There are two sides to every story, two ends to every cable

Panto season arrives at Vulture Central


On Call Welcome back to On Call, this week with some pantomime-like japes. 'Tis the season after all.

A Register reader called "Geoff" (no, he's not really called that) shared this story of telephone tomfoolery at a certain computing colossus in the mid-1990s.

The company in question had an office in the UK city of Portsmouth and Geoff's task was to lead the PC network and support team for the telemarketing and telesales department.

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"Mostly," he said, "it was dealing with issues with printers, or the system that was used for capturing enquiries."

The usual day-to-day grind of the helpdesk, for sure. Likely assisted by the mystery brain fairy that steals the average user's knowledge of how to add paper.

"One day," he told us, "I got a call from one of the more senior members of the telesales team, telling me his computer couldn't connect to the network."

Geoff asked what error was showing and, for once, the OS was being helpful and indicating that the network cable wasn't actually plugged in.

Network cable unplugged? Ridiculous! The exec was having none of it and retorted: "No it isn't!"

"Yes, it is," explained Geoff patiently.

"No – it isn't," came an angrier response.

Geoff continued the pantomime back-and-forth: "Yes, it is – that's what that error means."

"No, it ISN'T!!" came the indignant reply, "I'VE CHECKED!!!"

Geoff sighed the IT support sigh: "OK, fine – I'll come take a look."

He pottered round to the bigwig's desk and, yes, the error on the PC screen indicated no network connection. He looked around the back of the beige box. "Sure enough," he told us, "the network cable was firmly in place."

By this time, the air around the senior member of staff was infused with the smug stench of "I told you so" as Geoff continued to investigate.

Strangely, while the cable was indeed correctly connected, the usual flickering lights of the adaptor were absent. "So, I got on my hands and knees and went under the desk."

"A few seconds later I reappeared, cable in hand, and said, 'Um – network cables do need to be plugged in at BOTH ends...'"

The smugness immediately changed to flushed cheeks and embarrassed muttering.

"The real kicker," added Geoff, " is that said individual was [insert name of formerly colossal, but now somewhat troubled, computing giant] *Head of Network Sales*

"He never lived it down."

Everyone loves a game of fault ping-pong, especially when one participant knows a little, but not quite enough. Ever found yourself on the receiving end of a user insisting that A must be B and discovering it was C all along? Share your tale with an email to On Call. ®

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