Did You Try Turning It Off And Back On? Most Memorable Stories From IT Workers
Tech support isn't an easy job. Computers are complex, networks can be confusing and worst of all, people on the other end can be very difficult.
Reddit users from the subreddit Tales from Tech Support share their most memorable experiences on the other end of these frustrating issues.
Source at the end of the article
I work in a store that offers technical support for consumer-level technology.
A few days ago I had an elderly gentleman that we'll call Pete. Our receptionist made him a walk-in appointment earlier that day and I ended up taking it. When I opened it all up, the only notes I saw were "Third-party software, hard of hearing."
I walked up to Pete and greeted him, saw that he was staring at my lips as to read them, then I asked if he knew American Sign Language (ASL). I've been trying to learn ASL it as a sort of side-hobby for a few months now. Pete signs "yes" and we continue the conversation in Sign. Turns out the issue is with Skype, which keeps crashing on his roughly 5-year old tablet, and he's been having difficulty video-calling his wife, who is deaf.
She lives in a different continent, she traveled there for a temporary work opportunity and would be there for two years. This being the mid-way point, it's now been 1 year since Pete's seen his wife. Skype is the only way they both know how to communicate efficiently long-distance, as neither are comfortable with email or other text-based services.
As I go through verifying that he knows his password and making sure there's a backup of his device, Pete and I are signing back and forth and his face was completely lit up. I felt so good to be able to, albeit slowly, speak with him in his language and give him the time he deserved, even if his reason for visiting us had little to do with our physical product.
Once everything was verified and backed up, I uninstalled Skype and reinstalled it, had Pete sign in, and use Skype's test call to ensure it wouldn't crash (as it would immediately upon call creation before). Test call went through fine. Sweet.
I looked down to write a few extra notes and began to hear some coughs. I looked up and there was Pete, crying while waving to his wife through Skype. Pete called her and she picked up! He introduced me to her and told me that it's been 3-weeks since they'd heard from each other. I stepped away to give him a moment alone.
It's moments like these that keep me going as a technician. Even though I barely touched Pete's tablet, "fixing" it made me feel like a hero. It's been a few days and I can still see his smile.
Another tale from the out of hours IT desk...
Me: Service DeskCaller: GOOGLE BING ISNT WORKING IS THE SYSTEM DOWN ??? ITS VERY IMPORTANT I USE THE BING
Note: yes, caller actually said "the Bing"
Me: I'm sorry - can you confirm which system you're referring to as I'm unfamiliar with thatCaller: Google Bing! Really how can you not know thisMe: Google Bing is not a system we support out of hours nor in hours. This sounds like a mash up between two different search engines. What exactly is happening?Caller: I need Google Bing to do my job! This is unacceptable. I can't find Google Bing anywhere on my PC. How dare you remove this! I need you to fix Google Bing immediately!Me: May I remote in to take a look?
Turns out that caller had a shortcut on her desktop called "Google Bing" - this opened the Bing Search homepage in Google Chrome shivers. She'd accidentally changed the name of the shortcut from "Google Bing" to something else and hence could not find it.
Me: Okay - that has been renamed now so you're good to goCaller: Next time don't mess around with my computer! I know you guys changed this, I'm not stupid! I have a certificate of proficiency in computeringMe: Okay thanks for calling
I died a little inside after taking this call.
This just happened...
So, I had a laptop system board fail. Under warranty. No problem.
Engineer comes on site. Does the job. All good.
10 minutes later, I'm called down to where he was working by a member of management saying that he must have been doing drugs in there because there's a syringe in the bin. There's about 10 members of staff all freaking out.
It was thermal compound.
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I work Helpdesk for a retail store chain in the UK. I had a call from a store about a till drawer that wasn't opening after a transaction.
Me: Could you check that the till is plugged into the back of the PC?User: Sure, one second.. (I hear him rummaging under the desk)User: Yeah, It's plugged inMe: I'm just going to try to open the drawer manually. Can you stand back from the drawer so it doesn't hit you?User: haha, sure!
I open up CMD and try to open the drawer
Me: Hello? I heard something, did the drawer open?User: ...Me: Hello?
After around 20 seconds a woman picks up the phone laughing
User2: User had to go to the bathroom to clean his nose, the till drawer hit him in the face. We'll call you back later!
