I was just sitting there …

As an IT manager, I’m constantly summoned to coworkers’ desks when things unexpectedly go wrong. Roughly 90% of the time, their saga begins with, “I was just sitting there and all of a sudden it did this …”

I usually sigh, give them a long look, and remind myself that they  believe this is true. They’ll stick to that story to the death and be terribly offended if I suggest that they, in fact, did cause the problem.

And yes, most of the time it is the user’s fault.

When they say, “I didn’t touch anything, I swear!” I always chuckle to myself. That’s a pretty weird thing to claim when you’ve just spent three hours at your desk, presumably working on this very computer. But I understand that what they’re really trying to say is, “I didn’t push a button labeled ‘Self Destruct.’ ”

What “I didn’t do anything” usually translates to is:

  • I clicked through an error message without reading it.
  • I was downloading a bunch of stuff, but since none of it was work-related, it doesn’t really exist.
  • I opened a spam e-mail attachment, but dropped my mouse as soon as I realized it, so it wasn’t really me doing it.
  • I currently have every application on my machine open at once. Is that bad?
  • I’ve plugged a few personal devices into the machine and hidden them under my desk, but I’m not going to mention that because I don’t want you to tell me to unplug them.
  • Sure, I clicked yes when that application prompted me to run updates this morning. But you’re IT so surely you already know about that.

We often joke in IT that we’re solving absurd mysteries all day. It’s like Hugh Laurie in House, always trying to perform a complicated diagnosis, even though the patient refuses to give all the facts. I wonder how many doctors have similar stories – a patient walks in with a broken wrist and says, “I don’t know. I was just sitting there, doing nothing, and all of a sudden it broke.”

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