixing. I sat in her living room with the iPhone and a computer and she explained that the setup procedure was different on the aPple product.

            Explained to me that to set up the email on the Blackberry you just typed the email address and then the password. She then said it asks me for "weird shit" like mail server details and SMTP - WTF do I need to know that for? Now normally I don't believe some of the technical stuff that she comes out with because she isn't that way inclined. When she went to school girls didn't do science/technology they did things like home economics so she hasn''t had any grounding in anything like that. However she was right to set up her BlackBerry you didn't need the mail server details just the email and password it did the rest for you.

            Someone on the phone when she'd been told they were upgrading her to the iPhone had said that the email would be working on the phone when it arrived. Yes seriously! She was underwhelmed by this "new fangled phone" and pissed off that her email didn't work. Threatened to call her mobile company and give them a piece of her mind on upgrading little old ladies to things that were too complicated for them. However I was able to neturalise the situation after sorting out the email by downloading Candy Crush and suggesting she try that. I now just get updates letting me know that she's reached level X and that the back of the phone is warm and that she's running out of battery. I get the "running out of battery" message quite a lot given she's playing Candy Crush on an iPhone.

        2. Rich 11

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          I get "Is the internet down?"

          It's a few years since I last worked on the helldesk, but my response to this very common question was usually along the lines of "The Internet was designed to be a multiply-redundant military network capable of withstanding the destruction caused by a global thermonuclear war. Unless you can see lots of mushroom clouds outside your window, I think it's much more likely that the problem lies with your computer. Switch it off, check the cables are firmly seated, then switch it back on again."

          Nine times out of ten they wouldn't call me back.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            I mean really? Do you need to be so stereotypical?

            Most people -even the ones that call the helpdesk - are aware that the actual internet is generally robust, but that occasionally connectivity issues occur on a variety of scales, without global thermonuclear war occurring.

            The question "Is the internet down?" is a reasonable contraction of "My computer appears to have a problem interacting with a service I regularly use (which may or may not actually be on the internet). Are others affected by this, or is it local to my system?"

            Your response might instigate a number of reactions, including the switch it off/wiggle cables/switch it on option.

          2. David Nash Silver badge

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            I would imagine that 99% of people who state or question whether "the internet" is down, are using the phrase as a short way to refer to their internet connection and know full well that "The Internet" is not down. I know I've done so myself, despite being well acquainted with the meaning.

            Pretending that you think they mean the entire Internet is just petty and achieves nothing.

          3. gnasher729 Silver badge

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            With that answer, I would classify you as a first rate asshole.

            Clearly "is the internet down" means "is the company's network currently able to supply internet access, or isn't it". Only a malicious asshole would understand it in any different way. And I've had "the internet is down" situations often enough that you would have got your ass kicked (by me or by HR) with that kind of reply.

            1. Roopee
              FAIL

              Re: Government staff: need I say more?

              @gnasher729

              With that answer I would class YOU as a first-rate asshole, since if you ask a technical person a direct technical question you can expect a technical answer. The primary failure is the questioner's in firstly not asking the appropriate question (and one which in this day and age also demonstrates crass ignorance), and secondly in not being aware of the nature of the Asperger-type person that is typically found in highly technical roles in most organisations (and in large numbers on this forum). In many cases the respondent would not intentionally be taking the piss, though that is clearly the intention with some of the commentards here, and deservedly so in my opinion. People generally go into technical jobs because they good at technical stuff; people generally go into management and HR for other reasons.

          4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            "Nine times out of ten they wouldn't call me back."

            Please tell us about the tenth.

          5. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: Government staff: need I say more?

            Sure, but the connection between my router and the local exchange is definitely not multiply redundant, and my local mobile phone mast is connected to the same street cabinet as my landline.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          no it's is "the system" down whatever the system is!

        4. BongoJoe

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          I got told off by the Head of IT at some site I was working in when an over earning lawyer came into the room asking "Is the internet down?"

          I answered with "Yes, they're backing it up."

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      It's not just the .gov ... Ever since the beginning of the Eternal September, the single most infuriating question I get asked is "Is the Internet down?", or the variation "When will the Internet be back up?". You just can't beat it into peoples heads that even though THEY can't access TehIntraWebTubes, it doesn't mean that the entire 'net is down for the count!

      I've stopped trying to explain. The answer to the first question is a simple "No, it's running fine", which passes their confusion on to the next poor sap. The answer to the second is an honest "What do you mean? It has been running just fine since January 1st, 1983", which usually causes them enough confusion that they give up for the day.

      1. Olivier2553

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        "Is the Internet down?"

