The following is a fictitious tale of techies in a basement building and repairing computers. They wish they could do just that, but instead they spend most of their day doing tech support on the phone and through the web for the customers of the store they work for called Computer World. Most of us know that IT is not like BOFH as much as we wish it were. These guys are like most of us who can’t avoid dealing with… PEOPLE! (duh-nuh-naaaah!) Between the sales people on the floor upstairs, who the IT people are convinced are out to get them, and the customers, equally out to get them, it’s a wonder anything ever gets fixed. Maybe you’re on an IT team yourself, work in customer service, have a job where you seem to be doing anything but what you took it for in the first place, or maybe you’re exactly the sort of customer to call up…
In a Galaxy Not So Far Away
“Stupid, broken piece of crap Vista! I mean, it works great on my home machine,” Ben said to everyone, but most of all the tower he was working on, “I have no idea what the hell keeps making this machine turn off.”
“Yeah. It’s still not working. Whatever,” Tom decompressed the mute button and continued in frustrated, yet controlled tones, trying to guide another caller through the ins and outs of their own Mac.
“Dude, it’s not even rebooted yet. I didn’t say try it again yet,” Ben plugged it back in and hit the switch, “I’ll get it up. I said I’d get it up and I will.”
“That’s what he said,” Sarah casually threw out as she walked in, plopped down her coat, and flicked on her PC.
“Did he now?” asked Neil from over the cube wall.
“Probably still trying,” answered Sarah logging into the domain, “I didn’t wait to find out.”
“Wha- oh,” Neil finished his own though internally.
“I’ll take a look at it after I get off the phone,” Tom had the mute button compressed and Remote Desktop up on his screen waiting to try to connect to the Vista computer Ben was working on. Tom was working on that computer earlier that morning, but had been on the phone since, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Look, I’ll let you know when it’s up,” Ben growled.
“That’s what she said,” Craig added from the corner where their server rack was.
“Told you,” Sarah told Neil.
“Haaa. Word.” Tom had his hand over mute again.
“Okay. I think it’s fixed,” Ben insisted.
“For now,” answered Tom.
“I believe you,” said Sarah unconvincingly over Ben’s shoulder.
Ben’s phone rang, “That’s me. I wonder if I can get this call to last my entire shift… um, not that I’m trying to. Man, did I say that out loud?”
“Like Sarah, I believe you,” Tom now had a game of Tetris and a blog up on his screen, decompressed mute and continued talking on the phone.
“This lady has gone from knowing nothing about this to being a master. Boo-yeah,” Ben decompressed his mute button, “It only has taken like twelve calls to us. Problem is now she thinks I’m her friend or priest or something… go away. Leave me alone.”
“Nice work,” congratulated Tom, “Teaching n00bs to fish. Now if only you could get the custie’s Vista box up and running. I still can’t log in.”
“Yeah, it looks like it turned itself off again,” confirmed Ben.
The phones continued to ring, and everyone settled into their bluetooth headsets, mostly at some computer or another. A line of yet to be repaired computers snaked around the door, everyone with at least one ‘project’ laid out a neglected due to the afternoon rush of callers.
“I’ve got two questions,” called out Tom.
“And since we’re playing fun time with numbers, I just hit sixty minutes on this call,” called back Ben.
“How the heck do people end up using computers and yet not using them at the same time? Seriously, for all this person can do, he’s using it as an expensive paper weight!” Tom decompressed mute and went back to sweet-as-pie tone on the phone.
“Considering you talk mostly to Mac users, who think of their computers as status symbols or toy poodles, you shouldn’t be so surprised,” Sarah was fast to criticize the Mac versus PC commercials for stereotyping, but surely had stereotypes of her own when it came to that debate.
“I’ll be back on the phones in a moment, I’m trying to see how back logged we are,” Craig typed at a computer in the hall, “And maybe even see if I can make a schedule that will get some of this crap our of the dungeon and back on the floor.”
“And there are now four people in line and yes, I am still on the same call,” Ben updated everyone, “Just in case anyone cares.”
“Only up to nine minutes,” Craig checked, “They can wait on hold if we can wait on the phone with them.”
“No kidding,” agreed Ben, “but I really gotta brb something awful.”
Ben posted on their internal blog:
“People need to hold on holding on,” Sarah complained, “Why do they all call at the same time?”
“Keep your pants on,” sighed Craig, “I’m logging back in.”
