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Can’t Physically Do It

| Working | January 8, 2016

(I work as a shipper for a software distribution company. We offer both physical and electronic versions of many products; when a customer orders the electronic, they just get an email with one or more serial numbers and download links/instructions. Obviously, in our system the “physical” and “electronic” versions are set up with different product numbers, etc. And yet, just about daily…)

Salesperson: “So for this, I just put in the electronic ship-method, right?”

Me: “No. You need to use the electronic PRODUCT VERSION, otherwise the system will auto-adjust it to standard ground shipping and the physical will go out.”

Salesperson: “But, that’s how I always do it!”

Me: “Yes, and that’s why we keep sending you emails about it, and keep getting returns…”

| G|ve Up

| Right | January 2, 2016

(I am on a call with customer, I was trying to get her to type the “|” character:)

Customer: “Where is it?”

Me: “It’s above the enter key, with the backslash.”

Customer: “I don’t have that.”

Me: “Yes, you do; it’s above the “enter,” with the backslash.”

Customer: “Oh, you mean the brackets?”

Me: “No, it’s above the enter key, with the backslash. So it’s to the right of the brackets.”

Customer: “Do you mean my ‘L’ key? Because it’s rubbed off, so I can’t see it.”

Me: “No, it’s not the ‘L’ key. It’s above the enter key. With the backslash.”

Customer: *she finds the key* “OH, it’s a capital!”

Me: “Yes, a capital backslash.”

Customer: “It doesn’t work.”

Me: “Did you use the shift? Without that, it’s just a backslash.”

Customer: “Oh, there it is!”

Automatically Programmed To Hate You

| Working | October 17, 2015

(It is the late 80s. I work as a programmer for a modest sized firm. My manager is a woman who seems to have it in for me.)

Nemesis: “The system is running very slow. I need you to back up our whole Unix system, blank the drive, then restore it. That might speed it up.”

Me: “Yeah, that works for PCs. Let me look into how to go about doing that.”

(I check the documentation for the system backup and, lo and behold, the documentation explicitly states that the backup and restore procedure won’t speed up the drive, and you risk losing your data in the process. Naturally, I am concerned for possible catastrophic data loss, so I take the manual back to her office.)

Me: “I think this might be a bad idea. Look.” *shows documentation*

Nemesis: *slowly turns red in anger* “You did this to make me look bad!”

Me: “What? I didn’t write the documentation. I was just pointing out the hazard.”

Nemesis: “Whatever! Just forget it!”

(Not long after that I am transferred to a different manager, who is a bit more reasonable. One day I come into his office and he’s discussing a sorting program with my nemesis. She has hired a contractor for an entire month at a high hourly rate to create the program. I am asked to weigh in on the program:)

Me: “It seems like a lot of effort was put into the program when something could have been written in an afternoon.”

Nemesis: “That’s impossible! This is a difficult program to write!” *she storms out of the office*

Manager: “Can you do it?”

Me: “What? Write the program in a few hours? Of course.”

Manager: “DO it!”

(A few hours later I’ve reproduced the program and give it to Manager. I miss the fireworks that happens behind closed doors, but the next day I am in Manager’s office when my nemesis barges in with a small stack of paper.)

Nemesis: “Hah! I ran a million records against both programs and here are the results: the original program was 2 seconds faster! So there!”

Me: “But was it worth 160 hours of contract work at $80 an hour for that?”

(She flushed with anger again and left. Apparently management had been asking the same question.)

The Perfectly Timed Storm

| Working | September 23, 2015

(We are based in Houston, TX, where natural disasters are all storm-related. On this day an unexpected storm is rolling in. A dozen people are gathered with me in a meeting room to plan our next software release. The meeting leader is officially calling the meeting to order.)

Meeting Leader: “Okay, I’m going to start the recording now.”

(As she presses the button to begin recording the meeting, a loud thunderclap reverberates through the room.)

Coworker #1: “Uh-oh…”

Me: “It’s a sign; this release is doomed. Let’s all ju—”

(The Fates heard my call; the power goes out before I can complete my sentence. Worse, it remained off for the rest of the day, but we pulled through with generator power and whichever laptop still had a charge. The next day, the power is back on, and our meeting continues. Air conditioning issues notwithstanding, it’s going well.)

Coworker #2: “We’ll just get [Coworker #3] to do it.”

Coworker #3: “Nuh-uh! My job is keeping the projector going.”

(Coworker #3 points to the projector screen, and at that precise moment, her laptop’s power-saving settings blank the screen and the projector goes black.)


(Whatever the outcome, it seems clear this release will be “all about the timing…”)

Well That’s ONE Way To Celebrate The End Of The Week

| Working | September 9, 2015

(I had been at my new job for a week and everyone was nice and friendly. At the end of the day on Friday, this conversation takes place with my Hungarian coworker who has a thick accent.)

Coworker: “”[Other Coworker] and I are getting a whore in the office. Do you want one?”

Me: “I’m sorry, what?”

Coworker: “We are getting a whore in the office.”

Me: “I think I’m mishearing you. Could you write that down?”

(He wrote down: “We are getting a hole in the office” – He meant that they were getting a hole drilled in the desks for cables, and wondered if I wanted one, too. It was the single most uncomfortable conversation I have ever had at work.)