Something's broke, can you fix it?

I’m a production DBA at a Financial Services company. We manage 30 or so database servers with a couple hundred DBs on them. I don’t typically deal directly with customers, it’s usually with Software Engineers or Application Administrators.

Every damn day my area gets at least one e-mail that looks like this:

“There’s some trouble with X application/database. Please check it out.”

Listen you dumb fucks. You’re software engineers or application administrators. Your position requires a degree, or at least some level of experience of dealing with computers. If a customer called you up and told you the application wasn’t working and left it at that, you wouldn’t be able to solve their problem (wait, that’s probably why you just passed it along to me…hmmm). You need info. At the very least, what fricking database are you connecting to, on which server? What were you doing at the time?

Regardless of what you might think, this is not Star-Trek where we can run a self diagnostic on the database and find out that the frammel-joiner needs to be compensated with a tachyon pulse. Databases don’t typically report things like “Attention, some dumbass executed a poorly designed query and it’s taking longer than the client expected.” It won’t tell me that you’re trying to connect to the wrong server and thus never even getting to the database at all. It especially won’t tell me which process it is that used to be working last week but is now not working…I am not going to search through 1,000 work orders to find out which one changed your process, either.

Include some details, asswipes, otherwise I just end up exchanging 10 more e-mails with you, and I have a 50MB limit on my e-mail!

Just email them back asking if they tried to reverse the polarity and see how much farther that gets you.
I always say, when confronted with vague questions, obfuscate.

I recommend using a tunnelling neutrino beam to clean off the hard drive. That should not only speed up the application but make the hard disc shine like new. And who doesn’t love a shiny hard drive?

bah, what a noob, those take forever, I recommend using a linked particle burst generator (type II), it’s much faster!!

I find that steel wool gets my hard drive its shiniest.

I remember this call:

“Sir, can you tell me the error message?”

“Yeah, it says the thing doesn’t work.”

“Could you tell me the exact error message, as in what’s displayed in the dialog box?”

“Yeah, like I said, it says damn thing doesn’t work.”

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t say that. I need the exact text.”

“Fine. It says the damn thing doesn’t work, dude. Fuckin’ fix it.”

Dude, that is just so light speed. To really go fast it has to be a tachyon beam.

We’ll get calls sometimes:

“[So and so] says the network is slow. Please invesigate.”

Gee, what network (we only have about 150 separate networks)? What are they trying to do?

Well, I bet that the programmer who wrote that dialog box was handed his termination notice 2 minutes prior.

I sell fasteners for a living. On a semi regular basis, I get a call something like;

“You guys sent me the wrong screws.”

“Ok, I’m looking at the order, what’s wrong with them?”

“They’re just wrong, send me the right ones.”

“Ok, in order for me to send you the right ones, I need to know what is wrong with the parts you received.”

“I don’t know, the guys in the back say they don’t work. Send me the right ones.”

“Ok, but I need to know if the parts you received aren’t what you ordered, or is what you ordered not what you need.”

“I don’t know, just send me the right ones. Why does this happen every time I call you people?”


“Umm… Because you’re a fucking moron? That would be my guess.”

You probably can’t get away with that, though.

I remember the stories the guy doing a calibration call on the CMM at work had.

Cordinate Measuring Machine

They are frictionless and use air to glide granite slabs about. Precission glass scales allow for measurement in units of .0001 of an inch.

One client started oiling the float area of the granite. Expensive repair.
One client let water go through the air glide system. More expensive to repair.
One client scraped and cleaned off all the glass scales until clear. Expensive repair.
Reason for repair, somebody that knew nothing, being told to learn how to use it without training. All of these calls of course started as I don’t know why, but the machine don’t work.

It’s probably because “THE server” is down. I get that a lot. Although, sometimes, it’s a question about “THE system.”