“No need to worry, pants were in no danger of assuming an off position,” Sarah replied.
“Thanks, and that’s what she said,” called over Ben, “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dude stop saying uh.”
“Braaaaaiiiins,” Sarah agreed. She loaded up a game of Brain Chef to play in the background.
“My personal line is ringing,” Ben sighed, “How do people get our numbers? It’s.. so annoying. And silly. Like we’re on the phone, so we’ll answer the other phone?”
“Amen, brother,” Neil agreed, “Preaching to the choir.”
“And what the hell is wrong with our sales people on the floor,” Ben continued the gripe, “What is so hard about following directions? I typed it in an email!”
“What? You mean you didn’t go up there and do it for them?” Tisked Al who was just coming down from the floor.
“Like anyone besides you ever steps foot outside of the dungeon?” Sarah asked pointedly.
“No way I’m going up there,” Neil said in seriousness, “They’ll nab us and make us talk to their customers face to face, and then complain we say the truth and lose their sale.”
They worked in the bottom floor, the basement, of a repair, reseller, and supporter of all computers called Computer World. The sales people didn’t often trudge down, and the support people didn’t often trudge upward. There was some kind of alliance between the two that would break down swiftly if lines were crossed.
“To get our numbers, all they need is to spell our names,” Tom added to Ben’s gripe.
“Beautiful, they’re not smart enough to RTFM, but they can look up our numbers?” Sarah pointed out, “From now on, my name is Neil.”
“As flattered as I am, no. At least your last name isn’t as easy as mine,” Neil answered.
“I want to be removed from that list,” Ben was still holding his need to go to the bathroom, “If people can have their house numbers unlisted, I want my work number unlisted.”
“Alleluia!” shouted Neil.
“I know that is not gonna happen,” conceded Ben, “Sales is getting sick satisfaction from picturing each of us on two calls at once. And wow, I’ve already talked with this guy. I know what his deal is, but this is gonna go like an hour more. Ah. Well. I will put you on hold and brb… while I check on some documentation in the loo.”
Craig laughed, “This guy is watching our instructional video’s while calling IT. Beautiful,” Sarah, with the help of Tom, maintained the company website which is laden with all the tools to help the customers not call in, but they still did.
“So why does he need us?” asked Sarah, always defensive of her brain-child.
“…he’s watching videos on what he’s not using,” Craig continued laughing.
“A for effort?” Tom suggested, happy someone was at least trying to find an answer on their own.
“Haaa.. No,” Neil shot down.
“Is anyone else coming in today?” Craig was eying the line of computers sighing. It never ended and no one knew why Craig seemed to think with a little more effort it would.
“Yeah, everyone else is on the late shift,” Ben announced with disdainful emphasis on the words ‘late shift’. It used to be the most coveted of positions because it meant you came in late, did a few hours on the phones, and then worked on computers and web requests the rest of the night. Then, sales and marketing got it in their heads that since we were there late and being paid to be there late, presumably doing nothing, we could also be taking calls. The big bosses got wind of this, and next thing, they were always back logged and on the phone until past dinner.
When the representatives of the basement complained, it was explained that it was too late to go back. Customers loved having the option and there would be backlash to take it away now. The bosses also would hear nothing of needing to hire additional qualified technicians, suggesting that a couple of guys from sales were ‘pretty good with computers’ and suggesting maybe they could help out downstairs.
“Over my fried motherboard,” said Craig ominously. Everyone on the IT team agreed and dropped the matter for the time being, except Craig who fought a good fight with control and passion. The bosses actually seemed to like him, but it didn’t mean that he liked them or was able to make them see reason.
So the work load remained unreasonable, but the team always found a way to vent, take pride, and survive and even succeed.
Always on the brink of disaster they toiled, “Okay, try the Vista box now,” Ben insisted hitting the power switch.
“Is someone making toast?” Tom sniffed the air and sounded unconvinced that there was food involved.
“Yeah, this box,” Ben sighed, “It’s now toast. Sparks, smoke, and we’re giving them a new PC.”
Craig walked over and pretended to say a little prayer over the PC before taking it and placing it in a very different line of computers that snaked around and out of sight. Unlike the first line, these computers were mostly partially apart and some covered in dust. He slapped a post-it note on there saying: ‘data recovery and scrap’.
“And another one bites the dust,” Tom commented with the customer on mute before resuming his call.