back to article Trainee techie ran away and hid after screwing up a job, literally

Thank the Valar it’s Friday, because that means the weekend beckons and a new instalment of On-Call, The Register’s weekly reader-contributed tale of tech support tangles. This week meet “Theo” who offered us a story of a techie colleague who was put in charge of a trainee as they worked together on the “second fixing” a large …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. wolfetone Silver badge

    What a way to screw up.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Quite. He needs to take a good hard look at himself in the mirror.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No way. I'm still running.

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        At Lee D...

        Nah, that would reflect badly on his self image.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      he didn't screw up at all

      It was clearly horizontal in direction or it couldn't have hit the door.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > "What a way to screw up."

      It certainly had some incredible sound effects. That's the mark of a true klutz. Think 'Jerry Lewis' on a good day.

      It must have sounded kinda like this...

    4. Mi Tasol

      Not uncommon unfortunately.

      My sparky says that builders installing lining after the wiring has been installed often use long screws that go straight through the wiring and last week my neighbour who is having a new house built turned on the water for the first time only to discover an hour later lots of water flowing through the plaster board on two sides of a common wall because the builder had put two screws through one pipe in the bathroom.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Cheap building practices are cheap.

        This house (and all other enclosed human space on the property) has little metal plates on the wall studs over the areas where wiring & plumbing pass through. Stops any chance of drywall screws (or nails, if your building code is archaic) impacting plumbing or wires. Simples.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    He started a new life

    with a new name in an adjacent town, and works no where near any tech stuff.

    And, throughout the years, I've always *cough* owned up to my mistakes, informing my superior of my handy work.

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: He started a new life

      For such things, that I feel out of my comfort zone, I work on the basis of:

      - I don't *want* to do that, it's not my core job. Get someone who can do it in.

      - I *can* do that, if it's necessary, but to be honest I'm not confident at doing it. You could train me for a million years and I'll never be very good with a power tool.

      - If you *make* me do that, I'll do what I can but I make no promises. Save it for when a "quick fix" is all you need, not a long-term solution. If I feel something's too risky (ladders, drilling through certain walls, etc.) then I will just refuse.

      - Likely whatever I do will work. But if you complain that it's ugly then I really don't know what to do about that except try again and likely end up with more holes/problems.

      - If I mess up like this guy did, which is quite likely, don't say I didn't warn you.

      I have to explain to my workplaces "Yes, I happen to work within the huge category that is IT. But that doesn't mean I will crawl up antique clock towers and put in a perfectly invisible bunch of Cat5 with pristine in-keeping containment, perfectly angled cables, and the tiniest of discrete holes to poke them through. If you must make me, rather than just calling a company to do that, I pretty much guarantee that you'll get Gigabit. That's about it."

      Basic rule: If it involves a powertool, you don't want me doing it. I'll happily put up shelves, curtains, I have laid a loft floor, and built sheds. They are all perfectly acceptable. To me. But in work, I will defer to a guy more skilled than me: the maintenance guy, or someone you get in.

      P.S. They couldn't do my job in a billion years, as nice as they are. So don't be surprised that I won't do theirs when they are infinitely better at it than me.

      1. Olivier2553 Silver badge

        Re: He started a new life

        "Basic rule: If it involves a powertool, you don't want me doing it."

        Basic rule in IT: all your tools are powertools :)

        1. Spanners Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: He started a new life

          Basic rule in IT: all your tools are powertools :)

          I rarely use "powertools" as defined by most people - electric drill, power sander etc. My tools are generally ones and zeroes and they do need power to work.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He started a new life

        Pretty much the same here. I let people know up front what I can't do well, or at all. On the flip side, I'm more than willing to do what I do well for others. Building up banks of favors is a fine US Navy tradition and I built up a lot.

        Curiously, you don't want me on power tools either. Now if you want an glass clear waxed deck (floor), I do those very nicely indeed. That's above and beyond engineering, bordering on magic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: He started a new life

          > Curiously, you don't want me on power tools either.

          Weirdly, I seem to be the only one here who's ok with using power tools.

