The Register


The cleaner connection...

So, I'm taking calls because the PFY's on holiday and I have no one to play Quake deathmatches against. It's the usual run-of-the-mill thing with several "power users" from PR ringing to find out why they can't print to the shared laser printer.

Being in a reasonably calm state of mind, I don't expose the callers to the verbal barrage of my thoughts on their inability to read the notices pinned on the noticeboards, stuck to the printer in question and sent via email to them over the past month or so before the printer's retirement from service.

And still they call. Even though the printer has been gone for a week. Even though there's now a person occupying the cubicle where it was.. even though that person tells them that the two-page-per-minute power-sucking monster has gone.

I keep a tight rein on my temper, knowing full well that it really shouldn't bug me that much. My resolve is sorely tested however, when I get a call from the bastard (L)User from Hell. The word incompetent doesn't even begin to describe his technical inability -- he couldn't find his arse with a road map, a compass, mirror and torch. In fact, if his brain activity dipped any lower it would be legal to harvest his organs. And the boss has taken him under his wing in one of his goodwill-generating missions. So far this week he's rung three times because his machine's been hacked (the caps lock key was on when he typed in his password). He also rang to report that his computer had been infected with the "not a system disk, hit F1" virus, and to tell us that our time server was three seconds out from the speaking clock.

Still, the boss is keenly aware of any shortcomings in our service. The phone rings.

"My machine's locked me out again!" he blurts.

"Is your caps lock key on again?" I ask.

"Of course not!" he snaps.

"And what does it say when you get your password wrong?" "I don't get my password wrong! I always write it down on the bottom of my keyboard to be sure!"

"Of course you do," I respond, humbled by the lengths users will go to to protect their work. "And what did the computer tell you when you got your"

"It didn't say anything!"

"I see. And did you check your password this morning?"

"Well, yes! I can't be expected to remember everything!" "And you pulled your keyboard out of the socket in the back of your machine?"

Some fumbling noises follow, after which..."no, I didn't." The bollock-o-meter is registering "Liar, liar! Pants on fire!", so I can guess what's going to come next.

"Oh, it's come right now -- must have been a glitch or something..."


"...But I've noticed that the keyboard plug is a little loose."

Right! That's it! "Yes it's..." I quickly turn to my Excuse of the Day calendar. "...Oh! It's an carbon dioxidation problem."


"The oxidation from carbon dioxide in the air makes the plastic shrink. That's why your monitor probably makes creaking noises."


"You can fix it, of course. Do you have a pot plant in your office?"

"Yes, I have a couple."

"Well, chuck one behind your machine and one on the top of the monitor -- they'll extract the carbon dioxide from the air.."

"Of course! Well, thank you for that at least."

"No problem. Now be sure to give them a really good watering so they can generate that oxygen. Lots of water."

Five minutes later the boss is in with the bad news about Mr Incompetent. He survived. And he only lost a monitor and popped a circuit breaker. He couldn't even electrocute himself properly. So now I have to rush a replacement monitor to him.

I get back to my office after installing it to hear the phone ringing. He's upset because the screen colours are up the spout. I almost tell him about the two disk drive magnets I taped to the base of the unit, just to get him to leave me alone, but that's just giving in. And I'm no quitter. It's time to send in a cleaner.

Later on, the boss fills me in on the gory details. "...And, apparently, he tripped and dropped a large bucket of water on top of his machine," the boss burbles. "Which is a hell of a coincidence when you think about it"

"So he'll need another monitor?" I ask.

"Actually no. The cleaning guy was helping to mop up the mess and accidentally slammed Dave's hand in the drawer -- three times!"

"Oh. Well, all's well that ends well. Anyway, can't stop, I'm going for a drink with Mike."

"The cleaning guy?"

Some questions are best left unanswered.