        I see nothing wrong with saying it like that. The same I could say electricity is down because the storm cut the power line that lead to my home. Or the water is down because they are working on the main pipe down the road.

        From my point of view, if I cannot access some utility, it may even be down, dead and disintegrated, for all I know.

        1. Allan George Dyer
          Pint

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          @Olivier2553 - Sure, in some contexts, there is nothing wrong with saying it like that, but when calling your IT support? What sort of answer do you expect?

          "Yes. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

          and

          "No. Thank you for calling. Goodbye."

          are perfectly reasonable, full answers to the question. But the conservation really doesn't achieve much. An ideal caller would succinctly communicate their problem, as they understand it ("I get an error when I send email", "I'm expecting an urgent email that hasn't arrived", "I can't reach my favourite porn site an important supplier website", etc.), and the ideal IT support would respond with diagnostic questions leading to a solution, or information on a known fault and a fix timescale ("did you type the address correctly?", "the server room is on fire" etc.). The ideal caller would then be overjoyed at the efficiency of their IT support, and offer them beers and/or fire extinguishers.

        2. gnasher729 Silver badge

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          I used to call my ISP when I had problems with internet access at home. When the line was busy, I knew it's their problem because everyone is calling them, so I would just hang up. If they answered, I knew the problem was at my home and I had to fix it myself because they could never help you, so I would hang up as well.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          While the "is the Internet down" is technically wrong, I've also had users ask if the Network is down when using their home computer and not doing "work". Seems to be interchangeable. I also hear "my hard drive isn't working" when they mean the computer/monitor/mouse/etc.. Go figure...

        4. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          Whilst working for an illustious firm one day I received a phonecall that the printer was down and to fix it right away please. We had taken a copier/printer/scanner in the building offline because it was in need of a replacement part and there were instructions on the wall above the printer about how to use a different printer. I asked politely if they had followed these instructions and was told yes they most certainly had thank you very much. I then went upstairs to find the source of the problem and found the caller waiting at her desk looking annoyed. She showed me the full colour 50 page document on screen that she had now sent 10 times to print and still nothing had printed. The print queue was empty and so I checked that she'd actually connected to the correct printer. She had, it was one the other side of the building and when I got round there had a bit of a shock.

          She'd certainly sent the thing to print as there were copies of her document neatly stacked by the side of the printer. The intern who was there as the last page of the last copy of her document came out said that he'd refilled the A4 paper tray twice whilst waiting for his document. Carrying the 500 pages back round I met the caller standing by the defective printer saying that it still wasn't working. She had assumed that despite the fact that the machine was unplugged both from the network and the mains the "different connection instructions" would still allow her to print to that machine. She'd sent it to print three more times since I'd left her desk but fortunately she was stuck in the queue and I was able to cancel them. I explained where the new printer was and said the extra walk would do her good. I also pointed out the print both sides option when we looked at the print options menu.

      2. vcayenne

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        My top question is also any variant on "Is our Internet down?" - while merrily bopping to music from on or another stream that's showing in another window or tab of the same browser! That an individual site may be experiencing problems while the rest of the web keeps on trucking is never considered.

      3. Lars Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        Perhaps you should just understand that they don't claim the whole internet is down, it's just down for them for one reason or another. It has happened to me too for various reasons. If somebody tells you that the buss did not come, and so forth.

    3. Chunky Munky
      Facepalm

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      Not 5 minutes ago I received something similar.

      Them:'My wireless keyboard isn't working - come and fix it right away!'

      Me: 'What PC are you using?'

      Them: 'Mine'

      Me: 'Then how are you typing?

      I'm still waiting on the reply

    4. John Riddoch

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

      Never heard anything back from him.

      1. Chris King

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

        Never heard anything back from him.

        Don't try that with philosophy lecturers. They'll argue with you all day on the meaning of "working".

        The best I ever managed with them was a no-score draw after extra time. I might have won if it had gone to penalties.

      2. psychonaut

        Re: Government staff: need I say more?

        "Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

        Never heard anything back from him."

        maybe he didn't get your email...

        1. 's water music

          Re: Government staff: need I say more?

          "Been a while, but when I was working at the Uni, one of the lecturers (might have been a grad student, can't remember) emailed the support staff asking "Is email working?" I replied with something like "seem to be.."

          Never heard anything back from him."

          maybe he didn't get your email...

          if only the OP hadn't been too glib to add "...let me know if you don't receive this."