          That being said, I have a fairly extensive "machine shop" at home and am custom building my first 5 axes CNC machine presently.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: He started a new life

          " if you want an glass clear waxed deck (floor), I do those very nicely indeed. "

          Can you do those such that they aren't dangerous when wet?

          That _would_ be magic.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: He started a new life

            I know a guy who put spar varnish (six coats!) on the teak deck of a Cheoy Lee 30'. Sure looked pretty. Oh, how we laughed. Until we found him dead one morning. He slipped on the deck in a heavy dew fall, fell overboard & split his head open on his dock box.

            I use SEMCO once or twice a year. That's on boat decks, the deck around the house, the stairs, the hardwood floors in the house, name it, if it's wood, horizontal & gets foot traffic it gets SEMCO ... Mirror finishes on flooring is for the Better Homes & Gardens set, not the real world.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: He started a new life

              > I use SEMCO once or twice a year.

              Is this the right stuff?

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: He started a new life

                No. This.

                It's ostensibly for teak, but I've had good luck with it on oak, redwood, and other flooring/decking. Not affiliated, just a user, non-scientific, a testimonial, etc.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: He started a new life

                  > It's ostensibly for teak ...

                  Thanks, that's good info. :)

      3. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: He started a new life

        Basic rule: If it involves a powertool, you don't want me doing it.

        I suppose this is good for the rest of us, since it means you'd never contemplate a career change and take up dentistry.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: He started a new life

          a career change and take up dentistry.

          I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway, even if they were competent with power tools. Yet they do. Funny old world, sometimes.

          My wife's at the dentist as I type. I'm contemplating a Friday icon ==> instead.

          1. DropBear Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: He started a new life

            ...maybe a laughing gas addiction and an unlimited supply...?

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: He started a new life

              ...maybe a laughing gas addiction and an unlimited supply...?

              Ah.. The Little Shop of Horrors dentist's reasoning.

          2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: He started a new life

            My guess is people who couldn't make the grade as a doctor?

            I'd imagine the money is good. It better had be for that job.

            ( Paris, because oral )

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: He started a new life

              > My guess is people who couldn't make the grade as a doctor?

              In Australia, dentists get their medical (doctor) degree first. So, all qualified dentists are also technically doctors too (and can proscribe medicine).

              They're just not GP's, and don't pretend to be.

              1. mathew42

                Re: He started a new life

                Dentists do not typically obtain a medical degree although there can be significant overlap with a medical degree in the early years. Dentists have limited prescribing rights.

                Interestingly most dental work is not covered by Medicare.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: He started a new life

                  > Dentists do not typically obtain a medical degree ...

                  Interesting, do you have a source for that? Asking because the dentists I know all have medical degrees as well. That's why I thought it was a requirement.

                  1. jake Silver badge

                    Re: He started a new life

                    Please note that this web site is read world-wide. It also gets comments from folks all over the world. So when stating as a fact "The rules for $PROFESSION are x, y and z", it would do the intelligent commentard well to mention the jurisdiction they are speaking of.

          3. kain preacher Silver badge

            Re: He started a new life

            I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway, even if they were competent with power tools. Yet they do. Funny old world, sometimes.

            Phil O'Sophical

            My last dentist was also a lawyer. He did medical malpractice .

            1. Martin
              Happy

              Re: He started a new life

              There is an Agatha Christie book which had a love interest between a dentist and a young lady. A friend of the young lady said to her something like "A dentist! Why, if he was going to kiss you, you'd feel he was going to say, 'Open a little wider, please.'"

              (If you're interested, the book is Death in the Clouds. It's one of her better ones, imho.)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: He started a new life

                an Agatha Christie book which had a love interest between a dentist and a young lady.

                Real story, so anon to protect the guilty ...

                At one point my desk was tucked in a corner and within earshot of the receptionist and MD's PA (who also doubled up as "overflow receptionist"). They used to forget that I was there, what with the 6ft screen I hid behind - and I got to hear some "interesting" things, and some things I wish there was mind bleach for ! At one point the PA was going out with a dentist - so yes, there were dentist stories and the same sort of "but where's the magic when you kiss ?" questions.

                And then the conversation turned to going out with a gynaecologist - and of course then there really were comments of "but it be 'seen it all before' wouldn't it".

