Phone-Induced Amnesia

CaffeineHead here, old soldier from back in the days of the site, back then a wide-eyed young pup, now a cynical old fart. In the ensuing years since the site, I’ve lost one wife, gained another, went from having two cute little kids to being Dad to two young adults and one sweet little toddler through whom I cling to the notion that there is still some good in the world.

I also don’t deal with the general public anymore, but work an internal IT position where I speak solely to company employees, which makes the following situation even more head-shake worthy.

Presumably, these people use their computers every day. They log into their accounts, launch their apps, check their email, yada yada yada. They know instinctively how to do everything they need to do on their systems to the point where they could do it in their sleep.

Until, that is, something breaks, and they have to call IT. Then, suddenly, they forget how to do anything without explicit instructions. I mean, even on stuff they do every day.

Me: Okay, I’ve killed your citrix session and it looks like the new one launched successfully. Here, I’ll open your [Citrix App] for you. Can you put your password in please?

Starfish: What’s my password?

Me: Whatever one you use to login to [Citrix App].

Starfish: I…I don’t think I know what it is…

Me: What do you put in there when you first launch the app every day?

Starfish: …I…um…can’t you put it in?

Me: We don’t store your passwords as doing so would be a breach of security.

Starfish: Well, I really can’t remember. Can you login for me?

And the song and dance starts again with any other thing I have them check. And $deity forbid I need them to reboot, especially if I plan on getting reconnected to their screen.

Sophia, Just Be Glad I Didn’t Puke On You (long)

Every morning, I have the same argument with myself: am I going to get out of bed and do the responsible thing, go to work, and earn my paycheck, or will I do what I WANT to do and call in sick so I can get some more sleep?  And every morning, there is a period of about three seconds where the latter has a very strong chance of winning out.  And yet, somehow, nearly every morning the responsible side wins out, and by the time I get out of bed and start putting in my contacts, I resolve myself into saying “Okay, we’re going to do this one more day.”

You’d think that would be a good thing.  Sometimes, however, the “Fuck ’em All” half needs to be respected, for tragedy can strike when he is not.  This is one of those times when I should have listened to “Mr. Fuck ’em All”.

I roll into the office at 8 AM sharp, with nothing particularly unusual to note that morning.  As I’d planned the previous day, I was going to do a job in the next city over (2 hour drive) and so I load my tools into the company car and head off.  With 2 hours in the saddle each way, and needing to have the car back at 5PM sharp, I’m looking at five productive hours once I arrive, so every minute is going to be precious if I’m going to get this done.  This is a run I make all the time, with the same schedule, and I have it down to a science… my next step is to grab a McDonald’s drive-thru breakfast, which will give me enough protein and calories to get through the day (working through lunch) so that I don’t get hungry.

I pass the midway point on the turnpike and suddenly start feeling a bit chilled.  Then sweaty.  Then achy.  And suddenly, I really want my bed.  At best, I think, maybe my allergies are messing with me, but I strongly suspect I have a flu setting in.  This is when I really, really wish I’d just called in and stayed home, but who was to know this would end up being the day I actually needed to take it easy?  I could have turned around and headed home there, but at this point, I was already much closer to the destination than I was to my house, and as the minutes went on, I wanted to stop, get out of the car, and rest… and if work was the closer destination, that’s where I was going to go.

I get to the jobsite, lean my seat back, stretch, take some deep breaths, and close my eyes.  I feel a second wave of energy hit me.  I can do this.  I have five hours here, if I cut my workload down to the barest essentials, I can knock it out in three and head home.  The only thing I absolutely, positively, had to do that day to appease the PHBs was to run an ethernet line from the router to the kitchen.  The two are about fifty feet from each other.  I can do this, I think to myself.

Now, the absolute distance between the two might have only been fifty feet, but within that fifty feet, there were three walls.  Two of which were plaster, one was concrete.  My plan was to go over the first two and around the third.  Still shouldn’t be a big deal.  And I can do it in three hours as long as that’s literally all I have to do today.  I get out my wire-fishing equipment and start feeding the line up into the ceiling.