Whenever I want to reach through the screen and smack a user, I'll always think back to this story and remember that it's possible.
The repair company I work at is a small business and has two locations, one of which is in an interesting area. As such, we get a lot of interesting people. This guy came in yesterday.
User: "Hi, can you show me how to access someone's text messages? I found some tutorials on YouTube but they didn't work"
I assume he wants to backup the messages so I start walking him through how to sync his phone
User: "No no no, I want someone else's messages"Me: "Wait, this isn't a device you own?"User: "No"Me: "Do you have consent from the owner to read their messages?"User: "No, that's why I need you to show me how to see them"Me: "Sir, if you don't have permission from the other person to read their messages it's illegal to access them. I can't show you how to do that here"User: "Well do you know anywhere else that can"Me: "No sir, I'm not aware of any other repair shops that can help you do that, it's a federal crime. I can pull up the relevant laws regarding unauthorized access to someone's personal devices if you'd like"
Cue standard rant of "you guys are supposed to be the experts" as I stare blankly into the distance losing more faith in humanity.
So 'Hero' is happily speeding along in his car, running a few yellow lights a bit late, etc. Finally, the law catches up with him and pulls him over. Here's how the conversation went:
Cop: Can I see your driving license, please?Hero (with a smug grin): Certainly. Here it is, officer.
The cop takes license back to motorcycle and speaks into the radio.
Hero: It's not going to help you any, though.Cop (with no reaction): What do you mean?Hero (with a wider grin): The server you have to check it against is down.Cop (still no reaction): And why do you say that?Hero: Because I'm the guy they called to get on site and get it up again.
Our hero did not get a fine this time. Instead, he got a police escort to his workplace.
I witnessed this astounding IT meltdown around 2004 in a large academic organization.
An employee decided to send a broad solicitation about her need for a local apartment. She happened to discover and use an 'all-employees' type of email address that included everyone. And by "everyone," I mean every employee in a 30,000-employee academic institution. Everyone from the CEO on down received this lady's apartment inquiry.
Of course, this kicked off the usual round of "why am I getting this" and "take me off the list" and "omg everyone stop replying" responses... each reply-all'ed to 'all employees', so 30,000 new messages. Email started to bog down as a half-million messages appeared.
In a 30k organization, lots of people go on vacay, and some of them (let's say 20) remembered to set their email to auto-respond about their absence. And the auto-responders responded to the same recipients - including 'all-employees'. So, every "I don't care about your apartment" message didn't just generate 30,000 copies of itself... it also generated 30,000 * 20 = 600,000 new messages. Even the avalanche of apartment messages became drowned out by the volume of "I'll be gone 'til November" auto-replies.
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To make matters worse, the auto-responders didn't just send one "I'm away" message: they sent an "I'm away" message in response to every incoming message... including the "I'm away" messages of the other auto-responders.
The auto-response avalanche converted the entire mail system into an Agent-Smith-like replication factory of away messages, as auto-responders incessantly informed not just every employee, but also each other, about employee status.
The email systems melted down. Everything went offline. A 30k-wide enterprise suddenly had no email, for about 24 hours.
That's not even the end of the story.
The IT staff busied themselves with mucking out the mailboxes from these millions of messages and deactivating the auto-responders. They brought the email system back online, and their first order of business was to send out an email explaining the cause of the problem, etc. And they addressed the notification email to the 'all-employees' address.
Before they sent their email message, they had disabled most of the auto-responders - but they missed at least one.
More specifically: they missed at least two.
My buddy in IT saw a ticket had come in and it was from an employee who regularly asks for help (We'll call her W). It said: "You deleted all my files! I need them to do my job!" IT called W to see what was going on because they don't delete personal files off of people's computers unless there is a good reason for it and we have the user's permission. So while he was on the phone, he looked into her computer and noticed everything but the recycling bin was missing on her desktop. He noticed that there were files in the recycling bin, so he opened it and all her files are there.
IT: Here are all your files, did you move them into here?
W: Yes I did, I moved them in here to recycle them so they will be clean for me to work on them.
IT: .....Excuse me?
W: Yes, I move them to the recycling bin to make them new again so I can reuse the files.
IT: This is the trash bin, you would move files here to delete them off of your computer.