I’m the one at my work that knows how all the machines work (well, more than everyone else) and can sometimes fix them. Often it’s just common sense stuff that anyone could do if they had some common sense, like turning the surge strip back on (yes, I am serious). When something breaks I usually get a note that the whatever is broken or doesn’t work. I have repeatedly asked for more details because I can’t call a repair person and just say something “doesn’t work”, they will ask me for details. I even wrote out examples of how you report that something doesn’t work; like the washer won’t spin, the dryer doesn’t get hot, the vacuum doesn’t suck, the computer won’t turn on, the computer is frozen, the program won’t open, the copier copies papers with huge streaks, the centrifuge won’t spin, the whatever won’t turn on at all. But every single time I get a message about a piece of equipment it still says the whatever “doesn’t work”.

I really really want to say to them that actually the machine is not functioning properly, it’s you that “doesn’t work”.

Trust me, no one that has ever been in the position to support office machines doubts you are serious. My favorite is the lady who habitually tosses her purse under her desk, hitting her keyboard cord and unplugging it. No, she doesn’t want me to move anything around so this doesn’t happen again either. I don’t say anything nasty because she’s elderly and can’t be expected to crawl around under there.

How about the voice mail that says, “We need new toner down here.” and does not specify which of the six machines the toner could possibly be for?

Or the ones that say something is acting “funny”. I’ve yet to see a piece of office equipment crack a joke.

“My computer is really slow today.” is another good one, and do you think they might have tried rebooting or anything? (Someone actually complained to my boss once that, “her answer to everything is restart the machine!”)

What about the one that calls and says the spyware that her computer was infested with “came back”. Lady, I replaced your machine with a freshly formatted one last week. The spyware didn’t come back, you went out and got it again. I was doing my underling’s job last week because she was on vacation, and 3 machines went down to spyware. I just had to tell the employees to go work at another station somewhere. They weren’t happy about that, as if it were MY fault.

Edit to add: Forgot to mention the ones who ask me to fix other things, like their staplers, or even ask me to unclog the toilet, because they figure I’m the designated substitute “man” just because I’m a geek chick.

See, you should just send an e-mail back saying that, on the contrary, it’s working dandy. THEN you’ll probably get the e-mail back saying, “No, Moron, the report still won’t open.” Of course, they’ll think you’re an idiot.

We actually had an application go out on production where if the user clicked on certain objects in a particular order, he got a message box that said something like, “Jeez, what part of ‘Start Over’ did you not understand?” Not an easter egg, somebody just forgot to remove a cute debug message box. It cost us a pretty penny to push out a hot fix on that one.

Ah, yes. The Id - 10 - T or between keyboard and chair error. One of my favorites.

I am not the go-to person for this sort of stuff at my current job, which I have carefully cultivated. In a previous job, I got to the point that I once told a co-worker that if someone in her department hadn’t checked to see if the printer cable was plugged in before they called me to tell me it was down I was going to disconnect everything from the back of her computer.

The inevitable happened. And I did exactly as I had threatened. The best part was that I pulled it off with the vice president of the company standing right next to me.

Of course, I later fixed that printer by beating it with a foam rubber bat while shouting pseudo-Kung Fu epithets at it. That was a strange day.

At my job, the current preferred euphemism is “network connectivity issues in building such-and-such, please investigate.” (They haven’t yet added “Kthxbye”, but give it time.)

“Network connectivity issues” means anything from a printer not working (“But it’s a network printer” to “Yahoo Webmail is not opening” to “we moved 25 extra people into the building without telling anyone and now we’re out of Ethernet ports” to - my favourite - “the wireless router I brought from home doesn’t work here”.

My favorite ticket of all times, however, was the guy who requested the following: “Please open the firewall for incoming connections.” We’ll get right on that…

Preaching to the choir. Not exactly the same thing, but I got a call at two in the morning a few weeks back from one of my security guards telling me “the pool lights are out”. It is a safety issue, so I get out of bed and drive over there. At 2 AM.

When I got there, the conversation went something like this:

Monkey: Lights are out?
Security: Yep.
Monkey: You check the timer?
Security: Yep.
Monkey: The one with “POOL LIGHTS” written in black magic marker on the wall above it?
Security: Uh…
Monkey: Let’s go look. ::we walk over:: OK, you see this. The timer has a switch. A light switch. A light switched labeled “POOL LIGHTS”. It’s off. Now watch. ::monkey throws switch:: Hey! Magic!.. Now don’t call me again.