Personal computer (pc) repair technicians and doctors have a lot in common. Patients arrive at the doctor’s door bearing all manner of complaints or problems. I am sure doctors have seen and heard about every type of ignorant stunt a person can think of or do. My name is Skeeter Jones, and I have been a pc repair technician for approximately fifteen years. Like a doctor, I thought I had seen and heard of every crazy stunt imaginable until I received a call from Headaches, Incorporated about a computer crash.
When I arrived at the job site, Lola and Chase, the office and terminal managers, greeted me. “Boy! Are we ever glad to see you,” they both cried in unison, “We have completely screwed up the computer.” “Well, show me the computer that is down while you tell me what happened,” I replied. “Linda, Lola’s co-worker, told us upgrading our computer system from Windows 95 to 98 would be easy for us to do ourselves. All we had to do was purchase the Windows 98 upgrade compact disc (CD),” Chase said. “Except, we could not find the CD.” Lola chimed in, “We picked out this CD instead. The salesman at Office Depot said, ’It would work just as well to upgrade our system.’” I looked down at the box she was holding in her hands. The words “Windows 2000 Upgrade” stared back at me in big, white letters.
I just stood there for a minute shaking my head, and I silently groaned to myself. “Oh God! How could anybody be that stupid,” I thought. With an audible sigh, I said aloud, “Let me run a few diagnostic tests. I will be able to tell you how much damage has occurred in a couple of minutes.” I started with the basic stuff like making sure the computer would boot up. Then, I progressed layer by layer to the heart of the system. The tests took me nearly three hours to complete. As I dug deeper and deeper into the computer, I was utterly amazed at how much damage they had wreaked in such a short amount of time and with only an upgrade software kit. “Well guys, it looks as if you have managed to confuse the hell out of this computer,” I told them, “You have two different types of file systems on it now. The machine does not know whether it should be a Windows or NT operating system.”
Chase asked, “Skeeter, are you going to be able to fix it? How long will the repairs take if you can? We have to print out an error check log by Friday.” I said that yes, it could be repaired; but I would have to wipe the hard drive clean and reformat it. He would be looking at two or more days before the computer would be usable again. I explained to Chase and Lola that I would need the AS/400 system CDs from the corporate office to reinstall the network connection. The look that passed between them instantly told me something was amiss.
Chase pulled me aside and in a conspiratorial tone asked, “Is there any other way to get the CDs besides calling the corporate office? I would like to keep them from finding out that we did not have the IT department’s approval for the computer upgrade.” I felt like telling him that he would not be in this mess if he were not trying to skirt around the corporate office in the first place. I thought for a minute and said, “I believe the company upstairs is using the AS/400 system also. They may have the system CDs you need. If so, I can probably borrow them.” The look of apprehension on Chase’s face was washed away by one of utter relief. He took a deep breath and exclaimed, “Thank God! Skeeter, you may have just saved my job.”
On the morning of the third day, I informed Chase that the printout of the error check log would have to be acquired through another branch office. I would be able to bring the computer back to a basic operating level only until sometime next week, and I had to contact their company’s IT department to configure the network settings. The CDs borrowed from the company upstairs did not have the needed settings. They would be able to use some of the installed applications, like word processing or spreadsheets; but the Internet and printers would be off line until I could locate new driver software. An agitated Chase started to say something, but I held up my hand in a wait gesture stating, “Don’t worry, I’ll say I needed to reconfigure the printer due to unknown problems.”
I thought after fifteen years that nothing could surprise me. Most people will confess to their errors, learn from them, and move on. This was the first company I had ever seen make a mistake through ignorance then compound the error by attempting to cover it up. The experience, apparently, did not teach Chase or Lola any valuable lessons. Before I left, Lola asked me if she had screwed up her home computer because she had used the exact same Windows 2000 CD on it the previous evening. The only response I could muster was to shake my head from side to side, take a deep breath, and tell myself it was just another day at the office.