Let it be known that I truly despise white acoustic ceiling tile.  I’ve come to hate how it never sits right and turns to dust whenever you press it too hard.  Dust that gets in your hair, your eyes, your ears, and your lungs.  I hate this shit when I DON’T have the flu, that day I hated it more.  And oh yes, by now it was most definitely no allergy attack, I for sure had the flu, and I was two hours from home with a car full of company equipment and a project that the PHBs wanted done three weeks ago.  I continue to ceiling-fish the cable across the ceiling, through dust, pipes, insulation, and generally shoddy craftsmanship.  The offices I was working in were unoccupied, so I just trucked through and smashed tiles as needed.

We finally get to the kitchen, home of the aforementioned concrete wall.  Now things get challenging.  Thanks to the rows of industrial refrigerators and stoves, I can neither climb the ladder to where I need to be, nor can I reach the cable without being an acrobat.  Even in my best condition, I would have been risking breaking my neck.  And by now, every time I climb that ladder, I’m aching.  My solution was to climb on top of the refrigerators (which I’m sure would have pissed off some inspector), lay on my back like I was painting the Sistine chapel, and coax the wire along that way.  Which I did, though it seems no one has dusted up there in years, and the dust, mixed with chunks of tile and fiberglass, are starting to stick to the sweat pouring out of me.

But I do it.  I get the wire run to the PC, terminate the cable, plug it in, and I get an IP address.  I’m done.  That’s literally all I came to do, it took forever and my body is screaming at me, but I did it.  I collapse in the chair, take some deep breaths and try to recompose myself before I can grab my tools and head home.

Just then, one of the serfs rushes in and looks at me sternly.  “Sophia wants to see you.”  I’m informed, as if I’d just been summoned to testify before Congress.  The serf rushes off, panicked.

Now, at this point, it’s worth asking exactly who Sophia was.  Sophia was not a PHB.  She was not, actually, a person of any particular significance on the company org chart.  She had a low-level office job and was, quite honestly, one of my problem children.  When I was told that she wanted to see me, I’d assumed she had caught another virus from listening to sketchy internet radio, or loaded another junkware program that was slowing everything down.  I was most certainly NOT going to do any work on her PC today.  The most she could hope for, if it was super urgent, was for me to put her first on my list when I came back next week.  And that was only if it didn’t immediately appear the issue was her fault, which it almost assuredly was.

I start to gather up my tools and pack my bag.  I put the ladder away.  Someone stops me in the hall.  “DID YOU TALK TO SOPHIA?  SHE’S LOOKING FOR YOU!”  I tell them I’ll see her on my way out.  I truly have no idea why everyone is acting like the world will end if I don’t check out this broad’s spyware-ju-jour.

With my bag in hand, I stick my head into Sophia’s office, one of the rooms I’d run the cable through earlier.  She’s standing right were I was working, tapping her foot.  Without so much as a “Hello”, she taps her foot and says “Look at this floor!”.

Are. You. Fucking. KIDDING. ME???  That’s why you called me in here?  THAT’S what has you on some kind of power trip?  Yes, my work had put a fair amount of dust and debris on the floor but the building has a full-time janitorial staff, who clean up far worse messes than that on an hourly basis.

I don’t respond, mostly because by now, I’m stuggling to not pass out, much less make the next words out of my mouth professional.  “LOOK AT THIS FLOOR!” She repeats.  And at this point, I get truly disgusted.  Now, had she asked me nicely if I would clean it up, I would have, even if I felt like death, because courtesy goes a long way with me.  But to yell at me like I’m a toddler, when she has no actual authority over ANYONE, much less me, pisses me the fuck off.  I promptly decide that it’s time I brought out “Fuck ’em All” guy, and told him this bitch was target #1.  But the trick is, due to office politics, I have to do it in such a way that doesn’t allow her to re-tell the story in a light that paints her as the victim.  Because, let’s just say, she’s nothing if not an professional victim.

“See this mess?”

“Yeah, can you believe it?  Boy, I’ll tell you, I absolutely hate these ceiling tiles.”

“There’s dust all over!”

“I know, right?  Let me tell you, this dust is the bane of my existence!  I can’t tell you how many days I go home and have dust caked into my hair and clothing.  Some days I literally walk from the front door into the shower.”

“It’s everywhere!” She’s starting to deflate, frustrated at my refusal to clean up the mess, nor to escalate the argument so she can call for backup.