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      In my case the problem was on helldesks end: a colleague opened a service ticket reporting is phone not working. Some days later he received a notification closing the ticket. Justification= "Tried phoning the user but he never answered"

    6. john bertelsen

      Re: Government staff: need I say more?

      A dept manager called and said "The net is down." Turned out that the printer he was trying to print to was out of paper.

      I always have to prompt the user to tell me what's really going on. To non-IT people the functioning of systems is a black box. It's not there job to know otherwise unless they are somehow personally interested.

      But it is still funny... cute like hearing a two year old trying to talk. (or annoying if that's your point of view)

      1. John H Woods

        the nub of the issue...

        Whilst it is perfectly acceptable for a user to refer to an inability to access the Internet as "the Internet is down [let's have a tea break]" it's not really an appropriate thing to say to a person from whom you seek technical assistance. The blue E has gone from my desktop; I get a dialog box when I click it; it always says Page not Found... I'd have no problem with any of these, just as I'd expect any half decent mechanic to be perfectly satisfied with a client who says the vehicle pulls to the right; vibrates over 50mph; clanks when you change gear.

        Nobody expects users to do their own diagnosis... just please be a little less unhelpful!

        1. My Alter Ego

          Re: the nub of the issue...

          While I mainly agree with you, I disagree with your car analogy - I rarely have a user being that specific. It's more often analogous to "my car won't work" when they can't tune in Radio 2.

          I often get "is the system down?", only to be told that they actually mean that they can't access online banking (while netflix plays on the other screen, and the CRM on the third). I've tried explaining that HSBC isn't keen on giving me access to their internet banking backend, but it doesn't seem to sink in.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: the nub of the issue...

            Of course you disagree with their car analogy.

          2. John H Woods

            Re: the nub of the issue...

            Ah, I may not have been clear, that's exactly the point I was trying to make. Almost nobody would consider it reasonable to phone the Mechanic with nothing more than "my car doesn't work," so it's not unreasonable for us techies to require more than " it doesn't work"

            We're not asking for technical knowledge, just basic observation!

        2. BongoJoe

          Re: the nub of the issue...

          Nobody expects users to do their own diagnosis... just please be a little less unhelpful!

          Normally, I would agree. And then I get the users who say "There was an error box popping up."

          "What did it say?"

          "I don't know. I just clicked on OK"

          Which is a far cry from "The car pulls to the right" or "there is a noise over 50mph". Those users who just click on the error box may as well say "There's something wrong with the car but I am not going to tell you what."

  4. jake Silver badge

    One week at Bigger Blue.

    Round about 1986, right after lunch on a Monday, HR deposited a freshly-scrubbed college graduate into my lap. It came complete with suit and tie, and the cleanest, shiniest shoes I've ever seen. Immaculately turned out. Not a hair out of place, and perfect fingernails. Looked like an advert for the suit manufacturer. The body was expected, the "shiny" wasn't. I was hoping for someone with experience.

    However, beggars can't be choosers, so I set him to work pulling out Token Ring and replacing it with Ethernet in the stockroom and shipping/receiving. Both cables and cards. Under floors, over ceilings, wherever necessary. (Many of y'all have been there, you know the drill ...).

    He came in with the suit bright and early the next day, still an advert, but the shoes were a trifle worse for the wear. As were the fingernails. That afternoon he managed to get his tie caught in a power supply fan ...

    Day three, he was in Levis, a T-shirt and sneakers like the rest of us. We didn't mention the change of costume, but he mentioned it during his first review ... He thought I had been hazing him with the cabling work. Never did convince him that no, really, that was the next thing on our agenda ... I also never told him he'd have been transferred (or let go, if HR couldn't find a place to shunt him to) if he didn't wise up in a hurry. My group was there to get things done, not to sit around and look pretty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

      What 'first day on the job' grad doesn't turn up in suit and tie? They don't know what they are getting into, don't know what is expected, so play safe.

      Just have a word with him if he can not figure it out. But what is the problem if he wants to dress like the perfect mannequin? You would have had him transferred? Sounds like prejudice to me.

      1. James 51

        Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

        Prejudice is probably too strong a term but talking with him and saying pratical clothing was encouraged would have been a better way to handle it. There are some shops that require support staff to be in trousers/shirt/tie/nice shoes because it is what looks professional. Anyway, graduaties are always encourged to turn up looking smart and was probably just following the careers advice they had been given.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          "There are some shops that require support staff to be in trousers/shirt/tie/nice shoes because it is what looks professional."

