Job Security, or, “The Blindness of Strangers”

For those of you who’ve known me less than 7 minutes, I work tech support. I primarily take inbound calls from users of the proprietary software my firm offers to investors and traders.

We take some weird calls.

Now, much of this is our fault (if you can call it a fault). You see, in much the same way In-N-Out Burger will make almost anything you ask for, including the fabled 100×100 burger, we have developed a reputation of answering pretty much any question you throw at us. Our work cannot be summarized with statements like “to enable that setting in our program, open ‘x’ menu and check ‘y’ item,” and “I see, well, let’s restart the computer and then clear your temporary files.”

We’ve been known to take octogenarians through virus scans, Windows Updates, Service Pack installations, registry edits, and advanced theoretical physics–all on the same call. We’ve done basically everything you can to a computer short of a complete operating system reinstall, and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, at some time, has done that too.


I can help you with this

Keep in mind, we’re not Dell or HP. We’re a brokerage firm with a strong emphasis on electronic trading. This is like trying to get the cable guy to troubleshoot the trajectory of the satellite that’s delivering his company’s product.

But occasionally, you get a call that’s so far out there, so beautifully awkward, so speechless-rendering, that it must be immortalized in a blog. Calls like:

“You’ve reached [name of firm] tech support, this is Strafe, how can I help you?”
“Yes, could you please give me the number for the Ohio State Medical Board?”
I gave it to him. You can find anything on Google.

[end of call with a Swedish gentleman] “Is there anything else I can do for you, Sir?”
“Yes, vhat’s dee English vord for dee bird, not a svan, but bigger than a duck?”
Turns out it was a goose. By the way, “goose” is a Germanic word, and is essentially the same in English and Swedish.

“Thank you for holding for tech support, how can I help you?”
“Well, you see, I went on a naughty site, and now the CD to let me install my Norton won’t run. And I keep getting these weird messages.”

“I brought my computer into a shop and they say they need to reformat, and I’ll lose all my data. But my golf buddy says you can do (insert tedious lay-descriptions equivalent to that of a plumber trying to describe quadruple bypass surgery) to save it instead. What do you think I should do?”

Once again, BROKERAGE firm. Try to get car maintenance advice from your local bank, because, you know, you had to DRIVE there to talk to them. And while we’re on the subject of misapplied semantics:

“Well, that’s not really a technical question–”
“–yes it is, because [get ready for it] technically he should be able to do it!”
This wasn’t a customer. This was another employee.

“You’ve reached Strafe in tech support, how can I help you?”
“What is Open Office? Should I uninstall it?” [That’s kind of a personal thing for me because I’m using Open Office to type this document].

[the following is a paraphrase of a lengthy conversation]
“So it sounds like you’re on a Mac–”
“No, no, I have an Apple.”
(eye roll)
“I see, well, when was the last time you restarted the computer?”
“Well, it did that when we had a storm last month.”
“OK, well, we’re going to need to at least restart it.”
“What do you mean? I can’t do that! It’s just always… on.”
“Sir, when you bought the computer, it came in a box. It was not plugged in. I promise you it was off then, and had to be turned on. And we can do it again.”
(I swear I heard mental gears grinding at this point)
“I think you’re right!”
To be fair, have you seen an Apple recently? There’s one button, and it’s on the back. I don’t necessarily think Apple users are blithering idiots. But Apple sure does.

Just sit back and relax. The Apple will know what to do.

And finally, an encounter on a outbound call I made to a customer:

“Hi, is Mr. Smith there?”
(after several seconds) “OK, may I leave a message?”
(sign) “I guess so.”
“This is Strafe, calling about the issue with [our product]–”
“Oh! This is Mr. Smith!”
Apparently I interrupted one of those three-minute identity crises I’ve heard so much about. Actually, I can see that coming in handy.

Coming soon: The Uncertain Adventures of Higgs Boson, part 1

This Is

When nothing of note comes to mind to write, I decide to see if html coding works within the body of the site.

It does.

Unhappy about my failures to get either compiz (What is that?) or the Sun Java Plugin running on my ancient laptop… or at least to my satisfaction.

This is NOT Strafe…

I have agreed to help Strafe set up his blog…