“You’re telling me!  Why, if I had my way, there’d be a special place in You-Know-Where for whoever invented that stuff.”  I’m making it clear I’m not budging an inch to clean it up.  I’m not even giving her the satisfaction of dropping so much as an H-Bomb to levvy in a complaint about me, either.  My words are friendly and cheerful, my tone is communicating a clear Fuck You.

It dawns on Sophia that the “pissed off lady” routine isn’t phasing me, and that I had bigger problems than a few handfuls of dust on her carpet.  “So… I should probably get Ross in here to vacuum it up?”

“That would be a really good idea.”  I say, ducking out the door.  You know, since Ross makes twice my salary pushing a goddamn vacuum, I don’t mind leaving him to do his work.

And from that day forward, “Fuck em All” guy was given his due respect, because he could have kept me out of that scenario.  I listened to him for the next two days and through the weekend.

New Year, New Crap

I think I picked a perfect time to go independent and incorporate my own business…

The last couple months at work have been…. interesting…. to say the least. First off, I was volunteered to head up a project integrating all the disparate SharePoint sites my team and our counterparts have been using for the last 5+ years now because someone higher up the food chain decided it would be a good idea to combine all the regional teams into one large enterprise-wide team. There are several problems. First of all, all the teams evolved in radically different directions since their inception, and as such, a lot of the information we have conflict with each other, to say nothing about the fact that we’re spread out across, and have to provide coverage for, six time zones. Oh yes, and it gets better, we’re now required to provide support for agencies that we’ve never dealt with before and have only come in to the fold of support kicking and screaming for the simple fact that they had their own gig, and it worked rather well for them.

Since I’m doing the SharePoint side of things, I tried my best to get a single person from each team within the Matrix to come on board and help since it’d be better to have someone actually within that team already instead of having to use a bloodhound and Ouija Board to hazard a guess at what they were doing, especially since all the SharePoints were locked down tighter than a nun’s habit. This process alone was like herding cats, so instead of just waiting, I decided to seek forgiveness instead of permission and begian working on the site with or without the input of the other teams. It seemed to do the trick, surprisingly enough, and as of about a month ago, I had people come in from the other groups to help. Not that it was necessarily a good thing.

It was more a case of “Hey you, go do this” without any regard to whether they had any actual experience in making even the most basic web pages, let alone a cohesive SharePoint site to be used nationally. I had to do quite a bit of hand holding with some people, since of all the folks that were now on the team, only one other person had any SharePoint experience to speak of. And not helping matters was that a $divisionChief who had a “I need this done yesterday” type attitude, inserted himself into the team as well and had his own ideas on what he wanted to have accomplished.

Thankfully, about 90% of the stuff I had already done, he ended up liking, and he decided to use what I had done as the template for the other teams to do their thing as well. The only problem is, he had his own schedule in mind, and no clue as to how long things would take, the permissions involved, etc. Something even as simple as updating an Excel spreadsheet involved me getting with the SharePoint admins because for some ungodly reason, they never added the website itself to the “Trusted View” section. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

CAB Horrors

Those of you in smaller companies, or perhaps in less technical fields, might not have to deal with the CAB horrors on a regular basis.  CAB is management for “Change Approval Board”, which is the team of gatekeepers who need to be informed of significant work on an IT system.  I don’t give them a funny name because, generally, they are people who know what they’re doing.

It’s the “everyone else” that become the issue when a change gets approved.  Literally every change I make follows the same pattern.  I recognize that some network maintenance needs to be done.  I submit my request to the CAB, they approve it.  Usually a week later than I’d have liked, but whatever.  The next step is to take it to the heads of the departments affected by the network that will be down.  The CAB has given their approval of the work on a technical level, now the egos have to give their OK that the work will not interfere with any business.  Anticipating this, I schedule all the work to begin an hour after closing.

True to form, the non-technical department heads don’t give a shit what I do after they leave, and they all sign off on it.  So I’m really set.  At this point, I have all my required OKs, all I have to do is keep everyone informed.  Five days before the work is scheduled, I e-mail everyone affected to let them know about the outage, and to contact me if it poses an issue.  Two days before the work is scheduled, I again e-mail everyone and pretty much tell them the work is GOING to happen, so please plan accordingly.