          I had a short gig setting up a system at my client's customer's site. Client insisted on my wearing a suit to promote their professional image. This was in the middle of that English rarity, a heat wave. The customer had a more relaxed approach to their head office staff. There's something a little bizarre about wearing an increasingly crumpled suit in a meeting with the customer manager in T-shirt, shorts & sandals.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            I once – and briefly - worked for a major consultancy and it was policy that we had to always wear suit and tie, and jacket always on while at your desk, even though we were located in southern Europe, with temperatures averaging nearly 100ºF during summer.

            Our client was an advertising company with a much more relaxed attitude and didn't want consultants coming into meeting dressed like that when everyone else (client's bosses and staff) was wearing casual.

            Our manager was adamant we had to keep wearing business attire and only relented after being threatened of losing the business by the client, who explained he didn’t want consultants to look like they were the bosses at meetings… the compromise was that we wouldn’t wear a tie and jacket while at work, but needed the have them around in case we’d be called to the office. Strict pricks they were!

            1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

              Brings back memories of a customer of ours (now closed) who used to insist all us support engineers must wear shirt and tie when working on-site.

              Not so unusual you'd think, except I work in the semiconductor industry - they insisted we wore shirt and tie underneath our cleanroom suits when installing and setting up (and kicking repeatedly at times) the manufacturing tools we were supporting and installing.

              Suffice it to say words were had with HR, and some sense was eventually knocked into the customer's heads before our guys revolted and refused to go on-site.

              1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

                Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

                Hey, if James Bond can wear black tie under a dry suit. . .

              2. Fat_Tony
                Facepalm

                Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

                Worked in a call centre that done tech support for HP who insisted on shirts and ties in case any clients happened to drop by for a site visit. twice when clients were on site there was a power cut. The powers that be/were thought it was better to force people to wear uncomfortable clothes rather than fix the flaky power supply and generator.

                The dress code cost them nothing whereas there was a short term cost in fixing the power issues

                1. swm Silver badge

                  Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

                  IBM used to insist on a dress code for all on-site customer engineers. When the temperature and humidity were 100 and everyone else was in shorts and T-shirts they were still dressed in suites with regulation ties.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            "There are some shops that require support staff to be in trousers/shirt/tie/nice shoes because it is what looks professional."

            I'm working in a company like that at the moment. Doesn't bother me a bit, personally. Assuming you get anything but the cheapest most painful clothes they are perfectly comfortable to work in, although white shirts and fixing printers where the users have smashed open the toner cartridges putting them in doesn't mix particularly well.

            What sort of psu fan did he get his tie caught in btw? Just wondering as having worn a tie day to day for about 15 years any of the equipment fans I have run into in my career have been turning the wrong way to suck ties into as they blow air out of the case, and have guards that would prevent a tie going into them in any case.

        2. Spanners Silver badge
          Linux

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          There are some shops that require support staff to be in trousers/shirt/tie/nice shoes because it is what looks professional.

          A professional what? A professional sales Droid certainly will always wear a suit. An IT professional may not wear jeans but dressing professionally means dressing practically for the activity.

          Still, it's better than undressing professionally.

      2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

        I disagree. When starting a new job it's up to you to ask what you are likely to be doing and dress appropriately. If in any doubt, you should ask.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          "If in any doubt, you should ask."

          Given that up to that point his contact would have been an HR droid I think we can guess what the answer would have been.

        2. Mark York 3 Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          I take my dress code cues, from the enviroment when I interview, worst case business casual - When I started at the slaughterhouse, home casual odd jobs casual was the style of the day.

          1. psychonaut

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            crazy. just be civil, and just tell him...go home and change otherwise you will ruin your suit. all this BS about getting moved on etc. all you need to do is tell him. I'm so glad i work for myself, i couldn't put up with that crap.

            1. mhoulden
              Coat

              Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

              Most places have an induction process where the boss sits down with you and explains things like where the toilets are, what the arrangements are for lunch, stuff about health and safety, and so on. I'd be very surprised if dress code wasn't also mentioned.

              1. JimboSmith Silver badge

                Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

                Explaining health and safety was I always thought an HR thing to do especially with interns or work experience. So one Monday we had a young chap presented to my department to be told that he would be with us for the week. He had a change of clothes in his bag because his mum thought he might not be sitting at a desk the whole time (smart woman). Anyway I asked what he had been told about evacuation procedures and fire alarms etc. His response was 'nothing' which shocked me, he said when prompted that he would just have asked someone what to do.

                After pointing out that there might not always be someone around I explained what to do and where the assembly point was etc. After a strong email to HR regarding their inability to do basic health and safety we went into the basement. There we looked at the patch bays we'd be tidying up as today's exercise.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

        Well, I didn't "just turn up in a suit" on my first day out of school. I called my new Boss in advance and asked what type of costume I would be expected to wear. That is playing it safe, although my Boss called it "proactive thinking".

