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Try placing a pot plant directly above your CRT monitor – it really ties the desk together

Actually, no. Don't do this

On Call The week is over once again. Celebrate with a watery On Call tale involving a cathode ray tube, a pot plant, and an absent-minded user.

Our hero, Regomised as "Sean", had taken his first steps into the glorious world of IT as a trainee support technician for a housing association at the impossibly young age of 18.

"One afternoon," he told us, "I got a call from an agitated lady in the same building complaining her monitor screen was all bendy."

Keen to impress his new employers with his diligence, he took himself downstairs to investigate.

"Sure enough, the CRT screen was displaying the desktop, but was bowed in from the sides."

There are some who never experienced the delight of cathode ray tubes, nor the pleasure of fiddling with picture focus or adjustment or even the simple joy of hitting the degauss button. Sean's entry into IT came as CRT monitors were breathing their last (he told us that the hefty devices of this story were replaced by Compaq-branded TFTs shortly after).

For now, however, he was faced with a CRT showing an hourglass desktop.

"Initially," he told us, "I went to adjust the monitor settings (no auto readjustment here, only dials!), but it just made things slightly worse."

"Making things slightly worse" seems a good motto for certain parts of the IT world nowadays, but Sean persisted. He had a hopeful prod of the desktop settings just in case the bend was somehow being caused by the software, but in the end had to admit defeat. He decided to replace the monitor.

He disconnected the CRT and heaved it off the desktop. It was at this point he saw something that shouldn't have been there: a sad little puddle of water where the CRT had been sitting.

He glanced up, and saw a shelf above where the monitor had stood, "and sure enough, a plant pot!"

Sean asked the user if she looked after the plant – you know, tended to its needs. Watered it. That sort of thing. The user's retort tailed off as she realised what she had done, 10 minutes before her desktop went all strange and bendy.

At this point we must make it clear that water and computer monitors do not mix well. The CRTs of old were capable of holding enough charge, even when unplugged, to deliver a horrendous shock. We'd suggest Sean and his user may have had a rather lucky escape here, since the water had penetrated the monitor's case and caused the distortion.

Don't try this at home, kids.

Sean simply replaced the monitor. The user, delighted with the new kit, learned an important lesson. Sean also kept the secret of how she had managed to bork housing association equipment.

Until today.

Ever found yourself faced with fluid where no fluid should flow? Or underestimated the creativity of users when it comes to hardware destruction? Share your story with email to On Call. ®

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