And it never fails, the day before, someone comes up and says “Neep neep neep, I’m expecting some time-sensitive data to come in right then, could you put it off another hour?”  And I say fine, pat the user on the head, and thank them for at least telling me this BEFORE I took everything down.

Then the day comes.  Everyone leaves.  I putter around for an hour, waiting for the approved time to shut down the works.  And, OF FUCKING COURSE, right before I’m about to do it, someone rushes in and says “Hey, I’m working late, and I really need to get this done.  Can you hold off a little bit longer?”

So, let me get this straight, Sparky.  Everyone in IT has approved this work, as has your direct supervisor and all of THEIR direct supervisors.  But you want to hold up two, five, maybe even ten hours of work so you can be a little work-a-fucking-holic and look super special in the morning for burning the midnight oil.  Meanwhile, you’re wasting the time of MY entire department and the entire networking team who keeps checking in on us.

Sadly, the person holding up the work will always be one of the Golden Children who can do no wrong, so I roll my eyes and sit around and wait for them to finish.  I know in advance it’s a fight I’d lose.

Terror Calls, Chapter 3

You get used to a lot of moods when you talk to customers on the phone… anger, frustration, resentment… but it’s not often you get to talk to someone who’s just oozing pure dread.  This woman, from the start of the call, sounded as if a root canal would have easily been the better choice for her.  I wasn’t sure why, this was a fairly straightforward problem, seemed to be some kind of a signal issue.  I can even tell by the notes that she’d called in before and already did the troubleshooting, so I’m more than willing to bypass a lot of the basic steps and escalate her issue.  I’m thinking that by cutting to the chase and getting her a repair faster, I’d put her at ease.  Poor, stupid me.

“Okay, Ma’am.  I’d like to get someone out there as soon as possible for you.”

*sigh*  “Yeah, that’s what I thought.  Just give me the next available appointment.”

“Tomorrow between noon and two?”

“Sure.  Can you please specify that I get someone OTHER than the last tech who came?”

Aha!  So that’s the problem!  The last tech visit didn’t go well.  This isn’t a common request, but in these situations, the protocol is to list that in the notes and dispatch will take it into account when they schedule the day’s tech visits.  Now, allegedly, dispatch was pretty good about honoring special requests like that, but it was never supposed to be a promise or guarantee.  Given the extreme hesitation in the woman’s voice, I feel inclined to tell her this.

“Okay, I can put down a request for another tech.  Now, I don’t personally schedule them, but in most cases, it’s not a problem to get a different tech.”

“No, I NEED to have someone else!  The last guy made me feel very uncomfortable.  And I don’t want it to get back to the last guy that I’m asking for this!”

…. Yeah, okay, THAT’S going to be a problem.  I can request a new tech with a 99% success rate, but I don’t have anything at my disposal that would keep the old tech from knowing the request was made.  I can get her a new tech, or I can be discreet.  I can’t do both.

“Well, Ma’am, I’m happy to do whatever I can, but if I’m going to pull the tech off his route, I will have to talk to his supervisor.  There’s really no way around that.”

“The last time he was here, that guy made several comments about me, and how attractive he thought I was.  He kept saying he wished he had his digital camera so he could take some photos of me.  I don’t want to get him in trouble, but I don’t ever want him in my house again!”  Ummmm… why the hell wouldn’t you want this guy in trouble?  I’d want his termination papers framed on my wall.

“That’s very alarming.  I understand why you don’t want him back… and I’d be happy to accommodate you, but there’s no way I can do that without someone else knowing that the request is being made.”

“He upset my four-year-old by saying he wanted to take their mommy away.  Do you know what that sounds like to a small child?!!?!”  Um… yes, I do.  And again, why is it you don’t want this guy canned?  I wasn’t even there, and I want him canned!

…”Please hold while I speak to my supervisor.”  And my lead.  And dispatch.  And legal.  And the motherfuckin’ Justice League.

“Thank you.  Because I like having your service, but if you can’t absolutely, positively promise he won’t be the one who returns, I’m going to have to cancel.”

My supervisor eventually came to the solution of calling dispatch directly, and noting the account on the ISP end, rather than on the work order.  This wasn’t SOP at all, but it seemed to resolve everyone’s concerns.

Ugh… some people are too damn nice.