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Tech Support Horror Stories

Tech Support Horror Stories
Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Most of us have had to perform the unpleasant task of helping our parents out with a computer problem, whether it be an Internet connectivity issue or just trouble opening a file. But these Tech Support Redditors have seen a whole new level of stupidity.

1. White Knight Moment

I spent five years doing IT consulting in a rural town about an hour from Portland, OR. I'd periodically involve myself in the more interesting and complex cases we'd see from our walk-in customers. One day we had a woman come in. She caught my eye because she was in her late 30s or early 40s, and actually quite attractive.

She had short, platinum blonde hair and bright red lips, and was dressed and styled like she was transplanted right out of a 1950s era magazine ad. One of our bench techs greets her and starts talking to her. Right out of the gate I can tell this is going to go badly.

She is panicked and, by the sound of it, tin-foil hat levels of crazy. Well, there goes any desire I had to flirt with her and maybe see if I could buy her a drink. I listen in on the conversation anyways, because it's at least a change of pace from the monotony of my day-to-day.

After a few minutes of her going on about how her husband is spying on her through all manner of devices, my bench tech looks back at me with a can-you-please-come-help-me-and-make-her-go-away look on his face.

I oblige, as I appreciated that the front-line guys respected me enough to ask for my help on these things. I walked up front, introduced myself as the supervisor, and told her that since her issue was so unique and serious, it'd probably be best if our more senior staff handled it. Now that I was seeing her up close, I could tell that under her classy outfit and Marilyn Monroe-esque makeup was a deeply distraught woman.

Her eyes looked baggy and tired. Like she had been up too late crying. Obviously, at this point I'm just playing along. This isn't my first rodeo, and generally what happens is the client claims some individual or agency is monitoring their computer. We tell them our hourly rate for forensics, and suddenly the men in black suits watching them aren't that big of a deal anymore.

Now, to be fair, we actually did specialize in computer forensics and data recovery, working extensively with the local department and a handful of firms on a number of cases where they needed expert help. We even had a guy on staff full-time who wore that hat most days.

The local officers were pretty small-time and farmed out at least some of their computer-related work to us on contract. In the cases where people did want to pay, we would do our due diligence, and prepare a professional report of our findings accordingly. We would meet with attorneys and testify in court, as necessary.

Generally it was fairly benign stuff like gathering chat logs and browser history for a divorce proceeding where one spouse accused the other of cheating or something similar, and wanted evidence to back that up. Back to the client at hand. She insists her husband is monitoring her every move, tracking her vehicle, monitoring her computer, and recording her in her own home. Here's where it gets interesting.

She claims that she knows all of this because he has told her about it. In fact, he has gone so far as to threaten her life if she tries to tamper with any of it. She says she has tried to apply for a protective order against him, but ostensibly without some sort of evidence of his behavior, nobody would take her seriously.

I give her the crazy litmus test and tell her that in order to gather evidence discreetly, we would need two of our senior consultants to investigate. $300 an hour, four-hour minimum. She pulls out her wallet. Well darn, she's serious. We agree to start with her vehicle to check for signs of the GPS tracker.

She says she is parked several blocks away so her husband won't know she came to a computer store (we were in a downtown area surrounded by retail stores). I grab my tool bag and holler at one of my colleagues to join me. The lady, myself, my colleague, and BOTH of our now intensely curious bench techs (all of us in matching company polos) follow this lady down the street to her car.

What a motley crew we must have been. We get to her minivan and begin our process of looking for this GPS device. Now, because of the way GPS trackers work, there really aren't that many places they can really be mounted that are both effective and discreet. We spend some time looking around the undercarriage, rocker panels, and even bits of the interior.

Nothing. Just as I'm starting to lose faith that this may not be quite as exciting as I had perhaps hoped, I make the big discovery. I find the thing. It was tiny, not much bigger than a flash drive, and mounted behind the front grill. But there was something odd.

It wasn't an active device. This device did not provide real-time tracking, rather it used some internal memory and a couple AAA batteries to log GPS data for days at a time. At some point, when the van was not in use, the guy would grab the GPS device, upload the data to his laptop, maybe swap batteries, then remount it to the car.

Good god, this lady was very much indeed Paranoid And Rightfully So. Now that we've established that she isn't insane but that she actually is being tracked by her husband, the tone amongst our team became drastically more serious. Obviously, something sinister is going on, and we aren't sure what, but by the sound of things this lady really is fearful for her life.

She has entrusted us to gather evidence and help her get a protective order against him, which is something I think all of us took quite seriously. We show her the tracker and she breaks down into tears because it's the first evidence she has physically seen. We take photos of it, and carefully install it back where it belongs. I sort of assumed that a GPS tracker on your freaking car would be proof enough for a judge to issue at least a temporary protective order, but she seemed insistent that she would need more evidence to make it stick.

Our next moves have to be conducted very deliberately. She claims that her home is bugged, and so is her computer. We will need to go onsite to investigate accordingly, but it will have to be at a time when both her husband isn't home and when we will be able to quickly create a report for her, leaving her enough time to get a protective order before the day's end.

We couldn't chance him coming home later, reviewing whatever it was he was recording, and finding out that she had taken action to have him investigated. It wasn't going to be for at least a week before there was a time that was just right. We made arrangements with her back at the office and I offered to walk her back to her car.

She accepted, and on the way she confided in me many of the personal details of her life and her obviously horrible relationship with her husband. In the interest of protecting her privacy I'll simply say that it sounded like she finally figured out how manipulative he was, and when she said she wanted out he wasn't about to let that happen.

I asked her again if she really was afraid for her life. Her reply broke my heart. The sincerity of her "yes" was both scary and hard for me to hear. I asked her if she had thought about getting any protection like a weapon, and she said she had, but that he would notice the large sum of money needed to purchase one missing from their joint account.

As the gravity of the situation weighed on me, I offered to let her borrow one of mine. She was awestruck, but I assured her that it was completely okay. At the time, I had several, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate situation for someone to have one. My car was parked close by, and we walked over to it.

I tried to gather some idea of her familiarity with them as the thought of giving one to more or less a complete stranger, especially one that might not know what to do with it, was unsettling to me. It sounded like she had at least a basic understanding of their function. In my mind the pros of her having at least some means to protect herself outweighed the cons, so I moved forward.

We went over the basics of how to use it safely. She was crying, and frankly at this point I pretty much was, too. I gave her my cell phone number and told her to call me if she needed someone to talk to. We hugged for a while before parting ways. It wasn't a romantic hug or anything, it was that kind of hug that's exchanged when someone needs to be held.

Like, when your best friend tells you his mom passed or something. She needed the comfort of knowing that she wasn't alone, that at least one person took her seriously, and I'd like to think that I gave her some hope that things would be okay. The next week was tense as we prepared for our investigation.

My co-workers and I spent considerable time discussing and researching ways to triage her computer to look for evidence, as well as how to approach the search of the house. When the day finally came, we arrived onsite at the specified time armed with our forensics tools, flashlights, laptops...anything we might need.

I set to work immediately on her computers (a home desktop and a personal laptop) while two of my colleagues began their search of the house. I removed the drives from her PCs and I made a clone of both drives. Once cloned, I put the PCs back the way they were and began mounting the cloned volumes and investigating. At first, nothing. Then, I found it.

It was hiding in plain sight, and it was a tag registered to SpectorSoft Corporation. Guess what they sell? Yup. Surveillance software. The PC was running something called SpectorPro, which was capable of monitoring all of the users’ activities, browsing history, keylogging, even sending remote screen captures to a mobile phone or email based on target keywords. It was the full nine yards for monitoring.

I screen capped everything for my logs, shut the system down, and swapped the clones for the original disks to put everything back the way it was. Not too long after, our other two guys found some evidence of their own. Two separate (and frankly, rather rudimentary) cameras hidden in the master bedroom.

One in the closet in a shoebox, one in the smoke detector in the ceiling. All things considered, they were pretty low tech. The contents of the memory cards would have had to be moved off at least once a day, and the battery probably changed at least as often. We didn't touch anything. Lots of photographs were taken.

We went back to the office and compiled all of the evidence into a document for her, and I passed the disk images onto our forensics guy for further evaluation. I met with the client later that day to present her the report so she could furnish it to the court. The gratitude she had for us was absolutely immeasurable. We didn't charge her for our services.

Getting to play a role in stopping her sick husband from engaging in whatever it is he was doing was payment enough. I'd like to tell you that I know how this story ends. I'd like to say that the guy was put away forever, and my supreme IT prowess and white-knightery wooed her into my arms and we lived happily ever after. But frankly, I don't really know what happened. But there was one development.

What I can tell you is that about a week after we gave her our report, I met her for coffee at a place across the street. She looked visibly better. Her puffy, tired eyes were gone, replaced instead by ones that seemed to glisten with warmth. Her skin was radiant and beautiful. She was smiling, for the first time I'd seen. An immense weight had been lifted off of her, and it showed.

She told me that she was temporarily living with her mom and dad, that a restraining order was in place on her estranged husband, and that she was finally filing for divorce. She told me that for the first time in a very long time she felt safe, and that she felt happy.

In the parking lot, she hugged me, both of us teary-eyed, and we parted ways. For me, it proved to be one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my career.


2. An Analog Solution

person in black long sleeve shirt using macbook proPhoto by Romain V on Unsplash

I'm not IT, I just happen to be one of the few in our office who knows his way around the computer, so I often get asked for help. Usually it's just “My MSWord doesn't work” or something, but this one really stuck with me.

Co-Worker: Help me, I have to complete this doc in 20 minutes but I can't type anything

Me: What is it?

Co-Worker: Whenever I hit a button, Word just starts putting infinite spaces between letters

Me: Huh.

I go up to her computer. I notice at once that something is off. I look her in the eye, and without breaking eye contact, I move her phone away from the space button on her keyboard. She asks me never to speak of it again. 10 minutes later the whole office knows about it, of course.


3. Oh, Vladimir

man using IP phone inside roomPhoto by Berkeley Communications on Unsplash

When I started working for my current company, there was a customer who was already infamous. He was one of those people who was known only by his first name. Everyone knew exactly who you were talking about when you said you'd had to take a call from Vladimir.

They tried to protect me, as the newbie, from Vladimir as long as possible, but one day when I'd been at the company for maybe six months it just couldn't be avoided. No one else was available but me, and he was in a royal fury. The operator called me up, apologized to me (even she knew who he was) and told me that she had no one else to take him.

I reluctantly agreed to take the call. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is the exchange the operator had with him immediately before she passed him to me.

Operator: I'm going to pass you to our newest tech.

Vladimir: (shouts) I don't want somebody new! I want somebody who knows something!

Operator: (shouts back) She knows a lot, Vladimir!! (slams down receiver, passing him to me)

Vladimir's a fairly intelligent guy, but he gets frustrated super quick, and has a very hot temper. I swear, sometimes when he calls us he doesn't want his issue to be fixed, he just wants to let us know the torment our product is putting him through.

He calls us to be a martyr on the line and shout at us about how terrible the product is. And my first call with him was one of those. Luckily, the operator was right. I knew a lot. I had picked up on our products super quick, and the issue he called me about was a piece of cake. The hard part was getting him to shut up long enough to tell him the solution to his issue.

I managed to calm him down and fix his problem. But this backfired on me, hugely. Not long after that I had become his favorite tech. It had very quickly gone from, "I don't want to talk to her!!!" to, "Get me her! Nobody else can solve my problems, nobody!!"

I learned to read his moods like a medium reading tea leaves. Sometimes it was best to meet his fire with the cool exterior of a nurse at a mental hospital explaining why we don't hit other patients, and other times I could only get his attention by spitting flames back in his face.

Other techs could always tell when I was talking to Vladimir because they'd hear a one-sided conversation that went something like this:

Me: Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. VLADIMIR!! Pause. You know I'm trying to help you, right? Do you want me to get this working for you, or not? Pause. Okay, then let me explain what's happening here...

Many times in my career I've compared what I do to the TV show House. Tech support is a lot like diagnosing a patient. I frequently tell my techs, "Customers lie," (playing on House's "Patients lie") and every time I say it I'm thinking of Vladimir. This is why I swear sometimes he'd call up just to try to prove to me that our product is bad, because he'd frequently lie to me about what did and didn't work.

He'd tell me whatever would mean he needed to be in a panicked state, up against a deadline that he could not possibly meet, all because our products suck. One time he called me up with an issue where I knew exactly what it was. I'd just solved it for another customer the day before. We were on a remote meeting and I could see his screen.

Vladimir: I tried everything and nothing works!

Me: Oh, I know what this is. You need to do .

Vladimir: I told you! I tried that and it didn't work!

Me: (thinks) That's impossible, it has to work when you do that.

Me: What exactly did you do?

Vladimir: I did and it didn't work! Nothing works! I told you!

Me: Can you do it again so I can see the steps you took?


Me: Vladimir, calm down. Can you do it one more time? Do it for me?

Vladimir: (calmer) Fine. I'll do it again for you. See, I do this, and I click here, and I don't see—Oh, it's working this time! You're the best! I always know when I call you up that you'll fix it for me!

A few years later, Vladimir's favorite support grunt (me) was promoted to manager. I was a working manager for a while, trying to manage my team and take calls at the same time, but that proved to not be very efficient, and after years of that I reduced the calls I directly took down to almost nothing. Vladimir was not pleased.

One day he was having a hissy fit and was demanding to speak to no one but me, even though he'd been told many times that I was now a manager and didn't take direct calls. This particular day I was in and out of meetings about another customer who was legitimately having serious issues, and I couldn't make time for Vladimir.

There were times when the operator literally couldn't find me because I was bouncing between conference rooms and upper management offices. At one point the operator came and found me physically. She was crying. She told me about how upset Vladimir was, and how he was demanding to speak to me and wouldn't let her pass him to anyone else on the team, and she didn't know what to do.

I was livid. I still didn't have time to call him back because that other customer's issue was far from over and there were political ramifications I had to juggle, but I knew just what to do. I took a few minutes to write Vladimir a scathing email. I told him that it was not the operator's fault that I wasn't available, shouting at her wouldn't make me come to the phone any faster, and that he was sabotaging his own attempts to get a solution by refusing to speak with the available qualified techs who were happy to help him with his issue.

I made sure he knew the operator's name, and that he'd made her cry. Then I went back to trying to keep my other customer from hemorrhaging blood. Not long after I sent that email, the operator found me again, and told me that this had happened...

Operator: Thank you for calling, how may I direct your call?

Vladimir: Is this ?

Operator: (recognizes his voice, tenses up) Yes, it is.

Vladimir: This is Vladimir. I just wanted to apologize. I did not mean to yell at you. That was completely unacceptable of me.

Operator: Wow... t-thank you! That means a lot to me. Pause. Do you want to talk to tech support?

Vladimir: No, thanks, I just called to apologize. Have a nice day. Click.

That was one of my proudest moments as a manager, making Vladimir call back just to apologize.

He still calls us up every once in a while. I haven't talked to him in years. He's found another favorite, but every once in a while he still tells her about the way I used to do things, and tells her to go ask me for answers. He still lies to her. Sometimes she comes to me and says:

Tech: Vladimir says the last time this happened you told him to do this.

Me: I absolutely did not.

Tech: I figured.

And sometimes I still hear from someone else's cube...

Vladimir... Vladimir... VLADIMIR! Listen to me!...


4. Trust Me

man in black suit jacket using macbookPhoto by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

I'm not tech support, but am tech support for my family.

Grandpa: My computer won't work and I keep getting this error message.

Me: I'll have a look at it for you.

Does a Google Search of error message

Me: You have some virus software. I'll install Malwarebytes and remove it for you.

Grandpa: I don't want you installing anything on my computer.

Me: But this will help.

Grandpa: No, I don't trust you, I'll take it to Best Buy.

Me: They're not IT, they're salesmen.

Grandpa: You don't know what you're talking about.

Surprise, surprise, it was never fixed, more malware was downloaded and now it won’t even boot up. He still won't let me wipe and reinstall.


5. Going Above And Beyond

Pro tip: You don’t do any work on Friday in IT. If it goes wrong, you’ll be there all weekend fixing it. So, in the spirit of being careful, Friday afternoon drinks were a tradition. 4 pm Friday was happy hour, and the responsibility for arranging the drinks fell to me. No big deal right? Except that this was the day that I finally got an unlimited account with the local drinks store that would be billed to the company automatically. I wasn’t going to waste it.

I did not waste it. Our small 10-person company got rip-roaringly tipsy. There were cans stacked to the ceiling. Chips had fallen liberally to the floor. Someone couldn’t find a bin and filed a chicken wing in the file cabinet, under “C”, for chicken. It was one of /those/ sessions where everyone is just a total mess.

Around 9 pm, after five solid hours of partying, we broke off and headed into the night. I wandered down to a nearby bar and watched some bands play for an hour, downed another pitcher, and smiled to myself that the week had ended. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. The next event made my stomach churn.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I ran outside, tripping up the stairs as I went, managed to steady myself against a signpost, and answered. It was the CEO. The primary and secondary route servers were down. I stood frozen in time for an instant, the same way a deer looks at the headlights of an oncoming car, and then asked him to repeat himself.


I cannot stress enough that these two servers were the most important thing our company had. They, in and of themselves, were the primary thing around which our business existed, and all other things were secondary to them. My state was by far the biggest, with some of the biggest content providers in the country attached.

And this was the first full network outage we’d ever had. And it was my problem. And I’d consumed enough drinks that my blood could have been used as a fire accelerant. I yelled…something, and ran off in the direction of work. It was only when I bumped into the glass front doors before they opened that I started to realize how far gone I was.

When the elevator arrived at my floor, and I bumped into both sides of the hallway before making it to the door, I knew I was in trouble. That hallway was only 20 feet long. But it didn’t matter. My wallet hit the card reader. I’d made it.

Habit’s a funny thing. You get so used to the noises, clicks, beeps and responses that you realize something’s wrong in an instant. Something had gone wrong in this instant. There was no response from the card reader. An error, surely? Interference, something new in my wallet? I dug the card out, throwing my wallet on the ground, and badged it on its own.

Nothing. Not an “Access Denied” six beeps, or a “Card Format Unrecognized” five beeps. Nothing. The lights were on, but no one was home. A few feet away, the keypad for the alarm was lit up like a headlight convention. All the lights were on, the screen totally blacked out. No beeps for keypresses. Just…nothing.

The blood drained from my face. The route servers were inside, suffering some unknown fate, our customers probably getting more furious by the minute, and I could not open the door. AGAIN. No, sod it. I wasn’t taking any more of this security system’s issues. I was getting into this datacentre, security system be darned.

You all know what I’d tried before, and I knew as well, so I didn’t bother trying again. My tools, once again, were behind the locked door, and then the light went on over my head. I can’t…go through the door…I can’t…go AROUND the door…I can’t go…UNDER it…but can I go OVER it!? This is the logic of an in-his-cups engineer: Try all the dimensions!

There was a chair that we left outside for people working outside, so in my infinite wisdom, I dragged the chair over to the wall and lifted a ceiling tile. I then hoisted myself up into the ceiling. This did not work as well as I’d hoped because I was not very strong. I kicked and pushed off the wall, scrambling to push myself up onto what I now realized was a very thin wall.

For those not familiar with a suspended ceiling, metal rods are drilled into the concrete block above, and a grid pattern hangs below it. Inside those grids are weak, light tiles basically made of a combination of cardboard and plaster. Looking at the predicament I’d gotten myself into, it became apparent that the only things that were going to support my weight up here were the tie-rods into the concrete.

So I’d hold onto the rods with my hands, and lying prone in the ceiling, then distribute the rest of my weight along the horizontal connectors. I’d drop down onto the file cabinet at the far end of the room, about 15 feet away. This plan was flawless. And it worked…for about six of the required 15 feet, upon which point my hands slipped and I fell through the centre of the ceiling tile, towards the floor below.

By some insane miracle, I landed mostly on my feet, scrambling ungracefully to regain balance, coughing up ceiling tile dust and God knows what else. Probably asbestos. When the coughing stopped, I ran over to the security panel, pulled the power, and plugged it back in. It beeped a single happy POST beep and hummed to life, making normal sounds instead of the endless buzzing it had been making before.

My access restored, I quickly found the problem: A circuit breaker had tripped, and due to a wiring error on the part of an electrician at some point, both route servers had been wired into the same circuit. With a dustpan and brush, I set about cleaning up the nightmare my dramatic entrance had caused.

It was not a small mess—ceiling tiles are about five feet by two feet, and this one had exploded. It took about an hour. After finally sweeping up all the mess, putting the ceiling tile I’d broken to get up there back together, and replacing the one I’d broken getting down, I walked my butt out the door, feeling smug that no one would be the wiser for my ceiling entrance, and I’d have a grand story to tell. Or so I thought.

Monday morning rolled around and I was the last one in. My co-worker Aaron stared at me. Aaron: What the heck did you do to my desk?
Me: Wha?

I walked into the office and stared in horror. I don’t know what the heck I’d cleaned up but it looked like someone had hit a bag of flour with a baseball bat. It was everywhere. How gone was I? What did I spend an hour cleaning? And how in almighty did I diagnose an electrical circuit being mis-wired and split with no electrician tools of any kind? I have no idea.

But what I did know was how to break in. So I documented the procedure and added it to the Tech Support Wiki.


6. That Took A Turn

woman in green shirt sitting in front of computerPhoto by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

This one is two weeks in the making. I was instructed to reduce spending in IT by a certain amount before the end of the year. The company as a whole needed to cut 3 million in spending by end of fiscal year because reasons. I was specifically handed a list of "potentials” (AKA potential people) as a recommendation to cut (AKA fire).

First thing I did was collect all of those people. Then I gave them two lists. The number of phone line accounts vs the number of employees, and the number of fax accounts that are inactive. For two weeks those men and women worked hard. They found over 12k phone accounts, that cost 22.95 each, that belong to old users but were still active.

We did the audit on the fax system by determining who has not received or sent a fax in six months. We found over 37k accounts inactive. Of those, 9k had never logged in, 12k were old users and nearly everyone else had set up their e-fax and never used it. The rest were people who rarely faxed as a backup. They wanted their accounts to stay.

So far we were at a little under 1 million a month being spent on useless things. But I wasn’t done yet. I started to go through Vendor programs looking for similar instances. Today came with the promise of a company-wide supervisor meeting. I was about to blow their minds.

CEO: I am very glad all of you are here. As you know, the end of fiscal year is approaching and we must trim the fat, so to speak, for year-end financials and the IRS.

He goes on like this for 20 minutes and then has everyone go around the table. We aren’t supposed to say things like. "We terminated X number of users". Instead we say things like, "We reduced salary cost by X percent”.

Accounting: Our department was able to reduce financial responsibility, in particular salary, by 12 percent, saving the company 80k a year.

CEO: OK very good. Marketing?

Marketing: We reduced financial responsibility by 45 percent. However, only one percent of that was salary. The rest was from programs we had used in the past but had stopped using. We were still paying for them, though.

Me: Which programs were those so I can mark them down?

In her response, she mentioned the stock program I had removed. The one we were paying for in IT. Not marketing. I let it slide.

Me: If anyone else has terminated a program, let me know please and I will take care of anything that needs to be taken care of on my end.

Two more departments tried to claim credit for my auditing work. When it finally came to my time, though, things really took off.

CEO: Well, we are just about out of time IT, I am sorry bu...

Me: I am sorry to interrupt but there is information in my report which is not only vital to this meeting, but will have major implications on everyone in this room and the company.

CEO: Ok. Proceed.

Me: As supervisor over the IT support area I have increased the salary responsibility by 20 percent as a way to save money.

HE: Come again?

Me: Using the list of suggested layoffs from HR, I gathered those exact people for a team to audit all cost-incurring systems that are utilized by the IT department.

Accounting: How does more employees save—

Me: interrupting him Using this audit, we have determined that there are over 100k accounts belonging to various programs, services, and paid software. These accounts either belonged to termed employees, people who did not even know they had the account, people who did not use the accounts ever, or people who simply changed computer systems.

CEO: So what does all of this mean?

Me: It creates the immediate savings of 2.3 million.

CEO: Whistles. 2.3 million. That is what I like to hear.

Me: A month.

Yes, I dramatically revealed that 2.3 million was not annual, it was monthly.

CEO: So let me get this straight. We all here as a company have been wasting 24 million a year on things no one used, terminated employees, and discarded programs?

Me: Yes. And now it’s fixed.

CEO: Why was this allowed to happen?

ME: Your predecessor created this storm and we, as a company, inherited it. I never had the urge to look into these issues as they are not directly IT-related issues. I just refuse to fire my guys for no reason other than to save money. No IT employees are lost in this. In fact, we gained two. These two are part of a team in charge of all vendor accounts. They will approve, deny, create, change, and manage all vendor accounts. Look at it this way. Now we have an extra 24 million to spend on expansion of the company.


