Saturday, August 27, 2011

IT makes you deaf

It’s looking like being a great day when I get to work. Everything’s working, all my projects are on track and the smoke coming out of the server room has thinned to the point I can go in there without a respirator. The microwave in the lunch room is working, so hopefully I won’t get hassled to fix it again (it was a graphics card driver issue) and the guy who bugs me every day to change his email address to wellhungd00d@<companyname> is away on a break. Time, I think, to deal with some of the really pressing concerns, like sharpening my juggling skills and finding time for a snooze under my desk.

This thought is the cue for the  phone to start ringing.

Since I run the phone system, it’s as easy as pulling a couple of wires to stop that. Not that I ever would of course; far more entertaining to divert my phone to a different company’s helpdesk (seriously, that never gets old). But after a while, people see through that one and they start coming to see me instead.

This is not a good thing.

Problem number one of course is that there’s a fair to middling chance they’ll wake me up. You can only use the old “I was checking the cables under my desk” excuse so many times before they wise up. And the pillow and blow-up mattress down there make that one tricky even the first time. Problem number two is that they sometimes stick around to watch me fix whatever incredibly interesting problem they’ve come to me with. And when they see that resetting passwords and unlocking accounts is a matter of about ten seconds, it gets that much harder to fob them off with “Ooh, might need to, uh, flush the DNS cache up your computer’s IP fluid to fix that. Some time next week?”

But worst of all? They find out what I look like.

This is bad enough in itself; several years in IT have left my face a twisted mask of rage and despair.  It’s fine when people just stare in shock and back out slowly without making eye contact. But the ones who tell me to “Cheer up, it might not happen!” then shoot me with jaunty finger guns have me reaching for my special sharpened screwdriver. There’s only so much space in the server room to hide the bodies, so that’s had to stop. Even worse,  once they know what I look like, they’re never too shy to point me out to all their workmates and say “See that guy? He fixes our computers, so he must love computers. You should go talk to him about computers.”
This didn't help. SOMEHOW THEY KNEW.

But these are minor problems. The real issue with people being able to put a face to the IT Guy moniker is that they start asking me to FIX STUFF.
Once you’re more than an anonymous surly voice with a poorly faked Indian accent, folks get comfy with asking for help. I was kidding about the microwave thing, but when I first started, nobody told me I could say no to a job. TVs, radios, cameras, binoculars, VCRs (“wait, is this thing BETA?”), security cameras, some...I dunno, thing in a box attached to a gigantic tank with “DANGER: CYANIDE” written on it (no I am not kidding), you name it, I’d try to fix it. But when someone came into my office with a desperate look and a half-gutted Tickle Me Elmo, I took a long hard look at my job description.
Did you try a reboot?

Now? I have a simple rule. If I can’t ping it or ring it, don’t bring it.

This isn’t actually what’s in my job description. I’ve read that thing over and over, and it’s all blah blah blah stop stabbing people with screwdrivers yadda yadda what’s that smell coming from the server room, so no help there. But it doesn’t take much to realise that time spent figuring out which bit in Elmo is the, uh, vibrator, is time NOT spent making my servers less on fire, or getting that dead mouse out of the PABX (nope, not kidding again; that little bastich shut down comms across half the site). So I’m that little bit more careful about when I say HELL yes, drop that broken piece of crap right here on my desk. Pass me that pointy screwdriver real quick?
Unfortunately, this approach has led me to a new discovery.

IT makes you deaf.

You wouldn’t have thought so. Sure, server fans are a bit noisy, but its not like I put my ear right up against them any more. But I swear, the longer I spend having conversations like “no, spam emails can’t give you herpes” and “I know your iPhone has a touch screen but your PC doesn’t, yes you’d think they’d get onto that,”, the worse my hearing seems to get. What I hear when people first drop in and what I eventually figure out they really said are so different I wonder if I should go get me a hearing aid. Maybe a nice one, with a touch screen.

Here’s the sort of thing I mean...

What I hear                                              What they actually said

I’m too stupid to remember a six-character password

My password doesn’t work. Did you change it?

I can’t read a nameplate on a door, or infer anything from the piles of computers, switches and monitors occupying this room.

Is this the IT office?

You know my name because we’ve worked together for five years, but I’m so self-absorbed I barely remember the names of those three guys I hooked up with at that night club last Saturday

Hi. It’s...Alex, right?

I believe the company network exists purely to indulge my need for an endless stream of autotuned pop videos and monkeys riding pigs backwards

Can you guys unblock YouTube so I can watch video?

I’m convinced I’m smarter than you
That problem I phoned you about two minutes ago? It’s okay, I ran a defrag and a disk check and fixed it myself. This stuff’s not that hard.

My time is so much more valuable than yours that the two seconds it takes to actually read a warning popup about deleting my files is worth more than the hour it’ll take you to get them back.

