Why do we even bother paying these IT guys, anyway?

It's the late 1990s, and this pilot fish is working as a tech-for-hire for small businesses when he's sent to help out at a local tax preparer's office.

"I was met at the door by the owner, a small woman who gave me a list of things that were needed," says fish. "She emphasized I had to work in such a manner as to not disturb her employees, who were inputting tax information for clients."

The list includes installing an external fax modem on the server, configuring the PCs to use it, setting up a shared laser printer and installing a high-resolution video card on one PC.

Fish knows he'll have to work fast, so once everyone leaves for lunch he adds the fax modem and laser printer to the server, then runs from one PC to another configuring them for faxing and printing. The last thing he does before the lunch crowd returns is to install the video card and verify that it all works.

Then fish returns to his own office -- where his boss tells him the owner has just called and screamed that fish has messed up everything and no one can work!

"I was stunned and replied that couldn't be true," fish says. "My boss was a nice guy and said we should both go check it out.

"When we arrived, she practically pounced on us and told us no one could work, even though we saw everyone was typing away."

A brief conversation reveals what happened: It seems the owner decided the laser printer should be at another employee's desk, so she moved both the printer and the fax modem from the server to a PC in another room.

Fish's boss explains that what she did "broke" all fish's work, and she could either pay for another service call to have fish fix it or she could just put things back and reboot her server.

After 15 minutes of impassioned screaming, the owner agrees to pay half the service-call fee, and fish puts the printer and modem back the way they were.

But next day, the owner calls fish's office again, complaining that the workstation with the new video card isn't working.

"When I asked what happened, she explained she had decided to move the card to another PC and had actually opened both systems and managed to switch cards," says fish. "She added smugly that it was very easy, but both PCs now had lousy resolution.

"I calmly asked her if she had installed the device drivers for the cards. There was a long pause and then she asked, 'What does that mean?'"

To Sharky it means another true tale of IT life. Send me your story too, at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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