7. Locked Out

I work an out-of-hours service desk that provides general IT support to a few different businesses when their normal IT people have gone home. These businesses are often hundreds of miles away and my access to their internal systems is usually anywhere from extremely limited to nonexistent.

This is a gem of a call that I received and typical of the level of stupidity we have to deal with.

Me: Service De—

Caller: I can't get into the building, open the door!

Me: I'm sorry, you're calling the IT emergency line, I can't open a door for you I'm based very far away.


Me: Ma'am, this is an IT emergency line for reporting major system failure or general out-of-hours IT support, as I've said I'm not based on site so can't open a door for you. This was (I say the building address), correct?

Caller: YES!

Me: Okay, well, it closes at 9 pm, it's now 11:30 pm. That'll be why it's locked.


Me: Have you arranged this with management?

Caller: NO!

Me: We'll Ma'am if there's no prior arrangement with management, the building will have been locked down by security as normal as nobody knew you wanted to use the meeting room out of hours.


Me: I'm not based on site as I've already said multiple times, I'm unable to physically open a door from miles away for you. You'll need to speak to your management team for further assistance as this isn't an IT issue and we currently have another caller waiting so I'm afraid I'll have to end this call.


Me: Okay Ma'am, as I've said, this isn't an IT emergency, you're absolutely free to speak to someone, however I'm ending this call now as it's not IT related and we have other people in the queue who need assistance, goodbye.

Caller: YOU FU—

Me: click

For those wondering; this particular business has not provided us with any escalation contacts for their security team. If it's not IT-related, we're totally free to drop that call and move on especially if we have other callers queuing.


8. Well, D’oh

This story happened when I first joined my current company, and while I was not the one that actually had to deal with the problem, I was by-standing and heard the juicy parts from my mentor himself. Exactlytwo2 days before a major festive celebration, we get a call from a user who is panicking because his equipment failed and production had come to a screeching halt.

Now, I work in a company that services equipment in a country with a distinct west half and east half, separated by the sea. This is important, as we are based in the western half. The client was a major refining plant for the petroleum industry. As we normally do, we go through the usual troubleshooting steps.

Did you this turn on, is this connection active, yada yada. But the only answer coming from the user was "yes yes yes" with nothing seemingly wrong. This went on for about half an hour when suddenly our boss comes in. The client's Head of Production had just called him and was apparently livid.

It turns out the machine had stopped working for more than an hour, and the production was severely interrupted until the problem got fixed. Now everyone was in a panic, as every hour the production was interrupted, the client was losing money in the tens of thousands and the client had the right to sue us for any damages that occur as a result of equipment downtime.

The Head of Production was not happy that their internal team was not able to fix the problem, and the client was not making any headway in fixing the problem via phone. To resolve the issue, the head demanded that support be performed immediately onsite. There was a big problem with this. Coming back to my earlier points: First, it's the festive season. Second, they are across the sea, so traveling was a bit of a problem. Still, the head said money was not an issue and they would pay anything for immediate onsite support.

Cue my mentor, who was handed the unsavory task of handling the emergency. Immediately he grabbed his tools and sped off to the airport to grab the next available flight. At the same time, his wife had to pack some clothes for him from home and rushed to pass it to him at the airport.

Due to the festive season, my mentor didn't have choices for flights so in the end he had to take a business-class flight that cost a ton of money. Upon arriving, he was whisked from the airport with a driver, sent immediately to the refinery, and granted immediate security clearance to enter the plant (anyone working in petroleum would know how big a deal this is).

By this time, a good six hours or so had passed since we received the call and it was well into the night. Greeting him in front of the equipment was the Head of Production, the original client who called, and various other senior management personnel, all anxious to see what the problem is.

My mentor is a guy with no chill, and he was also the one originally speaking to the client on the phone. He recounts this part.

Head: So, what is the problem?

Mentor: Wait, let me take a look (He starts to go through the normal troubleshooting checklists, but stops almost immediately)

Mentor: Are you sure you checked everything I asked you to?

Client: Yes! Everything, word for word!

Mentor: Are you absolutely sure?

Client: Yes!

Mentor: Do you remember what was the third thing I asked you check over the phone?

Client: Why does it matter? Just fix the problem!

Mentor: The first thing we normally check is to make sure the PC is turned on (points at the CPU LED indicator)

Mentor: The second thing we check is to make sure the equipment is on (points to the machine LED)

Mentor: The third thing (he brings his hand to a gas control valve, rotates it, and a loud hiss is heard as the gas line pressurizes, and the equipment beeps) is to make sure the gas is on.

Client: ….

Head: ….

Everyone else in the room: ….

Mentor: I would like to go have dinner now

After more awkward silence, the head thanks my mentor for his effort and asks the driver to bring him somewhere for dinner. You'd think the story ends here, but there's more! By the time the mentor finished his dinner, it was well past midnight, so he checked himself into a hotel for the night.

The next day he went back to the airport and found out that all flights were completely sold out for the next four days due to the festive traveling. He called my boss to inform him that he was basically stranded, and my boss just coolly said to him "Well, consider this as having a free holiday paid by the client".

So he checks into the most luxurious hotel in the area and spends the next four days basically on vacation before coming back to work. In total we billed the client for ~US$10,000 for the flights, hotel, emergency arrangements, allowances etc. All for 10 seconds to check LEDs and turn a valve.

This is not including the losses from halting the production. It's still one of our most memorable stories that we recount to new hires or clients in our industry. Sometimes we wonder what happened to the client, but he was transferred out of his role not too long after this incident.


9. Catching On

person holding space gray iPhone 7Photo by Bagus Hernawan on Unsplash

Like most people, I too have parents who are largely tech-illiterate. But over the last two years, I've been making a conscious effort to get my parents (especially my mom) to understand computers better. I'm a big believer in the ol' give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, and he can have food for life mentality.

So rather than showing mom how to resolve her every problem, we go through a process of: what do you think is wrong? and how are you going to solve it?

Now admittedly, things do get incredibly frustrating in this process, and it can often take ~1/2 hour up to 1 hour to resolve issues. BUT, it has slowly been working. So today, mom came to me with a problem, and as usual, seemed to explode it way out of proportion.

Mom: My phone is broken.

Me: What do you mean?

Mom: The camera doesn't work.

Me: What do you mean exactly?

Mom: When I go to the camera app, it says connection cannot be established

Me: So have you tried anything to resolve it?

Mom: I turned it off and on again. But that didn't work.

Me: Uh huh.

Me: So then I booted the phone into recovery mode.

Me: (cue disbelief)

Mom: And then I wiped the cache partition.

Me: (sustained disbelief)

Mom: But when I rebooted the phone, it still didn't work. So I thought the problem might be larger than that.

Me: ...

Mom: So I went onto several forums, and a lot of other people describing similar problems said it turned out to be a hardware fault.

Me: How the heck did you know how to do that?

Mom: I Googled it.

Me: (cue jaw drop) So...I guess your phone is broken.

Mom: Yeah. That's what I told you in the beginning.

This is the same person who two years ago didn't even know how to use the volume buttons on her phone, now troubleshooting all on her own...Mom, I am so proud of you. You've now been granted admin privileges.


10. They Are Out To Get You

woman in gray cardigan holding white ceramic mugPhoto by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

So yesterday was strange, to say the least. We had a meeting that was scheduled for noon, so the beginning of my day was pretty mundane. At noon I walked into the conference room for the video review. The head of IT was in there as well as the executive vice president of IT and technology. The conference started hilariously as none of them could get the head of HR’s video working.

I walked her through how to fix that as it was a simple error.

Me: Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?

HR Lady: Oh duh. Should have known it was something stupid like that.

We started the conference and HOOO BOOOY. It quickly became clear to me what was going on. She was gunning for me hard.

Her: So I have in front of me 19 complaints against you this year. Can you explain these?

Me: That’s it?

Her: Clearly not expecting that. Uhh yes. How do you explain it?

Me: Well as you well know, each complaint is different and most do not have merit.

Her: So you are saying these complaints were made…incorrectly?

Me: Yes that is exactly what I am saying.

I then pulled out the same folder she probably had.

Me: On Feb 12th, this man complained that I refused his request.

Her: Good one to start with. Explain it.

Me: He wanted me to put a folder on his desktop that would allow him to transfer items between his local desktop and another server. This was not possible. I offered him several alternative options but he refused each one.

Her: So this was impossible?

Me: Technology wise of course it is possible. But the solution would never EVER get the approval.

Her: Let’s move on to the next one. A different user claimed that you were rude to her on the phone and hung up on her.

Me: let's play the call log.

The call log is me being professional while she politely berates me on the phone…until she cusses me out. I end the call and send it to HR.

Me: Your predecessor said I handled it well.

Her: Ok let’s move on to the lady who had to wait for extra days to get her laptop back from you. She said you helped her three days in a row and finally took an extra four days to get her laptop back to her.

Me: You mean the lady who yelled in my face? Yeah, I remember her. I had to go to the hospital that Friday so none of my work got done.

Her: I see the note here. You thought you had a hernia but it turned out to be a UTI?

Me: Thanks for repeating it here…Yes. Anyways, the point is her laptop was finished within two hours of me returning to work. The four days she is talking about is because we had a three-day weekend.

The meeting went on like this for well over 30 minutes as we ran through each complaint with only one that was legitimate. That was when I misread a technical error and had to fix it 30 minutes later. Oh well. Then came the real kicker.

Her: Let’s talk about the fire you started.


My Head of IT: HE STARTED!? (same time)

Vice President: Wait what?

Her: Per your report. The fuse box was overloaded when the third rack of servers plugged in and started a fire inside the wall that ended up burning out most of the building.

Me: Yes that does sound correct. What you’re failing to mention is that the circuit breaker was not an actual circuit breaker. It was a bypass installed to bring the building up to code. The fuse box had cabinets built over it so that the owner could hide it. That’s why it caught on fire.

Her: How was this missed.

Me: I don’t know. I am not an electrician, I am not a state building inspector, I am not omniscient, and I am certainly not omnipotent. I went in to set up an office.

Her: You appear to have an excuse for everything.

Me: Yes it's called “Cover Your Butt”. You literally have that on a poster in your office. But then it got ten times worse.

Vice President: (to me) OK, That is far enough, you have made your point. Remember that she holds your job in her hand.

Head of IT: Like a small bird. (Yes, they really said this)

Vice President: Thank you. So you do need to show her some respect…that being said. (Talking to HR Lady) He is right. (Turning to me) Do you want to keep your job?

Me: Yes.

Vice President: Then never take a disrespectful tone at a member of the senior management again. I expect a written apology to her by the end of the day. No further action needs to be taken here. (Turning to HR Lady) As for you.

HR Lady: Yes?

Vice President: You will apologize to both of them by the end of the day yourself. While he was disrespectful, he is not wrong.

He then stood up and gathered his things.

Vice President: Hopefully this is the last I hear of any animosity towards upper management, or animosity coming from upper management. Good day people.

He left and I went back to my desk, apologizing for the attitude I took with the head of HR. At 4:55 PM the email came in from the head of HR apologizing for her role.


11. The Phantom Hand

This happened last week:

Boss: Hey, I didn't know we could print on our fax machine

Me: Sorry? That's not a printer, just a fax machine

Boss: Nope, it prints as well. (This is all while showing me some pages that came from the fax machine). I printed this document and it came out of the fax machine instead of the printer. I was surprised myself.

Me: It is not possible. The fax machine is just a fax machine.

Boss: Well, then where did this come from?

Me: I have no idea, but the fax is not a printer.

Boss: I will prove it to you. I will print this other document.

Me: Go ahead.

10 minutes later

Boss: Hey, the fax machine is finally printing. It took a bit but it is now printing that document I told you.

Me: Seriously? This can't be. The fax machine is not a printer. Let me see and I try to figure out what's going on.

I printed out the journal report from the fax machine and I see the last entries are from a number in Hong Kong. I check the number and it belongs to our branch in Hong Kong, so I give them a call. Finally the puzzle is solved.

Me: Hey boss, I know what's going on with the fax machine.

Boss: You realized it is a printer as well?

Me: Have you been to Hong Kong lately?

Boss: Yes, I was there last week for some meetings.

Me: Did you try to print anything while you were there?

Boss: Yes.

Me: How did you manage to get your printouts to come out of the printer over there?

Boss: I had to configure their printer in my notebook

Me: Have you checked you are not still printing in the Hong Kong printer?

Boss: Why?

Me: Well, you have been printing all the time in the Hong Kong printer. The printer is beside a secretary, who thought your documents were very important, so she faxed them to us.


12. The Old Switcheroo

woman in black headphones holding black and silver headphonesPhoto by Charanjeet Dhiman on Unsplash

This happened during my tenure at a mid-sized call center in 2001. Like most call centers, a ticket was required for any IT problem mainly because we had around 500 users online at any one time. Most of the users understood this and followed the rules pretty well. Except for the new supervisors.

Most were in their early 20s and it was usually their first time in any type of position of power. Hey, now that they have an inbox/outbox and their own stapler, they must be important. Liz lived up to this to a ridiculous degree. Every problem led to a panicked call to us followed by a dash to our office when told to open a ticket.

"This has to be fixed right now" she would wail "I'm a supervisor". Since most of her problems would be resolved with a couple of keystrokes, I decided to nip this problem in the bud. As soon as she would call, I knew I had a couple of minutes as she made a mad dash down the stairs to pound on our door to plead her case in person.

Now Liz was just a stunningly good-looking girl so most of my co-workers (also in their 20s and as awkwardly nerdy as you would imagine) would jump to help her. I, however, was in my early 40s and fortunately immune to her looks. So I took to using a remote desktop to fix her problem while I knew she was heading towards our office.

I would begrudgingly follow her upstairs to "see" the problem, which was already fixed. She would swear that it wasn't doing whatever before and that it must have fixed itself. After about the fifth time I did this, I dropped this on her. "Liz, I'm a happily married man and I just don't like you like that. If you don't stop trying to get me alone like this I'm going to have to go to HR".

Liz started using the help desk after that, and me and my co-workers shared a laugh every time one of her tickets came in.


13. No Reply

Me: Hello, Service Desk

Caller: You need to help me right now!

Me: ...

Caller: HELLO!

Me: Help you with what need to explain your issue


Me: Well, if this is an external company I suspect there's not much we can do. May I remotely connect and take a look?

Caller: Whatever just fix it

Me: Okay please show me the messages that you've sent and received...

The caller brings up her sent box with about 50 messages sent to and then her inbox with about 50 automatic replies saying she has contacted an unmonitored inbox.


Me: You're sending emails to a do not reply address. This is why it's happening. As you can see from the multiple emails they've sent back to you. You should be using a different email to contact them.


Me: Can you see my mouse?

Caller: YES!

Me: Can you see this address in the "To" field?

Caller: sigh YES!

Me: What does it say?

Caller: donotrep...

Caller: oh

Caller: click

Yes, goodbye caller, you have a fantastic day now!


14. It Wasn’t Me

I used to be a shift team lead for a hosted outsourcing company that provided our own software to various financial institutions. Some of these companies were very small and only had a single box. Some were larger and had a pair of boxes. Others had more for different functions.

Some did all their own development, others paid us to do their development and bug-fixing work for them. One of the most important things we handled was physical backups. Each box had its own backup schedule, where it would back up to IBM Ultrium tapes. Each morning, one of our tasks was to remove the tape from the previous night's backup, scan the barcode and send them offsite to our secure storage facility.

Once that was done, we'd make sure that the scratch tape for the next scheduled backup was loaded and ready to go. This one company we dealt with had both a live and test environment, and had their own in-house developers. Initially, they were both backed up nightly but due to a cost-limiting exercise, the IT manager on their side submitted a change request to limit the test system to one backup per week, to be carried out on a Friday night.

No problem. Amend the backup schedules and update the documentation to reflect the change. All sorted. I wasn't there when all of this happened, but it was all included and documented on the shift handover report when our team took over, so we knew we didn't have to load tapes for this particular box until Friday.

About eight months later, we received a ticket from one of their developers. This happened on a Thursday afternoon. I bet you can see where this is going.

"Help! The library on the test system was just accidentally deleted. Please can this be restored from last night's backup urgently?"

My tech who received the ticket confirmed with me correctly that they were now on weekly backups on this particular box, and the most recent backup we had was almost a week old. My tech relays this back to the user in an email. The user calls back immediately.

"No! That's not good enough, if that's the most recent backup you have that means we've lost almost a week's worth of critical work. I need to speak to your supervisor immediately!"

I duly took over the call. "Your colleague has just informed me that you've stopped backing up this system daily! This is unacceptable”.

"As I heard my colleague explain, the backup schedules are decided by your company. This decision was taken on your side to reduce the backup frequency from daily to weekly. You need to speak to your IT department for clarity on this”.

"I'll do that, you haven't heard the last of this!"

About half an hour later, another one of my guys gets a call asking to be put straight through to me. "Yes, this is John Smith, the Systems Manager from Company XYZ. I've just had an interesting conversation with one of my developers stating that you've stopped doing our backups that we're paying you to perform. Just for your information this call is being recorded and I've got a conference call with our solicitors in 15 minutes whereby if this is not resolved satisfactorily by that time, we will be filing a lawsuit for the cost of our lost development work, and a recording of this call will be used as evidence”.

Wow, talk about aggressive. I explain to the guy that eight months ago, someone at their company submitted a change request that we reduce the backup frequency on this system from daily to weekly, and this was carried out as requested. It escalated from there.

"Well that's just insane. Nobody here would have done that. I need the name of the person who submitted the request as well as the person on your side who actioned the request without verifying that the request was received from an authorized member!"

"OK, well I wasn't on-shift when that change was made but it will have all been documented on our ticketing system, bear with me a second. Ah, here we go. So the request was made on April 12th this year by a John Smith, Systems Manager. That's you, right?"

"Uhm, that's not right, there must be another person here with that name”.

"You've got two John Smiths, both working as Systems Managers? Does that not get confusing?"

"No, erm. I don't recall asking you to do this”.

"Well, we have the email saved to the original ticket, along with several emails back and forth where we asked you to clarify a couple of points, and also a scanned copy of the signed change form where you've written your name and signature. Did you want me to forward these over for your solicitors? Although I suspect you might already have copies of them if you check your sent items folder”.

"Erm, no that's fine thanks. I'll let the developers know that you can't recover the file”.

"That'd be great thanks, is there anything else I can help you with today Mr Smith?"

He hung up. I printed off the ticket and dug out a copy of the call recording to forward around to the team, and I added this to my training guides for new hires as an example of why documenting everything is critical.


15. Unicorns Do Exist

a computer screen with a bunch of code on itPhoto by Chris Ried on Unsplash

Some time ago, I got possibly the best bug report ticket ever filed. A piece of software I'd written would completely mess up under extremely specific circumstances, upon encountering web pages written in a way I thought completely insane. What I naively didn't realize is that a lot of web pages are written in a completely insane way.

So, one user happened to run the software on one of these little HTML monstrosities, and it broke. An average user, if they would even consider such extreme measures as reporting the bug, would write something like: Expected behavior: It works. Actual behavior: It doesn't Reproduction steps: Visit a website.

I've seen way too many tickets like this. This user wasn't an "average" user though. This guy was a unicorn. The bug report included a link to a tiny page hosted on a VPS of his that would cause the bug to occur. He had enough knowledge and did enough testing on his own to write a minimal example that still triggered it. I still have that ticket printed out and pinned to the wall right above my desk.


16. It’s All Downhill From Here

I received a ticket from a company we provide IT infrastructure and support to. The company is a marketing company with specific requirements and budget, so there was no going away from tower PCs. One day I received a ticket from their department manager asking me to remove the ugly boxes as they don't need them.

I decided to call and explain about the boxes...

Me (On the Phone): Hello, this is IT Support

Department Manager (DM): Oh good, you're calling to arrange collection, I would like the boxes collected in precisely one hour as we are going to a conference later.

We were talking about disconnecting about 40 PCs!

Me: No, I'm not calling to schedule a meeting, but to explain that if we remove these boxes, you won't be able to use the computers

DM: Do you think I'm stupid?

Me: No, I'm just explaining that you won't be able to use your computer without the computer being connected to the screen

DM: What are you talking about? I don't look under my table to use the computer. Look you obviously don't know what you're talking about, I want to talk to someone who knows about IT. Oh, I also want your first name and surname so that I can make a complaint!

Me: I’m not giving you my surname for data protection, and I do know what I'm talking about. Trust me, if you remove the actual computer, the box you are referring to, you won't be able to use the computer.

DM: Slams the phone down!

I closed the job, documenting everything. A week's gone by and we get an Emergency call-out, stating that none of their computers are working. We arrived to find all the computer towers have been cut free from their cages and removed.

Me: What happened to all the towers?

DM: I got a professional team to remove the boxes! See, it is possible!

Me: No I don't see, now you can't use the computers!

DM: What a lot of nonsense, just get the internet working so that we can use the computers again!

Me: No, what happened to the computers?

DM: Are you stupid or something? They're here! referring to the monitors

Me: Ok, ok, what happened to the boxes?

DM: They took them to the dump

Me: Right, you are telling me that you threw away leased computers which are worth $1,300 each? I want to speak to your boss. Now!

DM: He's in a meeting

Me: Get him now! This is very serious.

DM: Ok

DM's Boss: First you refuse to do your job and now you pull me out of a meeting? Where are all the computers by the way?

Me: He threw them away and we need to get them back now as they had sensitive data on them.

DM's Boss: Where are the computers?

DM: You mean the boxes?

DM's Boss: YES!!!

DM: They are heading to the dump

We drove to the dump but there was no record of these computers being brought in. Two weeks later, the company suffered a data breach, which along with the damage bill caused the company to go into administration.


17. Not My Problem

I was a student back when this story takes place and during the summer I managed to get an internship as IT Admin. The work was quite nice, I was doing helpdesk stuff but also things with servers. Anyway, support of users was one of my tasks. The company was from the automotive sector—airbags/seatbelts etc.

I was working in a production plant connected with offices, so I had to support both facilities. One time I get a call. That was unusual, as we always reminded users to write tickets, which were responded in real-time so it took like 10 minutes before I contacted this incident submitter. Call was more or less like:

“For God’s sake, what are you doing with the scanners? The whole line has stopped and we are completely blocked now, we can't do anything without them, they're not working and showing errors”. The line was about a 10 minute walk from my office so I stayed on the phone while I was walking there.

"Ok, tell me what is going on, calm down”.


"Please calm down, we have not been doing anything with that line for months”


At this point I was already thinking about different ways of ruining her, but still played it cool. I finally arrive at the line and ask her to hand me a scanner. All the people from production line were standing there with crossed shoulders and looked at me like "Here you go, you messed up so fix it huh" and the leader said something like "Oh here you are, now make it work”.

The scanner was nothing fancy, all you had to do to make it work usually was enter a username and password. So I take the scanner and look at the screen. Back at her. Back at the screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

"Were you asked to change password recently?"


"Because the screen says that you have typed the wrong password 5 times and you are always reminded that after this, the scanner blocks for 20 minutes. And by the way, you have three backup scanners so why you didn't use them? You messed up, not me. And it's not ok to talk like that to any employee of the company, so I will report it to YOUR manager. We have call recording enabled on our mobiles” (we didn't, but she could never know).

"Ugh....ummm, emmm”.

"Yeah, bye”.

I told the story to her manager. She apologized officially to the whole IT team, brought some of the cheapest cookies from the store, and basically pretended to be sorry.


18. Be Still My Heart

man in blue denim button up shirt standing beside white metal framePhoto by Sammyayot254 on Unsplash

I've been out of the office for about a month so the day-to-day happenings such as construction and desk moves have not been communicated to me. This morning I get to the office at 7:30 am and one of the facilities guys comes up to me and casually says, "The electricians are cutting power to the server room sometime today”.

Enter Panic Mode Now...

I state that they can't just turn off the power to the datacenter. There is a process that needs to happen for downtime. People need to be notified, other buildings need to prepare for continued manufacturing without access to work orders, all that stuff. I start messaging management asking what the heck is happening.

Management asks if we can run on the generator while power is off. I have no answer for that so I run off to find the facilities manager and electricians to ask. The electrician informs me they did not need to turn off the electricity in the server room, they just need to do it for a portion of the office. My datacenter is safe.

If anyone needs me I will be hiding under my desk softly sobbing from this horrible experience.


19. Butterfly Effect

Since the day I started at this small company, I noticed their workstations were horribly out of date and reaching end of life for support and depreciation. I worked with a developer to get our in-house software to run on new machines. It ended up being the worst thing I could have done.

Fast forward about a year when the project is complete and the application can now finish its processing in 10-40x less time depending on difficulty. We have everyone on new systems that run like a dream and everyone is thrilled with how much more we can do in a day. The department head sends a wonderful email about the new time it takes to process.

