I got 99 problems, and all of them are your fault

Stiffened sinews and floppy disks


On Call Do you remember those halcyon days when we used to enjoy a city break every now again? Relive those times with a continental Friday On Call, courtesy of The Register.

Today's tale of user-generated woe comes from a reader we shall call "Luuk", for that is not his name.

Luuk spent the early portion of the 2000s working as an IT support engineer for one of the Big Four accountancy firms, and was based in the delightful city of Amsterdam.

On the day in question, he received a helpdesk call: "User reports the floppy disk sticks into the drive."

Dodging the usual hallway ambushes with which those that Know A Bit About IT are so frequently cursed ("Hey Luuk, now I see you, could you by any chance… [insert IT issue]"), Luuk dutifully pitched up at the desk of the stricken user and her jammed diskette.

Unsurprisingly, the user had attempted to brute-force the removal of the three-and-a-half inch floppy from the IBM PS/2 and been rewarded with the plastic casing while the metal slider remain firmly wedged in place.

"Part of my tools," recalled Luuk, "were an old access badge (thin and credit-card size) and tweezers."

With a bit of poking and prodding, Luuk managed to extract the recalcitrant metal plate from the disk drive (remember those, kids?)

"I explained to the user,” he said, “that the disk should only be used once to get the data off it and she should be using a new one."

If this was a sign of how the day was going to go, Luuk was in for an easy ride and beer o’clock would surely soon be beckoning.

Alas, it was not to be. Less than two hours later another ticket from the same user arrived, with a complaint about Luuk rather than a mere request for help this time. Helpfully, the Helpdesk team flung the ticket Luuk's way and, with dismay, he read the text:

"IT (Luuk) was here and broke my keyboard. He removed the disk but now my keyboard is dead."

Serious stuff, but Luuk was unsure how the removal of the metal plate could render a keyboard inoperative. He scurried back to the user and was soon able to diagnose the problem.

The user had pushed her keyboard under the protruding trim of the IBM and managed to wedge several keys down. Result: an inoperative keyboard and (we imagine) some plaintive beeping.

Luuk could have pulled out the keyboard but, mindful of the crossed arms and accusatory glare of the user, simply asked "Do you have a new diskette for me?"

The user handed him one. "I removed the metal plate of the disk," said Luuk, "and pushed that in the diskette station."

"Here, this is what I removed," he told the user, "so according to your ticket the keyboard now should be working."

He stomped away, with cries of "I'll take this up with management!" echoing behind.

Sure enough, the bosses did turn up within the next 10 minutes. The situation was assessed and, after maybe a little too much grinning, it was decided that yes, perhaps the user needed a bit of training with regard to where, and where not, to stick her keyboard.

Ever done a good deed, only to have it thrown back at you by an angry user, or finally snapped after one petulant request too many? Of course you have, and you should share the tale with the understanding vultures of The Register at On Call. ®


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