I promised yesterday that I'd write about some of the more interesting things I've seen on the job. Sit back and relax as I tell you about the Horny Employee and the Network Printer.
About a year and a half after I started at the large multinational company where I work, I was asked to join an experimental help desk. Originally, our help desk was set up on a by-technology basis. We had a group that supported the desktop and LAN (Windows 3.1, OS/2 servers, DOS LAN Requester - stop laughing, it was 1995), a group that supported VM, a group for MVS, and a bunch of smaller groups that handled different specialty apps and systems. All users called one number and then navigated a complex phone tree to get to the group they needed to talk to.
Naturally, this system sucked. There were tons of menu choices. Lots of people got lost and had to be rerouted. Some groups were overstaffed, some were understaffed. The customers wanted something better and cheaper.
So what was proposed was a help desk that supported specific locations. It would be staffed by a cross-section of the various support groups, so that there was always someone who knew how to handle any given question. Those with PC knowledge were to help out the mainframe experts, and vice versa. Best of all, customers would call a number and get a technician without having to press any more buttons.
It worked pretty well, and in fact is the model that's still in use today. At the time, the group was a mix of staff and contractors. We had overlapping schedules so we could cover from 6 AM to 6 PM and during lunch.
One of the contractors was a guy whom I'll call R. R was a good employee - he knew his stuff, had good rapport with customers on the phone, volunteered to work the unpopular 6 AM shift, and handled a decent sized call volume. He was a good ol' boy who lived way out in the country (we're talking a 50 or 60 mile commute each way), was married and had two teenage kids.
And one afternoon we were told that he was gone, just like that. We all had to scramble to cover his shift and workload. We were pretty upset until the story leaked as to why R was no longer with us.
It seems that during a lull in the day, R had written an erotic story on his computer. Well, calling it an "erotic story" is an overbid - it was like an unedited letter to the Penthouse Forum. It was a letter from a man to his girlfriend about how he and his wife had really gotten it on the night before (don't ask whether this was taken from real life experience or if it was just straight-on fantasizing, I don't know and don't want to know).
Now, writing such a thing on a work computer is not the smartest thing in the world, but even in our open-cubicle environment, you could get away with it. R's fatal mistake was when he decided that he really needed to print this little masterpiece.
On a network printer.
I don't know about you, but I think if I'd just written a stroke letter and printed it on a network printer, I'd make damn sure that I was there pulling it out of the rollers before it even had a chance to sit in the output bin. R, for reasons of his own, took his time getting to the printer. Alas for him, someone else picked up his printout. And that was the last we saw of R.
It wasn't the last we heard or spoke of him. He called in to the help desk a day or so later and apologized for letting us down. He spoke to a female teammate, which probably made her pretty uncomfortable because after his firing, she and a couple of other women on the team reported that R seemed to enjoy steering conversations with them towards sex. It hadn't yet gotten to the point where any of them were ready to complain to management about it, but all of them expressed relief that now they wouldn't have to.
The postscript on this story is that for several months afterwards, we all gave a good-natured hard time to the employee who found R's magnum opus and turned it in to management. Any time someone disagreed with him, we'd say "Hey, better watch out, you saw what he did to R, you could be next." I still tease him about this from time to time.
The help desk here has long been a starting point for many employees. In my time with this group, I've seen a number of people get fired for various stupid things. R's story remains the most spectacular flameout.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 31, 2002 to See, I do have a life!