The backlog of work is now quickly shrinking for this team, and their department head has to stop calling in per-diem workers. Slowly, we fire employees as there's not enough work for them. Fast forward another year and we've fired some 20 people (about 27% of our company). I was friends with many of them. I still feel bad five years later.


20. Take A Load Off

Here I am, another calm morning before the storm. I sip away at my Dr. Pepper 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, 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, 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. The effects of my Dr. Pepper start 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 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.


21. Where’s My Money?

man in black shirt wearing black headphonesPhoto by Sigmund on Unsplash

I work an out-of-hours service desk supporting multiple businesses. This particular business is an educational institute, and this particular discussion took place between myself and a student;

Me: Hello, Service Desk

Caller: I CAN'T PRINT!

Me: Okay, what actually happens?


Please note, the caller’s tone is very rude and I've reached my rude tolerance by this stage

Me: Yes, we've established you can't print. What actually happens? What errors are received? What does the printer do?

Caller: It tells me to top up my print credit as I have a negative balance of -$49


Caller: HELLO!

Me: I'm sorry, I don't see the issue here. You'll need to clear the $49 outstanding balance before you can print

Caller: But I don't owe you any money!

Me: Okay, are you saying this balance has been added to your account in error?

Caller: No

Me: Can you please explain what you mean?

Caller: I was photocopying loads of personal pictures yesterday and since then I have this balance. But I don't think I owe this as I didn't get any warnings when photocopying

Me:... But you're aware there's a charge for photocopying?


Me: Okay, so I don't see why you're disputing the balance? You used a photocopier for a large job and as a result of this have a negative balance which will need to be cleared. Regardless of "warnings" or not, you still used a service at the end of the day and need to pay for what you've used. You've just admitted you knew about the charge before using the service.


Me: Okay, you'll need to clear the balance on the account first by topping up


Me: It's 11 pm. I'm not sure what you're asking me to do. If you want to print, you'll need to clear this balance by topping up your credit


Me: You said you used the photocopiers?

Caller: YES

Me: Presumably you have the documents you photocopied?

Caller: YES

Me: So you have photocopied documents that you haven't paid for. The photocopiers should not be used for personal use either. What is it that you need to "urgently" print right now?

Caller: I want to print a banner for a party

Me: So, again you're using the printing facilities for personal reasons - in clear breach of the policy you agreed to. You've also called an IT emergency line and claimed this was "urgent".


Me: Thanks for calling. I'll report this to your school office for further investigation but I'm unable to deal with this on the emergency line. Goodbye click


22. Candy Crushed

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.

Me: IT.

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 Wi-Fi?

Operator: No, I just can't seem to beat this level no matter what I try.

Me: trying not to laugh 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: getting angry No, smart Alec, I didn't.

Me: Holding back laughter as well as Jimmy Fallon on SNL 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.


23. Wearing Different Hats

Our company HQ building has big conference rooms. Despite not being in the events or hosting business at all, we sometimes rent those out if we don't need them ourselves. We only offer little service but that makes for a fair rate, all usually easygoing, not much work, and earns a few extra bucks.

The day this story took place was one such time: A company that had rented our conference rooms before had booked them again, but this time for a completely different occasion, hence other guests in our house. Regarding technical equipment and support the rules were simple: We as the host provide you with one high quality projector per room, one HDMI cable, one audio cable if you want to use the room's speaker system, and one Wi-Fi voucher for each of the devices people need to present from.

Everything other than that is your own business as a guest. Last year's autumn, when this happened, both the IT team and our facility department were very short on staff thanks to a bad stomach flu going around. Preparing the conference rooms for renters hasn't been of my duties for years anymore, but due to the staff situation and still knowing how to do it, I helped out.

Usually our main janitor prepares the room layout and our internal catering woman stays on standby for the guests, but both were sick. The only option to fill in their positions on short notice was to borrow Lucy, an apprentice from another department. She was fresh from school, had only started her apprenticeship a few weeks ago, and didn't mind doing something completely different for a day.

Naturally, she needed instructing and some help with her newly assigned duties. It took longer than usual, but together we made sure everything was perfectly prepared in time for our guests. Prior to their arrival I had briefed her to call me personally if the guests require any IT help before I had to leave.

Since I passed the conference area on the way through the building a little later on, I checked on Lucy and the guests. Quite a few had already arrived, but everything so far was good, projector and sound worked, she felt comfortable enough to handle the job, everything's fine.

Half an hour passes by, then I receive a first call from Lucy. The guests wanted to know where they could get Wi-Fi vouchers. Dang, my bad, forgot to tell her. I sent her to the front desk to fetch one per device the guests need for their presentations.

Ten more minutes pass. Suddenly another call.

Lucy, sounding strangely nervous: "Could you please come down? The guests need help with the Wi-Fi…”

Since I'd never interacted with her before today, I couldn't quite place if the tone of her voice indicated a problem, or if she was just a little insecure and stressed now...Something felt off, though.

Me: "Sure, don't worry, I'll be there in a few minutes, just gotta finish something real quick”.

Upon entering the hallway to the conference rooms, I could already hear an irritated woman's voice heavily berating somebody. Not a good sign. Worried now, I picked up my pace and turned around the final corner, only to find poor little Lucy cornered by a suited woman in her 40s whose voice I had heard, absolutely barking at her about not delivering what they paid for.

Lucy was visibly shaking a little, probably getting close to a panic attack. After hearing my footsteps her eyes immediately made contact with mine, looking anxiously for help.

Me, sharply: "Excuse me!"

Woman: "WHAT? Now who the heck are you?"

Me: "I'm from IT and here to help you with the Wi-Fi issue Lucy has contacted me about. What can I do for you?"

Woman, still in a very angry tone: "We were promised Wi-Fi vouchers in the lease contract for the room, but SHE—" pointing her finger directly at Lucy, almost stabbing her in the eye, "refuses to hand out any!"

Lucy, seemingly on the verge of tears now: "But I...I gave you one for your laptop, your tablet, and your guest speaker's laptop…”

Woman, shouting down on Lucy again: "AND WHAT ABOUT THE OTHERS? We have over 100 people here and EVERYONE needs Wi-Fi, you stupid worthless—"

Those words really hurt and this new, unexpected situation became too much to bear. Tears welled up in Lucy's eyes. Before seeing this, I already had more than enough of this woman's behavior, but now I snapped. This had to stop.

Me: "HEY! STOP. Calm down. Keep those insults to yourself, where are your manners?! Back off of her, she's just doing her job and following policy!"

Woman, turning to me, cocky look on her face and maximum disdain in her voice: "Who do you think you are, telling me what to say or do, huh? And what stupid policy?! We were promised Wi-Fi, and that's what we're getting from you”.

Me: "The contract clearly states the IT policy for external guests, which—"

Woman, cutting me off: "DON'T. CARE. You two drones are utterly useless and should get fired! Get me the manager in charge, NOW!"

Me: "Alright. As you wish. Be right back”.

With that, the woman stormed off, back into the conference room. I gestured Lucy to come with me and she immediately followed, glad to get away and barely keeping it together. We made our way around the corner, back to the elevators, when I stopped and put my hand on one of Lucy's shoulders, getting her to look up at me.

Me: "I'm so sorry you were treated like that. Are you OK?"

Lucy nodded and took a deep breath, slowly regaining her composure.

Me, continuing walking with her: "Listen, you don't have to accept this sort of behavior, neither as an apprentice nor as anyone else. Feel free to simply walk away next time and report to a manager”.

Lucy: "OK. I will”.

Me: "Don't let those hurtful words get to you. Forget everything she said, you were doing a great job. Really, I mean it, and I am very proud of you for standing your ground”.

We reached the elevators and entered one. I pushed the button to the executive floor.

Lucy: "Where are we going now?"

Me: "My office. At least, I will. You go fetch a cup of hot chocolate or whatever you like from the machine next to the elevators, it's free. Have a seat on the sofa then. I'll be back in a few minutes”.

Lucy looked confused, but complied. Meanwhile I went through the adjacent hallway door and into my office. Earlier in the day, I had changed from my slacks into jeans (which I keep in my wardrobe for such occasions) earlier and left my suit jacket and tie by my desk. Now I reverted those changes, made a few quick phone calls, and returned to Lucy all dressed up. Her eyes grew wide. There was something no one there knew.

Lucy: "This question might sound stupid now, sorry, but...who are you exactly?"

Me, smiling: "I do work in IT, but I am the CIO. Since so many of my people are sick right now I'm filling in for them. That's why I helped you set up the room instead of Ben, who'd usually do this. And now, since that lovely woman down there asked for management attention, we'll teach her a lesson in respect. Follow me”.

With that we made our way down to the conference rooms again.

Me, mockingly straightening my tie and suit jacket: "Lucy, would you please be so kind as to inform our guest that the manager in charge is here now?"

She grinned and did as requested. Immediately I could hear a faint "Finally, everything takes too long around here!" Before the woman hurried through the door toward me. When she recognized me, she froze in her tracks.

Me: "Hello. I'm the CIO and therefore the manager in charge regarding your issue, with whom you demanded to speak”.

Calmly I walked towards her, reached into my jacket, and gave her my business card. The woman took it, but not being able to throw anybody under the bus apparently left her without a plan and speechless.

Me: "Now that I got your attention, I have three things to tell you.
One: You stated that you “were promised Wi-Fi” and that you “want to get what you pay for”. You signed a contract stating that you get Wi-Fi access for every device needed for your presentations, which we delivered. We neither can nor will provide access for all attendees of your event. Our network, our rules. Period.
Two: Your condescending, rude tone is bad enough in itself, but intimidating employees, especially a minor like in this case, absolutely won't be tolerated around here. I expect a sincere apology of yours to Lucy and myself”.

She slowly found the ability to speak again.

Woman: "OK, I apologize, that was not very professional of me. But—"

Me, interrupting her: "That's a massive understatement and doesn't sound terribly sincere to me. Furthermore, point three: Verbal assault and intimidation are against our house rules, which we strictly enforce and you agreed to adhere to by signing the rental contract. This alone warrants your personal removal from our premises.

Also, you apparently invited more than 100 people, which you weren't allowed to do and violates fire code rules, since the maximum room capacity is exactly 100, as stated in the contract. Due to now multiple breaches of contract and said fire code violations, I herewith have to ask you and your guests to leave.

By the way, according to internal consultation we have not the slightest further interest in renting out our rooms to your company, considering the circumstances. Please gather your people, personal belongings and then leave our premises”. Chaos broke loose.

She of course threw a massive hissy fit, questioned my authority some more, and needed to be guided out by security. The other people from her company were confused and understandably not amused, but cooperated in a civil manner.

A week later, she had her lawyer send us a letter claiming unfair treatment and requesting a refund, which gave our lawyer a big laugh and the opportunity to lay out to their counterpart how they breached the contract in great detail. That was the last we heard from them, thankfully.


24. The Battery’s Low Upstairs

person holding low battery smartphonePhoto by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

I had a person come up and say that they have been transferring some files for hours and it's only at 61%. I have a look and find that they are not transferring files at all. All they've done is plug their video camera into the computer, and the 61% is the level of battery remaining on the device. The person has been watching the battery drain for hours.


25. Not So Useless After All

I used to work at a small structural engineering firm with about 10 engineers as a project engineer, so I used to deal with client inquiries about our projects once we had released the blueprints for the construction of the project. Most of the time we did house projects that never presented a challenge for the construction engineer.

Most inquiries were about not finding stuff in the blueprints. If you have seen a structural blueprint, you would know that space is a valued commodity, so being a Tetris player is a good drafter skill. Then this call happened. I introduce to you the cast of this tale:

Me: Your friendly structural engineer. Big Boss (BB): The chief engineer of the company and my direct superior (gotta love small companies), aaand Incompetent Construction Engineer (ICE).

So one day we received a request to do the structural design for some houses that were meant to be on a suburban development, basically the same house with little differences built a hundred times. In that type of project, every dollar saved can snowball pretty fast so we tend to do extra optimization that on normal projects might be overkill.

Because of this, some of the solutions we do are outside what most construction engineers are used to. That was the case for this project.

ICE: One of the beams you designed is collapsing.

ME: Are you certain? Can we schedule a visit so I can go take a look before we start calling our lawyers?

ICE: Sure, but I'm telling you we followed your instructions to the letter, so I'm confident it was your design that was deficient.

Before going to the field, my boss and I decided to do a deep review of the project. We rechecked the blueprints, ran the models again, even rechecked the calculations by hand. We found no obvious mistakes on our part, so we started getting on a battle mood. We were going to shift the fault to the construction company. #1 rule of structural engineering conflict solution: It's always the contractor’s fault.

We put on our battle outfits (visibility jacket, helmet, and steel-toed boots) and went to see the problem.

ICE: See, the beam is collapsing! We had to scaffold it because it kept deflecting more and more!

Now, we could SEE the beam getting deflected at simple sight, and that shouldn't be happening. We asked ICE for a set of blueprints and started checking. Then we saw the problem. A column that we had considered and that was central to the design was nowhere to be found, neither on the blueprints ICE gave us nor the real thing.

Keep in mind that it had no apparent reason to exist because it functioned differently than the usual designs.

BB: Well, it appears we messed up. The blueprints that we sent them don't seem to have THAT column. I better start calling the lawyer and insurance because it appears to be our fault.

I was not entirely convinced. Remember, I had just reviewed the project, so I was confident that column was on the final blueprints. We usually delivered a set of signed and sealed blueprints and a digital PDF version so they could make copies and give them to their people more easily.

So I asked ICE for the sealed blueprints...and surprise! The column was there. I was free to breathe again, rule #1 was not bypassed.

Now it was a matter of knowing WHO messed up.

ME: The blueprints you gave us are inconsistent with the ones we sent. Did anyone modify them?

ICE: Oh, sure I did. You put a column there that was too expensive and was doing nothing. I asked one of our engineers if we needed it for some code compliance reason and he said that if it was not structural it had no reason to be there, so I deleted it on our working version of the plans.

That was all we needed to hear. We just went to his boss, told him he had modified the blueprints without our say so and that we were not liable for the failure. That day there was one construction engineer job opening and some happy workers got extra pay by rebuilding that part of the house.

If a structural engineer says something is needed, then you better believe it is. Oh, and it’s always the contractor’s fault. I'm so happy to work in an industry where "The client is always right" doesn't apply.


26. A Blast From The Past

About 15 years ago, I was a bright-eyed coder still in college. My family was poor. I often did some freelance jobs to afford a living in my college city. One of the companies I coded for was dedicated to importing metal, cutting it based on the customer's preferences and selling it. I had coded them a simple local network program automating the preferences of the supervisors in the office and supervisors in the workshop, then it stored the data in their accounting program.

Today about 10 am, I received a call from their boss.

Boss: hello. We need you here in the city urgently. Your program stopped working.

Me: Excuse me? I do not recognize the number you're calling from. Which program of mine?

Boss: Don't you? I’m speaking about the program you made for our company.

Me: Oh...The one I made years ago? You're still using it?

Boss: Yes we are. But today in the morning the program stopped working.

Oh, nostalgia...Anyway. I decided to troubleshoot quickly, learning about the details. Thankfully I have archives for all my codes, even my first-ever program. Of course, even coded 15 years ago, a program doesn't suddenly stop working in a day. I try to find out what has changed. Nothing seems to have changed since yesterday. Maybe a blackout? No. Changes in network? Nope. Changes in any hardware? None...

It will indeed take time.

Me: All right, I guess I can't solve it from afar. I seriously doubt it's a problem in my code but just in case, I will provide you the source codes. It's possibly a simple problem in hardware and you wouldn't want to pay me for that. A local tech will do it for much less.

Boss: Pay you? Why should we pay you? It's your program. Fix it.

Me: (after a hearty laugh) It's a freelance job I did for you literally 15 years ago. As you're the witness to, it had worked well until this morning. Even if it was the product of a giant company, the support would have been dropped already. Think about it, Microsoft has dropped support for XP. You can't expect me to offer free support.

Boss: We still want you to fix it. How much would you charge?

Me: I'm working for another company already. First, I'll have to ask for unpaid vacation. Then I'll bill all my expenses to you in addition to my rate per day. I doubt it'll take more than a single day, though.

Boss: It's too much.

Me: I know. That's why I urge you to find a local tech and have him have a look. If it's proven that the problem is my code, I'll happily send you the source codes and then you may have it updated to your heart's content.

Boss: I don't understand why the passage of time should change it. It's your program. You should fix it.

Me: It doesn't work like that. Anyway, I'll be awaiting your call from this number.

He hung up, still muttering about how it's my program and I should fix it for free.

I'm dreaming about the future now.


27. That’ll Be The Problem Then

I work for an ISP that deals only in DSL-type connections. No satellite or mobile or anything.

Client: Hello. Where's the Wi-Fi?

Me: I'm sorry sir. You're going to have to be a bit more specific?

Client: I'm paying for this service! This is terrible, it hasn't been here for about a week now! It's usually right here on my phone. Where did it go?

Cue about ten minutes of troubleshooting, until…

Me: Well sir, since the devices connected by cable seem to be functioning okay, we should check if it's an issue with the Wi-Fi functionality of your router. Do you have a spare router we could test with?

Client: Yes, but I can't swap them now.


Client: I'm not at home right now.

Me: Well, where are you?

Client: Mozambique.


28. Black Out

person using black laptop computerPhoto by freestocks on Unsplash

After recovering from my stroke, I was in desperate need of work. So desperate, I took an overnight shift at a webhost for tech support. Most nights it was pretty calm and people that called on my shift were usually just looking for more help with their website than just troubleshooting, but night staff had the time and it helped break up the monotony of the shift. Occasionally I would get gems like this.

I get a call and the guy is frantic on the phone. After finally getting him to confirm his username and password, I ask which website of his is down. I type the URL into my web browser and surprise, I get his website, no issues. After poking around some more, I still can’t find any issue.

It is at this point that we get into basic PC troubleshooting and the following transpired.

Me: Okay, are you using a MAC or PC?

Customer: PC

Me: Can you click on the start menu and type in CMD.

This is where the problem became excruciatingly clear.

Customer: I cannot. The screen is black

Me: deep breath Is there a light on the front of your monitor or your tower?

Customer: No

Me: deeper breath Is the cable plugged into the back of the device, and can you trace that cable back to make sure it is plugged into the wall? If you have a power strip can you see if it is in the “on” position

Customer: rustling I think it is, but I cannot quite tell

Me: What do you mean you cannot tell?

Customer: I can't tell, it’s dark

Me: Dark?!? Can you turn on a light?

Customer: I could get a flashlight, but there is no power

Me: head desk I assure you sir, your website is up. You can check it again when you have power back.


29. You Get What You Pay For

I do IT Hardware support for a college. Coming in one morning, I hear my phone ding for a new email as I am pulling in off the freeway. I pull into the parking lot and pull out my phone to see the following email.

“Our department ordered fifty new laptops that just came in this morning. We need IT to install the latest Windows on them along with the following software (a long list of software follows). These computers need to be ready to go by 10 am tomorrow morning so we can use them for the first class”.

I check to see if this was forwarded by my boss or his boss. Nope, it was sent directly to me. No ticket, no purchase order information, I didn’t even remember seeing an order for new laptops in any department come through the system in the last month. So I go to the office and show my boss, who reads the email and tells me that he never had a request for new laptops so he has no idea what it is about.

After a few minutes of trying to call the department with no answer, I agree to walk over and see what this was about. When I get to the Department Office, I finally track down someone who knows what is going on and she leads me to one of the classrooms with a pile of boxes in the center of the room. My heart just sinks.

There before me, a pile of new 7-inch Windows tablets with attaching keyboards sat. I pick one up and look over the specs. Low-end tablets, barely enough memory to run Windows 10 (installed) but would never run the up-to-date Windows, and nowhere near able to run any of the software that they were requesting.

Needless to say, I was a little scared about this. I asked her how these were even ordered through our system and she tells me that they bypassed the system and ordered from a web company to get a better deal. I know that there was no reasoning with her, so I ask if I could take one down to the office to get a look at it and she agrees with the stern comment of “These need to be ready by tomorrow! Make sure it happens!”

Back at the office, I show off their new toy to the rest of the staff and my boss. None of them are happy. There is no way we can install any software on these, let alone connect them to our network so the students can log into them. My boss emails the Department Head asking why they didn’t go through IT to get the computers and she responds with the same answer I got earlier, they were cheaper this way.

He lets her know that we couldn’t fulfill the request and that they would be better off returning the computers and that we would work on getting them ones that would work with our network and software. It went from bad to worse. They can’t do that because the website had a no-return policy. Not only that, but they hadn’t used a purchase order for it, they used the department credit card.

So now we are stuck with fifty Windows 10 tablets that the department can’t really do anything with and the Department head is demanding answers as to why no one told her that we couldn’t use those. For some reason they keep emailing me instead of talking to my boss, so I am getting the front end of the disaster here.

We finally get to a work around. The tablets are set up on the Wi-Fi network and we have to create a generic user account for each tablet along the lines of “DepartmentTab01” and then make sure that no one would be able to log into the network with another computer.

They were delivered to the department a week later than they wanted. I wish it stopped there, but of course it didn’t. First day with the tablets, a trouble ticket comes in saying none of the tablets would connect. I get to the classroom and the teacher had written one of the usernames on the board and was trying to have everyone connect to the Wi-Fi with that one username.

What is really bad is that we had a printed set of login instructions hanging right by the board that she used. Then they wouldn’t charge. Turns out, the tiny barrel plug that these things used had to be pushed in all the way to get a connection. Even just a little short of the mark and they wouldn’t charge. None of the tablets had been plugged in properly over the course of about two weeks.

And we still get a random request for software to be installed on these. The students won’t even use them because the keyboards are just too small to type on unless they have the hands of a seven-year-old. Why do departments do this to us? I really wish we had a purchase system in place where all computer requests go through us.


30. Know Who You’re Firing

white Apple Macintosh classic II monitorPhoto by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash

Back in the Dark Ages, around 1993, I worked for a medical transcription firm as their Systems Administrator. We were doing some cutting-edge IT stuff, in getting transcriptions printed at the hospitals remotely, things like that. It worked really well, until it didn't.

I was the only Systems Admin in this city, so I was on call 24/7 and was averaging three hours of sleep per night, when I could go home and trying to catch little catnaps here and there when I could. Anytime something would go wrong on the hospital side, I would have to go to the hospital and fix it.

A few months after I started, two of the Vice Presidents from the corporation relocated to my city, since we were the most productive city with the highest profits. The first thing they did was come up with an excuse to fire the current director, then they took over operations themselves.

At that point, my job went from taking care of our systems to taking care of the doctors’ computers too. I did what I could, but I was also sending out resumes. Then I was told to go to a hospital and see why the printing stopped. I remember this day. I hadn't been home for two days and had been going nonstop for 18 hours.

I get there, and someone had unplugged the modem. I plug it back in, a call comes in and jobs start printing. This doctor walks over and tells me that one of the vice presidents told him that I would go out to his house and work on his home computer. I politely explain to the doctor that I can't do that, and that I'm heading home to get some sleep.

Then I head back to the office to pick up a few things before heading home. As soon as I walk through the door, I get escorted straight to the vice presidents’ office. Both vice presidents and the office manager are there. They proceed to start chewing me out.

I just started laughing at them. I'm the only person in 1,000 miles that knows anything about this system. They lose their temper and tell me I'm fired and I have to leave immediately. I really said, "Thank You”. Then left.

This was December 15th, my oldest son's birthday. On the way home, I stop at a Mom & Pop computer store where I know some of the people to drop off a resume. They tell me that they have no openings right now but will call me when they do. I talk to a couple friends while I'm there, then head on home.

The only thing I'm worried about is telling my girlfriend that I got fired. I walk through the door, and she's at work. I see the answering machine blinking, so I hit play. It’s the Mom & Pop Computer Store saying their primary Novell Engineer just quit, and asking are you still available. I call them back and let them know I'll be there tomorrow.

That began a much more peaceful career, with better pay, rotating on-call and most every weekend and holiday off. By the way, the medical transcription firm imploded. The vice presidents were fired. They floundered for about a year and were bought up by a competing firm.


31. Catching A Big Fish

Some years ago, I get an offer for a side job. I nearly always have something going on the side, but it happened that I didn't right then. The guy who made the offer was a friend of an acquaintance. I didn't know anything about him and he lived about four hours from me.

We spend some time talking online, and it seems like a good gig. Basically, it was writing some shipping/warehouse software. He wanted me to travel down to meet him, expenses paid. I agreed.

When I got there, things seemed a little bit sketchy, but often people who are starting small businesses or running one-person businesses don't have much capital. So I didn't think too much about it. I should have run right then. We met in a restaurant. He told me about the job...again. I patiently listen to nothing new, wondering why I had to travel for this.

