Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hello HAL. Do You Read Me, HAL?

Last week, I experienced what can only be described as The Perfect Storm (minus the water and George Clooney).  It happened when, after being away from my desk, I returned to discover that Windows had decided to call it a day.  I noticed that there was a message on the screen, but I gave it no thought as I shut down my computer.  I'm clearly no computer genius, but I know enough to reboot, reboot, reboot.  When in doubt, REBOOT.

Well, rebooting didn't work.  Instead, things got worse.  So I broke down and called I.T.  Now calling IT is usually a lesson in humility for me, because, more often than not, they need to pull out their plain folk manual to walk me though something as basic as looking up my IP address.  And since I had completely disregarded the warning message that was displayed on my monitor when I so cavalierly shut down, I knew I was about to be schooled.  It's common knowledge that IT helpdesks everywhere think us users are idiots...by the time I'm done with them, I've firmly cemented that belief.  This call was certainly going to be no different, but I had to get back onto the network stat, so I forged ahead and dialed that 888 number.

As usual, the guy was very nice and professional as he grilled me with questions.  Questions that, of course, I didn't know the answer to.  Stuff like, "and what did the message on your screen say?", "when did it happen?", and "do you know if anyone else is having the same trouble?"  Why couldn't he just ask me for my IP address and take control of my computer to see what was wrong?  I wanted to suggest he do just that, but I was afraid that doing so might open doors to other questions I wasn't prepared to answer.  So I waited patiently, hoping he'd stop asking and start doing.  I guess I answered enough questions correctly, because he soon wrapped up our phone call with, "I am going to escalate this ticket to an onsite technician.  Can I please have a phone number where you can reached?"

And with just those words, I felt like I had achieved SOMETHING.  As if it proved that it wasn't just "error above the keyboard."  I had been escalated.  Knowing an onsite technician was coming to the rescue incites those same feelings that being in a hospital brings.  You may die, but you've got a better chance of surviving here than anywhere else.  The best kind of help was on the way.

So I waited until that special phone call.  "Hello, this is Steven with technical services, I've received your ticket...." spoken in that emotionless, monotone voice that we all know.  That noncommittal, completely uninterested voice is exactly the one you want to hear at times like these.  It's the voice that tells me, "I'm here to clean up your mess, you idiot.  And I welcomed that voice.  Steven made his way over to my area, and I met him half way, determined to keep him from getting sidetracked by any other idiots who might waylay him.

Steven turned out to be perfectly delightful.  He was friendly, helpful, and most importantly, he was a problem solver.  Which leads me to my perfect storm.  After all was said and done, I am happy to report that I played only a supporting part in the mess that became of my computer.  Here's what happened:

Someone in the computer room accidentally turned off my port, causing me to lose connectivity to the network.  By the time I arrived at my desk to see that things had gone awry, a software push had been kicked off, causing my computer to slow down.  Those two things together, made me think I needed to shut down, but the problem is, you can't just shut down during a software push.  And that's when things got really messed up.  Coincidentally, my password chose just that moment to expire.  Not the beginning of the day, when I logged in, but that precise moment, when my port was switched off, the push was in progress, and I shut down.  Yes, that's right.  THREE things went wrong at exactly the right moment.

A couple of hours later, and I was back in business, with a new friend to say hi to in the hallway.  Ah Steven, my I.T. buddy, I'll never forget what you've done for me.  Or where you sit.  For the next time.

I still get a strange error message pop up every once in a while, but Steven has a plan to fix that one day.  Until then, whenever I get that message, I just reboot.

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