An Ode to Cake Batter Boy

Alternative Title: Tales From The Help Desk, Ch. 1

I used to work in IT.

Go ahead, ooh and ahh, I’ll wait.

Or you can laugh, because honestly it was a bit of a joke to me too.

Wanna know why it was a joke? I don’t like computers. Like, at all. They’re awesome tools, don’t get me wrong, but I never really enjoyed working ON them. WITH them was cool. See the difference? OK, I digress (you may find I do that a fair bit, stick with me and I promise I’ll always loop back to a solid point).

I was chatting with a friend the other day and we got to telling war stories from past jobs. After one of my stories that honestly left battle scars on my psyche (Ed: we’ll tell that one a bit later, those wounds still need time to heal), he stopped laughing long enough to say that I needed to start committing my stories to writing. So for the last 2 weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to write down stories I’ve only ever told out loud. Not to mention working out how to anonymize them so as not to incriminate the innocent.

I’m thinking of calling the series something like “Tales from the Helpdesk,” harkens back to Tales from the Crypt, which elicits just the right combination of dread, sarcasm, and desperation.

This first story I’ve deemed “Ode to Cake Batter Boy.”

It actually starts sometime before I started my role as lead technician at a large consulting firm in DC. The first thing I was tasked with was clearing the backlog of broken laptops. And by backlog, I mean the 4’ x 2’ shelf stuffed top to bottom, side to side, and back to front with laptops in various advanced stages of decay.

My team consisted of a manager, two junior technicians, and myself. I was supposed to step in and take some of everyone’s workload, so the manager could get back to planning for the hardware future of the company (or whatever it was he did) and the guys could focus on getting new computers deployed. This task was apparently someone’s idea of a joke. A trial by fire, or broken motherboard, if you will.

By the end of the first week, I found my groove, pulling down 3 machines at a time, setting them up for triage (also known as seeing if the damn things boot up or not), and connecting to Dell Pro Support via 3 separate chat windows to arrange for parts or whatever. Then it happened.

I got to the bottom of the back left pile of laptops (I will forever remember that position and dread it) and saw…what I can only describe as a puddle of goo.

With a laptop floating in it.

Oh boy.

I gently inquire with the guys, “What. The. Actual. FUCK.”

Seems this machine was left by the back door to our workroom, to be found when they opened up one Monday morning. Nobody saw a thing and nobody showed up later to inquire as to it’s condition or ask for a replacement. So they did what any self-respecting IT hardware team would do. They tossed it, carefully, on a shelf and proceeded to ignore it for several months.

Now, somewhere between 2 months and an epoch later, it was mine to deal with.

Trial by goo?

Anyway, I cleared my work area and assessed the situation. Then I went looking for some latex gloves.

Because. Ew.

I’ll shortcut this part, suffice it to say there were broken spudgers, a fair amount of cursing generations of this mystery person’s family, and a couple puncture wounds of varying severity.

What? Oh, you’re probably wondering about that word, spudger. A spudger (Yes, I like saying the word spudger, it’s up there with dongle on my list of favorite IT words. And yes, there’s an actual list.) is a sort of prying tool common in the IT world. They come in plastic or metal and in various sizes and shapes and are used to do things like open laptop cases so we can get to the innards for repair.

After what felt like 4 hours, but was actually ~45 minutes, I was left with a broken laptop case that was still coated in goo and no idea what else may be wrong with the thing seeing as how I broke all our available spudgers and had succeeded only in cracking the bottom case cover in half.

Screw it, I’m calling Dell. What’s the worst that can happen, they laugh at me? At this point I’m OK with that.

After the requisite week on hold and a brief chat with a rep, it turned out that the Pro level support contract we had on *some* machines actually covered accidental damage. That means they were actually sending us a new laptop to replace this one.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when they unpacked this gem back at the factory.

OK, skip ahead like 6 months or so (seriously, this was 5 years ago, I know how much time passed?!?!) and a dude walks in with his laptop bag. Nothing unusual, yet.

He opens said bag and overturns it on my desk.

Bits, pieces, and assorted detritus comes tumbling out. I think I see a Dell logo…


Said dude proceeds to tell us, with a straight face, that he has no idea how this happened. He went to pull the laptop out to do some work over the weekend and this is what he found. Uh-huh. OK dude. Whatever, the company didn’t have a policy for things like this so all we could do was set up a new (well used, I’m going to give this clown a brand new machine?!) machine for him and send him on his way with an admonishment to watch his shit.

It was at this point that my guys broke down in hysterics. Huh, what did I miss? Between gasps for air they tell me, “that was HIM!” Again, huh? Though it takes several minutes and one of them almost passing out due to lack of oxygen, they finally convey that the dude was Cake Batter Boy. At some point during the work on that first laptop, this is the moniker we bestowed on the owner of the goo-box. And apparently, through some good sleuthing, one of the guys had tracked down it’s ownership to the very same person who had just deposited a pile of rubble on my desk (side-note, I was finding pieces of that damn thing in my drawers and under paperwork for months, I may have even found a piece in my shoe…story for another day).

The rest of my tenure at this company passed without another interaction with CBB, so I can only assume he either learned his lesson and took better care of his hardware from that point on, or he drowned himself trying to cook pasta.
And before you ask, yes, Dell took that one back too. Never let it be said that customer service is dead. That company definitely takes care of their pro contract customers.

I can’t speak for the rest of you poor shlubs.

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