Then he tells me I need to come meet his client. That his client won't sign the contract until we meet. Okay, fair enough. I think his client wants to see if I'm capable. We go to the client's place of business. Right before we go in, this guy tells me not to worry about anything he might say. If I have any questions, ask him afterward.

So, he presents me to the client as an employee. Other than that, things are fine. I don't get to see any of the computer equipment. I don't get to see any of the existing software, because we aren't building off the existing software. After we leave, I question the "employee" bit, and the guy says he doesn't want his client to know he's using contract labor.

Well...okay. If you're just starting in business, you want to look bigger than you are. We get down to brass tacks, and the guy has a whole elaborate system set up for work production and payment. I think it's overly elaborate, but whatever. I'm not planning to cheat the guy, and if he's paranoid, that's his problem.

He would front me some money, about a week's worth. Every day, I would upload the current source code to the cloud. He wanted to pay by the hour, so I would keep a time sheet of hours worked. Personally, I think this is plain stupid. If I give a price for completed work, then I carry the extra time for mistakes. If he pays by the hour, then he carries the price for mistakes. But some people pay for work. Some people pay for the time your butt in the chair.

Every two weeks, he would pay based on the time sheet hours. This works out fairly well…until one day. The first time he missed a paycheck. I notify him that I haven't received payment and I keep working.

When I hit the one-week mark (the amount of the initial advance), I keep working but I stop uploading the source code. I get a paycheck. I start uploading the source code again. Next time I send him a time sheet, I get a phone call.

Him: You're cheating me! I can see it on your time sheet. There are three days here where you put down hours you didn't work.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: You didn't work these three days because I didn't send your paycheck. That's how you forced me to pay you when I didn't have the money.
Me: I worked those hours. I just didn't upload the source.
Him: From now on, you need to upload the source or I won't count those hours as work. But I'll go ahead and pay you this time, even though I don't believe you really worked those hours.

My paycheck finally arrived a few days late, but without the days I supposedly "didn't work". I calculated where I was on hours worked vs hours paid, taking into account the initial front money. It was good, so I kept working. When I reached the end of the paid hours, I stopped working, and stopped uploading.

I get another phone call:

Him: Why are you not uploading source?
Me: I've run out of money. You didn't send a complete paycheck last time. If you want me to keep working, you need to pay me.
Him: You're cheating me! Do you think I'm made of money?
Me: This is what we agreed. If you'd rather switch to a pay for work delivered, I can do that.
Him: No! You'll cheat me out of more money. I can get some kid out of high school to do this for less than I'm paying you. If you don't start working again, you will lose the whole project.
Me: Why don't you go find that high school kid?

That was the end of that. Or so I thought.

About a month later, I get a frantic phone call.

Him: You have to fix this!
Me: Fix what?
Him: The client's computer system has been compromised. Everything's gone!
Me: Don't you have another employee now? The one that took my place?
Him: But he's just a kid. He can't fix this!! Can't you at least give me some suggestions?
Me: What exactly happened?
Him: It's the systems admin. He got fired. He took down the whole system.
Me: Why did he get fired?
Him: We didn't need him anymore. The system was up and running fine. After he left, he remoted in and erased all the operating systems.
Me: Well, you've got backups. Reload everything.
Him: We can't. He got the job because he had unlicensed copies of all the operating systems we needed. He used those to set up the network. Now we can't reload without buying licenses.
Me: ....

After I hung up, I had a good laugh, and realized that I'd dodged a big one with that company. That was the end of that. Again, or so I thought.

Early one Saturday morning, I'm sleeping in. Enjoying a well-earned day off. Phone rings.

Me: Hello?

It’s the FBI.
FBI: This is a Special Agent from the FBI. I need to ask you a few questions about this company.
Me: I don't work for them anymore.
FBI: It concerns the computers that were compromised.
Me: I wasn't employed there when that happened.
FBI: Yes, but your boss got some advice from you at the time? He says you can confirm the incident.
Me: He did call me. I talked to him for about 10 minutes.
FBI: Good. I need to verify exactly what he told you about the damage done.
Me: He told me the operating systems had been erased.
FBI: Yes. Can you estimate how much monetary damage was done by erasing the operating systems?
Me: Well, none. They didn't own the operating systems, so it's not like any property was damaged or stolen.
FBI: They didn't own the operating systems?
Me: That's what they told me. They were running unlicensed copies.
FBI: He told you that??
Me: Yes. He told me that the systems admin, the person who compromised the system, brought the operating systems with him. After they fired him, he took the operating systems back. But he said they were unlicensed, so I don't know that they legally belonged to the sysadmin.
FBI Thank you for your cooperation.


32. Mystery Solved

This is a second-hand story told to me 20 years ago by someone who was already a veteran systems administrator back then, so it could have happened in the 80s or early 90s. The scene is a factory making heavy machinery. They are modern and the factory floor had terminals connected to a mainframe for tracking parts and whatever else they needed it for.

One day a systems admin gets a call from the factory floor and after the usual pleasantries the user says: “I can't log in when I stand up”.

The admin thinks that it's one of those calls again and goes through the usual: Is the power on? What do you see on the terminal? Have you forgotten your password?

The user interrupts: “I know what I'm doing, when I sit down I can log in and everything works, but I can't log in when I stand up”.

The admin tries to explain that there can be no possible connection between the chair and the terminal and sitting or standing should in no way affect the ability to log in. After a long back and forth on the phone, he finally gives up and walks to the factory floor to show the user that standing can't affect logging in.

The admin sits down at the terminal, gets the password from the user, logs in and everything is fine. Turns to the user and says: “See? It works, your password is fine”.

The user answers: “Yeah, told you, now log out, stand up and try again”.

The admin obliges, logs out, stands up, types the password and: invalid password. Ok, that's just bad luck. He tries again: invalid password. And again: invalid password. Baffled by this, the admin tries his own mainframe account standing: invalid password. He sits down and manages to log in just fine. This has now turned from crazy user to a really fascinating debugging problem.

The word spreads about the terminal with the chair as an input device and other people start flocking around it. Those are technical people in a relatively high-tech factory, they are all interested in fun debugging. Production grinds to a halt. Everyone wants to try if they are affected.

It turns out that most people can log in just fine, but there are certain people who can't log in standing and there are quite a few who can't log in regardless of standing or sitting. After a long debugging session, they find it. Turns out that some joker pulled out two keys from the keyboard and switched their places.

Both the original user and the admin had one of those letters in the password. They were both relatively good at typing and didn't look down at the keyboard when typing when sitting. But typing when standing is something they weren't used to and had to look down at the keyboard, which made them press the wrong keys.

Some users couldn't type properly and never managed to log in. Others didn't have those letters in their passwords and the switched keys didn't bother them at all.


33. Taking Me On A Journey

turned-off MacBook Pro between cup of coffee, iPhone, notebook, and penPhoto by Unsplash on Unsplash

Me: Hello, Retail IT. This is Daniel.

Caller: Hey Daniel. I’m in a big bind here. I'm a district manager and I’m doing a presentation in 15 minutes and my laptop crashed. I'm kind of freaking out here and don't know what to do.

Me: Oh no. Well, I'll have to have a desktop tech give you a call and help you with that.

Caller: Well, is there any way you can help me? Not to be that person, but I'm really freaking out here and I have no time left until my presentation....

Me: Ok, well what's your laptop showing?

Caller: It's not powering on. It showed like a blue screen and just turned off on its own and now won't turn on....

Me: Yeah. That doesn't sound good. We might have to replace your laptop....

Caller: Oh my god....(starts crying)

Me: Oh shoot.....

Caller: I worked on this all week! I can't believe this (starts sobbing)

Me: Ok. Please don't cry. Let me see what I can do.

Caller: (continues crying)

Me: Alright. So when you worked on your presentation, it was a PowerPoint right?

Caller: Yes... (sniff)

Me: Did you have it saved on a network drive or just on your computer?

Caller: I'm not sure. I think just on my computer...(sniff)

Me: Ok, I'm willing to bet you saved it on the network drive and didn't know it.

Caller: Ok.

Me: I have to search like a million folders. Can you tell me the name of the presentation?

Caller: Yeah. It's (he tells me)

Me: Ok. Let's see. Got it!

Caller: Shut up..... (sniff)

Me: Ok so I’m going to save this. Send it to your email. You have a phone or iPad right?

Caller: I have both!

Me: Ok. Are you in a conference room?

Caller: Yeah!

Me: Do they have Wi-Fi?

Caller: Yeah... I think so....

Me: Ok. Try to find out the Wi-Fi and connect your iPad to it.

Caller: Ok. Emails are coming through. I see yours......Oh my god......OH MY GOD!!!

Me: There ya go! I don't know the connection of the conference room but there should be a way to airplay your PowerPoint from your iPad to the tv or whatever they have.

Caller: Oh my god... (crying) I can't believe it. You saved me!

Me: Not a problem. Glad I was able to help

Caller: Next time I'm at the office, you're getting a drink and a long hug!

Me: Sounds good. Hope your meeting goes well.

Caller: .........................

Me: Ok Bye?

Caller: Hahahahahahah. So. My laptop just turned on....It wasn't plugged in and I guess the battery was gone. Ha ha ha.....

Me: ...................................

Caller: Hello?

Me: (crying)


34. Never Say You’re Sorry

My client provided a PSD file that she wanted converted into an HTML file. The PSD was 600 pixels wide. I sliced and diced the file, converted live text where possible, uploaded the HTML page to the server and provided her with the URL. I then get a frantic email which turns into the below conversation.

Client: This is terrible! Everything is so much bigger. It looks nothing like the PSD I gave you.

Me: What do you mean "so much bigger"?

Client: It's huge! You have to re-code this so that it matches what I provided

Me: (utterly confused) So that I know exactly what the problem is, could you provide a screenshot of what you're seeing?

Client: (Sends a screenshot of Photoshop and Safari side-by-side. They look identical)

Me: They actually look the same to me. They should both be 600 pixels wide. I didn't alter the PSD at all

Client: (Tech savvy enough to know how to "inspect element" in Safari) Okay, yeah, it's 600 pixels but why is it so huge?! This is unacceptable. I'm going to send this job to someone else to re-code.

At this point, I have no idea what to say or do. I decide to look at her screenshot again and this time I notice her Safari window says "33%”. Evidently the zoom setting on her Safari browser was at 300%, but in the screenshot she sent me, it was scaled down to fit on the screen (which defeats the entire purpose of sending a screenshot to show the discrepancy).

Me: Can you make sure you're not zooming in in your Safari browser? Your screenshot looks like that might be the issue

(No reply)

Several hours later, the client emails me again for another project, not mentioning this issue at all.

Me: By the way, is that other project approved?

Client: Yes.

No apology or sign of humility. This client does this kind of stuff all the time. I'll never understand how she is smart enough to know about pixel width and analyzing image properties, yet still pulls out stuff like this.


35. All In A Day’s Work

My friend bought a Netflix box for a tv, and when it wouldn't work, she asked me to come set it up. I couldn't get there until after work, and when I did it was working. She said she called Google to fix it (it was not a Google product, nor does it use any Google services) so I thought she googled the company number and had them fix it.

I wanted to show her it wasn't Google she called, so I checked the caller ID. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Google. After a while on the phone a Google tech support guy helped her set up an unrelated product for free. I guess Google really is a helpful service.


36. Burn It To The Ground

MacBook ProPhoto by AltumCode on Unsplash

I'm not in tech support. In fact, none of my job descriptions ever included anything remotely resembling tech support. Yet, life finds a way... As a long-time nightshift worker who often hung out with the local IT folks, I was "promoted" to an honorary tech support role. It was a win-win (win-lose?) scenario for the guys as they could chill at home while on call, in the meantime I resolved low-level on-site issues and had something interesting (or at least different) to do in addition to my boring desk jockey job.

A few companies later, when the buzzwords "business intelligence," "data analysis," "data-driven decisions," etc started to pop up on the corporate bingo, I was already involved in these things at my current workplace. As usual, my job description had nothing to do with it, but I had to manually create a lot of reports, and work with a lot of data.

I'm as lazy as it comes, so if I have to do the same task twice I'm going to spend an unreasonable time (trying) to automate it. The result of my laziness was a PowerBI dashboard hosted on SharePoint. It had a lot of moving parts and tried to do way too much. It was also a horrible mess, but I tried to keep it as organized as possible. My team's standard reporting tasks, which were taking usually an entire week at the end of each month, condensed down to a few hours, which in theory could've been less.

So, in addition to my standard role (which I performed "above expectations" according to my annual reviews) I was the local BI developer/data analyst/ad-hoc tech support. At every salary increase cycle I always had to ask for a salary at the top of the range of the role which I had on paper, citing the above reasons.

The company always fought tooth and nail and it was always a painful and a bit humiliating experience. (Un)Fortunately, after a few years they decided that "Now that you've built these solutions, we don't need you anymore, we only need to hire someone to maintain it. You are fired”. According to my contract this would mean I'm still employed for another 60 days.

I made sure to double-check everything and tried to make sure that everything goes smoothly when my replacement takes over. There was just one problem. By the time my notice period was up, they still couldn't find anyone as they'd been advertising a wonderful "3 in 1" package. Yep, my successor was supposed to do everything I was doing...

My last day was at the end of the month, and I pushed out one more update under the watchful eye of my supervisor. As soon as they saw that everything had updated, security came in and my boss said to delete everything from GitHub as it's an external site and a security risk. I tried to explain that it's tied to my corporate email and it would be best to keep it alive and transfer ownership to my successor, but they wouldn't budge and told me to delete it.

Okay then, let's nuke it from orbit. I told them that there's a local copy (duh) on my work laptop and also on OneDrive (not in my private folder) they said IT will take care of it. Apparently that meant a deep cleanse of my laptop without retaining any of the data (while the "she's on maternity leave" woman's laptop was still in a locker after four years...), so the only remaining copy was in my former team's shared OneDrive folder.

A month passed, and my former boss called me asking for help. They still haven't found a replacement, unsurprisingly. Not wanting to burn any bridges and because I'm an exploitable idiot I told them sure, I'll help, toss in a steak dinner voucher for two at a local mid-range restaurant and I'll help. They were dragging their feet, despite the fact that my ask was significantly lower in value than what the contractor rate would've been and I knew they could expense it anyway.

After a day or two they gave in. I hopped on my bike, signed an NDA, got a laptop, and asked a team member to add me to the Teams channel so I can start working. As I started to poke around on OneDrive, I couldn't find my backup folder. After a while, I went to ask my former boss where they moved it, as I can't find it anywhere. His response made me almost do a spit take.

"Oh, we deleted them, didn't seem important. There were only a couple of files though, I'm sure you can easily do it again". Those "few files" were the result of hundreds of hours of experimentation, trying to figure out how the various systems work together, and without documentation there was literally zero chance of recreating it in a short amount of time.

"Can't you just restore from that online hub thing?" Not really, as you specifically asked me to delete it despite my protests...I left without getting my steak dinner. A few days later, they've called me again asking me how much would it cost make a brand-new dashboard.

Apparently some corporate bigwigs overseas were using it for their PowerPoint meetings (remember, it included global data) and were pretty angry that the fancy charts were gone. I may or may not have found a relatively recent local version of the Git report, which I may or may not have used to do some of the number crunching as my old corporate laptop could barely handle anything. I may or may not have forgotten to mention this obvious security breach and billed out my hours as I've been creating everything from scratch.


37. That One Didn’t Land

I work for a surgery center. So does Sandy. Sandy is a very kind (gullible, evidently) older lady who mans the switchboard phones. This is about the day I upgraded Sandy's computer. This is about the day I made Sandy cry.

Me: And there you are. Do you have any questions I can answer about your new setup before I go work on the other tickets today?

Sandy: Well, how am I supposed to use it?

Did I mention this was a particularly off-kilter day, and I had deployed the machine without a keyboard or mouse?

Me: Oh, these new machines don't require keyboards or mice any more. There's actually a neural implant, very low power and completely painless. It makes it a truly wireless experience, and the procedure only takes about 45 minutes. We have you booked for operating room seven with Dr. Smith at 12:15

Sandy: But...but I...

At this point, Sandy's eyes start to bug out and she bursts into tears.

Me: Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I'm joking! I just forgot your keyboard and mouse. There is no implant, I was pulling your leg. Please forgive me! I'm going to go get your keyboard and mouse right now!

This was many years ago now, but I still feel bad about it. Luckily she calmed down (and found it funny) a few minutes after I explained that I was joking.


38. That’s Between You And Your God

I have a horrible client. People like him should be forbidden from hiring web developers.

He calls me, mad:

Client: "Hey! I was under the impression that this website would work on a laptop!"

Me: "It does. It's a website"

Client: "So if I were to get on a laptop right now, you're telling me it would work?"

Me: "Yes...Like I said, it works on a laptop”

Client: "How in world would you know that?"

Me: "Well, 1) I wrote the website, 2) this ain't my first rodeo, and 3) I USE A LAPTOP!"

Client: "You have a laptop?!"

Me: "Yes! You've seen it. It's my primary computer"

Client: "And it works?"

Me: "Yes!"

Client: "Neat!"

Me: "Do you have a laptop?"

Client: "No”


Client: "Should I get a laptop?"


39. Karma Comes Back Around

a plate of meat and vegetables on a tablePhoto by Parnis Azimi on Unsplash

A few years ago, I was sent to our Italian office where the three Italian IT guys were to train up their new IT Support Guy on how to manage his help desk stuff. Things were going really well, and one day they decided that we should all go out for a traditional Italian meal—a Turkish Kebab.

We got to the kebab shop and I'm trying to read the menu and getting some help from the team. The guy behind the counter can fortunately speak English and he wants to practice, so we get talking and I place my order of 1xAwesomeKebab.

He then asks me what an English-speaking guy is doing in Italy. I made a big mistake. I tell him that I'm here doing "IT Stuff". That was all he needed to hear. About 15 seconds later I have this knackered old laptop running Windows 7 with a Turkish operating system that "won't work" and there's an error when he tries to do stuff with it.

I tried to help as he was preparing my food and I like helping people anyway. My kebab turns up and I slowly ate it over the course of about 20 minutes while I tried my hardest, using context and experience, to figure out what was wrong from the description he gave me that "something was wrong with his internet connection and it didn't work".

I managed to work out that it looked like his network card was broken and non-functioning and that he could maybe try re-installing it from the original disks he had or get a cabled connection so he could get the drivers if he didn't have the disks. He seemed happy with this and brought us our bill.

He went round the table collecting the money and when he got to me he said, "Not you my friend, today, you eat for free!" The kebab was totally worth the impromptu tech support.


40. Oops, My Bad

I got a message from a friend saying someone they knew wanted to replace the broken screen in their laptop, and that they already had the replacement screen. I got in contact with him, and he asked if I could come to his place of work to replace the screen. I said I would as long as I had permission from his boss, turns out he was the owner of the company.

The next day I showed up at his work and he gave me his laptop. He showed me to an empty desk in the accounting/stats department, and I replace the laptop screen without any trouble. He was in a meeting so while waiting for him to finish, I hung out in the accounting/stats department. I see two older gentlemen working on an excel spreadsheet, one was reading off each number while the other was putting it into a calculator, and reading the results back.

They were doing this to calculate the sum of hundreds of numbers and started over twice. I thought was about to blow their minds—I was really about to ruin their lives. I introduced myself and showed them how to get excel to do it automatically for them, and I said, "this way it will only take you minutes to do a sheet instead of hours". I then heard a loud "You are all fired for incompetence".

Turns out the owner had been in the doorway listening. After everything settled down, he told me, "I have been waiting on that sheet for two days, and you did it in under a minute”. He ended up giving me $200, and has sent a lot of work my way over the years.


41. A Bunch Of Morons

I own a small IT company in Georgia. At one point in my life, I was a pretty decent technician but these days my job is mostly shaking hands. I try to work a ticket or two every day though just to keep in shape so I can talk intelligently.

Today one of our system monitors alerted us to excessive login failures at one of our largest customers. This is an alert that is set up to let us know if someone has failed to log in successfully several times and is designed to give us a heads-up if there is a brute-force attack happening.

We have the threshold set pretty low and we get one alert a week just on the shared computers usually. But this one was different. This alert was on a fax server at one of their smaller remote locations. No users typically are at the fax servers, so I decided to go ahead and investigate. I fired up screenconnect and was greeted by the Windows login welcome screen just spinning.

After a few seconds it hit the password authentication window but almost instantly blinked out of it and was trying to log in again. RED FLAGS immediately! I watched for another 30 seconds or so and saw it hit the login screen again and fail the password check three more times again almost instantly.

Clearly this was some sort of bot trying to brute force its way into the system. This is a pretty secure system as things go and we take things like this incredibly seriously. I am trying to rack my brain and figure out where an attack like this would even come from and why it would be hitting this server, which is much less exposed than a lot of other things on the network.

I grabbed two of my senior techs real quick and put them on the case to try and figure out what was happening and where this was coming from. We didn't want to log into the system because it might have a keylogger going and we didn't know what the situation was, so we were pushing out commands on the backend. Everything kept getting weirder and weirder.

We couldn't find an outside source hitting this machine in the firewall or through the switch. So one of my techs said, "Maybe it has something already on it trying to brute force itself that will phone home once it gets a domain login???" So we decided to isolate the machine on the network to test this theory.

Sure enough, the attack continued even with no communication from the outside. It didn't make a lot of sense though. If the machine was already compromised, there are better ways to get passwords? Maybe this is an amateur attempt? So we start looking for rogue processes. Not much is really running on it and everything looks pretty standard.

Regardless though something is causing this, so we start terminating whatever looks like the most likely offenders. No luck, every 30 seconds three failed login attempts about as fast as you can blink. Eventually we are digging deep. Nothing is working. We deploy a tech to go pick up the server and bring it back to the shop and get it off their network.

In the meantime, I call management and let them know we are seeing an attack on their network and we are investigating. This place is only a few minutes away, but as the tech is driving over the attacks suddenly stop. One of the processes we had deleted stopped it.

But the last thing my tech deleted was a HUGE server process on the machine. Panic sets in. I play through in my head the thousand machines we have running on this same process that might also be compromised. I am pretty close to a full-on freak out at this point. My tech goes ahead and reboots the server to see if the assault continues.

After the reboot though, it was quiet. We pushed out a temporary admin account and new password and went ahead and logged into the box to start poking around. We dug into the event viewer security logs to see what was going on and started to see all of the audit failures. Weird thing though, they were all trying our admin account and they were all coming from the local machine???

If you have ever seen this kind of attack normally what you find here is a bunch of common names and account names being tried from various overseas IP addresses. You will see several logins under "john" and "chris" and "root" and "admin" and "local" etc and normally it would not come from the local machine. If you already have malware running on the local machine, there are a million better and less obvious ways to collect passwords.

The server had just come back up when my technician got into the remote office. That’s when we finally figured it out. As he walked in, the front desk receptionist said: "Hey when you get done with whatever you are here, for this machine next to me keeps beeping at me". She waves at the fax server. My technician walked up to the fax server, picked up a catalog off of the enter key, and then promptly called back to let us know that we are all a bunch of morons.


42. The Harpy Rises, The Harpy Falls

a man sitting in front of a laptop computerPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I have been working my way up the food chain at the little IT company I'm with. The clients I deal with, I treat much like I did customers at Starbucks. Compassionate, caring, empathetic, blah blah good customer service, blah blah. And this has put me in good favor with all of our clients that I've dealt with.

One in particular is a mid-size, regional company that specializes in giving sociopaths a lucrative opportunity to exploit people less strong-willed than them. I'll let you determine the field. They are not my primary "station," but I help out there when the ticket queue gets overloaded. We can call them SlimeCo.

Most of the folks there that I deal with, while slimy in general, are quite pleasant towards me. I'm the cheerful guy with the laptop who doesn't make promises and just does what needs to be done, unlike the three other burnt-out techs stationed there who make hard deadlines they never meet. But there is one woman here who is beyond help.

Ever see that episode of Kitchen Nightmares that had the husband and wife pair where the wife was just completely convinced she could do no wrong and that everyone was out to get her? That's this woman. Not literally, but a bit-for-bit duplicate. She is a problem for everyone, and my pleasant demeanor doesn't mean anything to her because I'm just trying to ruin her life.

I avoid her like the plague because I have more important things to deal with than her 15 tickets about the same goddarn stuff that has been resolved over and over again. We'll just call her The Harpy from here on out.

It’s the fourth of July, and I'm up at my friends' cottage for the long weekend, and it’s 2 am. It happened so quick. I get a call from a number I don't recognize. I answer, because at 2 am it could be important. Something could be wrong at home, or with my family or what have you.

Me (groggily): "Uh...hello?"

The Harpy: "Finally someone answers. Aren't you guys on call or whatever?"

Me: "I'm sorry, who is this?"

Harpy: "Who do you think it is? It's The Harpy from SlimeCo. My goddarn laptop keeps restarting”.

