ON-CALL ON-CALL Welcome again to On-Call, our end-of-week waltz through readers' memories of odd jobs they've been asked to do.
This week, reader “Jackson” shared the story of his time working for a very large and old three-letter-company, where he was part of a ““IT service consolidation” project that meant his client's employees could not just ask the IT team for help. Instead, their first port of call had to be the help desk. Come what may.
Jackson told us the client “had a number of contracts and had civilians supporting military operations in Iraq.”
“We were tasked with supporting those supporting the military, 24/7.”
Jackson helped out on the help desk from time to time, and one day decided to pick up a call solely on the basis that the incoming number looked interesting.
Here's his recollection of the call:
Jackson: “Good Morning, International IT helpdesk, Jackson speaking, how may I help you today?”
Caller: “Hi!I Is this where I call for computer problems?”
Jackson: “Yes, sir. What can I do for you today?”
After those pleasantries, Jackson noticed some background noises. Specifically some sharp, cracking sounds, muffled booms and lots of raised voices.
Caller: “I need a new laptop”
At which point Jackson heard more and sharper cracking sounds, by now clear enough to be identified as gunfire.
Caller: “Say that again, I didn’t quite catch what you said.”
By now, Jackson says, the soundscape included roaring diesels, what sounded like a cannon in a armoured vehicle and a lot more automatic weapons fire.
Jackson: “What happened to your laptop that it needs replacing? And is everything okay there?
A pause, next, for a very loud whoosh and crump, followed by more of what Jackson was now sure was gunfire.
Caller: “Give me a second.”
The caller actually needed five minutes, during which Jackson heard “various explosions, screams, weapons fire, and what sounded like helicopters and rockets.”
Caller: “Sorry about that! Now, where were we?”
Jackson: “ You were going to tell me what happened to your laptop?”
Caller: “Oh yeah! It’s blown up and on fire.”
Jackson: “ So, just so I’m clear, you’re calling because your laptop is destroyed?”
Caller: “ Yup! We were going from [somewhere in Iraq] to [somewhere else in Iraq] and insurgents attacked our convoy. I bailed out of my truck, and they blew it up.”
Jackson: “The laptop was in the truck?”
Caller: “ You got it. They blew up my tools too! Seriously, how the heck can I do my job with no tools?”
Jackson: “I don’t suppose you have the asset ID for the laptop?”
Caller: “For real?”
Jackson: “For real. This is one of those instances where I’m not sure what to do…so I’ll just follow the script as it were and wing it.”
Caller: “Well, they did tell us over and over if you need any computer help, call the helpdesk first.”
Jackson: “ That they did…So..sec, I’m trying to figure out how to word this in the ticket.”
Caller: “ It was a brand new laptop they gave me. It should still be under warranty.”
Jackson decided deadpan was the best way to handle that suggestion.
Jackson: “Acts of insurgency in a combat zone are not covered under manufacturer's warranty.”
Caller: “ [Chuckling] I never really thought about that.”
Jackson: “And we can’t really call it a homeowners insurance claim.”
Caller: “Act of Allah?”
Jackson says he logged the ticket and sent the recording of the call to my boss, who forwarded it to the client.
As expected, the warranty did not apply. But Jackson was able to send the chap a new laptop within 48 hours.
Jackson understands the call was later used in staff training, making it an example of “your call may be recorded for quality assurance or training purposes” actually coming true.
What's the weirdest call you've taken? Write to me with your story and there's a decent chance you'll end up in a future edition of On-Call. ®