        It's not prejudice at all. It's common sense. You don't wear a $7,500 Armani when mucking out stalls ... and I'd get rid of anybody stupid enough to think it was a good idea. Obviously YMMV, but don't ask me to pick up the pieces.

        1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          You don't wear a $7,500 Armani when mucking out stalls ... and I'd get rid of anybody stupid enough to think it was a good idea.

          If someone wanted to do that I wouldn't have a problem with it. My dad worked in the building trade: His boss drove a brand new Rolls Royce which he used to carry bags of cement and wheelbarrows around in, used it to take rubble away to the tip.

          Live and let live. It's his Roller, it's up to him how he uses it. Who is anyone to dictate to him how it must be?

          I have never understood the desire to punish people for doing things which aren't harmful to others, when it's their choice. I suspect a lot boils down to jealousy; that they can afford to wear Armani while shovelling shit.

          "Dontchya just hate people like that?" No, not me. Good luck to them.

          1. tedleaf

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            Was that boss with the roller based London/Kent area ?

            It sounds just like a guy I worked for a long time ago,only for a few weeks,but if something needed getting or doing he wasn't scared of getting dirty or working hard again,his only argument with work I g hard for long was that you don't have a dog and then bark yourself ...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

              Someone once asked Scott McNealy of Sun if there was a dress code there. He replied "Yes. You must."

          2. fobobob

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            On some other end of that spectrum, you have the weenies in the Youtube comments section of every engine/car/technology destruction video crying about how "someone could have used that!"

        2. My Alter Ego

          Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

          "Costume" - you're luck he didn't tell you it was dress like a pirate day, just for shits and giggles...

          When I turned up at work I got strange looks because I was wearing tidy trousers and a double cuffed shirt. It turns out they heard "a programmer is joining us" and thought pony tail and socks & sandals!

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

            What i took from the bigger blue story was the graduate came thinking he was working in IT , turned out he a was a cable grunt.

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

      I also got a fresh appy, first two days he was suited up. Third day he rocked up in something more comfortable.

      I don't bother about what clothes it is, as long as it's neat and practical.

      At least he got some basic training and understand basic stuff, now I can train him up.

      First lesson : Cattleprod 101.

    3. xeroks

      Re: One week at Bigger Blue.

      A friend was a BT engineer in the 80's. They had to wear suits to any client visit, with overalls (on top!) when clambering through dust.

      A suit on the first day at a job, especially first day ever, isn't unreasonable. Second day... you're right, he should have taken the cue from his colleagues.

    4. Stevie

      Re: One week at Bigger Blue. Not hazing

      Strange that his boss didn't just tell him to go, get changed and come back on day one.

      Nope. Not hazing. See that now.

  5. kain preacher

    My favorite hell desk ticket. PC fan makes noise when people bump the desk. Just for shits and giggles I walked over and bump the desk. Her response was you have to hit the desk harder. Any harder and I would of hurt my self as this was a solid oak desk. This left me wondering what kind of animals were hitting her desk.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      PC fan makes noise when people bump the desk. Just for shits and giggles I walked over and bump the desk. Her response was you have to hit the desk harder.

      bow chicka wow wow?

    2. Colabroad

      My favourite Helldesk call:

      "Hello, the blinds in my office aren't closing properly."

      "I'm sorry madam, we only deal with Windows faults on this line."

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Hello, the blinds in my office aren't closing properly."

        That raises a whole lot of possibilities for dealing with Microsoft support calling about problems with your windows:

        "It keeps sticking and I can't open it properly"

        "The double glazing's all misted up inside"

        The only problem is they never seem to call me.

  6. RyokuMas
    Coat

    Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

    I worked with one chap who will remain nameless... he was a heavy smoker and while I can't recall ever seeing him eat anything, he consumed coffee at such levels that it was debatable whether or not he needed it more than oxygen in order to stay alive.

    He would also let his hair grow for several months at a time, then abruptly and without warning appear with a grade 1 all over...

    When he left, we had to throw away his mouse, his keyboard and the arms off his wheely chair; each was thickly coated with a crust of nicotine, tar and god knows what else... I wish I'd taken some photos to scare my kids with when the get old enough to be tempted by smoking, it was that disgusting.

    1. Chris King

      Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

      "When he left, we had to throw away his mouse, his keyboard and the arms off his wheely chair; each was thickly coated with a crust of nicotine, tar and god knows what else... I wish I'd taken some photos to scare my kids with when the get old enough to be tempted by smoking, it was that disgusting".