Me: "How did you get this number?"

Harpy: "Why does that matter? You're IT. You're on call. That's how it works. Fix my laptop or I'll have your job”.

Me: "This is a personal cell phone and I'm not on call, ever. We don't have 'On-Call Support'“.

Harpy: "If I can get a hold of you, you're on call. And this laptop you gave me isn't working. It keeps restarting and I need it to do my job”.

Me "I'm 200 miles away, I have no internet access so I couldn't remote in if I wanted to, and it's a holiday weekend. SlimeCo is closed until Tuesday”.


Me: "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. I'm not going out looking for an internet connection at two in the morning on a holiday weekend just because you decided you need to work right this second. I'm not even a dedicated SlimeCo technician. I'm only there when support is needed, and I haven't been in the branch since last week”.


Me: "You know what? You're right. I just need you to submit a ticket so I can get to it in the system and I'll head right over to the nearest Starbucks”.


Me: "Yep. You're right. Go ahead and place the ticket and I'll head right on over to Starbucks and remote in and get this all taken care of for you right away”.

Harpy: "GOOD”.

She hangs up. I immediately put my phone on silent. My laptop is sitting comfortably in its docking station back at the main office, 200 miles away, the nearest Starbucks is about 40 miles away, and I go back to bed, about ten feet away. I check my phone in the morning.

61 missed calls.

14 voicemails.

Two hundred and thirty-nine emails.

Alternating between personal attacks fired off like text messages and submitted tickets. Funny how her laptop was stable long enough to submit around 50 tickets and another 180-ish emails.

I blocked her number after that. I got into work today, and my boss had a similar situation. She kept calling his phone, long into the night.

Boss: "You're nicer than I was. I just told her to enjoy her holiday weekend and hung up”. But here’s the best part. My boss spoke with upper management after, and when I came into that office (as I normally do on Wednesday), I was immediately escorted to the board room by two security guards. The President, CFO, Chairman of the Board, SlimeCo's lawyer, our IT firm's lawyer, and my boss were all at the table.

I found out my boss had threatened to file a proper suit as a result of The Harpy’s behavior, on my behalf. It was explained to my boss and I that The Harpy, while an obvious problem, is a high-earner for the company and they would not fire her. However, it was discovered through an internal investigation that she had, in fact, gotten the numbers of all of the techs out of the CFO's Blackberry.

We don't know how she got into the Blackberry, but what we do know is that the CFO left his Blackberry unattended, which is a serious security compromise and also a breach of the contract between the company and my IT firm. Some very strong words were exchanged between SlimeCo's officials and my boss.

The lawyers agreed that it was, in fact, a serious breach of contract leaving any data available to unauthorized users, and it was made clear that the contract in place would be terminated at the end of the meeting. It was later explained to me that, given the nature of the breach, we'd basically have an "all hands on deck" situation where every available tech would report to SlimeCo and start pulling servers, switches, and any other leased equipment.

Estimated time of dismantlement was about two and a half hours. There was also the phrase "wood chipper for hard drives" thrown in there. I don't know if this was literal or a figure of speech. For the next two hours I was not allowed to leave the room.

My boss, his lawyer, and SlimeCo renegotiated the contract on the spot. A 36% price hike, increased security improvements, and a couple of other things that went right over my head. The lawyer then pointed out that I was still well within my rights to, and asked if I would be, seeking court action. I asked what my options were. Before he even got it out of his mouth, SlimeCo started talking about a "settlement" to keep me from going any further.

Without going into too many specifics there, a check was cut (and immediately cashed because they ain't gonna play me for no fool). The Harpy was put on actual probation, my boss gave me the rest of the week off—billed to SlimeCo—so I can have an actual vacation, and I'm no longer going to do any service at SlimeCo. Not the outcome I expected, at all.


43. I Want University

I work as a student IT for my university (for obvious reasons I won't name the institution). Part of what I do is watch over the computer labs that are open for students to use. As it is summer when I’m writing this, there are not too many students that come through, but a couple of weeks ago I dealt with the most incompetent, contradictory, and confusing person I have ever had the displeasure to come across.

One day while I am sitting at the lab’s help counter, a blonde woman walks in. She has on lots of make-up and looks to be in her mid-20s. I could tell she was going to be an issue the moment she sat down at a computer and immediately looked towards me with what I can only describe as a look of fear.

Sure enough, within a few minutes she shouts out in my general direction, "HI I AM HAVING SOME PROBLEMS". I try to get her to explain but, getting annoyed, she insists that I come over and help her. I really wish I hadn't. She was staring at the log-in screen just saying, "What’s this?! What am I supposed to do with this??!!" all while flicking the mouse around uncontrollably.

Not wanting to be rude, and just assuming she may not be that familiar with computers, I explain that the login screen for these labs simply wants your university username and password, the same for the Wi-Fi and every other service. She responds with, "Ok, yeah, but why does it look like this?!"

At first, I thought she was referring to the way the log-in screen looked—we had just upgraded all the lab computers to Windows 10, so she may just have not been used to it. I explained to her it’s the same as other labs, we've just updated to Windows 10. She responds, saying, "Ok ok but I want the university, not this". Starting to get weird but ok, I manage to get her to log in all the while she is sighing and huffing and puffing.

What I noticed was how fluent she was with the keyboard, which contradicted my initial thought that she was just not accustomed to computers. So we finally log in and...she’s even angrier, clicking like crazy on random icons and getting quite upset, saying this isn’t working why is this like this.

Our computers have a lot of science and math software on them and she hovers over a random icon and clicks it, starting the application. When it (obviously) didn’t open up "the university," she started to freak out asking what the heck this is. I explained that it was graphing software used mostly for physics students...she promptly yells at me "WHY THE HECK WOULD I WANT THAT".

How should I know…you're the one who opened it! At this point my co-workers are getting interested and I can see them laughing as I try to help this woman. She kept saying "I DONT WANT THIS, I WANT UNIVERSITY!" Which did not make any sense. I tried to get her to open the browser. She said "WHAT?!" “Ok open up Google Chrome?” "WHAAT???" “...Uh, the internet. Open up the internet”. "SIGH I DONT WANT THAT, I JUST WANT UNIVERSITY". So I open it for her and sure enough when the default university page opens up, she starts typing away and everything seems fine.

Cut to 10 minutes later and she’s back complaining that it isn't what she wants, "Can I just have a guest account?". At this point I noticed she was completely ignoring my two other female co-workers and kept asking me (am male). I explained to her we don't give out guest accounts, and that also a guest account is kind of pointless because she has her own account.

"But I don’t want other people to get my stuff!" “Ma’am, nobody but you can access your account. Your files are saved to the account”. This is when the problem becomes obvious. "Yes, but if someone goes on this computer they are going to get my phone number and other info!!"

I then try to explain to her that our files are saved on a server and not on any individual computer in the lab. This seems to be the most complex and foreign concept she has ever heard, and she’s arguing with us every step of the way. Again, completely ignoring most of my co-workers. She keeps asking for a guest account and I tell her for the 10th time "WE DON"T GIVE OUT GUEST ACCOUNTS IN THIS LAB".

She then plops her chest on the counter, trying to show some cleavage. "Please…can I just have a guest account". I tell her no we cannot give her one, and that it wouldn’t help! (Whatever help means in this case, I do not know). At this point a more senior staff member walks in and asks her what the problem is.

Upon getting a deluge of nonsensical ranting, he says, "Well if you do not feel comfortable with Windows 10, the other labs on campus still have windows 7". Her response, "I DONT WANT WINDOWS, I WANT UNIVERSITY". I snap telling her that WINDOWS IS AN OPERATING SYSTEM, UNIVERSITY DOESNT MAKE ANY SENSE.

She gets extremely angry and then leaves. To this day I still have no idea what she wanted, or how someone who seemed to be able to use a computer and yet was also so computer illiterate at the same time could exist. My only semi-plausible explanation: Mac user?


44. Some People Can’t Be Helped

So among the literally thousands of calls I've had in my four years in tech support, this guy really took the cake. It was the apotheosis of all those calls. It was the most infuriating yet (in hindsight) hilarious call I'd ever had in my life.

He came in on a fairly quiet Saturday morning, and the conversation started quite normally.

Me: "Good morning. How may I help you?"

C (Customer): "Yes, hello. I just woke up to my wife and kids complaining there's no internet and the television isn't working either”.

Me: "Oof, that's quite inconvenient. I'm going to have to check where the issue might be and try and fix it”.

C: "Thank you”.

He gave me his postal code and house number, I confirmed his details and ran a scan on his address. There was absolutely no signal. I needed to do a basic troubleshoot with him first.

Me: "Do you know where your modem is, sir?"

C: "Yes, it's next to my front door”.

Me: "Good. Could you please tell me which lights are on or blinking on it?"

C: "There are a couple of lights on...not as many as usual, though”.

Me: "Is the 'online' light on?"

C: "No”.

Me: "Ok, your modem is not receiving any signal, then. I'm going to have to test if the problem is in the modem or the signal towards your house. For that, I need you to turn off your modem for about 30 seconds. Could you please do that?"

C: "Umm, no?"

Me: "....... I'm sorry?"

C: "That sort of thing is YOUR job. I'm not touching that modem”.

Me: "You only need to pull out the power cable, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in”.

C: "Like I said, that's YOUR job. Send someone over to fix it”.

I was not sure if he was joking or not. I was just baffled at the hard turn this conversation had just taken.

Me: "Sir, there is a basic troubleshoot we need to run with all our customers that solves like 90% of all—"

C: "I don't care! I'm not getting paid for this, so I'm not doing your job! Now send someone over!"

Me: "I can't very well send our technicians over, just to restart your modem, sir”.

C: "You can, and you will, and you'll compensate me for the time I haven't received any of your services!"

Me: "I don't care much for your tone, sir. Either you cooperate with our standard troubleshoot, or I cannot help you”.

C: "You've got a pretty big mouth there, missy! What's your name? I'll issue a complaint against you!"

I gave him my first name, and he demanded to know my last name.

C: "Scared to give me your last name, hm?"

Me: "No, just not obligated to give it to you. You've been very rude to me, so I won't give it to you”.

C: "You think you're so high and mighty because you're on the phone! I know where your HQ is! I'm driving over there right now, and you'd better make sure you have your eyes open when you come out, [my first name in a mocking tone]”.

I snickered at the thought. He lived about 175 miles from our HQ. Plus, he only had my first name and he had, of course, no idea what I looked like.

Me: "If you would rather take three hours to get here and then another three to get back home, rather than taking 30 seconds to restart your modem, you're welcome to do so. I'm now terminating the call and issuing a threat warning. Have a lovely day”.

I hung up before he could respond and reported the threat to my manager. He made note of it and put it through to our second line to pick this further up. I wish I could say the story ended there. Unfortunately, it continued as soon as I resumed taking calls. Not five minutes after I got back to work, I got him on the phone AGAIN.

Me: "Good morning, this is [name] from—"

C: "HA! There you are! You think you can just hang up on me!? I'm taking this to court! I'm cancelling our services as of RIGHT NOW!"

Me: "I've issued your violent threat, which we've recorded, by the way, to our second line, sir. I'll add that you wish to end your contract. They'll call you back within two hours. Goodbye”.

I hung up again and he thankfully didn't try to reach me again after that. I did learn afterward that he had, in fact, taken this case to court...and lost. His services were cancelled five months before the end date of the contract, and he had to pay for the remaining five months. I hope it was worth it to him.

I did not press charges for the threat since I never took it seriously. I mean, I literally laughed it off. Thinking back on it still makes me snicker. I'm imagining him driving for three hours, arriving at our HQ, asking all the women who left the building their names in the hopes he could do God knows what to one of them, then driving back home for three hours (not to mention having to stop for gas, which costs a lot here) and still have his wife and children complaining they have no internet or television. Idiot.


45. Don’t Cut Out The Middleman

two computer monitors sitting next to each other on a deskPhoto by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

This happened at a university in Germany, around the turn of the century. The physics department had quite a nice setup for the students. At the beginning of term the new students had their accounts created by one of the student supervisors. I was the middleman between the student supervisors and the real techs who kept the system running.

So I somehow got stuck with the support when the supervisors didn't know what to do. One day a student, Samantha Melina Butler, was sent to me. She was quite into computing but had no idea why she had problems with her account. She was able to access her account, but she couldn't write to some files. On the other hand, she had discovered that she could read nearly all the files in other people’s accounts—even in the accounts of some professors.

I asked her to log into her account and opened a terminal. I looked at her files, but everything seemed in order. She shouldn't be able to access this stuff. Suddenly I looked at her username. She had asked for her initials: Samantha Melinda Butler: smb. When I looked that up, I saw the student supervisor had made a big mistake.

Samantha and had all the rights of the “ServerMessageBlock” (smb). And every user was a member of the group smb. The student supervisor who had created Samantha's account didn't even get why this was his fault.


46. User Loser

A customer of ours has all their server and networking equipment support through us and the helpdesk services from another company. I went on-site to investigate a network issue when I was suddenly interrupted by a very aggravated employee of theirs. She is insistent I would come fix some issue on her workstation like RIGHT NOW.

I explain to her I can't, we don't do their support. The following conversation unfolds:

Me: I'm sorry, but I don't do user cases.

Her: WHAT did you just call me??!

Me: (puzzled) A user?


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, and my boss bursts into laughter and walks away.


47. Everything AND The Kitchen Sink

So this just happened like a minute ago. One of the team leads in my department was having trouble getting something to work in Excel and pinged me for help. I asked if she could email me the spreadsheet so I could take a look myself, and she sends me a link the spreadsheet on her desktop.

I began rubbing my temples because I knew this particular person well enough to know that a simple explanation would not be heard, processed, or acted on. But I had to try anyway. I responded explaining that I can't access files stored on her hard drive, and that she needs to send it to me as an attachment.

She responds by saying "It's on the desktop, if the link won't work just open it". I again explain that her desktop and my desktop are not the same thing, and that I am no more able to open items on her desktop than she is of opening things on mine. This is when it got downright ridiculous. She responds that she's opened the recycle bin. And I have a recycle bin. Therefore since we both have recycle bins, I should be able to open things on her desktop.

This is the point where I dial back the professionalism and let my tenure absorb the hit if she pitches a fit. I say excuse me, get up, then turn on the kitchen faucet. I work from home and I know from prior experience that it's audible from my home office. I sit back down at my desk and say "I've just turned my kitchen faucet on. Do you have any water in your sink?"

The silence lasted a good 10 seconds, and I swear I could almost hear the hamster wheel in her head straining. And she finally says, quietly and clearly trying to sound as neutral and unflustered as possible, "OK that makes sense, I'll send it over as an attachment”.


48. A Big Mouse Problem

I owned a computer shop. We donated to a local county nature center by installing a network on the campus, which consisted of several one-story buildings elevated a few feet above the ground on pilings. We ran the cables and installed the networks in the required locations, and installed and configured the routers.

We have learned that it never works to give things for absolutely free because then there is no end to what people will ask for, so we asked them to pay the wholesale cost of the cable… that’s it. Everything else, including labor, was free.

About a year later they started having random network ports go intermittently bad, and the problem seemed to be getting worse. They asked us to troubleshoot. We went out, found the problem was that rodents had bitten into some cables in multiple locations. Sometimes but not always this severed one of the wires at the point of the bite, but sometimes the wire would still work.

This intermittent fault took several hours to figure out. Since they had not actually bitten chunks out of the cables, just bitten into it, the cable appeared undamaged visually. The way we found the problem was to run a hand down the cable looking for a kink or something and feeling the little nick. Close examination showed the bite. Once we knew the problem, it required rewiring a few runs and telling them they had a bad mouse problem, and to get an exterminator.

The diagnosis and repairs took 16 man-hours on-site (two people, all day). For this we charged only for the actual cost of the replacement wire itself. I couldn’t believe what happened next. About 30 days later, I get a call from the county accounts payable.

AP: “We have found conclusive evidence of fraudulent billing on invoice (the bill for the network diagnosis and repair) from your company. Since the amount is under $100 and this is the first instance of a problem from you, if you agree with the assessment and promise never to do this again, we will ban you from doing business with the county for one year. If you agree, we will send paperwork to that effect”.

Me: “(!!) No way will I agree to that. This was a donation of our time, and we only charged for the wire so it wasn’t a freebie. We did nothing wrong. Why do you think we did?”

AP: “We ran the diagnosis and bill by our IT department as a random check. They said there was no possible way your explanation of what was wrong and what you did to fix it could be true. You can dispute this, and we will have a hearing. But if we do this and it goes against you, you can be permanently banned from doing business and may even face charges”.

Me: “I want the hearing”.

So here we are at the hearing, before a county board of something or other. This is where it all came out.

AP to their IT guy: “Look at this invoice. Do you remember us asking your opinion of this? What was that opinion?”

IT Guy: “Yes. It said the network was losing connectivity to specific drops, and the problem was due to a bad mouse. I said there was no way a bad mouse would have that effect, especially on other computers on other ports”.

Council Guy to me: “Do you disagree with this? Can you explain how a bad mouse could do that?”

Me: “Yes. It bites the wires”.

IT Guy: “…What?”

Me: “Look at the invoice. It does not say "a computer had a defective mouse”. It says there was "a bad mouse problem”. Rodents. Bit. The. Wires. We installed new wires. We donated our labor to do so, and provided the wire at cost”.

IT Guy: “That…does make sense”.

AP: “Well, OK. We’ll drop this one. But we’re going to be watching you!”


49. You Don’t Know Jack

I had been working as a small office's systems administrator for a little over two months when Jack was hired. Jack was a paid intern whose mother was friends with my boss's wife. Jack grew up in the wealthiest county in the state (where my boss lives) and has had everything he ever wanted.

A sense of entitlement that hung around him like the smell of five-day-old socks was the first thing I noticed upon being introduced to him as he went around the office. "Jack this is our,”. My boss introduces me in that way that old bosses who don't use computers often do.

Jack extends his hand. "Oh, cool. Nice to meet ya".

I shake. "Welcome aboard".

Jack is very eager to get started doing...whatever. "Will I get a business email?" as if this is the most interesting thing ever. Adorable, I think.

"Eventually, yes. For the moment though, we have a shared email for interns on staff. I'll get you the credentials shortly". Most of the interns use the shared email for a while until getting their own. Just standard procedure.

"You run the firewall, right?"


"So you can block and unblock sites?"

"Yes". Jack's eager smile is contagious.

"Cool! Nice to meet you". He waves and the boss and Jack and he leave to go be introduced elsewhere. Now, dear reader, you might be wondering why I would call Jack the worst user ever given his politeness and general smiling demeanor who has some understanding of what I do. That's above average when it comes to users. Well, we're only getting started here with Jack.

The first thing Jack did was complain the moment he was out of earshot. He apparently explained to the boss that it really would be professional to have his own email given his experience and the fact that he was really more than just an intern. See, Jack knew his stuff, and if he complained to his mother, she would complain to the boss’s wife, who would complain to the boss.

My boss, figuring an email is a small thing to ask for, had a request to set up a personalized email account for Jack on my desk within the hour. This was not to be a good start of a relationship with one's IT Guy.

Day two, I got an IT ticket for the room where the interns work. it's a large open office with a bunch of computers and printers where the interns print stuff all day long. Because it's such mind-numbing work, they tend to play music off of Pandora or Spotify in there. The ticket says:

"Hey, we're having issues with Spotify. Not super important, but please help if you're free! Thanks”.

Aw, those guys are always nice to me. An hour or so later, I have a few free minutes and I head down. I check out Spotify and find the issue and fix it. Jack is there and watches closely.

"We can use Spotify here?" he asks.

"Yep," I reply.

"Pandora works, too," another intern adds. Everything checks out and I leave the happy-again-they-can-play-music interns and Jack. A couple hours later, I got a note on my desk that made my blood boil. See, the boss knew I allowed people to play music and such at the office. But he now believed that Spotify is a HUGE security risk, leaving holes in our firewall through which everything from viruses to malware to cyberterrorists could come through. The boss was unhappy that I would allow such a threat to exist in our system, and ordered me to close it up.

I called the boss. When I asked who told him these incorrect things about Spotify, his answer was: Oh, Jack did, of course.

I explained that Spotify was not a threat, and that Jack was simply mistaken. Jack, however, was on the other end of the line, in my boss's office, on speakerphone, and interjected: "Dude, it's alright if you didn't know about the security issue. But don't try and make me look bad for your mistake”. I'm stunned as the boss hangs up the phone after demanding I fix it.


50. Not Your Usual Day At Work

This story has been causing me grief and I just need it to share it to finally feel calm. I live in Mexico and things are not exactly pretty. Thankfully I know how to watch my back and don't make enemies, but sometimes, destiny catches up with you.

I had finished my training and got a certificate that allowed me to work in a computer store and repair computers. I arrived early, everything was normal until 1 pm. A guy comes in and wants his hard drive wiped clean and a brand new copy of Windows 7.

I didn't ask many questions, just took it to the back and started working on it. I gave the case a nice cleaning and removed the dust, boot it up, then manure hit the fan. I hear the front glass break, and people started yelling. This man starts yelling at my boss and the client who initially came in to get down, and before I could react someone comes to where I was and shoves me down.


Me: Nothing!!! I didn't get to touch it! I was just cleaning it!!!!

Them: LIES!!!!

Me: Check it yourself, everything is intact!

I heard someone else come in and take the PC away. It felt like hours until they decided to retreat back and run away. Once I recovered from the shock, I stood up and headed to the front. My boss was on the phone, crying. I didn't even hear the sirens…then I noticed the original client was missing.

I was not allowed to see the security footage, but the client was taken away, he was identified as a cartel member, and his body was discovered hours later. If it wasn't because I needed the money, I would have quit immediately. I never learned what was in that hard drive. I'm better not knowing.


Byyyeeee: People Confess Why They Broke Up With Their Ex

Reddit user pizzabagels1994 asked: 'What caused your last break up?'

man and woman sitting in front of each other at night
Fred Moon on Unsplash

There's a saying about needing to kiss a lot of frogs before finding Prince Charming. Most people date more than one person before settling on a life partner.

And even then it doesn't always work out.

Most of us have at least one breakup in our past. The reasons things don't work between people vary greatly.

But we all have our breaking point.

Keep reading...Show less
Give A Little, Get a Lot: These Kind Acts Warmed Our Hearts
Photo by Adam Nemeroff on Unsplash

We could all use a little love and care, but sometimes kind gestures come from the most unexpected places. Whether it’s a friend showing up at our door to give us the present we didn’t know we needed, or a complete stranger helping us out in a time of need, these stories about the nicest thing someone has ever done will warm your heart.

Face the Music

a young man sitting at a piano in the darkPhoto by Kiwihug on Unsplash

When I was about 13, the pastor of our family church heard me practicing Chopin on the piano. Knowing my parents couldn't afford much, he offered to pay for my music studies so that I'd be prepared to enter music conservatory right after high school. All he asked for in return was that I'd help out with the church's music program when needed.

This kind, generous man spent thousands of his own dollars to help me along the way to a rewarding career in music.


Sleep Away Camp

When my parents were awful, and my sister was passing away, my friend’s parents took me in for a while. But it was even better than that. You see, they did it in a way that seemed like a sleepover, even though it went on for months. I didn't even realize until I was an adult how much they stepped up for me and protected me, right when I needed them the most.


Lean on Me

I had a sore leg, and it was sore enough that I couldn't put much weight on it. During this time, my school did this fundraiser run, and I wanted to participate even though I could barely walk. My best friend, who I'm still friends with to this day, stayed by my side, limping the whole way. I still thank him for that, it meant a lot to me.


To Serve and Protect

When I was 16, I was at a store getting some comics. I was 15 cents shy, because they raised the price by 5 cents a comic, and I was trying to decide which one to put back when a guy I went to high school with, and barely knew, gave me a fifty cent piece. He went on to join the Marines right out of high school, and retired a couple of years ago.

He's still just as awesome now. He restores old Volkswagens and sells them for cost to his fellow veterans. He restores old furniture and donates the pieces to families in need. He volunteers with wildlife rescue programs. He refuses to let me pay him back, so I'm going to try and buy his drink at our 30-year high school reunion. Gotta thank him somehow!


Something for Nothing

I went to a local breakfast spot one day after a rough night. I totally forgot my wallet, so I left my phone as collateral and went back to my house. When I came back, some guy had already paid for me. I know it doesn't seem that big of a deal, but it was a pretty bleak week for me so it meant a lot just to have someone do something for nothing.


A Friend Forever

boy feeding a animal during daytimePhoto by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

My wife and I were driving our kids, who were three and five at the time, to the zoo. We narrowly missed being smushed by a semi truck, but also almost flipped our top-heavy minivan doing 75mph when dodging said vehicle. All in all, we were very blessed to have our lives, let alone no damage to our car. The same couldn't be said for other cars, but no one was hurt either.

