Emails From the Command-Line: Cordless Phones and Brainless Bosses

By Ethan Net on at

Incognito IT manager Ethan Net kickstarts the first of his weekly columns with this classic PEBKAC case... Monday. Again. Bloody hell. Another five days to wade through, before I don't have to battle with a broken computer and its damaged user for two whole days. So, what will it be this morning? Well, working at this large media company, I've learnt to expect anything and everything. Don't get me wrong: the people here are great; most are fairly switched on (well, they can dress themselves and everything.) And then there are those who get a very special mention.

Oh yes, those people who really shouldn't be allowed to use scissors; those people who manage to amaze me every day when they get into work all by themselves, and sometimes by our starting time of 9am too. More on them later.

Ah-Ha! There it is -- that shrill ring and flashing light; that call for help; that voice on the phone that absolutely can't survive unless I go and make everything work just the way they want it to -- because their friend in the pub last Friday night said it should work that way. I pick the phone up and try my very best to sound happy and helpful...happy and helpful...not anger-ridden and angsty...

The one good thing about this new overpriced phone system is that the caller's name is displayed right in front of you. I do my best dog bark impression into the mouthpiece then say, "Battersea Dogs Home, Jack Russell speaking." I never get bored of that; it's the little things in life.

Pause on the line... "Err... Ethan?"

"Ah, yes sorry; I thought it was somebody else, Sir. How can I help?"

"My phone's not working."

"I'll be up in a minute; I'll just run some diagnostics," I lie as I finish my lukewarm tea and spill crumbs from my low-fat bacon sarnie all over my desk. My doctor can't fault me for not trying.

Upstairs I find the boss in his office, pointing at his desk with his finger. "Look. Can you sort that out? I have to go into a meeting now," as he rushes out, no doubt to spend hours around another expensive table, talking absolute nonsense about things he pretends to know everything about. But hey, he is the boss -- by definition, that's his job.

I look at the desk, a large mahogany affair with two sheets of paper, one Post-It note and a MacBook Pro sitting on it. A MacBook Pro, which is running Bootcamp (why!?) My years of experience and technical expertise lead me to a very simple diagnosis: the phone that was on his desk yesterday is not there any more. That'll be why it's not working, then.

The usual over-keen grads and interns start turning up now, bowling through past the boss's office, full of hope and ambition. It's a moving boyband: floppy hair and t-shirts with far too-low necklines everywhere. The PA runs in, looking harassed: "Oh Ethan, I have a video conference in 10 minutes with somebody...err, I forget, not sure where it is, even, but do I need a camera or something?"

"It's probably best, for a video conference" I snark at her. "There's one built into your laptop." With a vein throbbing in my temple and a thirst for a pre-lunch whiskey, I go hunting for the boss's phone.

"But I've left that on the train!" I hear the PA cry behind me. I pretend not to hear and wander around wondering where this blasted phone could have got to. The thirst intensifies, so I compensate and head to the kitchen for a coffee. Kettle on, chipped mug out...placed next to a desk phone with all its cables hanging out. "What the..." I splutter. It's his. The boss's. I can tell by the discoloured mouthpiece.

"Ah there you are -- we've been trying to get that thing to work Ethan; is it broken?" asks a guy who looks like he's spent the night in a shed. "Er, it wasn't last week," I reply.

"Pick it up and listen, it's just not working," he said, pointing at it. The penny drops... They are running around trying to find a cordless phone for this conference that nobody knows anything about, and they think that all the new phones are cordless. Even the ones with cables hanging out of them.

It's just gone 8:30am. I now know it's going to be one of those weeks...

Best turn these new phones to "busy," then.


Ethan Net is a pseudonym for an overworked and underpaid IT Manager. It doesn't matter where he works or who he is -- unless he happens to be your IT Manager. Look out for his column every Wednesday afternoon here on Gizmodo UK.

Image Credit: Server Room from Shutterstock