Tuesday, June 05, 2007
One of my favorite quotes is by Piero Scaruffi: There is a limit to human intelligence, but there is no limit to human stupidity. And the longer I work in the mental health field, I think it would be safe to twist it around a bit: There is a limit to human kindness, but there is no limit to human cruelty.

And I'm not even talking, right now, about the times when family members hurt each other, when parents call their children stupid and worthless, when fathers attempt suicide in front of their children, when blame is placed and when responsibility is refused. That stuff happens every single day, and on a good day I'm able to remain somewhat aloof and superior to the foibles of these people who probably don't intend to hurt anyone but just can't figure out a healthier way to live in the world. On a bad day, I hover close to despair because it shouldn't be this hard to live a respectful and harm-minimizing lifestyle.

Right now, though, I'm talking about Rickhead, the resident IT guru and Snotty Man Extraordinaire. Witness the following exchange of emails, beginning on Friday. The printer at the hospital (WDH) stopped working earlier in the week, and Perfect J had been in touch with the Rickhead about it before then.

Hi, Helpdesk,
Do you know if anything has been done with the WDH printer today? It hasn’t printed in two or three days – if you send something to print, it starts to make the initial noises like it’s about to print, but then does nothing. I stopped by this morning, still no luck. I’m on my way there for an assessment, and wanted to know if I should just handwrite the paperwork this time...

Hi Kate,
I won’t be able to get over there to troubleshoot until Monday.
You’ll need to handwrite or email to yourself for printing elsewhere until I can get to that.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

There aren’t any other printers available onsite there, so I’ll just handwrite. No big deal – thanks for the update.

If you must submit notes immediately then I guess you’ll have to handwrite.
You’re welcome for the update.
Just a reminder that all requests for assistance need to go FIRST directly to the HELPDESK so they don’t fall through the cracks, like this one apparently did.
Hopefully I can get it resolved on Monday.

I'll forward your reminder of the proper helpdesk procedure to the rest of the team, including our supervisor. My first note, today, was indeed directed to the Helpdesk, and I was under the assumption that you had already been working with a coworker earlier this week on this problem.

Perfect J:
He attempted to walk me through the corrections over the phone on Wednesday, and said he would take care of it by going to WDH.

A fabulous start, to begin with. Nothing screams "PROFESSIONAL" louder than a handwritten assessment and a printer that has been offline for a week. Not to mention his pointed use of CAPITAL LETTERS.

FYI ES Team,
Printer at WDH now printing/working fine. It was 'OFFLINE', something that presumably happened when someone configured the printer's FAX capabilities and altered some of the printing preferences.
Unless it is not printing (or printing improperly) the settings/preferences should not need to be altered. If you do need to have the settings modified, or if there is another printing problem, please contact the HELPDESK. We'll troubleshoot it for you.

Sanctimonious P:
Complicated email describing a workaround because the printer still won't work.
Ends with, "There must be an easier way."

That’s odd Paul, it worked fine yesterday afternoon at around 3:30. I’ll swing by again and have another look.
I will go back again at my first opportunity (hopefully today) and make sure it’s printing properly. I will let you all know as soon as I’ve done that.
To avoid any confusion, I’m going to ask that anyone who uses that computer at WDH please NOT adjust the printer or printer settings without checking with me first.

Hi, Vic,
I do appreciate your involvement and hope we’re able to reach resolution soon. I would like to say that it’s very unlikely that anyone from the ES team changed the printer settings – aside from sending things to print and changing ink cartridges, and using it as a fax machine directly from the machine, we tend to notify the helpdesk quickly instead of trying to fix things ourselves. I can’t imagine anyone opening the printer preferences and changing any settings through the computer.

Great. That’s a good tendency. Please keep it up.
It’s always nice to be appreciated and I’ll let you know as soon as it gets resolved.


Perhaps I'm just oversensitive and vulnerable... but if so, then everyone else I work with is, as well, because four of us in my department happened to be here this morning for this particular email exchange, and I'm certain I was not the only one feeling condescended to. And, guess what? I don't like that.

Rickhead has shown a particular tendency to seem threatened by me because I made the mistake, early on, of telling him that I used to work on IBM's helpdesk. Thereby proving that not only are my testicles bigger than his, but that I was able to escape with some semblance of people skills.

I remember well, that IT-tendency to act as though the central role of any business is to have computers and anything else that the business happens to do - say, providing therapy - is secondary. Not to mention the attitude that only gods disguised as men (and manly women) deserve to be allowed to touch the inner workings of a computer, not those mere peons outside the IT department, and yet at the same time there is a scorn when those peons don't know the correct vocabulary or the Secrets to Technological Perfection.

Somehow I don't get the same attitude from the other specialized fields - my plumber doesn't scoff at me when I ask for help with an exploded water heater, and my doctor doesn't dish out 'tude when I call for a prescription. Makes me wonder whether working in IT changes people, or whether a special certain type of person often gravitates in that direction.

And to be fair, I know any number of sweet and caring people, with social skills and without an over-reliance on the CAPS LOCK key, who work with computers. So it's not inevitable... it's just annoying.