Friday, March 6, 2015

How Can I Help?

Almost everyone has had a memorable/horrible experience dealing with technical support on the phone. But you might be surprised at how awful some of those technical calls go on behind the scenes for the technical people.

For example, let's pretend I work for a large company that runs the gas pumps at 70,000 gas stations across the U.S.A., Canada and Australia. One day, you swipe your credit card at the pump and start pumping gas. Suddenly, the pump just stops after about a gallon. You look at the station attendant who just shrugs his shoulders. You can't decide if you should just wait or leave and hope the next customer doesn't get to use the credit card you swiped.

Meanwhile, far, far away, my phone rings:

Operations: Hey Dexter, we got a problem. Your gas program is sending alerts that it can't connect to the gas station server. Can you look at it?

Dexter: Sure. (after a few minutes of looking on the computer) Well, looks like we got a networking issue. The program keeps trying to connect but gets refused. Can we get someone from networking on the call?

(Suddenly we hear haunting religious music and a Gregorian chant on the phone)

Network Manager: Yeah, what can I do for you?

Dexter: What's that music?

Network Manager: Sorry, that's my theme music. I'll turn it down.

Dexter: Yeah, well we can't connect to the gas station server. Can you take a look at the network?

Network Manager: Hold on. (a few minutes later) Looks good here. I don't see any errors in the log files.

Dexter: Still can't connect. Can you get a sniffer on there to see what's happening?

Network Manager: Hooh boy. That would take some work. I can't do it without a work order. And since there's no errors in the log file, I don't feel much like putting out a work order.

Dexter: Fine, I'll do a work order.

Network Manager: Well you can, but I won't respond until next week since there's no errors.

CEO (joining the call): Hello. What the hell is going on? Who's got this? Who's got this? Who's on this?

Dexter: We're all working on it sir. Seems like a networking issue.

Network Manager: Woah, woah, woah. That's downright sacrilegious! Or slanderous or libelous or at least really mean. (in the background, "There, there. He didn't really mean it." and the sound of purring) There's no errors in our log files!

Dexter: Well we got a network error in our log files.

Network Manager: Sounds like your program is broken.

CEO: Okay, can everyone hold on for a minute. My boat is about to go under a bridge, and I'm going to lose reception.

(While CEO is gone)

Operations: Should we hang up and say it's good?

Dexter: Well it's not. Aren't you getting a lot of customer calls about this?

Operations: Yeah so I just put on a recorded message that says we're all out on a team building exercise.

Dexter: You can't do that. Just leave a message that we're having trouble and we'll get it fixed as soon as possible.

Operations: That would just make people madder, and they'd keep calling back.

CEO: Alright, I'm back. Let's get the database folks in on this.

Operations: Roger.

Dexter: We don't need them. This has nothing to do with the database. They can't help. It's a network issue. Look I can't even connect to the server from my laptop. Can we at least run a trace to figure out where it's dying.

Network Intern: Sure, I can do that.

Network Manager: What? Who said that? Asok is that you? Get down on your knees and bow down to the mighty T1 line. Then say ten Hail Mary's, and we'll pretend this never happened.

Network Intern: Sorry.

Network Manager: Yeah, we could run a trace. And you know what it would say? It would say your program sucks!

Database Administrator: Hello? I'm here. Do you want me to restart the database?

CEO: Yeah, let's do that.

Dexter: That's not going to do anything! It's going to drag out the process.

Operations: Well at least she's trying something.

Network Manager: Yeah, Dexter.

Dexter: Fine. Operations, restart my program and see if that changes anything.

CEO: Alright, sounds like we're making progress. In the meantime, let's get the hardware vendor on the call.

Database Administrator: Okay, I bounced the database. It will be back up in an hour.

Operations: Program restarted. Still can't connect. Must be broken.

Hardware Vendor: Hi, how can I help you?

CEO: Yeah, we're having some problems with our system and thought maybe you could help.

Hardware Vendor: Oooh, looks like we never got your last payment for support.

CEO: Is that important?

Hardware Vendor: Critical. When you pay for support, I'm like your co-pilot, mechanic, architect, and gardener all rolled into one. I'm with you every step of the way to solve your problems.

CEO: Alright, we'll send a check next week.

Hardware Vendor: Great. I'll go ahead and give you a freebie. How can I help?

Network Manager: Well knucklehead's program stopped connecting to the network.

Hardware Vendor: Oh, your software?

Dexter: Yeah, but that's not...

Hardware Vendor: See, we guarantee our hardware as long as you don't do anything to it. You know how when you drive a new car off the lot and it depreciates by 50% when you cross the curb? Hardware is the same way. As soon as you put your crappy programs on it, I can no longer be responsible for it. Look if you hadn't done that, I'd put a new server in my car and drive out there right now to replace it. But you poisoned my baby, so I can't help you. But hey, look forward to your check next week. Bye!

CEO: So where are we on this? Wind is picking up, and I gotta drop the jib.

Dexter: Network is still down.

Network Manager: I've about had enough of you! I can't remember the last time I've seen an error in my log files. You know I got a sign on my door that says, "No Network Errors in 747,520 days!"

Dexter: What? That's gotta be like 1000 years!

Network Manager: Over 2000 actually. You know where the network comes from don't you? It was a gift from Jesus. Yep, he built the first router out of some fish, bread and wine. And since then he has passed down his infallibility to his networking disciples of which I am one.

Dexter: I thought it was the Pope who was infallible?

Network Manager: He was until he sold his soul to Novell.

CEO: Look Dexter, he's right. The network and all network engineers are infallible.

Dexter: What? Wait, didn't you start your career in networking?

CEO: Well yeah, but then I went into marketing. Look can you please fix your program?

Operations: Hey everyone, we're connected and running again! Gas is flowing!

Everyone: Woohoo! Alright! Good job everyone!

CEO: Great! So what'd you do to fix it Dexter?

Dexter: Nothing!

CEO: Alright, I don't want to keep everyone, but we're going to need someone to write an After Action Report. Who's got it?

Network Manager: Ooh, I just remembered another meeting I gotta get to. Bye.

(Silence for a minute)

Dexter: Since it was a network issue...

CEO: Great, thanks for volunteering Dexter. Remember as per our operating procedures, you need to have that done in four hours. Of course, I'll be fishing until Monday, but shoot me an email anyway.

Database Administrator: Database is back up!


  1. I'll think of you next time one of those friggin gas pumps don't work right! And P.S., I answered your "Ask Me Anything" question over at my blog today.

    1. As well you should. That Alberta Premium looks mighty tasty. I'm sure it goes well with the lava cake. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Replies
    1. Okay, maybe I embellished a little bit. But based on my experience, it may as well have been a real chant. Thanks for the comment!

  3. A Dexter Rant is better than any Gregorian Chant!! :)