Here's a secret about your company's tech department: they hate you. They really, really, really hate dealing with your stupid questions because you're a stupid user who never learns. They're even devising ways to avoid dealing with you.

In fact, I worked with a tech support guy who developed a strategy to avoid doing work; he'd pretend he'd identified the problem, give the user a task that takes a minimum of five minutes to complete, and ask that the user call back if the problem wasn't solved (with a high probability of the call going to one of the other support guys). The tech department at Alise's friend's company was roughly as helpful as my former coworker.

Alise's friend, who we'll call Maria, worked for a large non-profit group, and recently began having problems with her computer crashing. Maria was a reasonably savvy user, and she knew enough to avoid installing BonziBUDDY, Morpheus, and other spyware. Still, she couldn't make sense of the problem, so she had the tech department come down and have a look at her computer.

"M'am, I think the problem is with your trash can," said Nick from the IT department.

"You mean the Recycle Bin on my computer?"

"No," he replied, "the trash can next to the computer. I think it's causing your computer to crash. You need to move it further away."

Uh, is he kidding? Maria thought. Do I laugh politely or take him seriously?

"Seriously?" asked Maria. Let's be generous and say that a metal trash can could affect a computer's performance. But a plastic trash can? The same thought crept through Maria's mind. "Even though it's a plastic trash can?"

Casual users dealing with the tech department should be familiar with the condescending "you-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about" smirk that only tech support personnel are capable of.

As I said earlier, Maria knew her way around computers, but this was the tech department. They were hired based on their knowledge of how computers work. It sounded crazy to her, but she obliged and moved her trash can to the opposite side of the desk. Surprisingly (to nobody), her computer still crashed exactly as often as it had before.

Maria called the tech guys again, who simply said "your trash can is still too close. Try moving it to the far corner of the room." She moved it further away. Her computer still crashed just as often, even after removing the trash can from the room completely. Maria tried and tried to convince the techs that the problem was with her computer (and not the trash can) to no avail.

Maria got fed up with her computer crashing and having to get up and walk to throw papers away, so she decided to move her trash can back. She reasoned that since moving it around had no apparent impact on her computer, she could at least spare herself a little grief. A few weeks later she overheard some techs talking.

"Did you see she moved her trash can back?" asked Nick from IT.

"Yeah, no wonder her computer is still having problems."

"You know, if she'd just listen to us, everything would be fine."


To this day, Maria is toiling away on her frequently crashing computer and being mocked by the incompetent tech department.

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