Someone deleted my files. I need you to recover them, put each one on a separate, labelled CD and bring them to me. Thanks.

I have no idea what kind of person you are. Finding out would take time, effort and a brief journey outside my comfort zone of like-minded fellows who speak only of beer, football and lads’ mags, so I’ll just slap a label on you that you’ll find as imaginative and funny as I do.

Hi, nerd.
Despite knowing the names of every player in my chosen football team, the prices of sixteen brands of beer and the measurements of every Playboy Bunny back to 1865, I am incapable of remembering seven letters that haven’t changed since I started here.

What’s my username again?
I have a problem. It’s a tiny thing, and it’ll take you five seconds to fix, but I’m going to make you work so hard to figure out what it is that you’ll contemplate murdering me with that keyboard by the time we’re done.

My computer’s acting funny.
My home computer is broken. I am about to siphon twenty minutes of your life for no gain while I try to explain the problem, completely in defiance of your attempts to discourage me.

Got a minute?
I play World of Warcraft. A LOT. Seriously, I’ve forgotten my wife’s name, I’ve had to subcontract my job to some guy in the Philippines and I missed the birth of my first child because my guild needed a healer for a dungeon run. I want to play it more, but my wife keeps changing my password on my home PC.

I need a company laptop with a decent graphics card for design work. Oh, and a headset. For, uh, design work.
I can’t tell the difference between the ‘Reply’ button and the ‘Reply to all’ button. In a completely unrelated matter, I would like to keep the intimate details of my blossoming relationship with the nice young lady in the next office from becoming company gossip.

Can you show me how to recall an email real quick?
I dropped my mobile phone in the toilet.

I dropped my mobile phone in a puddle.
You are going to get nothing done today.

My screen just went blue. Is that bad
I have no life, no social skills and no work ethic. I spend my work days wandering from office to office, telling long, rambling stories just to get some semblance of social contact. Prepare yourself for hell.

Got a minute?
My porn collection is now so large it is overflowing my local hard drive. I need to migrate some of it to my home PC.

Do you guys have a portable hard drive I can borrow?
I am fully aware that you are at someone else’s desk to fix their computer, but I am the type of person who will tells knock-knock jokes to adults and expects a laugh.

Hello, <desk owner’s name>, you look different today!
I have a small penis
I need a bigger monitor
You left your copy of of PC Review in the lunch room
Can I get a 250 gig SSD, Nvidia GeForeced GTX 590 GPU and a Gigabyte GA-EP35C-DS3R motherboard for my desktop? That’ll make my Excels go better, right?

My home computer’s keyboard is broken. Can I have a new one?
My work computer’s keyboard is broken. Can I have a new one?

I am your God.
We’ve decided to outsource our IT support. Here’s your redundancy notice.

Don’t get me wrong: not everyone I work with is like this. Most of ‘em are smart, capable professionals, and only need to have their email address sold to Russian spammers once to learn not to bug me before my third coffee. But you don’t remember the million cars that drive safely by your house each day; it’s the one that crashes through the front fence and ends up leaking battery acid on the lino in your breakfast nook that tends to stick in your mind (yes I’m looking at YOU, Guy-Who-Spray-n-Wipes-His-Motherboard). I’m convinced it’s my hearing that’s letting me down because, by and large, these train wrecks that come through my door are functioning human beings, capable of dressing and feeding themselves. The only alternative is that everyone’s IQ drops by fifty points the moment they put their hand on a mouse. I’d be down around minus eight million by now if that was it, so I’m going with the hearing thing.

I decided things had gone too far recently. We lost power across the whole site when a breeding pair of electricians chewed through the power station wiring and crashed the generators. I’m standing in a dark office, calmly shutting down servers before the battery backup runs out when there’s a timid tap at the window. I point my torch that way, illuminating a worried-looking co-worker.
“Got a minute?” she says nervously. Not a good start.
“Bit busy,” I say, trying to decide if I love my file or print server most. “What’s up?”
“Oh sorry,” says she. “When you’re done, can you come see my computer? My email’s not working.”

"Hm. Looks like a virus."

Time seemed to stop. I used the pause to confirm that I was not wearing anything that might interfere with my hearing (nope), that she was not kidding (nuh uh), and that we had not somehow been transported to Opposite World, where blackouts made computers go faster. That part of my mind not shrieking in horror managed to reply that yes, I’d help her out, before mister brain packed its bags and refused to cooperate until I got a job with smarter clientele. I dunno, feeding the molluscs at an aquarium or something.
"Got a minute?"

The power came back on. I ‘fixed’ her email. Then I booked me an appointment to see a doctor the next day.

“So,” said the doctor. “What can I do for you?”
“Well,” I said. “I work in IT, and I’m running out of places to hide the bodies. Do you have any pills that make other people sound smarter?”
“I see,” he replied. “And when did you first notice your hearing deteriorating?”

I guess medicine makes people deaf too.