Not my job

A question of responsibility

Not my job

Flashback to the days of terminals connected to the mainframe by coaxial cable — and a pilot fish whose job is well defined. "I worked for a company that had a very strict job responsibility structure," says fish. "If a task that needed doing was not in your job description, you had to call the person whose job it was." One morning, fish's manager calls him into her office to diagnose a problem with her terminal. From a quick check of the status line on the terminal's screen, fish quickly determines that it's no longer connected. Fish knows the likely source of the problem, too: construction that's going on downstairs. "I figured that the coax had been cut," fish says. "I told her that I would get Wally, whose job it was, to take a look at it. "She fixed me with an icy stare and just said, 'Fix it!'" "So much for job descriptions."

When a laptop's a computer

High-strung user calls the helpdesk because her company-issued laptop can't connect through the firewall from home, says pilot fish. "I asked her to try browsing the internet on her laptop to see if she had a good internet connection," fish says. "She confirmed that she couldn't." Fish has seen this before — he knows it's almost always caused by the user leaving the laptop on when plugging in the network cable at home, so the laptop doesn't pick up a legitimate IP address. He advises user to reboot her computer with the Ethernet cable plugged in. She does. To fish's surprise, that doesn't solve the problem. Thinking it's something new, fish starts from scratch, walking the user through everything he can think of. He asks her to verify that the computer's network port shows an LED connection light. It does. He asks her to unplug and reinsert the network cable on her computer. She does. He has her cycle the power on her cable modem, refresh her IP address, and run several other tests. Nothing works. Frustrated fish finally asks user to try shutting down her laptop so he can walk her through restarting it in safe mode with networking, in case it's an operating system or virus problem. That's when the equally puzzled user asks, "Do I need to reboot my laptop, or my computer?" It takes a moment for fish to realize what's going on. "All this time I was walking her through the technical steps attempting to resolve her system problem and, unknown to me, she was sitting next to her own home computer," groans fish. "She was performing all these steps on her personal machine rather than her company laptop, simply because I was addressing it as 'computer' rather than 'laptop.' "She apparently didn't see anything peculiar about my supposedly asking her to perform diagnostics on a completely different computer than the one she was having problems with.

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