W: IT IS NOT A TRASH CAN, IT IS A RECYCLING BIN! IT SAYS SO RIGHT UNDER THE ICON!
So for the next half hour, my buddy had to teach her how to use the recycling bin.
We use a generic username for most of our computers so that people can log onto the machine, then from there, they log into work. Everyone knows the username and password for this. It's literally written on the walls in most areas, because the only thing it can access is another login page, so it isn't a security issue.
Most of these accounts stay logged on at all times to save confusing the people that work here. A guy (We'll call him G) rang up, said hello and asked for the generic login details. I've changed the exact username and password but other than that this is more or less word for word:
G: So what's the username?
Me: It's 'Computer'.
G: so is that the asset number of the PC?
Me: Nono, it's just the word 'Computer'
G: And then backslash my name?
Me: NO. It's the word 'Computer.' C-O-M-P-U-T-E-R. Computer. nothing else.
G: And what's the password?
Me: It's 'P4ssword'. As in, the word 'Password' with a capital 'P', but you replace the 'a' with a '4'.
G: So it's 'Password4'?
Me: NO. It is not. It is 'P-4-s-s-w-o-r-d' With a capital P at the beginning. Everything else is lower case.
G: Ok, so the username is ComputerP4ssword. What's the password?
Me: NO. The username is Computer. The password is 'P4ssword'. That's everything. Just two words. Two boxes, two words.
G: type type type It didn't work. I typed in 'password' but it said it's incorrect.
Me: Spell out what you typed for me, please.
Me: very slowly and clearly, in case it was my accent or something ... Like I said. CAPITAL P. NUMBER FOUR. LOWER CASE S, LOWER CASE S, LOWER CASE W, LOWERCASE O, LOWERCASE R, LOWER CASE D. P4ssword.
G: type type click Nope. And it says the account is locked. I used a capital P this time definitely.
Me: did you use a 4 instead of the a?
G: Use four whats?
I moved to the machine and typed it in for him. He complained that the system was needlessly complicated.
Last year, Help Desk got a call from a user complaining that the laptop we issued him would not read DVDs. He was one of those "I'm a very busy and a very important man, and I don't have time to follow your troubleshooting steps over the phone. Just fix it." kinda guys, so he said he would get someone to drop off the laptop at our office.
We received the laptop a couple days later, there was a note attached saying that now it wasn't even booting into Windows anymore. Sure enough, he was right - it didn't even attempt to load Windows, and instead we were greeted by the "Non-system disk or disk error" message. It sounded and looked like the PC was trying to boot from the DVD drive instead of the computer's drive.
We opened the disk tray, and saw the culprit. There was a DVD in there, all right - but it was placed upside down.
We flipped the disc over.
He was trying to watch "Dumb and Dumber".
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Every office has their special users. The ones who can't figure out anything technical, everything is an emergency, and everything has to function exactly the same or they can't work. At my job, it is the HR lady. All her problems boil down to a printer error, excel, word, reboot and it works type of issues, and since I am the System admin they are all my responsibility.
However, every issue she has she comes back to IT, walks right by my desk goes to the programmer, manager, network admin and explains the issue. Every time they either tell her to go me, or relay the info to me to fix.
A few weeks back, she had a problem with the calculations on an excel spreadsheet. Everyone was at lunch, so she's forced to ask me. Immediately, I say it is probably rounding up or down because it is only off by a penny. This doesn't suffice, so she ignores me and waits until lunches are done to return. She goes to programmer guy and like usual, he passes it to me. I email her with a breakdown showing how it is rounding. She still wants programmer guy to look at it, so my manager responds with a message saying he will get to when he can.
Well, programmer guy is swamped, the new website launch is getting pushed out, her excel "problem" gets shelved with her emails coming ever more frequent. My manager even resends my explanation, but she wants programmer guy to look at it. This is unacceptable, so she goes to the VP saying we aren't helping her.
My boss sets up a meeting with the 3 of us for me to explain the issue. It was the shortest meeting ever because I start explaining it and our VP completely understands right away. The VP cuts me off, looks at HR lady and says "You pulled me into a meeting for this!?"
A call comes in, a user reports her keyboard is going erratic, it is "possessed." I take a stroll down to the office bearing a new replacement keyboard.
