He was a data specialist running an Excel training class at a large US newspaper. The trainee was a reporter who put a hand up with a question. This was the exchange, as told to Quartz by the trainer:
Trainer: Open your browser.
Trainee: What’s that?
Trainer: You know, the internet.
Trainee: ::confused look::
Trainer: Internet Explorer? The blue “e” icon?
Trainee: Sorry I don’t understand.
Me: Here, let me just….
It’s a day’s work for IT workers, those beleaguered unsung heroes called in to mediate the contentious relationship between humans and workplace technology. Technical skills are just one part of a job demanding diplomacy, tact, and an inexhaustible supply of ways to ask grown adults to reboot or plug in their computers.
“In the trade, frequently used terms such as RTFM [Read the F—king Manual] and EBCAK [Error Between Chair and Keyboard] acronyms are woven into IT helpdesk lingo,” a project manager at a major UK-based financial services firm explained to Quartz.
He quoted one representative help desk ticket: “Their screen shows an ‘input required’ picture floating around the screen. The keyboard doesn’t work; neither does the mouse. Please help.” Resolution: Turn the computer on.
“My other favorite is called an ‘id10t’ problem,” he added. “Basically all where the user is a complete buffoon.”
A Reddit thread on this issue unearthed some other gems of incompetence. One IT worker landed in hot water after deleting the contents of an employee’s desktop recycle bin during after-hours maintenance. Apparently, the employee (a high-ranking manager) had been using the recycle bin specifically to store her most important documents.
It was no longer a recycle bin (according to her) as she had downloaded a theme that changed the icon to a fat cat (skinny cat when empty).
Other memorable reasons tech professionals have been called to their colleagues’ desks (some posts have been lightly edited for clarity):
“With this monitor I don’t have the wallpaper of my dog”
This woman (a professor) called my college helpdesk and told me her dead brother-in-law was controlling her PC. Turns out her batteries were going in her wireless mouse and the cursor was just moving around kinda funny.
Colleague: I’ve just had it with this computer! I can’t even find the Internet.
Me: You’re using it right now to see your Gmail.
Colleague: No no, this is my Google. I need the Internet.
“Stop changing the Google logo”
For many IT workers, the most vexing parts of the job are not tech problems themselves, but users’ resistance to fixing them.
Other common complaints:
“The problem exists because you found it,” or the Schrödinger’s cat approach to tech support:
“Your hard drive is completely corrupt. If you listen you can actually hear it grinding on the inside there? There’s nothing I can reasonably do to fix that.”
“But I need my files.”
“I’m sorry. The drive is physically broken. I can’t recover anything from it.”
“I thought you were good with computers?!”
The helplessness defense:
I don’t get mad at people not knowing things anymore. That’s fine. Really, the things that miff me these days are:
“It’s not my job to learn how to do that”
“Oh I’m computer illiterate!”
“Computers hate me”
And of course, the infinite loop of blame.
Everything works: Why do we even pay you IT guys?
One thing is broken: Why do we even pay you IT guys?