"Why won't this stupid thing just... just... graagh!" The salesman clutched the edges of his massive keyboard tightly, his knucles white. While he looked angry, he wasn't actually angry; rather he was frustrated approaching angry.

The year was 1984, and the PC was finally moving out of the "early adopter" range and companies started sending them out into the field. Ricky happened to be working at a help desk during this exciting time, aiding in the rollout of the shiny new PCs to various teams in the company. Unfortunately for him, one of the first teams that needed the PCs most desperately was also one of the departments least able to understand and use them – sales.

It's not that the sales team was stupid; it was just that they were now having to deal with a major change to the way they'd measure performance, record sales, and run reports. One salesman in particular, Jeff, struggled with it more than his other colleagues in the department. He became well known by much of the helpdesk staff – Ricky, in particular.

Jeff didn't really have much of a temper, but it didn't take much to frustrate him. When he encountered a problem, it was as though he'd encountered quicksand. He could save himself if he took a moment to assess the situation when he was just ankle deep, but instead would struggle and thrash around, burying himself deeper and deeper. By the time that just a single nostril (metaphorically) was sticking out above the muck, he'd call the helpdesk to rescue him.

"I'm trying to get this report to not look stupid, but the stupid thing just... just..."

"OK, Jeff," Ricky began, trying to talk him down. "Can you describe how you want it to look?"

"I want it condensed; like, smaller, you know?"

Since it was printed on a dot-matrix printer with fixed sizes, there wasn't much Ricky could do there. He sighed, knowing that this would be another time that getting a more detailed description from Jeff would be like pulling teeth. "So is it too many pages horizontally, or vertically, or..."

"Yeah, it's too many pages. Also I don't need this date that shows up."

"Which date?"


Ricky kept probing Jeff for more information, and Jeff's answers remained vague. Jeff kept changing his description of what he wanted, and both just became more and more frustrated with the other. Hoping to ease the tension and get the conversation back on track, Ricky decided a little joke was in order.

"OK, I'm sorry, I'm really not understanding what you're telling me. Could you just hold the phone up to the screen so I can take a look at it?"

Ricky heard a faint click of plastic hitting glass, then silence for about 30 seconds. Finally, Jeff came back on the line. "Well?"

Maintaining his composure, he asked Jeff to send in a hard copy. Ricky could only imagine Jeff waking up at 3:00 AM that night to wonder "WTF did I do?"