      In a previous On-Call, I mentioned a chain-smoking prof with a yellowed PC and monitor. I handled that thing with thick latex gloves, because nicotine in those concentrations can be pretty nasty. If I had my way, the machine would have been sealed up in a thick plastic bag ready for disposal.

      1. kain preacher

        Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

        I had a co worker of mine puked after having to do a call out on a PC that lived a one room 300 sqft apartment the owners pair a pair of chain smokers. HE described it as yellow tar crap on the windows. He refused to do service on it. My boss thought the issue would be solved by sending a smoker out there. Nope Imagine a pair of fat sweat bastards that think hygiene is a four letter word . My co worker complained that it to a week to get the smell out of his car.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

        I used to work for a company that did business to business PC service, which also meant that we did third-party warranty calls- Those 'extended service plan' things you buy at the large retailers which are usually useless. We got one machine in that was so heavily coated in nicotine that it was a total loss- Apparently, the home user had their ashtray parked in front of the intake to the machine, and they had a two-carton per day habit. (or it was in a house full of carton/day smokers)

        The warranty people refused to honor it, claiming abuse, and the customer wasn't happy with them. The poor bench tech had to scrub his bench down with bleach and the shop stank smelled like an ashtray for a week after the thing left.

    2. NXM

      Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

      When I worked for a protocol converter company aeons ago, we had a graphics guy who did the manuals for us. Good idea; as a non-techie he needed the techies to explain how to work the kit, then he translated it into user-speke. Really nice bloke.

      He was an extremely heavy smoker, because as an end-stage lung cancer patient he'd decided might as well just carry on smoking. When we got his Mac Classic back it was so full of tar it would overheat after a while when running. We couldn't get rid of the grot, and scrapped it.

      Made me wonder how he managed to breathe with that sort of stuff in his lungs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

        I've seen those kind of people on the wards. It makes me angry to have to walk through a haze of cancer causing smoke generated by people who have saline drips in their arms sitting under the no smoking signs who have just come out from getting their chemo. On the other hand I know they are paying for that with a long, lingering and agnoising death so I hold my breath as best I can and limp past when I need to.

        1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
          IT Angle

          Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

          Quote:- On the other hand I know they are paying for that with a long, lingering and agnoising death so I hold my breath as best I can and limp past when I need to.

          Best anti-smoking ad I've found was one night in the MAU at the local hospital(I was there with repeat chest pains) and there was a guy there about 60'ish sounding like he was drowning.... gurgle gurgle gurgle

          Then a nurse would turn up and turn on the suction pump and he could breathe for a bit before going back to gurgling.

          Should play that noise back to the kids who think smoking is cool with a note saying "this is how you'll die if you smoke"

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Grooming habits... or lack thereof...

      He would also let his hair grow for several months at a time, then abruptly and without warning appear with a grade 1 all over...

      Nowt wrong with that - it's what I do (apart from the grade 1 - I[1] use a 7mm guard on the clippers)

      When he left, we had to throw away his mouse, his keyboard and the arms off his wheely chair; each was thickly coated with a crust of nicotine, tar and god knows what else.

      In the mid-90's (in the days when you could smoke in the office - now thankfully gone) I had to fix a programmers PS/2 50z[2]. Since he was a heavy smoker, he'd been moved to under the 'suck' part of the aircon so that his smoke didn't kill people nearby, but enough of it lingered to mean his desk was slightly sticky and yellow.

      I took the lid off the PC to discover that *everything* inside was coated with about 2cm depth of sticky brown sludge - which was why his PSU had died, killing his MB in the process.

      At which point I refused to touch it and got it bagged up and replaced by a new machine[3]. And the company changed to rules to prohibit smoking at the desk fairly shortly afterwards.

      [1] Well, more accurately, my wife does the hair and I do the beard. I did try to do the hair myself at one point but the results were... variable.

      [2] Which dates it somewhat. And no - it wasn't a Sony PS/2..

      [3] Nothing was kept on the local PC since all the programmers[4] were working on the mainframe. The PC was there only to run the terminal emulator. Some people did use DW4[5] locally but, fortunately, not him.

      [4] All apart from the guys writing OS/2 code for use in the agency product. But they all had much nicer machines than the 50z.

      [5] AKA "Deathwish 4"..

      1. Stevie

        Re: Smoking at the desk

        I no longer smoke, haven't since before some of you were born, but when I did I went throuogh a period of heavier than normal at-desk smoking.

