BOFH: When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Apologise? Moi?


Episode 37 Sigh. It seems that no matter what I do nor how helpful I try to be, there's always someone who's not happy. It seems that all the PFY and I get is negative feedback. It's enough to make a man question his career in technical support. Worse still, I know the Boss has received a complaint about my most recent efforts and has made some very rash promises about how it will be made right...

The Boss tries the softly-softly approach at first so as to lull me into a false sense of security - not knowing that all calls originating in the sixth floor and terminating at his office are automatically flagged for my attention.

"So, how're things going?" he asks.

"Good."

"I see... Anything... ... going on?" he asks.

"Not really."

"No calls from, say Board members?" he hints, with a tiny tinge of annoyance.

"Board members.... Board Members.... No, can't say offhand that I... wait a minute! Yes, I got a call this morning from one. Helped him with a mailing problem!"

"Yes, he says your instructions deleted all his mail and public folders."

"Really? What was the problem again?"

"He's had errors accessing his Mail data ever since someone set his home computer up as a synchronisation server."

"And does he get errors now?"

"Obviously not!"

"So you're saying that the problem's gone away?" I respond, helpfully. "Always a pleasure to receive positive feedback!"

"Making it disappear is not solving a problem!"

"But, it's not causing problems any more!!!"

"You can't just resolve a problem by removing it!"

"Can't we?" The PFY replies, entering the conversation from the Computer room doorway.

"No!"

"So I should put the virus back onto the financials fileserver?"

"No!"

"But you just..."

"I know what I said, but if we used that approach to everything the answer to the virus-in-email problem would have been to remove the mail system!"

"Why didn't I think of that?!" the PFY blurts excitedly, grabbing a hammer. "Back in a tick!"

"STOP!" the boss commands, unsure of what the PFY would do to make a point. "Speaking of Viruses, the board member also claims that when he rang you back about his email being gone you said you thought the SureCam worm must have been unleashed on his desktop and that he should quarantine all his files in the Recycle bin!!"

What the hell!

"It's a fair cop guv!" I confess, hoping that a quick confession will get the witch hunt over and done with so I can continue my server repair.

"Wa?" the boss burbles.

"It was me. I did it, I'm not proud of it, I'll never do it again. So, I suppose it's time for a nasty memo to float down from above about us being more kind to people who don't deserve computers."

"No, nothing like that. Apparently he rang his wife and all his work is synchronised at home and he only lost a couple of email messages that came in this morning. So all he wants is an apology."

"Well I'm sure he's looking forward to your call…"

"Ah, no, he'd like an apology from you. In person and in writing."

. . .

"And I'd like a secure Microsoft application - but we can't always get what we want!"

"Well this has been up to the Chairman of the Board himself!" the Boss responds reverently, pointing at the ceiling. "But it's just a quiet word or two, no biggy. Just to show that we're approachable and make mistakes too..."

"I see. So he wants me to go up and tell him how sorry I am?"

"Him and the rest of the board, yes."

Perfect.

Two hours later I'm in the lift in my Sunday best. Ten minutes later, I'm back, to the visible pleasure of half the department.

"So how did they take it?" the Boss asks, stopping short of breaking out into laughter.

"Stunned silence."

"Really? I have to admit that I thought you'd rather quit than apolo..."

"No, I mean stunned, as in stunned. Did you know that the ornamental copper band around the boardroom table is a perfect conductor?"

"I..."

"And get this, the footrest at the base of the table is earthed!!!"

"What did you do?!" the Boss gasps.

"Not a thing!! One of the standalone light units fell onto the table, breaking the globe and electrocuting half the board members. The odds of it happening are astronomical!"

"It just 'happened'?" the Boss says drily.

"Yeah! I mean to engineer something like that would be.. well it would be a huge job! You'd have to place the lamp just so, overbalancing it so that the slightest touch would tip it over, remove the safety grill and glass, replace the building's residual current circuit breakers with hard fuse, um... earth the foot rests I suppose - it would take... I don't know how long!"

"23 minutes, 37 seconds - including travel time," the PFY says.

"What?!" the Boss and I both cry.

"Did it the whole time you were getting changed for your meeting," he says to me. "I mean how would it look, a computing professional apologising to a luser group!"

"RIGHT! You're not getting away with this!" the Boss snaps, storming out to call security.

"I..." I say, a bit choked up by the PFY's loyalty. "I don't know what to say! But.. I was away at least three quarters of an hou…"

My thanks are interrupted by a >Crash< >ZZZZZzert!< from the direction of the Boss's office just before the lights go out.

"Ah! So you'll be wanting a pint then?"

"Several," the PFY says, grabbing his coat.

Behold the power of positive feedback! ®


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