Chap joins elite support team, solves what no one else can. Is he invited back? Is he f**k

But he did get a $50 cheque, a piece of acrylic and a fuzzy glow that lasted for years

On Call Reading On Call, El Reg's weekly instalment of readers' tale of support triumphs large and small, is the best way to start your Friday.

Not our words, but those of a loyal reader who has this week offered his own story for publication in these pages.

This reader, who we'll call "Simon", shared what is either a cautionary tale for those considering speaking truth to power or a celebratory tale of getting one over on the people who think they're better than you.

This was at a time, Simon said, "when my beard was dark, DOS was king, and Sun Microsystems was still a thing".

He worked as desktop support for one of the tech giants in Silicon Valley.

"They would bounce us around the campus, except for the 'A-Team' that worked in the HQ building – they were the manager's favourites, and supposed to be the best techs on the crew."

techie drinks coffee, looks at watch

All good, leave it with you...? Chap is roped into tech support role for clueless customer


This top team was short-handed one week, so Simon got rotated in to help out. "Of course, I was given all the jobs that they didn't want to look at, including a repeat request from payroll," Simon explained.

"Just go in, look at it, and say it's normal operation," the others told him. "We've all looked at it already, and it can't be fixed."

Simon dutifully went off to talk to payroll, who were transferring files over the network from a PC running DOS to a Sun workstation, using FTP.

"The two systems were on the same switch, but the transfers were taking forever – 10 minutes to transfer a 100KB file through a 10Mb switch.

"That was just wrong. And I couldn't say otherwise."

And so he went off to research the problem, which included posting a message about it in a Usenet newsgroup.

"Lo and behold, a gent from the UK had seen this before, and pointed me to a configuration setting in the FTP software on the PC," Simon said.

"I made the change, and suddenly the file transfers took seconds instead of minutes."

The head of payroll was so pleased that they came to the next desktop team meeting and handed Simon a corporate excellence award and a cheque for $50.

But not everything was rosy for Simon. "You probably see my mistake," he said. "I showed up the A-Team, simply by asking a question. I never worked in HQ again, and nary a tear was shed when I left for greener pastures a bit later."

But Simon remains positive to this day. "I still have that hunk of acrylic, and it reminds me that it's better to admit you don't know something and ask questions than it is to blow off customers and pretend to be smarter than you are."

Wise words indeed. So tell On Call, dear readers, when have you pissed off your higher-ups by being more humble, quicker-witted, or just fixing an "unsolvable" problem? We run a story every week – next time it could be yours! ®

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