I get there and I begin to make sure that it is indeed a faulty keyboard, and not just some gunk sticking the key down. I open up notepad and immediately I am barraged by "...nnnnnnn..." Everything seems fine otherwise, this keyboard is the same model as the replacement I brought over, so relatively new, no sticky keys either. Very well a faulty keyboard it is. Until...
...Until I move the tower and notice a second, wireless keyboard, laying flat on the floor, with a stack of papers and a tissue box sitting atop. I pull it out and notice the n barrage has stopped on the screen. I press the N key once again and an n is added to the word file.
Exorcism was performed, demons were banished, I am now a priest.
Have a few spare laptops around the house from tech donation when I left my old job (my director said "they'll just sit around otherwise, at least you'll use them.")
Battery's shot on one of them, but it's obviously fine when plugged in. My wife is using it, so I walked over to check model numbers to look for a replacement battery on Ebay. She asks what I'm doing, and I let her know. She asks why I think the battery's shot. I point to the orange flashing "NOT CHARGING" indicator.
"No, hon, it is charging. Look."
Unplugs laptop. Aaaaaand whatever she was doing is gone now, since the battery's not charging. She looked at me and said:
"Okay, maybe not."
So, I had to walk a client through setting up a printer over the phone. Which required her to set an IP address to the printer.
Me: "Ok, do you have a usb cable? Sometimes they come with the printer"
Her: "No, I'm looking in the box now. There's no usb cable. Only the printer and power."
So it needs to me networked, great. I walk her through getting the printer on her network
Me: "Ok, do you see a place to enter 4 numbers?"
Her: "Yep, it's right here"
Me: "Ok the number is 192.168.0.3"
Her: "Ok, I put in 19216803. What's the 2nd number?"
Me: "No, let's start over. The first number is 192, second is 168, third is 0, and fourth is 3"
Her: "Ok, so 192.168.03?"
Me: "No, the third number is just 0, the fourth is 3"
Her: "So, 0.0.0.3?"
Me: "No, 192.168.0.3"
Her: "But what about the 0?"
Me: "What about it?"
Her: "Shouldn't it be a number?"
Me: "0 is a number"
Her: "Look this is too complex for me, can't we just use the cable it came with?"
Me in my head: WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME YOU HAD A CABLE!?!??! YOU SAID YOU JUST HAD THE PRINTER AND POWER CABLE!Me: ".....yes"
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(We'll call the Customer C and his wife will be W)
Me: Okay, click on the email I just sent you. Then click on the link inside it to reset your password.C: Okay... let me see
W (in the background): Wait! stop! Go back!
W: A free iPad!
Okay, a scam email. No big deal, just tell the Customer and we can move on.
Me: That's not real. It's most likely a virus.
W: No let's take a look
Me: I really wouldn't do that
C: It's okay. We're just going to look and not download anything
W: Maybe it's from the mall!
No it's not.
C: Okay we're just going to take a quick look
W: Wow a free iPad! I can't believe it! We won!
No you didn't.
W: Click on it!
No really please don't. Please.
C: Okay let's see how to redeem our iPad from Apple
It's not from Apple. you're not getting the iPad. You're getting a virus.
15 seconds later I hear the "your computer has a virus" message playing from their speaker
C: Our computer just got a virus. Can you fix this? Can you remote in and fix this?
W: I can't believe people would do that!
Last night I did a scheduled upgrade of Quickbooks for a client. 1 server, 10 desktops, 3 databases. Went well.
As usual with an upgrade like this I'm scheduled to be on site the next day for a couple of hours to help out / answer questions about the new version. In this case I was scheduled for Monday morning since, like most offices, they're closed over the weekends.
Cell phone rings this morning at 7:30am. I don't recognize the number so I ignore it. They then proceed to call back continuously for the next 10 minutes, never leaving a message until the last call. I listen to the message - it's from a staff person at the client where I upgraded Quickbooks, irate yelling "QUICKBOOKS IS BROKEN! I CAN'T DO MY JOB! THIS IS GOING TO COST THE COMPANY TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS! YOU BETTER DAMN WELL GET THIS FIXED. GET OVER HERE! CALL ME BACK IMMEDIATELY!" etc.