        We had hired a new bloke who had the habit of watching over one's shoulder, then running to the boss's desk as soon as the problem was found and remedial action underway to claim the credit for "figuring out the problem".

        Everyone hated this "work" habit and my way of dealing with it was twofold.

        He claimed to be allergic to cigarette smoke so when I was problem solving, if I heard his voice in-theater I would light up.

        Whenever I left my desk I would run a macro that printed a line every few seconds like:

        UCURBNGAD nnnnnnnn nnnnnnn nnnnnnn nnnnnnn

        Where the "n"s were the values from three counters under the macro. He eventually asked me what it was and I told him it was a diagnostic I ran to "test the mainframe's registers".

        He never did wise up, but he spent a good few lunch hours wasting his time trying to analyze the numerics.

  7. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
    Joke

    but inquiring minds must know

    Did Mal aim to misbehave? Or find Serenity? Did anyone attempt to take the sky from Mal?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: but inquiring minds must know

      I dont know how thats relevent , but I'll join a Firefly conversation anyime.

      Answer - we'll never know cos of those ******s at Fox

      1. Kiwi

        Re: but inquiring minds must know

        I dont know how thats relevent , but I'll join a Firefly conversation anyime.

        Answer - we'll never know cos of those ******s at Fox

        The answer is in the theme song.

        And how can Fox be involved? FF was good stuff, and Fox can't do good stuff! (at least if Fox "News" is anything to go by!)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But I like suits and ties. I look good in them. Sure for cabling and messy jobs I'll wear jeans and tshirts, but for 90% of office based IT and client meetings I prefer not to look like a ragbag or a caricature of an IT guy.

    1. Stevie

      re: I prefer not to look like a ragbag

      Which is why you'll get labeled as a management drone and shunned instead of worshiped and revered like the other IT guys are.

      1. Sinick
        Pint

        Re: re: I prefer not to look like a ragbag

        'worshiped and revered'

        I want some of whatever you're drinking!

        1. Korev Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: re: I prefer not to look like a ragbag

          I want some of what the worshipers are drinking

  9. Scroticus Canis

    "snorkeled on a tropical island"

    I normally only snorkel in the sea off a tropical coast. Haven't done that in the bath or swimming pool since childhood, even in the tropics.

    However it is never too late to have a happy childhood :)

  10. Alistair
    Windows

    Da job Bag

    in mine:

    rechargeable electric pistol style screwdriver, with 4" 6" 10" extensions

    CraftyTire 8 slot 'multiscrewdriver'

    something around 300 different variations on bits including the vast majority of the "secure" bits.

    1/4" drive ratchet and 40 some sockets, 4" and 6" extenders and a wobble bit.

    Serial2USB, 6'. Parallel2USB 5' SerialoverEthernet 5'. 8' ethernet cable with a crossover extender cable.

    laptop (Currently HP EliteBook8570w with 1Tb ssd, 32Gb ram -- Yes, F25,kvm and guests)

    The 125W powerbrick for same.

    Plain grey T-shirt, slightly washed out and ragged jeans @34x34, grey socks.

    At one point I also carried a disposable tyvek 'environement' suit (minus the helmet, it was not much larger than 6" square and about 1/4" thick when vacuum packed) I've since lost the source connection I was getting those from at $5 a pop.

    I've been accused of being a boyscout by the folks I work with. Especially when I can unscrew those stupid damned offset triangle screws that Sun used for a while on cases. I can wear a suit to work and just pop into a privy to swap outfits if I need.

    I have 2 64Gb USB keys with too many partitions and as far as I can, bootable copies of the OS's I support on them. Or at least the *source* to make bootable copies.

    Nope, not a grad, but thats 30 some years of IT experiences wrapped up in "What the HELL do I need to take with me today".

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Da job Bag

      sounds like you have everything except:

      actual brick

      Tyvek booties (to keep the blood from contaminating your shoes)

      plastic tarp (because "roll of carpet" won't fit into easily carried bag)

      roll of duct tape

      Easy enough, of course, to keep the shovel and bag of lime in the car boot. Oh, and here are some easily obtainable environmental outfits. (here, if you are a left-ponder)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Da job Bag

        @ Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        You forgot the cattle prod. Must have a cattle prod.

        1. kain preacher

          Re: Da job Bag

          OMG he is the IT version of MR Foxx

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Da job Bag

            Missing a punch down tool there. I had a job two months ago - the "internet stopped working" intermittently for around 10 minutes at a time. The user had one of the very crappy original wall plates - most others were new additions (seriously, who installs just two RJ45s in a two-person office when the phone runs through one of them? Oh, the floor has 1,000s of sockets - each metre of bench space on the laboratory side has 6 RJ45s which is some going for a molecular biology lab). Unscrew wall plate and find a rat's nest of a Cat5 termination. It looked like the way BT engineers used to do extension wiring. Out comes the termination tool, snip cable flat and even, strip 2cm of outer off, break out pairs , cable tie outer to plate at provided point, punch down and trim. Job's a good 'un.