The State Trooper who showed up was the most generous young man. He gave my daughter a little teddy bear that she still has to this day 5-6 years later. She even remembers getting it, which is pretty incredible for someone that age. I think that was the most meaningful thing anyone's done for me, and I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of good people in my life. This one stands out because it was directed towards my daughter.


I’ve Got You, Babe

My mother passed, and I was so stressed trying to find a way to give her the funeral she deserved. My boyfriend went down to the funeral home, made the arrangements, and paid the balance. By FAR the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me.


A Helping Hand

My firstborn had a severe deformity, and spent a week in hospital before we took him off life support. I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House, and even though one of the rules was that you are your own maid when you leave, complete with doing laundry and remaking the beds, I was a complete wreck and couldn’t do a thing. Then I got the surprise of my life.

A kind stranger took care of my room for me even though they were going through their own stuff. Another blessing from that dark time is that the funeral home took care of everything for me, including all bills associated with the service and cremation. I will never not donate to the Ronald McDonald House and I know what funeral home I'll be using when I one day need one again.

It was a very long time ago and very dark sad time. It destroyed my family, a few years later I lost my husband to the depression that happened from this, and while both tragedies changed me, I'm very good now and know happiness. I want to say that I've thought about how very, very bad things can get in the world, but this stranger, and people like him, showed me daily that the world is full of amazing loving people.


A Little Tune-up

A few years ago, I was going down to visit my grandmother in South Carolina. I needed an inspection and oil change on my car, and I was the single mom of a 5-year-old. The total cost ended up being 40 dollars more than I thought. At the time, that was devastating, and I had to tell my daughter in the parking lot that we couldn't go see her grandmother anymore.

Someone heard me talking to her and came over to us and gave us 60 dollars. That was one of the nicest things someone I don’t know has ever done for me.


Can’t Put a Price on Education

On September 14, 1986, my dad dropped me off at boarding school and gave me a five-dollar bill. I never heard from him again. He never paid my tuition bill. So, from the age of 14, I took every job I could get and worked my way through. At $4 an hour, I didn't even come close to paying off my entire bill, but the school let me stick around because I was a model student in and out of the classroom.

We get to graduation. I opened my little diploma thing expecting to see a bill in five figures. Instead there was a note: “Congratulations on your graduation. A group of us who believe in you and love you have taken care of your bill. We are proud to present you with your diploma.” I later found out that one of my friend's dad, a fairly well-off dentist, went fundraising among his golf buddies because he didn’t want to see me enter life at 18 under crushing debt.


The Tables Have Turned

people around tablePhoto by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

One of my high school tormentors invited me to his house to hang out for a day. I was really nervous it might just be to screw with me, but I was desperate for some sort of friendship at the time, so I went over. We're now best friends, and he and his family feels like family to me. Honestly, I have no idea how we ever disliked each other.


The New Normal

I was hugely pregnant and had very young children with me. We went to a free exhibit at an aquarium down town. I was unfamiliar with the area, but found free parking several blocks away. I was broke, so finding a free exhibit with free parking was really a special outing for us. After the exhibit, my young children and I started walking towards the car, but couldn't find it.

I figured I had gotten turned around, so we returned to the aquarium and started walking in the other direction, but still couldn't find the car. We went back and started out in a third direction, still unable to find our car. It had started to rain and we were just lost. All along, a homeless man had been watching us, as we had passed by him multiple times in our search.

His words were heartbreaking. He told me he remembered seeing us first go in to the aquarium hours ago and what direction he saw us come from. He offered to walk down that way and look for our car for us so we didn't have to be walking around aimlessly until the car was located. I thanked him, but turned his offer down, not wanting to send this homeless man out into the rain.

He told me he was impressed with how well-behaved my children were, and he offered a dollar to buy them a candy bar. I couldn't accept, I mean how horrible of a person would I be to take money from someone who clearly needed it more than me—but he insisted. He said the dollar wouldn't save him from being homeless, but buying my kids a candy bar for being so patient and well-behaved would make him feel normal and some days he just needed to feel normal.

It was an act of kindness I will never forget. I think of that gentleman often.


From Beyond the Grave

My grandmother made a ton of birthday cards in advance. After she passed, I still received birthday cards from her for the next few years. It was a little weird, but I cried happy tears whenever I got to read words from her after she passed.


Duty of Care

A paramedic helped me after I was in a car crash. He took his time to come back to the car and bring me back my front tooth, which was really tiny and he offered to go and look for in the wreck. At the same time, he found and brought back my partner's phone. I don't know his name, and I was in such a state of shock that I can't even remember what he looked like.

Still, he put my tooth in a special liquid and the hospital team managed to put it back, saving me a lot of money. There was also a woman officer who put a blanket on me and made sure I kept it. The hospital only managed to take it off me right before I left. It was a green standard first aid blanket, and I don't know why I refused to let go of it (again, shock) but it provided a lot of comfort. Thank you so much, guys.


Get Away From It All

The nicest thing someone I know has done was for someone else. My brother took a fellow band nerd on a high school graduation road trip for several weeks. Thing is, the friend was dying of leukemia, and they both knew that this was going to be his first and last road trip. No timetable, just one day at a time across the breadth of the US.


Found in Translation

people walking on street during night timePhoto by Yu Kato on Unsplash

I worked in Korea for a bit. It was late at night, and I decided to surprise a girl I was talking to by heading to her apartment. It was around 10:30, and unbeknownst to me, the subway stopped running at 11:00. Unfortunately, I was halfway there, so I decided to message her. She told me to take a specific bus to get to her place. I get on the bus, and I don't have the slightest idea which stop I should be getting off on.

Well, about 10 minutes later, a load of people get off on this one stop. An older Korean businessman sees me and motions to me that there's an available seat next to him. He starts talking to me in English and he says that the stop where I'm getting off is one stop before he gets off, and that he'll let me know when. We start a conversation about where he works, how he learned English, what I'm doing in Korea.

By the time we knew it, his stop came up. He profusely apologized to me and said that it was the stop before. I said, "It's okay, I'll just walk the opposite direction." As we get off the bus, we're both walking in the same direction. As we come up to an intersection, he flags down a taxi, tells him the subway station to drop me off on, and he paid the fare. All this while still apologizing to me. That guy was just such a good person, you know?


Moms Just Know

I was involved in a hit and run on my bicycle in Chicago. I broke my collarbone, and a stranger drove me to the ER. I was going into shock and freaking out about finances—I’m a single mother. The stranger gave me her number for the report and such, but then she made a gesture I’ll never forget. She later sent me $5k because she knows what it’s like to be a single mother with nothing.

I sobbed. I hadn’t gotten my unemployment yet. I was overwhelmed by her kindness.


Friends With Benefits

I was having a panic attack for the first time. It swung between so euphoric I thought I was going to "ascend" and terrified that my life was going to end in pain. I called my loved ones to say goodbye, including my best friend. He came running from a block away. He was terrified too, but he held it together, sat me down, hugged me, told me that he didn't want me to go anywhere, and that he needed me right here.

I needed that. I needed to see what I felt wasn't based on reality, needed someone to say that I should not obey those feelings because I was needed and loved. On some level, he saved me. Years later, he voluntarily went into homelessness just to fly out to see me on another continent. Yes, we're together now romantically. No, I don't know how I got so lucky. We're planning the wedding. :)


The Art of Caring

When I was a freshman in high school, I took an art class that was a mix of 9th-12th graders. I was really bad with people back then, so I spent most of class sitting on the floor between the trash can and the drying racks and never speaking to anyone. Still, there was this one 11th-grade guy who would always make it a point to talk to me.

He didn't know me or anything; he just happened to sit near me. But he'd always ask about my day or compliment my art or offer to help me with my math homework. At one point, he even managed to get me to sit at the desk with the rest of the students. It's just one of those things I think about from time to time because he really had every right to ignore me like everyone else did, but he didn't. He really made art class into a second home for me. I miss that guy.


It’s the Little Things

I have an online friend in another country, and one time she made a cake for my birthday with my name on it because she knew no one else would do anything.


Know Your Worth

women's blue dress shirtPhoto by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

During my Physics graduate program, there was a terrible professor for two of my core classes. He was terrible at teaching, but also known for complaining at faculty meetings how the grades had been going down in his classes ever since more women started taking them. I put in a ton of work anyway, and despite all that he gave me two Ds for those two classes. I’ve honestly never heard of someone getting Ds in grad school and finishing, so I was convinced my life was over. Then, I learned that I was so, so wrong.

At that point, I told another professor who had been supportive what happened, and he got me a stiff drink to talk it over. In that meeting, he said that technically there was no requirement to take the guy’s classes. Instead, he told me to sign up for two independent study classes, which he would supervise, and all I would be doing is practice questions for the qualifying exam.

So we did exactly that—I studied, and we would meet up a few times a week to go over problems. By the end of the semester, I took my qualifiers, and passed with margins to spare. Today, I’m a postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at Harvard, which never would have happened if that professor hadn’t taken a chance on me and put in so many hours to help me.

It makes me so determined to help all the students in my path and mentor them as well, because people can be so much more than one bad professor thinks they are.


Chosen Family

I had just had my father completely cut ties with me after years of estrangement and him being super distant. Obviously, I was a little emotionally uneasy about how “final” it felt, and the implications for the distant future. My live-in girlfriend knew, told her mom, and her mom sent me a bunch of snacks I’ve always wanted to try but never wanted to spend the money on.

Instant mood lifter, and it restated the fact in my mind that there are other people who care about me even if my dad doesn’t.


Pikachu, I Don’t Choose You

When I was like nine, I went to an arcade over in San Antonio, Texas because we were there for a vacation. There was this claw machine that had pokemon in it, and I was aiming for my favorite pokemon ever, but accidentally got a different one. The employee comes around to unlock the thing so I can get my prize. I whine to my mom, "Aw I wanted the Charizard though."

This dude puts the other one back in there, and hands me the one I wanted. I will forever remember you, bro.


Work to Live

My one co-worker got all my other co-workers to donate money for a gift to me from my hugely underpaid apprenticeship. I received $350, which was exactly how much I needed for an upcoming bill. It really saved me when I had literally $0.70 in my account. A few weeks earlier, actually, a different co-worker noticed me not eating and bought me lunch, then many of them brought me leftovers. That apprenticeship was the worst, but the people were the best.


The Good Neighbor

His name is Duong. When I was in university, he was my neighbor. I got into a motorbike accident and couldn’t go to class by myself, so he put me up on his back and brought me to the class like a hero. When my elevator was broken, he climbed all 13 floors to bring me dinner because he knew I couldn’t go out to get it. Whoever is with him for the rest of his life is a lucky person.


Child’s Play

assorted color of wicker baskets on displayPhoto by zakariae daoui on Unsplash

I was walking through the streets of Marrakech after it had just rained, and I was wearing those flimsy flip-flops, so all the wet sand from the street was being catapulted onto the back of my legs. Out of nowhere, I feel a tap on my arm. It’s a young Moroccan girl, not older than 6 or 7 years old, offering me her water bottle to clean my legs.

I politely declined because I could never accept to take someone’s water in that scorching heat, but thanked her and her mother profusely. Children are so pure.


Do the Math

I went to a very small school with a bunch of really amazing math teachers, and one really bad math teacher. For example, she tried to sue a kid for "aggressively swinging his backpack" at her when she threw him out of the classroom for something trivial. He had only picked up his backpack in a completely normal manner.

I was slated to have pre-calc with the terrible teacher the following year and was complaining about it to my amazing math teacher, saying how much I was dreading her class. That’s when I got the offer of a lifetime. My amazing math teacher offered to teach me pre-calc over the summer so I could skip a year of math and go straight to calc with the amazing teacher.

So, once a week, each week over the summer, I met my amazing teacher in her back garden, where we had tea and cookies and she taught me pre-calc. A week before school started, I met with horrible teacher and took her pre-calc final, aced it, and got to stick with amazing teacher. I’ll always be grateful someone cared enough about that.


Second Home

Growing up, I was severely neglected and had no friends due to my lack of hygiene and social skills. One of my teacher aids got wise to it, and brought me to her house to play with her daughter, took me on family trips with them, gave me clean clothes, and just showed me an insane amount of kindness I'll never be able to repay.


Through Thick and Thin

I was fired from my last job. It was the first and only time I had been fired, and it sucked. I really liked that job, and I got super depressed. My friend also lost his job later that week, which really sucked because I knew he loved that job, too. He would always tell me that it was his dream job. And right as soon as he found out, he called me.

He called me to tell me that even though he lost his job, he knew he was going to be alright. He wanted to tell me that to set a good example. I knew he was heartbroken, but he put on a strong face for me. And I'll never forget that. Never.


24 Candles

I’ve never been able to celebrate my birthday. Between my awful mom and horrible relationships, it’s just become a tradition to lie in bed and cry every year. Well this year, my best friend and boyfriend put their heads together and threw me a surprise “party.” They decorated our apartment, baked me a cake and decorated it to the best of their abilities, and got me some small, thoughtful presents. 24 years old, and finally I had my first good birthday. I cried like a baby.


You Shall Not Pass

man in black jacket driving car during daytimePhoto by Thibault Penin on Unsplash

I went out to a bar drank a bit too much with my girlfriends. Some guy saw and tried to push me into an Uber to take me to his hotel. Then, the bouncer wouldn't let me back in no matter how many times I asked because according to him, "I changed my mind and that's not the guy's fault." No one else passing by wanted to intervene. I was getting really scared—until a good Samaritan stepped up and changed everything.

The Uber driver popped out of the front of his car and wrestled the guy off me. He made sure I was okay, gave the bouncer and everyone else a piece of his mind, too. Hope that guy's doing well in life.


Let the Good Times Roll

I took my sister, who’s in a wheelchair, to the cinema for the first time on my own. At the end, I realized I couldn't undo the brakes because it was a new wheelchair. It was blocking everyone. I felt like crying because I thought everyone was angry at me, but some nice lady helped me, then took me and my sister out. She said she once had a son who needed a wheelchair. This was long ago, but I'll never forget her or the kindness she showed me that day.


Tripping out

I am from 1980's rural Texas, where education was laughed at and where the idea of living in a foreign country was ludicrous. When I was 17, I met a Rotarian (like, a guy from a non-profit) who allowed me to go on a year-long foreign exchange. I had never heard of that concept before and had no real idea of what it meant. At 18, I packed my bags and discovered a brand new world! It honestly changed my life FOREVER. Definitely for the better.

While I was gone, I met other foreign exchange students and learned that it was fairly difficult to get into this program. I'd heard ambassadors’ children were being turned down from it. I honestly think that I got to go because no one else from my area wanted to leave the safety of our small town, while I jumped at the chance. I think about that old Rotarian a lot. I owe him everything for changing my life.


How to Save a Life

Back in 2018, I had a drastic decline in my mental health, which led to a failed attempt to take my life. I had enough of feeling miserable, so I checked myself in to a program. Afterwards, the hospital gave me a number and location to follow up with my newly-appointed therapist. Upon getting to their building, though, they needed me to pay a co-pay.

I didn't have a darn penny on me and said I couldn't pay. They denied me my appointment, and I remember thinking that when I walked out of there I was really going to go through with harming myself this time. Then a miracle happened. Right before I was about to leave, this other patient stopped me, pulled out her credit card and paid my co-pay.

She had told me that this place and these people saved her life. She said she didn't want me to lose mine because I couldn't afford to be cared for. The intensity of that relief almost cured my debilitating depression, I never felt so grateful in my life. I sincerely hope that lady is flourishing and being the best self she can be. She saved my life; that is the greatest kindness someone has ever done for me.


Those Who Can Do, Teach

My English teacher when I was very, very young. She was the sweetest I've ever had. She knew I loved the Harry Potter books, even though they were not super popular in France back then. So one day, she brought me HP-themed coloring books from her trip to England. It made me so happy that she thought about me even though she was away from school.


I Recommend This Man

white mug on brown surfacePhoto by Pablo Varela on Unsplash

My boss and mentor wrote me a glowing reference and pulled some strings to get me into a graduate program, even though I was severely depressed and my work performance was nothing to be proud of. I couldn't comprehend or remember anything due to an undiagnosed disease, and I also acted extremely awkward socially. I really don't know why he went so far out of his way to change the trajectory of my life, but I’ll always be grateful.


Guardian Angels

I've had many people do nice things for me, but one stands out. I was very young, maybe 16 or 17. I'd had a terrible car accident and needed to get to a specialist downtown during my recovery. I wasn't a confident driver to begin with, and I had never driven downtown and got hopelessly lost. This was before everyone had cell phones.

I stopped at a pay phone in a grocery store. I was sobbing and scared. I couldn't describe where I was, since I was so lost, and I didn't know how to get turned in the right direction. A little old lady stopped to ask me if I was OK, so I told her where I was going and that I didn't know how to get there. She was shocked that I was SO LOST.

I was so far removed from where I was supposed to be. I wasn't even close to downtown. So she literally drove there in her car while I followed her. She just pointed out her window when we got to the address and I turned in. I never got to properly thank her. But it was far from over. To make it so much worse, once I finally got there, I was told they'd had to cancel my appointment.

I broke down, and an elderly couple came to comfort me and gave me some money and said to please take some time to calm down at the cafe next door, have some lunch or something. Twice in one day, I was approached by kind people who just wanted to help a teenager. That was over 25 years ago. I still don't like to drive downtown, but I do. I think of those people every time I have to go there.


Saving the Day

My dad cancelled my weekend with him a day before we were supposed to go to Six Flags and do other stuff together. My best friend's parents found out and duplicated all the activities. It meant so much to me.


Hit the Road

I was given a car by a former co-worker. At the time, I was walking or riding my bike eight miles one way just to get to work, and then another eight miles to get back home. When working with her, she asked if I wanted a car. I thought she was joking, but said yes anyway. About two weeks later, she said her husband had this old car that he fixed up and it’s ready for me.

From there, she had me meet up at a notary, and all I paid was for a title transfer and tax, which only came around $150. It wasn't the nicest car, but it worked. The car lasted a year, but still to this day I am forever grateful someone would gift me something that truly helped out tremendously. Then, she said there was a catch. I started to get nervous, but it was actually so heart-warming.

The catch was that, whenever I'm able to, I have to pass along a good deed. I've tried to pass this whenever I can. I sincerely appreciated all the help, Debby, and I wish only the best for you and your family. I'm still working on passing along good deeds as we have agreed. Thank you so much for your kindness, especially during a time in my life where I thought there was little hope. There is always hope.


Color Me Surprised

A woman I worked with a few years ago knew my 30th birthday was coming up and asked me what I was doing. I just said I’m visiting family, but she also found out that I’d never had a “surprise” before. I might get a present and maybe a bit of money and I was happy with that. I had no idea the gift she was about to give me.

At my parents’ house, they’d forgotten to buy a cake, so I just picked up a Victoria sponge cake and stuck a couple of tea light candles on it. It was fine, I don’t complain. But when I got back to work a week later, my lovely colleague had organised this beautiful two-tier birthday cake surrounded by gifts! And then she really surprised me.

She produced tickets for us two to get a drink at this ice bar place and tickets to go to the theatre. She did this because she remembered me saying I hadn’t been since I was a kid and no one I knew was interested in going. I was so shocked, I was nearly in tears. This was the very first birthday surprise I ever had. I will never forget my 30th birthday because of my colleague.


A Purr-Fect Present

person walking inside building near glassPhoto by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

I worked as a retail cashier at a drug store. It was the Christmas season and CRAZY busy. We had tins of chocolates on sale for under $10, and they had designs of kittens and puppies on them. I mentioned to a lady who was buying a bunch that one tin in particular looked identical to my cat. She bought the tin and gave it to me!

I actually cried. To have a stranger spend their own money on someone else in that capacity. I’ve never had it happen before. It was years ago, and although the chocolates inside are long gone, I still display that chocolate tin every year at Christmas.


Girl Power

I was in a boarding school, so I couldn't go home or anything like that, and I was also really out of touch with my emotions. Very “keep calm and carry on.” One day in class, I was having REALLY REALLY bad period pains, and since I'm not the kind of person to share much, I was trying to hide it even though I was pretty much in agony.

My friend sitting next to me could clearly see something was wrong, and eventually I told her. So she sneaked into the dorm where you're not supposed to go during class hours for me to fetch some medication. She also offered to bring me dinner so I didn't have to move once I got home from class. She even told me jokes and stuff to cheer me up. I’ll always be grateful.


Memento Mori

I couldn’t be there for the passing of my grandmother because I was at university, so my uncle had a bracelet made for me. It was engraved with her handwriting.


One Happy Ending

I had a really bad home life growing up. My friend—and at the time she was only loosely my friend—had two incredible moms who heard what was going on with me, and pretty much immediately got involved. At the time, I was emaciated, constantly terrified, and never let anyone get close, especially adults. When it got really bad, I used to dumpster dive and collect scraps from the school cafeteria for food for myself and for my brother.

I was chronically sick, mentally ill, rarely slept, and skipped class all the time. My friend's parents started dropping off bags of food at school for me and my younger brother. One night, they invited me over and I just...never left. They moved my brother into the house. They had absolutely no money. Not a freaking dime.

The money that used to be split between four people (two kids, two moms) was suddenly split between six. The house we shared was a half-finished re-modeling project and a total hazard. We didn't even have doors installed inside! Just curtains. To me, though, it was magic. I thought the fact that we didn't have sinks—that we had to crouch over the tub to wash our hands—was mythical.

My moms hugged me every morning and told me how special I was and how proud they were of me. For the first time in my life, I was stupidly, ridiculously happy. Every morning I woke up, my heart would race until I thought it might burst. I was literally that happy to be alive. The second I woke up—I mean the second—I bolted to the kitchen to say good morning to my moms and get a hug.

My friend (now my sister) and her family did everything for us. No rhyme, no reason. I stopped skipping school. My grades improved. I started earning scholarships. I got into a fantastic university. I now have a degree, a fantastic job, friends, and a family that I love.


Kindness Is in Short Supply

On the last day of school, I was helping my art teacher clean up for the summer. She knew I was rather poor growing up, so she gave me all the leftover paper, some really high quality bristol board and watercolor paper, all of the leftover prismacolor pencils, tons of paint brushes, and other various art supplies. It was her last year teaching, and she didn’t care to save the stuff for the next year. I still miss her. She was the best teacher I've ever had.


Long Time, No See

photo of pub set in room during daytimePhoto by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I was at a restaurant in Boston by myself on a Friday night. It was 7 pm, so I was just enjoying a nice dinner by myself before heading back to my hotel. There was a man with a wedding ring on who asked me if the seats next to me were taken. I told him no, and he and his friends sat down. He eventually started chatting with me and it was friendly, but then he started hitting on me.

I brushed him off, and he slightly backed off…but then started eating French fries off of my plate. I pushed the plate away and asked the bartender for my check. I was in the last seat at the bar, so I had nowhere to go other than to wait, and the bar was packed. The guy then tells me I’m beautiful and asks if I want to go back to my hotel with him.

I told him again no. He asked again, I told him I was married and he said “So? So am I.” I’m so grateful for what happened next. All of the sudden, this voice says to me “Oh my god! What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you in so long!” And a woman hugged me. This woman and I chatted and pretended we were old friends while I paid. She then walked with me to my Uber to make sure I got into it safely and that he didn’t follow me. I don’t know where this woman is now, but she made me feel safe.


Mirror Image

I went on a homecoming date and ordered a bunch of food. While we were there, this old couple ended up buying our dinner because we reminded them of what they used to look like when they were young. I’m very grateful, because I didn’t actually have enough money to pay for dinner. I was maybe $30 short. I’m still with the girl three years later.


A Grave Secret

I have many family members interred in a small cemetery with a few unattended graves that I occasionally clean and place artificial flowers on. Sometimes I do the ones around them. I feel morally obligated to honor their memory. One day, I found a letter. Its contents were heartbreaking. Obscured behind my father's flowers, in an inconspicuous brown envelope, was an effusive message of gratitude from an old woman whose arthritis incapacitated her.

She had seen my maintenance of her husband's grave from her house across the road and wanted to thank me for my compassion. I was confounded because I never anticipated any recognition. She said she asked her daughter what she could do to compensate me, and she purchased an iTunes voucher for her mother to give me in the envelope.

It was one of those letters and gestures that the gratitude and appreciation emanated from the very paper. The handwriting was so elegant and fastidious; I know she took an inordinate amount of time composing her words. She loved her husband beyond articulation. We have tea together twice a month now.


A Class of His Own

When I was in school, I had a classmate who was terminally ill. He wanted to do all the things he wouldn’t grow up to do, and pretty much our whole school got involved. One girl’s parents owned a nightclub, and they decked out the VIP lounge and served mocktails to roughly 100 students. The kid wanted to be a police officer, and one boy’s dad arranged for him to go on shift with him for the day.

