Hell desk thought PC fire report was a first-day-on-the-job prank

It sounded funny until the user suggested she throw water on an electrical fire

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On-Call Welcome to another instalment of On-Call, The Register's last-day-of-the-week look at all the fun of fixing stuff.

This week, we're going back to the first day on the job for reader “Jerome”, who like many readers got his start in IT on an in-house help hell desk.

Jerome says he was properly trained and eased into the job by listening to colleagues as they took live calls.

Come the day of his hands-on debut, Jerome felt confident. And justifiably so after his first few calls, which were routine and easily solved.

But then came the call from a user who said no more than her computer did not work.

Jerome's training kicked in and he asked if any lights could be seen that would indicate the computer was turned on, whether the power cable was plugged in and other very basic considerations.

“This was all such 'basic cliché helldesk stuff' and the lady at the other end of the phone was responding like a text-book-know-nothing-user,” Jerome told us. Indeed, this user knew so little, and acted so dumb, that he began to suspect the call was a first-day-on-the-job prank.

So he decided to play along and stretch the call out for as long as possible, first by asking the user if she could follow the power cord from the computer to the wall outlet. Which she did, until the cord reached a junction box. Jerome stuck to the script, asking if the computer cord was indeed plugged in. It was, so he asked if it was plugged in all the way.

To which the user replied “When I touch the plug, it makes kind of a crackling noise."

At this point Jerome was convinced this was a prank, so turned to his colleague and in a “ha-ha, you nearly had me there” explained he was in on the joke.

But by now Jerome's colleague was shaking his head and looking rather serious.

“In the meantime the lady on the other end of the line had been moving the power plug around and started screaming: 'It's on fire, it's on fire!'"

At which point Jerome exhorted the user not to throw water on the fire, lest she electrocute herself.

By now Jerome's colleague was on the phone to the internal fire department, extinguishers had been deployed and the fire doused.

And Jerome's colleagues were explaining that this had all really, actually, honest-to-Loki happened.

The real punchline? Jerome says he never took a more exciting call during his time on the hell desk.

Have you pranked a PFY on the hell desk? If so, let me know and you could end up in this prestigious Reg regular. ®


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