What was Plan C?

We’ve all been young and foolish.

Pilot fish and his colleagues are young and maybe not always aware of the right way to do things or the right thing to do. They’re all college students working on the school’s help desk, and one day one of them brings in his personal laptop to talk through a problem.

The hard drive is making weird clicking sounds. The laptop’s owner goes through event logs and runs hardware diagnostics, and his fellow techs chime in with suggestions. Everything comes up clean, so the panicked owner — panicked because the laptop is just days from the end of its warranty — decides to call the manufacturer. Manufacturer’s attitude is that the drive is still working, so it has no reason to replace it.

After getting off the phone, laptop’s owner stews for a few minutes and then rushes over to his on-the-clock colleagues, babbling excitedly: “Guys! I figured out what to do, but I don’t know how! We need to download a virus.”

The other techs can only exchange glances and mumble, “Um, what?”

The guy is sure he’s heard about a virus that makes a hard drive destroy itself, and he thinks that downloading it and putting it on his laptop is going to get him a new hard drive.

Pilot fish and his fellow techs are vaguely intrigued but wary of downloading hardware-destroying viruses on help desk machines. But they do some searches anyway and come up completely blank. They do learn about several other fun viruses that hadn’t been seen on campus yet, so the time isn’t entirely wasted.

That’s all right, though, because the guy with the dying hard drive comes up with Plan B: Forget about the virus; he needs superglue.

It’s “Um, what?” all over again, but the guy goes off in search of the glue. Half an hour later he has it and then uses help desk tools to open up his laptop and remove the hard drive. He tells his curious colleagues that he plans to glue the cable contacts of the drive. That will block the electric current to the drive, which will then fail the drive tests. “And then I can send it to them, and they’ll send me a new one for free!” he exults.

He tries to freehand-glue a couple of the metal contacts but instead manages to superglue his own fingers to the contacts. He panics, pulls hard to get his hand unstuck, and the metal contacts glued to his fingers slide loose from the drive. He looks down in horror at them dangling from his fingers. He struggles to detach them, and winds up bending them horribly out of shape. There’s no way the manufacturer will overlook this. He goes completely red in the face and hurls the entire drive to the ground.

Fish reports: “We hear a scraping and popping sound and look down to see two separate pieces. It turns out that the hard drive was sitting in a separate plastic chassis, and it was this chassis that had the contacts he was gluing. The drive itself remained un-superglued.” And when it hit the floor, it got a nice, big scratch right on top of the sticker that warns, “Do not remove or you will void your warranty.”

At this point, all the laptop owner can do is sit down on the floor and cry quietly for a moment. No one knows what to say, but fish finally speaks up: “Well, the good news is that when you buy a new hard drive, it should come with a new warranty, right?”

This all happened many years ago. The tech with the superglued fingers is older now, and presumably wiser.

Never feel embarrassed to send Sharky your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. It’s completely anonymous. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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