He wanted to go on a beach holiday, and the teachers put little kiddie pools around the long jump pit with water in. We all did something off his list. He got 62 valentines cards in October! He was always such a kind and thoughtful guy that everyone was happy to join in. His mom messaged me a few weeks ago just to catch up and she said she can’t believe that this year it’s 20 years since he passed, and she's so grateful that everyone made his brief time on earth so wonderful.


A Little Something Extra

My dad is a retired junior/senior high school art teacher. Every single morning for well over a decade, he packed an extra lunch and put it in a place in his classroom where a student whose family was struggling could take it without making a big deal of it. Eventually, when the older student graduated, one of his younger siblings started taking his class.

The kid would already know he could take the extra lunch bag without having to face talking to my dad about it, or being embarrassed in front of the class. I used to ask why Dad packed two lunches while I was growing up, and he would just say, “I sometimes get extra hungry.” My mom later told me the truth. He is such a quiet, humble, and extremely generous man.


man in white dress shirt wearing black framed eyeglasses
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

When you've spent enough time in your professional industry, you tend to learn secrets about the industry that the general public won't know.

For example, I work in social media. I create social posts for influencers and activists. I have no real affiliation with these people, and I usually don't even get guidelines on what to post, past that I have to post every hour or so.

Every industry has a secret, and Redditors are ready to share secrets about their own industries.

It all started when Redditor Thealexiscowdell1 asked:

"What is a "dirty little secret" about an industry that you have worked in, that people outside the industry really should know?"

All The Same

"Not all that much of a secret, but, i used to work in a peanut butter factory, we produced about 25-30-ish different storebrands ranging from very cheap to stupidly expensive, we had a grand total of 3 recipes, chunky, not chunky and no additives."

– ptvipers

"Peanut butter should taste like peanut butter."

– GroundbreakingAsk468


"Wash the top of your cans. Mice poop on those things all the time while they are in warehouse or transit."


"I’m so relieved that my mother raised me to do this lmao. I thought it was strange growing up but then I just started to do it automatically without question."


"Absolutely, I did security at a local supermarket warehouse, and doing my walkthrough, I saw rats 🐀 so big the porters used to ride around the warehouse on them (obviously not really) but I did see the rats and they’d be everywhere. Of course, they cr*pped on everything."

– peepers63

Quite The Employee Discount

"I worked at a major jewelry company in the US. When we wanted to buy jewelry, we paid what it costs to make the product (material, labor, shipping), plus 10%. I paid around $115 for a pair of $950 diamond earrings."

– SComstock

"I worked wholesale diamond sales so I had connections throughout the entirety of the industry. Made my wife's 15k+ engagement ring for about 3k."

– Kreepy_Quoll

Keep Track Of Your Belongings

"I worked in the moving and storage industry and if you EVER pay movers to pack and move your family, DEMAND an itemized bill and proof of service."

"These people are out here RAKING people over the coals. Inflating box counts, charging for services not performed, etc. it’s not AS BAD if it’s COD but if it’s a corporate move for your job?? DEMAND IT. You might not be paying for it out of pocket, but it’s still showing on your income as taxable wages."

"special note to say not ALL companies do this but ALL the ones I worked with did."

– YEEyourlastHAW

Perfect Fit

"High volume recruiters spend an average of 10 seconds looking at a resume."


""You are a perfect fit for this [job title that's not remotely close to what you have done in the past] position based on your experience at [company].""

– F**kItImStillTired

"Emails are mostly just basic keyword match mass batches. They might not have even read your CV, it just had a keyword."

– LBertilak

"Totally. It's usually through LinkedIn. I generally respond with, "Oh wow! What part of my profile do you think makes me a good fit for the position?""


"And block."

– F**kItImStillTired

Heavier Is (Apparently) Better

"They put little weights in lipsticks to make them feel more expensive so they can charge more."

– RandomRedditCount

"Same for Beats headphones."

– BenHippynet

The Truth Comes Out

"Zoos and museums are universally held together with double sided tape. The size or prestige of the organization doesn’t matter either."

– Pentastome

"You guys can afford double sided tape?"

– ContentPriority4237

"We had to use single-sided tape, taped together."

– elenduwir

"Also, the dinosaur bones that you're ooh-ing and aah-ing over are probably plaster. The actual bones are stored safely in the basement."

– janisdg

"I imagine most artifacts on display aren't real, just very high-quality fakes. You really can't trust the general public not to f**k it up somehow. Honestly, as long as the museum is using the real ones to learn more about our history, I'm OK with it."

– RhynoD

Like Cramming For A Test

"When the health inspector shows up, a mad scramble happens in the back to clean the kitchen while they start the inspection in the dining/bar area of the restaurant."

– Lone_Buck

"Yup. One manager will hold the health inspector up in the front of house while back of house is busy labeling and making sure minor violations they visibly see are dealt with."

– kettyma8215

"Truer words have never been typed lol send out the king or queen of small talk and people skills while the back of the house tosses anything that isn’t temping correctly and runs ribbons of labeling to the walk in to make sure it’s all labeled."

– EatTheRichbish


"If you’re ever buying bulk gravel/sand/crushed stone from a local pit/quarry that has scales to weigh the amount of product you’re getting- you’re getting f**ked because you’re paying for water. Most of these pits/quarries spray the living f**k out of their stockpiles before/during operation to make the material heavier in the truck. Never buy by the ton- always buy aggregate by the cubic yard. It’s a measure of volume- not weight."

"Source: I own a rock crushing business/multiple quarries and I charge by the cubic yard to not screw the public :)"

– ianwrecked802

He No Longer Works For The Company

"I wouldn’t say it’s mostly a secret but agency staffing firms churn and burn college graduates who are basically thrown in the wild. The recruiter you worked with may be gone in six months and that’s why a lot of ghosting happens."

– resident16

"Yeah, recruitment and headhunting are not altruist professions. They're not social workers looking out for clients best interests."

"Story time:"

"I got a high-paying job via a headhunter. After three months at the new place, I realized I hated it, and I quit."

"Three days later, I got a call from the headhunter, and he was IRATE, YELLING at me over the phone at the top of his lungs. He called me every name in the book, and went hoarse from yelling."

"Turns out, he gets paid a commission for placing me at that job ONLY if I stay at least 90 days. I just happened to quit on the 89th day coincidentally."

"So he lost out on a good chunk of money thanks to that."

– whomp1970


"The roses you buy at Valentine's Day were harvested around Xmas. It's the worst time of the year to buy roses and I don't mean because they're more expensive. They're also the worst quality because it's a longer holding time between harvest and use than any other time of the year."

"Never ever ever send flowers through an order processing service. Look at the location you're in or sending to and talk to a florist in that area directly. Don't pick a picture off some external website. Ask the florist what they have and can make that fits your budget. If you're worried, ask them to text you a pic of the completed design."

– VinnyVincinny

​The Psychology Of Groceries

"There is a lot of money spent every year that decides where specific items are placed on grocery store shelves."

"If you're at a grocery store that's part of a chain, and you look at a shelf and there's an item that's approximately at eye level, I guarantee you that the company that makes that item paid a lot of money to put them there. There's lots of weird psychological tricks that go on in terms of how stores are laid out."

– blueeyesredlipstick

"Candy, sugary cereals with mascots, the more expensive toys...etc. all at child height."

"The milk and toilet paper are always in the back because those are what people often make a quick run to the store for. By putting it in the back, it forces the customer to walk past all sorts of tempting end caps. The chances of the person going in for one thing and coming out with a bunch is increased."

"People joke about doing this all the time at Target, but it's not just a joke, Target actually paid a lot of money to get customers to spend a lot of money. All by designing things just so."

"I learned this in the one and only marketing class I took. It was really interesting, while also being kinda horrible."

– _Futureghost_

Turns out the world is even more manipulative than I thought!

Annoyingly Dumb Patients
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Medicine is a difficult profession. Thanks to the wonder that is human nature, healthcare workers are subjected to incredible Darwin-award-winning scenarios daily, so it’s no wonder that many of them feel the need to go home and scream into their pillows at night. From self-inflicted injuries to dangerous prescription misuses, these Redditors revealed the most facepalm-worthy patients they’ve ever encountered.

But be warned: They’ll all leave you wondering how we’ve survived this long as a species.

There Is No Plan C

white and red cross signPhoto by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

I’m a pharmacist. One evening, I was working a relief shift (not at my usual pharmacy). A man comes in looking distressed. He tells me, “I had intimate relations with a woman I do not intend to pursue a long-term relationship with”. Yes, he said it just like that. I say, “Okay. I’m assuming there was an accident, or it was unprotected. How long ago did it happen”? He answers, “Last night, at 7 PM on the couch”.

Woah, TMI. I just needed to know the approximate time so I’d know if Plan B would work. I start to tell him, “We have this medication called Plan B, and since the incident happened within 72 hours—” but he interrupts me and I was thrown completely off guard: “Oh yes, I got that for her already yesterday, right after we finished. We want to know if there is anything we can do to know if she is pregnant now”.

I answer, “Unfortunately not. She’ll have to wait three weeks or so to see if she gets her period, and if she doesn’t, she can do a pregnancy test then. Theoretically, you could do a blood test for faster results, but that would also not be until a couple of weeks, at least”. He responds, “We’re just really anxious because she doesn’t want to be pregnant. Is there anything that she can take to prevent the pregnancy? Any multivitamin? Minerals? Food”?

I tell him, “She’s already taken it, which was the Plan B. There are some other options, but those are prescriptions. And no, there are no over-the-counter products she can take”. Then he asks, “What about me? Is there anything I can take now to prevent the pregnancy? Any multivitamins or minerals”? A little bemused, I just answer, “…No sir. There isn’t anything you can take now”.


Get A Load Of This Guy

I’m 73, and I’m a former clinical microbiologist from LONG ago. Still, I found myself all over the clinical lab at times, not just infectious diseases. So, one day, this 20-something guy (with his wife and mom in tow) walks in with a paper request for an analysis of his “swimmers”, pre-computer era. Okay, not the most comfortable encounter, but I’m a professional, and I’d done this drill many times.

It turned out he had not been briefed by the doctor and had no idea how establishing infertility in males was done. Well, okay—this would be a challenge, then. I took him aside and, using standard medical terminology, told him how a diagnosis is made and what he needed to do to provide a specimen. He couldn’t believe that I was asking him to “do it” into that container.

Astonished! Then he played dumb as if the concept was unfamiliar to him. We looped through the medical terms and procedure again, and I eventually resorted to every word I knew to describe the “act”. It was like a George Carlin bit! A half-hour later, he emerged from the toilet with two inches of urine in the cup. God almighty.

The report came back: “Patient provided improper specimen”.


This Is How The Elderly Get Their Wrinkles

I’m a paramedic. I had an elderly woman complain that her mouth was dry and she felt a bit dizzy climbing the stairs earlier. So I go through the whole rigamarole of getting a medical history, vitals, and more detail on her symptoms. Then I asked her what she’s had to drink today. Her answer? A cup of tea—ten hours ago. I asked, “Any water”? She says no.

Guess what fixed it within five minutes.


The Mother Got A Lot Of Heat For This

I was at the children’s hospital with my eldest when he was a toddler (ah, the day we found out he was allergic to penicillin) when a rushing team suddenly occupied the bed next to me with a limp, unresponsive infant. This happened on a hot day during the mid-summer. The baby was in a full Canadian winter-level snowsuit.

After they got the baby’s temperature down, I overheard the doctor losing his mind a little bit with the mother as she kept insisting she had to have her baby in the suit lest the baby risk feeling chilly. He explained that the minor discomfort of having to cry for a blanket did not trump the risk of it losing its life or the possibility of literally frying the kid’s brain.

He had to get quite nasty with his wording in that she had almost unalived her baby and might have given it brain damage.


Mr. Hot Shot

I had a buddy who was an EMT, and he was called out to a location for a GSW. What happened was a father was mowing his lawn when he accidentally touched a part of the mower near the engine and burned his hand. He got mad at the lawnmower, pulled out his pistol, and shot it. The shot ricocheted and hit his son in the leg.


Now, He’s Gonorrhea-Valuate All His Conditions…

a woman holding a stethoscope in her right handPhoto by Eben Kassaye on Unsplash

I worked in ED for 10 years. Every day. Every day people come in, and it shocks you how they’ve managed to evade unaliving themselves for that long. One of the worst was when we had a guy come in. He was a twin. He told us he needed to get checked for STDs because his sister just got one. We, of course, had to ask if he’d had intimate relations with her, and he said no, but they were twins, so whatever she has, so does he.

After a collective sigh of relief that this wasn’t some weird Alabama, your-my-sister scenario, we had to educate him on how that’s not how it worked at all.


It Was An Arm of Intervention

I got told to go introduce myself to a patient to get vitals, history, and more info on their chief complaint, before starting an IV and drawing blood for labs. She came in for arm pain, and it looked like she had a nasty bug bite on her arm. So her story was she was an exotic dancer, and her Adderall prescription wasn’t doing the trick. So, she had an idea of how to make it more potent.

She heard from a friend that if you crush it up, suspend it in water, and then inject it, it would be more effective. Except she used tap water to dissolve the Adderall before she injected it. This ended up causing a huge abscess and infection at the site of injection. She ended up losing her arm at the elbow...So now she’s a one-armed exotic dancer.


They Must’ve Gone Ballistic

I had a patient who had a bullet lodged in her leg. We had the surgeon come and assess her. Based on its placement, he suggested leaving it because removing it could cause even more danger. We discharged her. She immediately walked to the ER in the same hospital to complain of leg pain. She had prescriptions and wound supplies in her hand.

Still, they brought her back, discovered her injury, and called for a surgical consult. The same surgeon was on-call and came to assess her. Guess what?! The surgeon made the same suggestion to leave it. Then we educated her EXTENSIVELY about never getting an MRI or the metal will fly out of her skin. Eventually, she left.

She returned a few months later to a sister hospital complaining of a headache. She got inpatient admission, and you guessed it: They did an MRI. The slug ripped out, and the MRI machine was down for almost a week!


She Just Couldn’t Seem To Grasp The Conception

I had an 18 or 19-year-old girl come into my ER with some complaint that required an X-ray. It’s standard that we do a urine pregnancy test before imaging on any female of childbearing years. She insisted she’d never “done it”, and there was zero possibility of pregnancy. We did the test anyway, and it resulted that she was pregnant. We then did a blood pregnancy test to confirm the result since she insisted she couldn’t possibly be pregnant because she’d never had intercourse.

That was positive too. We gave her a few minutes to herself to figure out what the heck happened, and when I returned to check on her a short time later, she asked me if she could get pregnant even though her boyfriend “didn’t go all the way in”. She 100% believed that as long as he wasn’t entirely inside her, it didn’t count as intercourse.

It took nearly a half hour of explaining reproduction for her to understand that, whether it’s halfway in or in, sperm travel.


It Ultimately Wasn’t Very Fun-Knee

I overheard a conversation between a nurse, a doctor, and a patient in the ER. They were trying to figure out whether the patient was very stupid or had a head injury. It was both hilarious and sad. He kept telling them that he was there for a hurt leg, but he couldn’t explain why his leg was hurt, how it was hurt, or how he got there—nearly anything.

I heard them talking in a hallway to each other. The nurse was convinced the patient hit his head. The doctor, without skipping a beat, dropped his unexpected diagnosis: “No, he is just an idiot.” It turned out the doctor was right. They got ahold of the guy’s wife. She told them in the hallway he’s always this dumb, and if she left him, he would get lost in his own house and starve.

It sounded like the patient’s leg was visibly injured or swollen. But when asked what happened or how it felt, he gave nonsensical idiot answers. He wasn’t slurring, but answering in a regular idiot voice, saying things like, “It feels hurt”, and “I was talking to Jimmy, and we were doing our usual work, and my leg hurts”.

The doctor would ask, “Did something happen? What is the work”? But the patient kept responding, “Something always happens; you know how it goes”, or “I just want my leg fixed”.


An Change Of Heart

man in white dress shirt wearing black framed eyeglassesPhoto by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

This one came from a colleague of mine. So, this 60-something-year-old suffered from an acute complication and got a pacemaker to solve the problem. Everything went normally, and as planned, he recovered. Every care and medication that he needed to take got prescribed and explained and his medical appointments with a cardiologist/arrhythmologist were scheduled so he could get the follow-ups he needed. The man then proceeded to never show up to any appointments and never answered any calls from the hospital to know of him and reschedule.

This went on for around three years. Then one day, he showed up without former warning and asked to talk with the doctor who did the procedure to put in his pacemaker. People were weirded out, but since the doctor was present that day and this patient was in clear distress, they talked to him and managed to find a couple of minutes to have the doctor check on him. Inside the appointment room, the doctor noticed that the man was wearing a bra inside his shirt.

The man explained he’d been wearing his daughter’s bra for three months after his “problem” got worse. So the doctor asked that he take off his shirt…and there he stood, this shirtless man wearing his daughter’s bra, showing off the pacemaker that should’ve remained inside his body. It was now dangling outside of it, being held by the left bra cup, with a big infected open wound above it with the pacemaker leads still inserted into his veins and connected to his heart.

Nobody had any idea how the man let that situation come to be or how he didn’t pass from sepsis or any other health problem that might’ve appeared, for that matter.


The Parents Were The Real Suckers

While working the midnight shift in the ER, a family brought in a four-year-old at 2am-ish. I asked them what was wrong. They said, “Ask him. He said he needed to see a doctor”. I further pressed, “Did he say anything was wrong”? They answered, “No. He said he needed to see a doctor, so we brought him”. A quick back and forth firmly established that they actually showed up to the ER at 2 AM, purely because the four-year-old said he needed to see a doctor and that they didn’t know why.

So I asked the child, “Why do you need to see a doctor”? His answer made me shake my head in disbelief: “The doctor has suckers”. To be clear, it was the parents who lacked sense and not the kid.


A Very Delicate Condition

I’m a social worker, and one of my clients kept getting pregnant over and over after having kids. I had a frank conversation with her about birth control or getting her tubes tied because she kept going through horrific births only to get her kids taken away, and she said to me that she didn’t know that birth control or safe intercourse would save her from getting pregnant.

She didn’t realize that intercourse = pregnant because she was mistreated as a child, and her father told her that she could only get pregnant when she fell in love, and she had never been in love, so she didn’t understand why she kept getting pregnant. Intercourse was only a pleasure for her, so she didn’t realize that was what was getting her pregnant.


The Answer Was At Hand

I am a dermatologist in India. As is the culture here, people eat with their hands, and almost all of our curries or even other dry side dishes have a lot of turmeric. It is common knowledge to anyone born and brought up in India that this means the nails of your dominant hand (statistically, the right hand) will be yellow-stained because we have seen this happen since our childhood.

Usually, this wears off in about a day and a half if you wash it a couple of times. Cut to the first patient in my OPD, a young girl in her early 20s, very anxious. I ask her, “What brings you here today”? The patient says, “Doc, my right-hand fingernails keep getting yellow-discolored”. I take a look and confirm, “Only your right hand”? She answers, “Yes, and only after meals”.

So I ask her, “Erm…do you eat with your hands”? The patient confirms, “Yes, always”. I then explain to her, “ know it’s just turmeric, right”? And she goes, “Yes, but can you make it stop happening”? Perplexed now, I just tell her, “For God’s sake, use a spoon”! But she’s still not quite getting it. Surprised, she asks, “So you mean there is no medicine to make it stop”?

I just stared at her while she looked at me expectantly. “NO”! This might hit home more with people of South Asian cultures or people who habitually eat turmeric-cooked food with their hands. Anyway, for a grown person to complain about this was just…well, surprising and a little ridiculous.


This Guy Wasn’t Very Treat Smart

I work in emergency medical services. I had a diabetic in his 30–40s who refused to take insulin since 2012. It was 2020 at the time. When I took his blood sugar, it only read as “HI”, meaning it had to be over 700 for the glucometer not to read it. Upon seeing this, he asked me if that was high and then went, “Is this because of all the ice cream I ate”?

He was playing a Facebook Messenger video with his girlfriend the entire time. I met him later on in the parking lot after he got discharged, and it took this man less than fifty paces from the ER door to rip off the bandage covering his IV and play with the IV wound until it started bleeding all over the place again.

He then knocked on our ambulance door and asked for a bandaid to fix it. We had to walk him back into the ER and bandage his entire arm with gauze so that, hopefully, by the time he got it off, it would’ve clotted enough for him not to end up exsanguinating himself.


Rubbing Salt In The Wound

brown and white shell on orange round platePhoto by Arnold Antoo on Unsplash

My sister told me a story of a woman with chronic blisters and lesions on her lips. They couldn’t figure out what it was for weeks. It would heal and come back, heal and come back. The truth was disturbing—it turned out she would jam out on like three bags of salt and vinegar chips a day for weeks at a time until the sores hurt too bad to continue, then she’d go to the doctor.


Details Make A Difference

This was one of the funniest yet cutest ones from when I was a student doing a shift in andrology/reproductive health. Doctor: “So, you’re trying to have kids but not managing to. Do you have any other kids”? Patient: “Yes, Doc. I have one”. Doctor: “Okay, so we need to do [this and this and that]”. Patient: “Okay, great”.

Then he proceeded to visit him and stuff, after which he went away. But after a couple of seconds, he knocked on the door again, saying: “Hello, Doc. My wife told me that it would be relevant to you that the son I have is adopted, but that makes no difference to me. I’ve always considered him my son”!


Do No Farm

I’m a physiotherapist. For those who don’t know, after a total knee replacement, you have a six-week window after the surgery to regain the range of motion. If you don’t regain the range in those first six weeks, it ain’t coming back. I had a patient who was a farmer who was very enthusiastic about regaining the range because he needed to be mobile for his work. I saw him for the first time about five days after his surgery.

I showed him all the basic exercises, told him not to do any farm work for at least six weeks, and told him to come back to see me once a week for the first six weeks. He disappeared and came back about eight weeks later. His range was non-existent, maybe 30 degrees of range in total. He was visibly mad at me as if it was my fault. He was shouting and calling me incompetent.

Our conversation went something like this: Me: “Have you been doing the exercises”? Him: “No”. Me: “How often are you doing farm work”? Him: “Every day”. Me: “Why haven’t you come back since the first appointment eight weeks ago”? Him: “Too busy with farm work”. Me: “So, to summarize here, you did absolutely nothing that I told you to, and this is somehow my fault”?

I never saw him again.


A Jaw-Dropping Encounter

As a pharmacist, I often encounter a lot of people who lack common sense; namely, everyone who comes in to buy homeopathic stuff, especially for serious things. Once, a lady came in with a prescription from the dentist for some heavy antibiotics and painkillers due to an infection that threatened to damage the jawbone.

When I asked if she knew how to take them, she went: “Oh, I’m not gonna take those; they’ll go right into the garbage. But I gotta buy them so that my dentist is happy. I’d rather stick with [insert name of homeopathic stuff here] instead of harming me with some devilish chemicals”!

Throughout the years, I’ve learned to just shrug and accept those Darwin-award candidates instead of arguing with them. It just infuriates me when I see that they’ve got children or/and pets…


That’s Never Gonna Heel Now

This was circa 1983, and I’m a nurse (retired). I had this one guy in his early 20s who went swimming hammered in a notoriously nasty lake in our area. It was a “don’t drink the water” kind of lake, and he went in without shoes, stepped on an old booze tab, and cut his foot open. He didn’t go to the hospital or try to clean it at all for about a week. His girlfriend said he kept saying, “It’s fine, it’s just a cut”, when she pressured him to get it seen, so of course, he showed up in the ER with a foot that blew up like a balloon.

Healing it took two and a half months in the hospital, with his foot completely laid open in surgery, doing debridement and packing, which I can honestly say after over 30 years in healthcare stands as one of the nastiest jobs I have ever had to do—and I had been dealing with things like bedsores and open wounds from radiation treatments and cancer for about seven years at that point.

It was bad, but that's not all—on top of this, he was obnoxious, disrespectful, and, when the opportunity presented itself, cruel. Other nurses, you know the type, they’re everywhere. Hopefully not as open about it these days, but yeah. I had a student nurse I was training come running out of the room in tears and refused to go back in and would not tell any of us what he said, but I can imagine.

Eventually, we finally got it cleaned out, and it’s responding well to antibiotics, and the tissue is granulating well. He gets sent home with antibiotics and strict instructions on how to care for it and to keep it clean and dry. THE DAY he left the hospital, he went back out to the same lake, got inebriated, put on some nasty tennis shoes, and went swimming.

He showed up on our floor again a week after being discharged. He lost the foot. His girlfriend left him.


Fortunately, They Caught Him Red-Handed

man in blue scrub suit wearing blue stethoscopePhoto by Bruno Rodrigues on Unsplash

I don’t know if a cleaner in a hospital counts, but this one time, I got to work early on a Saturday morning, and we immediately received a request for help from the ER and got sent over by my boss. When I got there, the first thing I heard was yelling from this guy behind one of the curtains. He was shouting at the nurses, “Don’t touch my downstairs”, and “I didn’t use any substances”!