So I go in to the remote desktop server, verify that all is well, take a deep breath and call her back. She proceeds to berate me until she runs out of breath, never tells me what the problem is but instead focuses on how her inability to enter some transactions she didn't get to Friday is going to cause the end of life on this planet. After several minutes I finally get her to tell me what problem she's having when she runs the program.
"IT WON'T START!"
"Does it give you an error message when you try to start it? What do you see?"
"I CAN'T RUN IT! THERE'S NO ICON ON THE DESKTOP! YOU NEED TO GET OUT HERE AND FIX THIS NOW! YOU'RE KILLING THE COMPANY!"
I remote into her system. The icon is there - in the exact same place as it was before - but it's a different icon. Still titled "Quickbooks" of course, but it's a different color. I tell her to watch the screen, double click it and of course QB comes right up.
I remind her that this is a new version and that some commands / screens will look a bit different. She accuses me of screwing around with it just to make things more difficult for her. I tell her that's not the case, ask her if there's anything else I can do to assist. A couple more ugly comments from her and we end the call.
My phone system sends me voicemails as emails with MP3 attachments. I forwarded the email to the owner of the company and told him I expect to be treated more professionally in the future. Frankly I hope it costs her her job.
So, I was hired by a big defense company (upgrade tanks, naval weapons, etc) with over 3500 employees. You can imagine this was a very big company. We were in building 34 and if you needed to go somewhere quick you took a bike or an electric car.
The phone rings.
Her: Yes Hello, this the secretary of the CEO. We need you to come over NOW! We have a big problem.ME: What seems to be wrong?Her: Mr. CEO is trying to open a file in Word, but every time he does this, scrambled text is showing up. I THINK WE ARE BEING HACKED!
(This was a big issue, since a couple of weeks before, a group of activists broke into the company and climbed on top of our radar tower)
Me: I'll take a look from here and take over your screen. Hang on.
So I take over his screen this is what happens: File, open: JKAHSFHJKHJHJJJJJJFJJJJJSAKKKALALLLALLALLALALLALUUU*JJJDKJKJASLKL
Her: I don't know what this is. You see?!? This is so weird...
Now, I knew what was wrong at this moment, but I wanted to see in person. You don't just walk into the exec office every day.
Me: I'll be there as soon as possible!
So I grab this electric car, drive over and 5 minutes later I walk into the executive building. A very nice building, totally different from the rest of the offices.
They even had their own dining room and bar. The security guy sees me coming and waves me through, he was informed of my coming and
understood the importance. I get out of the elevator on the top floor and am greeted by the secretary, a manager and some other assistant, all a bit panicked.
'Come over, have a look at this!' The CEO says.
He shows me: File, open: JKAHSFHJKHJHJJJJJJFJJJJJSAKKKALALLLALLALLALALLALUUU*JJJDKJKJASLKL
So I look at him. I look at every single person in that room. You could feel the suspense. I look back at the computer. I pick up the newspaper that was on top of the keyboard and ask:
'Try again, please?'
The looks on their face: Priceless. (Got a free lunch with the CEO)
A customer of ours has all their server and networking equipment support through us and the helpdesk services from other company. I went on-site to investigate a network issue when I was interrupted by a very aggravated employee of theirs. She insistent I would come fix some issue on her workstation like RIGHT NOW. I explain her I can't, we don't do their support. The following conversation unfolds:
me: I'm sorry, but I don't do end-user casesher: WHAT did you just call me??!me: (puzzled) end-user?her: IS THAT SOME SORT OF A DEROGATORY TERM, HUH?
After that there's no calming her, she fumes on about being insulted and listens to no voice of reason. In the end, I just ignore her and finish my work. The next day my boss comes to me about having received a complaint about my conduct. He says he's very surprised about the accusation as I'm normally pretty calm and professional about what I do. I explain to him what had happened, my boss bursts into laughter and walks away.
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I work for the Computer Science department of a small college. Recently, I had this exchange with a long-tenured professor.
"I tried logging into the server to look at my mail but it isn't working." (He still uses the command line mail utility on our Unix server)
Turns out he was using a piece of software so old it was a miracle it was still working with our servers at all. I tell him to install some new software.
"It says 'this software is incompatible with your current operating system'" he starts, then rants about "new programs not being compatible with modern operating systems".