            Oh, cable ties. Can never bring too many cable ties to a job.

    2. gotes

      Re: Da job Bag

      I say you can never bring too much stuff, because you'll probably end up needing that one thing you decided not to take with you.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      @Alistair -- Re: Da job Bag

      Well thought out bit of kit there... except that you are missing the largish steel mallet. A wooden one works but doesn't throw fear and terror into the other PC's (or users) as well as the steel unit.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: @Alistair -- Da job Bag

        I dunno- one with metal bits jammed into the head and with ketchup stains* on it will give people a notion to not be stupid, especially when waving it around in slightly heated conversations...

        * that's how one gets that effect, anyway...

  11. Instinct46

    The chocolate mouse

    A colleague of mine who liked chocolate often needed help. I would often go to her computer and find chocolate beside the mouse button and inside of the ridges of the wheel. The first few times I'd wait until she'd go and make a brew before using disinfecting wipes to clean the thing (I'm sure who PC would break just so I'd do this), about the 6th time that it happened I made a point to walk in to room which she worked hold the disinfecting wipes and clean it while she watched... needless to say she cleaned her mouse from that point on. Haha weirdly the person in question also had talons.

  12. Unicornpiss
    Meh

    Lotion and cologne

    What tends to be kind of nasty is when (usually some of our female) users use a lot of hand or body lotion continually. While it smells nice, their keyboards and mice tend to be.. glossy.. with the letters worn off the keys and the lotion typically gunks up the scroll wheel on the mouse so that it's gooey and sticky to the touch.

    Re. odor, we had for a time a couple of users I could track through the parking lot outdoors... in a windstorm.. minutes after they'd passed through. BO? No. Just way, way too much cologne or perfume. One guy who doused himself with Drakkar before leaving home, and a woman who wore some particularly acrid scent that smelled to me like suntan lotion on an unwashed blanket. (older admin assistants were known for this) I would literally wait several minutes after she passed by to walk in her wake, it was that bad and would instantly give me a slight headache. Particularly bad too is a cologne abuser when encountered doing something stinky in a lavatory. The combo of biological and unnatural odors would be enough to make your head swim and your gorge rise.

    If you can be detected more than a couple feet away, you're using too much. Where is the vomit icon?

  13. flokie

    Fake nails

    I wore fake nails once in my life, and that was for a Halloween party on a Sat night. Cue panic on Sunday afternoon as I realised I didn't have anything to take them off, and I couldn't type with them. I did find some remover in a local shop thankfully so no issue turning up at work the next day.

    Not sure how I brought it up with my (very girlie) team leader later that week, but I told her jokingly - "I thought I may have to call in sick on Monday as I had nothing to take off the fake nails I wore on Sat. night!"

    Her deadly serious reply "oh yes, they make them so long, I always have to trim mine off".

    Somehow, even after being given the secret to how to wear fake nails, I never felt like sticking some on again.

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: Fake nails

      Totally unrelated to IT, but a few years back the missus and I were on holiday in NZ. She had just had fake nails attached - whatever the terminology is - and one of our activities was "Black Water Rafting", which was going caving along an underground stream, with various bits of swimming, floating on truck inner tubes, and scrambling/crawling. The tour organiser provided wetsuits (very cold water) and gumboots (NZ national dress ?) which we put on before leaving the tour depot.

      The fun arose when the missus couldn't get her wetsuit on over the fake nails. Many options were tried, and we eventually cut them back using the wirecutters on my leatherman - not an easy task.

      Missus was not impressed.

  14. Steve Aubrey
    Happy

    I love El Reg

    These on-call posts are good examples. The original story is usually pretty good - not always, but generally brings a smile.

    The comments are wonderful, wandering so far astray from the original that it takes concentrated thought to remember what the story was. But all relevant, and lots interesting.

    So thanks, El Reg, and thanks to all you commentards.

    That is all.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last Friday your correspondent snorkeled on a tropical island

    Fuck off.

    1. ssharwood

      Re: Last Friday your correspondent snorkeled on a tropical island

      Back to the island? Ok. Off I go then. I could get two bars from the bar there. If I absolutely must work there and snorkel on my coffee breaks, then I will to satisfy commentards.

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