Then I smelled iron in the air, and then I found out there was blood all over the hallway, with hand prints in blood against the wall. Almost the entire floor was covered in blood, with actual puddles in some places. What happened? The guy pulled out his catheter, causing arterial bleeding, and he decided to run away from the nurses who were trying to help him.

It seems like he lived through that. I had never seen that much blood before that day, nor after.


Thinking Against The Grain

I am a medical professional, but I have two really good ones about my ex-fiancé. Laugh at me all you want; this relationship was not my proudest moment. For starters, at our baby shower for my son, he asked if we were going to pick “innie” or “outie”. I looked at him like he was insane, and he started getting angry and just repeated the question louder until I shushed him and took him aside to explain to him that we don’t choose how the belly button looks; it just happens.

Another time, he had really bad eczema and went to a doctor who suggested oatmeal baths during flare-ups. He bought a couple of boxes of Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar and would dump the entire box packet by packet into the tub. It was a couple of weeks before I found the wrappers and questioned him about it.

He told me (angry again) that he wondered why he was so sticky after getting out and why the freaking literal brown sugar was making his open wounds fester. I explained that an oatmeal bath is not flavored oatmeal and that he had to buy either plain oats or actual oatmeal bath packets. He was furious that I expected him to just know better.

When I asked him why he picked maple and brown sugar, he said he didn’t want to smell like strawberries or peaches after his bath. After our son was born (and we had broken up, thank God), my son also had some occasional eczema, but not nearly to the same degree. The pediatrician recommended oatmeal baths, and GUESS WHAT THIS FREAKING GUY BOUGHT?

He said he only remembered what happened the last time when he picked my son out of the sink, and the towel stuck to him. When I started to scold him for being so stupid, he looked at me like I was an idiot and told me he only used one packet since we were still bathing the kid in the sink instead of in an entire tub.


The Patient Had A Med-ley Bag

I’m a pharmacist. I had a woman bring in a literal sandwich bag that she kept all her meds in, unseparated. She needed help seeing which meds she was low on or out of and was asking different questions about the medications. When she pointed to an Apoquel and stated it was her blood pressure medicine, I immediately became concerned as to why pet medicine was in her bag (and also why she was mixing all her meds in a bag in the first place).

It was then that I found out that she had been throwing her pet’s meds inside her bag of medicine, too. So Lord knows what she’d been giving her dog or taking herself. I immediately stressed how important it is to keep medicine in its original container to protect both the medicine and herself and to know the directions of how to take it.

I’ve seen her a few times since then, and I’m glad to see she has since taken my advice. But how any pharmacist or doctor hadn’t advised her on this before is beyond me.


They Didn’t Air On The Side Of Caution

I used to be a medical oxygen tech, mostly doing in-home work. One guy was on such a high concentration that he would have drawn nearly zero oxygen from breathing regular atmosphere. This required two heavy-duty machines hooked up in tandem just to keep him barely alive. This was explained ad nauseam to him and his wife with fully signed documentation of every conversation.

What they did was absolutely ridiculous—they’d shut one machine off because they decided it was too loud. He’d take his mask off because he decided it was too cold. She would unplug the hose if she decided it was in the way. So on and so on. They did everything you could think of that would restrict or cut off his oxygen intake. Then they would panic and call our emergency service when he started to react to no oxygen intake.

I lived not even five minutes away, right beside our EMS station, and calls would always come for me to “fix” the machines at random times of the day and night, 3–7 days a week. They refused to call 9-1-1 because they “didn’t want to make a scene”. This went on for ages, well over 18 months, until he was having trouble sleeping one night, and they shut the machines off before going back to bed.

It’s been years, and I still see the wife around town. She always glares at me as if I’m the one who unalived him.


She’ll Just See Herself Out, Now…

I’m an ophthalmology surgical technician. A glaucoma patient in her late 50s was going blind despite her drop therapies for the past six months. Her pressure was consistently in the 30s and 40s. I asked her if she was using her drops regularly (twice daily), and she said yes. I asked, as politely as I could, if she’d missed any doses in the past month. She said no. I asked if she was using them properly, and she got super offended.

She asked me very rudely, “Do I look like an idiot to you”? I said, “No, but I just need to be sure. Sometimes patients think they’re doing it right, but they can easily miss it. Can you show me how you use your drops”? So she took out her drop bottle, gave it a good shake (so far, so good), looked up at the ceiling (also a good sign), opened her MOUTH, and swallowed two drops.

I got in trouble, but my OD backed me up and told her that’s the stupidest thing he’s ever seen in 25 years. She cried and said we were being mean to her and that the drops burned her eyes, so she didn’t want to put them in there, and since the eyes, ears, nose, and throat are all connected, why did it matter where she put them?

That’s not how glaucoma therapy works. She needed a shunt implant, and we were able to save about 30% of her visual field. But yeah, she was drinking her drops and going blind.


That’s Ill-Advised

a woman in a white shirt holding a stethoscopePhoto by Alexandr Podvalny on Unsplash

I used to volunteer at a free medical clinic to take vitals and histories. A woman came in with pneumonia and wanted to know why her normal treatment of drinking half a bottle of Listerine and inhaling a pack of cancer sticks a day wasn’t working. I asked why she thought ciggies were a good treatment for a lung infection, and she said, “Indians used to purify the ground by burning all the weeds away before planting, so I’m puffing to purify my lungs”.

I left that one to the doctor.


Seeing Red

I’m an optometrist. I had a patient booked in for an emergency appointment with a raging red eye. It was very painful. So I looked under the microscope, and the cornea was not happy: wobbly reflexes, haziness, the works. So I asked, “What happened”? The patient said, “It’s my niece’s wedding this Saturday, and I wanted to tint my eyelashes to match my hair, and the color scheme of the wedding is light blue, so I used the same dye for both to match the color”.

I inquired, “Does that hair dye contain ammonia, by any chance”? The patient answered, “I think so. Do you think my eye will be better by Saturday? Will it match the color scheme”? I just responded, “Unless you can convince them to change the color scheme to red, no”.


This Grave Mistake Takes The Biscuit

I heard this story from a sibling; I don’t think he’d mind me sharing it just on the off chance it prevents someone else from making this mistake. Lots of surgeons have a similar story, but thankfully this one doesn’t end in someone’s demise. According to my brother, these parents claimed that their child hadn’t eaten anything before surgery, as they were carefully directed. But it turned out they thought the surgical team was just being cruel to their child.

So when she said she was hungry that morning, they detoured on their way to the surgical center and got her a full Southern breakfast. The result was triggering—she dang near passed from aspirating biscuits and gravy. I’ve rarely seen my brother so angry and disgusted (somehow, biscuits and gravy look even more nauseating the second time around) as he recounted what had happened.

I do not doubt that he tore a strip off the parents once their five-year-old was stabilized, and they probably still felt justified and angry at the surgeon for telling them what they could and could not feed their child right before anesthesia. The parents did feel justified and hard-done-by, although, as far as I know, they didn’t express anger at my brother (knowing him, they didn’t get a word in edgewise).

There was no acknowledgment or realization that they could easily have unlived their own child or that they’d made a bad decision. I remember they were annoyed by her whining for food.


The Outcome Suited Them Just Fine

I’m a pharmacist. One time my coworker, another pharmacist, got served with a lawsuit while I was there. The patient suffered a fall resulting in a concussion, and she claimed it was because her Lisinopril (blood pressure medication) got increased from 10mg to 20mg and that she’d not been informed and passed out as a result. She was suing the pharmacist, the pharmacy, her doctor’s office, and the doctor.

It eventually came out in early discovery that she was at a rave and had a BAC of 0.18, THC, and MDMA in her system. The case against the doctor’s office, doctor, and pharmacy fell apart right away, so she decided to go all-in on trying to sue the individual pharmacist. The pharmacy’s POS system confirmed that she checked, “I decline pharmacist consultation at this time”. So the case was eventually dropped.


He Had To Take A Pregnant Pause

I work in the ER. I have so many stories. The one that left me dumbfounded was a woman who was brought in by her sister for pelvic cramps and amenorrhea for three months. Lo and behold, she’s pregnant. The sister informs me that she sleeps with the Brazilian construction workers building the condo complex next door. I ask if they have any questions.

The patient then asked me if her baby would come out speaking Spanish. After a long pause and her sister staring at the ceiling, I told her, “No, because they speak Portuguese in Brazil”. The patient seemed relieved, and the sister hustled her out of the ER before I could discharge her.


It Cost Them An Amen And A Leg

man in white dress shirt holding black tablet computerPhoto by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

I worked in cancer research/surgery a couple of years ago. There is a good amount of people who will refuse to have a small removal/surgery because they think holistic medicine or praying it away will work. They always come back, and we always have to remove so much more. One time a patient had melanoma on their calf, and the doctor wanted to do a simple wide excision, but they left because they wanted to pray it away.

They came back a couple of months later because it got bigger, and we had to amputate their leg. I’m pretty sure they had positive lymph nodes at that point too.


They Gave Her A Herbal Warning

A lady brought her baby into the ER with a rectal temp of 103. The kid had tachycardia (i.e. a fast heartbeat) and looked awful. The worst part? The lady refused all medications. She said she didn’t believe in them and wondered why her herbal tea (she brought a jug of it) wasn’t working. She wanted us to just check her out. She thought a children’s emergency room just checked them out. I tried to explain why the kid needed an NSIAD. She kept refusing. She said she didn’t know what was in it.

I brought up the fact she had her kid in a hospital and that she received medication herself (IV, epidural, etc). The lady didn’t budge. Only concerned for herself, I told her that when the kid has a seizure or goes unresponsive and she calls 9-1-1, she can expect the medics to give the kid everything it needs regardless of whether she likes it or not.

Desperate times called for desperate measures, so the doctor threatened to contact social services for child endangerment and mistreatment. Only then did she start to listen…for, like, five whole seconds. She then left against medical advice. People like this exist.


Words Cannot Expresso How Ridiculous This Call Was

I’ve been a firefighter for 18 years. People call 9-1-1 for the dumbest things ever. But the one that takes the cake? It was a guy who called 9-1-1 to say he was choking. He answered the door as high as a Georgia pine with a lit joint in his mouth. I asked him who was choking. He calmly said that he was. He said he swallowed an ice cube, and now he couldn’t breathe.

Just to be sure and partly out of morbid curiosity, I looked in his mouth and then asked him to take a few deep breaths...which he was able to do easily. He still insisted he couldn’t breathe. So I told him to make some hot coffee and then drink it. He asked me, “Why”? I told him that the coffee would melt the ice cube, and he’d be able to breathe again. “Oh, cool. Thanks, man”.

Then I left.


How Heartbreaking

I work in clinical research at a hospital. Basically, for patients who have cancer but don’t have other standard-of-care options, clinical trials, or “experimental treatment”, are a viable option for many. Some people have a negative view of research, but it’s highly regulated and not as scary as it sounds. Anyway, we went through the consent form with this one patient who had a history of substance use.

We don’t know everything about this new medication, but one thing we DO know is that using coke while taking this drug will make your heart “explode”, in layman’s terms. This patient “promised” they were off the sauce and that they “totally wouldn’t do coke while they’re on the trial”. Two weeks later, they relapsed, and well…You can figure out the rest of the story.


Wrestling With Logic

My brother did a rotation in an ER before med school. Paramedics brought in a man with a lacerated neck. He was inebriated and fell into a fish tank. His equally inebriated buddies called 9-1-1. When the paramedics arrived, they realized his friends had put a very tight tourniquet around his neck to stop the bleeding. It turned out that the guy and his buddies had been playing a boozy game of WWE.

He had a two-inch glass shard stuck in his head in addition to the neck laceration, but the dude came into the ER with no idea the glass was there. Four different firefighters had to hold him down as he screamed prejudiced remarks at the female doctor. My brother said that when they removed the glass, blood shot out about 10 feet in the air.

My brother, at that point, silently “noped” the heck out of medicine. He went on to attend Berklee Music School and is living his best life as a musical producer and engineer, and is not arguing with rednecks about whether or not there is a glass shard in their head….


Shear Stupidity

a close up of a person laying in a hospital bedPhoto by César Badilla Miranda on Unsplash

I’m an ER nurse with seven years of experience. The list of dumb things I’ve seen is nearly endless. People coming in with massive burns because they smoked in bed is not as rare as you’d think. But the one that got me the most was a guy who came in for chest pain and fatigue. An EKG revealed he was having a really bad heart attack.

We activated the cath lab for emergency stents to hopefully save the guy’s life. They almost always access the patient through the groin for the procedure, so one of our jobs in the ER is to shave the patient’s groin to prep them for the cath lab. We got the clippers out, as we don’t use actual razors anymore, and informed the guy we needed to shave him. This is when things got annoying.

He refused. No problem, we figured we woul adjust let the cath lab do it once he’s knocked out. Nope, the guy refuses to sign the consent for the stents because he doesn’t want his downstairs shaved.

After trying to educate him, pleading with him, and contacting every goddang lawyer the hospital had, the guy signed himself out of AMA and went home.

He would rather die than have his curlies shaved. We looked up his address, and we weren’t the closest hospital to him, so if he passed at home, the medics would have to take him to a different hospital. I doubt he survived the day.


Paws For Thought

I’m a vet. A few years ago, I had a client bring his young cat in complaining of lethargy. Besides being a bit underweight, the physical exam was unremarkable, so I asked more questions about the cat’s diet. I asked him, “What do you feed the cat”? The owner answered, “I feed him [online trendy raw food brand]”. I asked, “How is his appetite? Does he finish what you feed him”? The owner replied, “Yes, he always eats everything”.

Pressing further, I asked, “How much do you feed him”? The owner said, “Half a cup”. For clarification’s sake, I then asked, “Once or twice daily”? What he said next absolutely floored me. He answered, “Once every three or four days”. Shocked, I replied, “…You only feed your cat twice a week”? The owner explained, “I believe in a more natural feeding approach, and based on my research, that’s how often cats eat in the wild”.

This owner was slowly starving his cat into oblivion based on some cockamamie idea he’d made up while watching National Geographic. I had to explain to him that domestic cats are not tigers and that small wildcats eat 10–20 small meals daily. Surprise, surprise, the cat’s lethargy and weight improved with regular feeding.


Always Double-Check

I once heard a story about a particular patient receiving radiation therapy. It was impressed upon her that she couldn’t miss her fractions of radiotherapy, even if she were busy, so she needed to inform us if she really couldn’t make the appointment. Well, one day, she couldn’t make it. But instead of just informing us, she sent her twin sister to receive the radiation therapy in her place.

Of course, the twin answered yes to all the ID questions and had the same birthday, etc. She was only found out when the radiographers had trouble matching her to the CT. The CT was of a person who had undergone a mastectomy, while this “patient” still had both her mammaries. This story, many years later, is still told to new staff during training to reiterate the importance of ensuring correct identification.

You would be stunned by the number of people who try to skip the queue. The number isn’t high. But it isn’t zero.


It Took Some Arm Twisting

I work in orthopedic rehab. I had a patient with a common fracture of the wrist that a doctor sent over because she was inexplicably getting stiffer and stiffer. I spent 17 sessions with her one on one, 40ish minutes each. But nothing I did worked. For whatever reason, instead of just bending her wrist, she would contort her entire body.

She was married, raised kids, had a career, and was a seemingly functional adult. I tried everything to get her to actively use her muscles to move her wrist. I put her in front of a mirror, filmed videos of myself doing the exercise or her doing it, and tried to get her to spot the difference between moving your shoulder versus moving your wrist.

The last time I saw her, I even strapped her arm to a chair, and she still didn’t understand that she should’ve only been trying to move her wrist. I will never understand it.


There Was No Sugarcoating It

I work at a vet clinic. We get a lot of this sort of thing, oftentimes with diabetic patients. One of the worst I’ve seen was an older owner come in with an extremely overweight, diabetic dog. The owner says the dog has been slow, tires easily, and has been “flopping around”, which is odd for her. The doctor checks the dog’s blood glucose, and it is so high it is literally off the charts.

Normal blood glucose for a dog is around 100 or so. The dog's reading was shocking—it was beyond 1000. We asked the owner how it got so high. Was she eating? She was because she was obese. Were you giving her the insulin? The owner then proceeds to say that they think she’s probably fine without it since she’s a “strong and hardy dog”.

Ma’am, your nine-year-old 80-pound Dalmatian is currently half-alive on the floor because you don’t give her insulin. How they kept that poor dog alive for that long was astounding.


Are You Kidding Me!?

a person is holding a picture of a babyPhoto by Amr Taha™ on Unsplash

When I was an intern posted in the obstetric department, I saw a 42-year-old pregnant woman who came for an antenatal checkup. This was her seventh pregnancy, and she had only one living child. So she had five pregnancies previously, which failed (three spontaneous abortions and two stillbirths). The sixth one had been high-risk too, and she’d needed to get a cervical cerclage done (they stitch the cervix because it is too weak to hold a baby in until term).

When the OBGYN asked her why she would put herself through pregnancy again instead of being content with her daughter, she replied, “My in-laws want us to have at least two children”. It was the biggest Pikachu-face moment of my life.


Jesus Took The Wheel Years Ago

I’m an optometrist. I had an elderly patient come in surrounded by concerned family members because the patient ran over one of those pop-up tents on the side of the road that the telephone engineers use to protect themselves from the rain. Luckily no one was hurt as the worker was on lunch. Worried as to how the elderly driver missed seeing a large, red, and white tent in the middle of the day, it was then that the elderly relative admitted to having spent the last three years driving from memory.


Trying Hard To Be Patient

I had a patient come to see me in the clinic on a Monday; everything was fine. By Tuesday morning, she’s on the hospital census with a pending consult for me. When I see her, she says she’s fine and doesn’t know why she was admitted. She then walked out of the clinic, called an ambulance from across the street, and got taken to a different hospital.

She reported her problems were uncontrolled, and nobody was taking her seriously. They transferred her back overnight because I don’t work at that other hospital. She then gets discharged Wednesday morning. On Friday morning, she is again back on the census with a pending consult. I go to see her, and once again, she says she’s fine, and she’s not sure why she’s there.

This time she had a friend pick her up from the hospital and drive her to a small outlying hospital without the services she needed. She walked into the ER and said she was in distress but that nobody was taking her seriously. Yet again, she gets admitted and transferred back to my hospital overnight. She gets discharged on Friday afternoon.

Sure as heck, she came back on Saturday morning. I asked her, “Why do you think you keep getting admitted to the hospital”? She has no clue. Completely baffled. I tell her it’s because she keeps going to hospitals and telling them she needs help. No lights come on. I ask her, “Why do you keep going to other hospitals”?

Finally, she tells me, “I didn’t know what else to do. My apartment is a complete mess. My caretaker won’t clean my apartment because I’m supposed to learn how to do it, and I just don’t want to do it”. Please note that she is not a ward of the state but still gets most of the services, like coaches, guardians, drivers, etc.

So, I follow up with, “But why do you keep telling them that I’m not taking you seriously”? What she said next is forever burnt into my brain. “If I don’t, they just send me home in a cab”.


False Wisdom

I’m a dental nurse. My favorite story involved a 30-something-year-old woman who came in for a checkup at the low-cost emergency clinic I worked at. Her teeth were broken and almost black, and her gums were angry, swollen, bright red, and bleeding by just moving her tongue against them. She needed multiple scaling and hygienist appointments and a debridement.

An X-ray showed she needed work on all but her wisdom teeth, and the results made me raise my eyebrows—she needed 10 fillings. She also needed root canals to try and save some teeth and extractions for, I think, three teeth or possibly more if the root canal treatment didn’t work. I explained everything and did the usual explanation of proper oral hygiene.

I then asked her if she had any questions, to which she said, “It’s okay if I lose this set of teeth; my others will come through”. The dentist and I just looked at each other, probably a lot longer than we should have. No words. I couldn’t think of anything to reply to that comment. I had a lot of weird and disgusting things happen at that clinic. I miss working there.


When You Just Can’t Sulfa Fools

I’m a paramedic, and I had this call while working on a rural fire/EMS service. A call came in for an allergic reaction. I arrived at a rural farm and found the patient in the kitchen on the ground, wheezing. Her husband said she took sulfa, which she’s allergic to, and after grabbing her blood pressure, we hit her with epinephrine (which is the same as an EpiPen) and Benadryl.

Her breathing improved, and she started to be able to answer my questions. First, I confirmed her allergy by asking, “So, you’re allergic to sulfa”? The patient says, “Yeah”. I reply, “And you took sulfa”? Again, she goes, “Yeah”. So I asked, “Was it mislabeled or in the wrong bottle”? She answers me with a simple “No”. Okay…

Needing more information, I inquired, “Was it your husband’s prescription”? And unbelievably, she tells me, “No, it was for our horse”. Huh? Feeling a lot more confused, I respond, “Was...Wait, did you say a horse? You took sulfa prescribed for a horse”? She then clarifies, “Well, I only took half”. Sure, that makes it better.

Still trying to follow her logic, I guessed, “...You only took half because a horse is much larger than a person”? The patient confirms, “Yeah”. Uh-huh…I’m still not fully understanding, so I respond, “...Okay. Were you intentionally trying to hurt yourself”? And the patient indignantly answers, “No, of course not”. Exasperated now, I pressed, “But you know you’re allergic, right”?

And she goes, “Yeah. I just have a cold and thought it would help me breathe better”. I couldn’t believe it. Incredulously, I then summarized the situation back to her: “So you took horse sulfa—which you’re allergic to—because you had a cold and thought it would help your breathing”? “I took half a horse sulfa”, the patient corrected me. Good Lord.

I just responded, “Sorry, half. Gotchya. Let’s go to the hospital”.


This Patient Was In A Jam

opened white and orange travel trailerPhoto by Muhammed Abiodun Mustapha on Unsplash

I’m a paramedic and was called out for a stroke. The man was having a stroke; upon doing a stroke screen, it looked like the patient had something large in his mouth. Thinking maybe this guy had some sort of oropharyngeal cancer or mass, I asked his wife if this was indeed the case, and she looked at me with a very puzzled look.

She said no, and then I asked, “What is in his mouth”? His wife then says it’s a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that she shoved in there. When her husband’s symptoms started, she thought it was just that his blood glucose was low, so she tried to force-feed this poor man an entire sandwich before she called 9-1-1. Ah, job security.


It Was An Oxidant Waiting To Happen

There was a 24-year-old patient who was brought in from a prison in a rural county. He was working roadside cleanup when he found a bottle in a ditch that he thought contained booze, and he quickly chugged it down. To be fair, it did look like booze. It wasn’t. It turned out it was a substance that contained sulfuric acid. Its pH was less than 2.5...It just ate up the litmus paper. So shortly afterward, he gets to the ICU, and he is in excruciating pain and vomiting blood.

The gastroenterologist took him to do an EGD (basically a procedure where they can look at the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum with a camera attached to a flexible tube), and the pictures were horrendous. You could see his stomach and esophageal mucosa eroding. He had to be sent off to another hospital where they had an esophageal surgeon who could repair the mess.

He, of course, needed multiple surgeries and had a very long hospital stay. I saw him a few months later when he was admitted for another issue. He was down to 90 lbs (from about 150) and was getting fed through a PEG tube. He was very lucky to be young and otherwise healthy (but not very smart).


A Rash Decision

I’m a pharmacist. This story comes to mind, although I’m sure there are plenty more I’m not remembering. A woman came in, claiming that her medication was making her vomit. She said she couldn’t remember what it was called. So, I looked up her profile, but there was nothing recent, just some one-off antibiotics and an anti-fungal from almost a year ago.

I asked her if her medication was over the counter, and she said that it was and pointed me to the Monistat cream. I thought it was incredibly strange that a cream meant for “lady parts” had made her vomit, so I asked her how she had been using it. That’s when I learned the disgusting truth—much to my surprise, she’d been taking it by mouth.

She explained that she would fill the plunger with the cream, shoot it to the back of her throat, and swallow it so she wouldn’t taste it as much as putting it directly on her tongue and swallowing.


What A Meathead

I’m a rural ER doctor. A 35-year-old female walked in with right-sided jaw/neck swelling. She says, “I think it happened because I ate some meat yesterday that my body is reacting to…” Then suddenly, 10 minutes later: “Oh yeah, and I accidentally swallowed a bee, and it stung me in my mouth right before this happened. Sorry, I forgot to mention that”.


When Urine Need Of Some Whizdom

I had an adult male patient who needed a Foley catheter. His mother was in the room, and they both lived together in the backwoods of Tenessee. I informed them both of the order for a catheter, how it worked, and why it was needed. His mother stated, “Well, he’s still a virgin, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with his virginity being taken in a hospital”.