A bleary eyed Selben took another sip of his coffee nectar of the gods, as he looked through his queue. A substantial number of tickets had been escalated to him with questionable notes. It was obvious that either someone was trying to gain access to their network, or the security team was auditing the helpdesk’s procedures. All tickets were for regular users in the company, but more than normal were unable to answer their security questions. The helpdesk techs had put forth their best efforts to help them, but following procedure, they refused to reset the passwords without proper identification from the users. This caused the tickets to be escalated to Selben for review. He attempted to reach out to each of the users. Getting no response, he flagged several as “potential malicious intent” and sent the information up to the security team, per their defined process. If the security team had decided to launch a test, Selben knew it was better to not notify the helpdesk techs of this as it could make them respond out of the norm.
The hint of stale coffee and old sweat was permeating the office as a series of chimes from each of the techs’ machines acted like surround sound as their email notifications for “urgent” went off. After reading the email and seeing no one budging, Selben looked around. None of them would meet his gaze.
The current office configuration consisted of a circle of inner-connected desks with a jumbotron style set of televisions hung in the center that displayed incoming calls and tech support statistics. There were very few active tickets. Most of the techs were waiting around for incoming calls. Based on the lack of action from his peers, Selben read the email once more to make sure he wasn’t missing something.
> Free donuts in the main staff kitchen. Get them while they’re fresh!
Thunder sounded, and lightning flashed, causing the lights to flicker and create shadows on the high ceilings. An older styled chandelier clinked as it swayed from the breeze of doors opening and closing. The room had that strong odor you get when too many people are in the same place B.O., mixed with stale coffee.
Selben was at the entrance of the room. He was sitting behind a rickety collapsible table supplied by the hotel. Sup1 had created a banner which was hung on the table: “Meet and Greet IT!” in Comic Sans. Selben shuddered as he tried to take another sip of the stale coffee-like brew, the burnt taste making his tongue recoil. The Company was having a sales conference and Sup1 had come up with the idea to have someone from IT be there to have a “presence” and introduce some upcoming plans. Unsurprisingly, it had turned into everyone asking for IT support. Selben was alone so he had to tackle them all on his own.
User after user kept coming up, but he finally got a break when the actual meeting started. With only stale bagels and burnt coffee around, Selben was just waiting for it all to end. His countdown to escaping was interrupted when the doors opened back up and one of the sales VPs approached him.
VP: The internet on my laptop stopped working. I need the slides in my email!
Selben: No problem. Let me take a look—uh, what is this?
Snickers was checking his email and going through the normal office memos (meeting tomorrow, the ketchup needs to be refilled in the breakroom, a reminder to not take lunch meeting food with someone else’s name on it, set up a conference room next week for a video conference, etc), when BadIntern returned to their shared cubicle. Having been missing at least an hour, BadIntern tried to creep in, but Snickers could see his reflection on his monitor. As Snickers turned in his chair towards him, BadIntern quickly put his hands in his unprofessionally baggy pants pockets, acting like he’d been there the entire time. Snickers patience had begun to severely wear thin several days ago, when BadIntern was re-assigned to his cubicle after repeatedly telling a female co-worker how nice she smelled (and other uncomfortable things).
Snickers: Please, whatever you’re doing, just stop. Sit down.
BadIntern thunked down into his chair.
Snickers returned to his work. Within a few seconds, BadIntern was playing with a wireless mouse. With a crack and a pop, a piece of plastic mouse shrapnel hit Snickers in the back of his head.
I wrote this for a Reedsy writing prompt: Write a story about “The Mentor” — The mentor prepares protagonists for the trials ahead. Sometimes this mentor is a parent. Other times, it might be a wizard or a suburban Karate teacher. Whatever form they take, they are there to guide our hero through the unknown.
I thought Selben and Soda would fit this prompt well! This was a bit different for me, as I wrote it in Soda’s viewpoint, which I’ve never done before (since, well, I’m Selben!).
A middle-aged man sat in an office. Mounted on the walls were IT certifications and pictures of company picnics and other social events. The nameplate on the door read “Soda.” Looking out the window he saw it had begun to rain again and continued waiting expectantly for a call but hoping it would not come. He leaned back in his chair, scrolling through some emails and briefly glancing at his phone to ensure it wasn’t on silent. Finally, his phone rang. He grabbed his jacket and hat and was out the door before answering.
Soda listened patiently, making sure to not sigh or sound annoyed, “It’s okay, I’ll come take a look.”
He walked across the muddy parking lot and entered the second building. Wiping his feet, he gave a cheerful greeting to the receptionist. Without needing directions, he headed down a side hallway. Seeing a grumpy looking woman with her arms crossed standing in a doorway, he knew he was in the right place.
“Hello everyone!” he said warmly, peering around the woman to see a defeated looking younger man sitting on the floor in front of a half-disassembled printer.
The woman turned with a semi-scowl on her face and let him enter the room.
“We can’t possibly get any work done. This is worse than before he started,” she loudly exclaimed without even considering the young man’s feelings who was clearly working hard.
