The Help Desk

Once upon a time, I was a system administrator.

I had taken a job as the ``Data Processing Supervisor'' for a division office of a financial services company. Despite my excessively lame title, I actually got to perpetrate some fun hacks while there.

The division office where I worked was a small one, a satellite office of the company's primary place of presence in southern California. I was the only technical person in the office, so any time I needed to know something technical about our environment, local system software, etc., needed to be directed to someone from the central processing center.

This, naturally, was The Help DeskTM.

About 7:30 a.m. on the second Monday of my employment there, I arrived to find our AIX system's Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) claiming to be running low on backup power. Long before I arrived, someone decided that the correct behavior in this case would be to blast a message across the screen of every terminal in the office.

The documentation on how all of this worked was nonexistent, but there's no reason to worry, because I can always call the help desk. Even though it was only 4:30 a.m. in California.

So I dial the ``1-800'' toll-free number for the help desk.

Ring.
Ring.
Ring.
Ring.
Ring.

Guy on the phone:
Hello? Oh... uh, ...help desk.
Me:
Hi, this is Matt, the Ohio Division Unix sysadmin. The UPS here is writing a bogus low-battery message on every terminal in the office. I need to talk to someone who tell me how this works so I can stop this.
Guy:
A problem with your UPS?
Me:
You might say that.
Guy:
Hang on.

Ring.
Ring.
Ring.

Guy2, garbled beyond belief:
RAZZABLAHBLAHGARBLE!
Me:
Uh...
Guy2:
RAHBLAHBLAHFOOBAR!
Me:
Hi, this is Matt, the Ohio Division Unix sysadmin. The UPS is walling every terminal in the office. I need someone to tell me how this infernal thing works so I can fix the problem.
Guy2:
BLAHBLAH UPS WON'T WORK?
Me:
Right. Got any ideas?
Guy2:
I DON'T KNOW. WE USE FEDEX HERE.

I remember pulling the receiver to about a foot away from my head and staring at it.

Blink.
Blink.

Me:
FedEx? I'm talking about a power supply for the computer!
Guy2:
I DON'T KNOW ABOUT THAT. THIS IS THE DOCK.
Me:
The dock?! I called the help desk!
Guy2:
Do you want me to connect you back to the help desk?
Me:
Um... [long pause] Thank you, no.

Another satisfied customer.


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Matt Curtin
Last modified: Sun Sep 6 01:08:30 EDT 1998