Laptop follies

In case you ever wondered, laptops do bounce but not gracefully

I did tech support for a company with a few dozen account managers scattered throughout the US. Most of them had many years of experience in a business with a multitude of nuance and detail that had to be attended to with the initial contract, and on a continuing basis. Millions of dollars a month were at stake with each account.

Most of the account managers were salespeople at heart. Top management had a long history of encouraging their sometimes outsized ideas of entitlement. Hotshots were hired. Their sense of entitlement, and lack of technical ability, may have been larger all of the others combined.

In fairness, most of them were intelligent, conscientious, and appreciated the extra effort it took for us to support them by phone and e-mail. We gave thanks for Apple Remote Desktop often, as it saved us hours of trying to control wayward mouse clicks and explaining, for the tenth time, how to get to the Apple menu.

Then there were the others.

One was a little ditzy, but those in the know reported she was good at her job. Unfortunately, she was one of those who did not believe that her job included a minimum level of computer competence. Management supported that attitude by scheduling an hour or two of training per year for her and her coworkers. Then management sabotaged that with intentional scheduling changes.

When our friend returned from a business trip, she followed the normal pattern: got off the plane, and went to pick up her baggage from the carousel. She called the office the next day, expressing complete surprise that her computer bag was empty when she picked it up with the rest of her checked baggage!

One of her colleagues, only slightly sharper, went on vacation. She was short on time, so decided to leave her SUV in the airport parking lot. She, too, expressed amazement that her computer was missing when she returned a week later. She did try to hide it, but without a trunk, the vehicle made theft easy.

Nope, the laptops weren't insured. And it's unlikely that the owners suffered any consequences other than a mild scolding. Meanwhile, the technicians were obliged to immediately drop everything, find replacement machines, and set them up, shipping them priority overnight (insured!) to the users.

In case you ever wondered, laptops do bounce but not gracefully. One user had his slide off the table when going through airport security. At least he was contrite and informed us of the damage right away.

Others have not been so forthright. "Oh, while you're here, my CD drive suddenly doesn't work any more." That's unusual, let's take a look. How long has this been happening?"

"I don't know; a month or so."

"What happened just prior to when it stopped working?" asks the tech.

"Nothing, I just put in a CD and it wouldn't do anything." No doubt, many of you have had similar exchanges with users.

Closer examination of the computer revealed a small dent in the metal housing of the computer. Naturally, the user had "no idea" how the damage occurred. One user allowed her children to use her company-supplied computer. It did not take long for it to develop scratches, dents, food smears, and missing key caps. But then, the printer on her desk had traces of salad dressing in it.

This disjointed saga would not be complete without acknowledging my gratitude for the majority of users who showed up with 2- and 3- year-old laptops, with many travel miles on them, looking like new. If they left the company, or returned old gear after an upgrade, most of them returned every scrap of gear and documentation that they had received years earlier. May their hard drives never fail!

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