But Soda was wise. He saw the situation had deteriorated quickly and clapped his hands together getting everyone’s attention.
“We should have a meeting about it!”
The office was dimly lit with flickering fluorescent lighting on their last legs as Selben entered the office and sat at his desk one morning. Putting on his headset he looked up to see four mysterious robed figures technicians all stand in unison and walk out the door drawing twisted blades reaching for cigarettes as they left. During the ten minutes his machine took to load, Soda arrived, waving as he passed by to his own cubicle.
Recently all the helpdesk technicians, including all the IT managers, had quit, except for one low level tech who had only been there a month. Selben and Soda were brought in on temporary contracts to help until the company got staffing back up to snuff. The other temporary techs were normally internal software devs and were filling in until new people were hired. Unfortunately, this meant they didn’t know much more than Selben and Soda about company procedures for the helpdesk. Documentation at this facility was completely lackluster. Almost everything had been tribal knowledge, being passed from technician to technician, making it difficult to troubleshoot internal systems.
Immediately upon making himself available for phone calls, Selben’s phone rang and he leaped into action!
Selben: Thank you for calling Company, this is Selben. How can I help you?
User: This is User. Badge reader.
Selben: Okay, let me just get a ticket started.
User: Great thanks!
The grind had not yet gotten to Selben.
Arriving at work for the day, he cheerfully greeted the front desk employee as he continued to the IT area. Picking up a cup of coffee, he headed over to his cubicle. Sup2 gave a little wave hello while busy working on a project. Selben checked his voicemail as he powered up his machine. He started working on the T1 ticket queue. It wasn’t glamorous work, listening and transcribing voicemails, and requesting more info from users, but it was necessary.
After a couple hours, the first supervisor change of the day happened. Sup2 headed out and Sup1 took over. Selben wasn’t a huge fan of Sup1 as he was usually too busy bragging about his last “hot date” to be of any real help or use. Whenever a major issue arose he would often make himself scarce and unavailable, until it became the next supervisor’s problem.
Things were going well until Selben came across an email and matching voice mail. Both were vague and sounded like a user had lost a vehicle. Why would IT be involved in this? Selben opted to contact the branch’s manager, Gruntled, for more details.
The phone call was broken up and full of static, which made understanding Gruntled, the disgruntled user, even more difficult.
Selben: Hello. This is Selben from the IT department. I’m calling about a voicemail and email you left. I need some more infor—.
Gruntled: Did you find it yet? Plate number 12345!
Selben: Uh, no, not yet. I wanted to clarify what you needed? Your message was a little vague.
Gruntled: My truck is missing! YOU PEOPLE NEED TO FIND IT!
Selben: Right. This is the IT department. I’m still not sure…?
Gruntled: OH NO, YOU DON’T! This is YOUR issue, not mine! We only have 2 weeks left, you better find it! Bye!
Selben muted the customer and yawned. It was the last day before a holiday weekend and had been a long shift. Despite only three calls and two emails for the entire day, none of the techs were allowed to leave early, just in case an important issue arose. Sup1 was pacing around the office in a particularly bad mood since he had been given the responsibility of locking up the building when the techs all left.
Selben: Okay… Now reboot.
User: It won’t reboot!
Selben: Click reboot.
User: Oh, its rebooting now! Is it done?!
Selben: Let’s wait for it to reboot…
Selben finished all his notes for the ticket, then stared down at the time, waiting for it to magically speed up, while responding to the customer with the occasional ‘Yep, just wait! And what do you see now?’.
User: It’s working now!
Selben: Great, have a wonderful weekend!
User: Okay, bye!
Selben returned to staring at the empty call queue.
Tank: I need heals!
Healer: CHAIN CELESTIAL HEALING!!!
Hail the mighty Agent Sinzan.
Selben: More DPS! More DPS!
Raid: We are!
With a flick of a tail from the dragon, everyone was dead.
Selben let out a sigh as his lifeless digital body fell to the ground.
Tank: We trying again?
Healer: I’m tired!!!
Selben looked at the time… 4:00am. Whoops!
The only thing better than a free lunch is a free lunch with no strings attached. Unfortunately, this was not one of those lunches. Snickers, Selben, Focus, and HR were re-working the employee grading system as some people had been exploiting the current system. Focus kept track of their progress on a white-board, written in a typical bug bashing fashion complete with colorful diagrams and arrows. While effective, it was terribly boring and took long amounts of time. Munching on their free sub sandwiches, Snickers and Selben appeared content.
After a couple weeks of testing, they seemed to have a functioning system and put it in place. Scorecards seemed to better reflect how the techs and other employees performed on a normal basis.
Selben and Snickers returned to their normal duties, and once again had scorecards themselves. Snickers was one of the first to get his new review with Focus. He returned triumphantly and announced to Selben he was a “9.4 out of 10. I’m the best tech!” They both had a chuckle and Selben continued working with a troublesome user who just couldn’t remember the name of his cat.
“Okay…If you don’t remember your cat, what was your first car?”
“I don’t know!”