I'm confused because this guy literally just received a brand new PC as part of our upgrade cycle. I go over to his office to see if there was an issue when the OS was copied onto it.
Nope. Not even using it. Instead, he has his old PC from the 90s and is using the new PC as a coffee table.
I had to explain to him that Windows 95 is not modern and that he should be using our standardized PCs. He says he is. It's a PC that was given to him before the building we're in was even finished.
The systems administrator had to step in when he realized there was a Windows 95 machine on an internal, supposedly secure network. Fireworks ensued, and there are now campus-wide rules banning older operating systems.
This professor teaches programming in Java, C, and C++.
I was out Christmas shopping when I got a call from the mother of a friend (We will call her FM).
Me: Hello FM, How have you been?
FM: Not well. I can't get my internet working, and I need to do my holiday shopping. Can you help?
Me: Sure, I'll be there in an hour.
So she lives in the middle of nowhere south Oklahoma.(keep this in mind for later.)
Z: So! What appears to be the problem?
FM: Well I woke up this morning and the internet won't load.
I look at her computer, and everything is fine. Now when I move over to her router is when the problem becomes BLATANTLY obvious.
Z: Well here is the problem, unfortunately, I can't fix it.
Her router was full of bullet holes, about 4 of them.
FM: Oh that must have happened when I found that snake on it yesterday. I told my neighbor about it, and he took care of it.
Snakes don't like the cold, and it has gotten cold here recently, her router was warm, and it was in such a location where a snake could hide. So her neighbor shot the snake, and the router was also shot in the process.
So I give her a Netgear I keep in my work bag, this fixes the problem, and I now have a bit of extra money for Holiday shopping.
I'm a Network and Server Administrator at a hospital, but I occasionally field help desk calls as well. So, one day I'm slow so I'm helping answer some calls when one of our Switchboard Operators calls.
Operator: Hey, I have a problem.Me: OK, what's up?Operator: I've been playing Candy Crush on my phone and it keeps messing up.Me: What do you mean? Is your phone disconnecting from WiFi?Operator: No, I just can't seem to beat this level no matter what I try.
So I'm trying as hard as I can to not laugh.
Me: Uhhh, I'm not familiar with that application. Each department is supposed to have a Super User for their applications which handles tech support between the users and the vendor. Have you engaged your Super User?Operator: No, I didn't. (She is clearly getting frustrated)Me: I'm sorry you're upset ma'am, but all I'm doing is trying to help you by getting you to the most appropriate channel for support of your issue.Operator: I thought that you may have played this game before and that you may be able to help.Me: No ma'am, Candy Crush isn't an application that the IT department uses or supports.
This was the most humorous call I've gotten. What made it so funny is that the user was getting so mad that I couldn't help her and that I was laughing at her. I mean, come on.
Here I am, another calm morning before the storm. I sip away at my coffee and take a bite of donut. The queue is clear and the emails are quiet. Then, as is to be expected, the phone rang. I clear my throat and pick up the receiver with a cheerful "Hello this is (me) how can I help you?"
"Good morning, my computer won't connect to the internet."
We run through some basic troubleshooting, have you restarted the computer, is the cable plugged in, are the dummy lights on, is your computer turned on. Still nothing so I resign myself to a brisk walk down the hall to see what's going on.
As I enter the room I begin double-checking everything we talked about over the phone. The cable is plugged into the computer, the indicator lights are on, but they keep flickering out for a second. Seeing this I begin tracing the cable back to where it's plugged in. This room is set up terribly by the way so the Ethernet cable is run around the room so the person can have their desk where they want it.
As I trace the cord I find out that it goes through a closet (not a network closet but a closet closet) and then out the other side and into the wall jack. I go to check the connection and notice the cable is tight, really tight like I can't move it an inch tight. My coffee starts to take effect and the connections are forming. I open up the closet and find the culprit. There are coats hanging from the Ethernet cable. We're talking big, heavy coats. The poor cable was under so much strain that it was being ripped apart. I quickly removed the coats, making an internal joke about getting a load balancer for all the traffic on this line, and then made the person aware that Ethernet does not make for a good coat rack.
Once the weight was removed everything started working again and I was off to finish my breakfast.
When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.
These are those stories.