                1. jake Silver badge

                  Re: He started a new life

                  "going out with a gynaecologist"

                  Many moons ago, I dated a gal who had been married to a gynecologist. At some point the obvious subject came up. She seemingly changed the subject, and asked if I would look at her new computer, she couldn't get Procomm to cooperate with BIX. I asked something brilliant, like "What, now? I thought we were going out!" ... then the ball dropped.

                  There is a reason that jokes about the mechanic's car not running, the plumber's pipes leaking and the electrician's fuses blowing exist ...

          4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: He started a new life

            "I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway"

            Money. Or it used to be.

          5. usbac

            Re: He started a new life

            @Phil

            "I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway, even if they were competent with power tools. Yet they do. Funny old world, sometimes."

            To me there is a long list of professions that I wouldn't want to do, but like dentistry, I'm very glad someone does! It gives me a lot of respect for those people.

          6. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
            Paris Hilton

            Re: He started a new life

            "I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway,"

            take a look at the starting salary for a NHS dentist. then consider that after 3 or 4 years of the relative shitty NHS wages, go into private practice and make a very good living out of a 9 to 5 job... then a few years after that, go work in the rich end of LA, and retire at 45..... while we are still fixing people shitty printers that they dont know how to change the toner cartridges...

            paris... well I bet her dentist is well paid for plucking pubes out of her teeth.

          7. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He started a new life

            > I've never understood what drives normal, non-psycopathic, people to take up dentistry anyway, even if they were competent with power tools.

            Some of it seems to be ego driven. Like "being a doctor = $$$", but as it takes more study than being a doctor, it should "make more money".

            The (good) dentists I know generally get sick of it after a few years of working anyway, and are now trying to figure out what to do next.

          8. fredds

            Re: He started a new life

            MONEY. They wouldn't fossick around in people's mouths otherwise. I worked as a dental mechanic for 40 years, and they are tight as fishes arseholes. Also, didn't have the university requirements to be a doctor or vet, so went for the next best thing.

      4. Schultz
        Thumb Up

        LeeD: "I work on the basis of: - I don't *want* to do that, it's not my core job. ..."

        So then you do the dishes and bring out the garbage, ...

        That's the deal I try to get when I hear this particular argument..

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: He started a new life

      Indeed. Mistakes happen. Own up to them, and put them right if possible. If not, either have good insurance or be prepared to pay others to put them right.

      Case in point, the other week... (I'm an electrician by trade, with a solid grounding in telecomms and data cabling, I'm not your 'over tighten zipties on the heavily stapled cat6' electrician). In fixing cable trunking to a wall, I hit a 32 amp power circuit buried in a metal conduit in a concrete wall. Out of the zone prescribed by the almighty wiring regulations. Not technically my fault (metal detector would've bleeped at random due to rebar, power detectors didn't work because metal conduit earthed, and the SDS drill didn't discriminate between concrete, steel, pvc, and copper. Just the click from the distribution board and a flicker on the lights warned me.). However I spent an unpaid half hour digging it out, cutting the conduit without cutting the cable inside (delicate work that!), splicing the cable, reconnecting the earthed conduit, and patching the wall. Customer was impressed and happy.

    3. shedied

      Re: He started a new life

      I think I see now why you prefer nails. For EVERYTHING.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Key word is "Trainee"

    This is my problem with this one. They are a "trainee", so you monitor all their work until you decide you think they can do stuff alone. To many companies make the "Trainee" make tea and sandwiches, as in this one. At which point the "trainee" will then go "Sod it then. This is my first job you've asked me to do alone, all I've done all week is make you tea and sandwiches. You've not really trained me properly & I'm now nervous to do this first job on my own. I don't want to ask for help as all you're say is "Are you a soft lad?". If I fuck it up, not my problem as you should be monitoring my work".

    Amusing as the article is, it does annoy me how "trainiees" get treated. I'm not saying I'd be good at helping them myself, I know I wouldn't, but I don't like seeing them be used as tea boys/ladies, I still see that as a form of bullying.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Key word is "Trainee"

      "I don't like seeing them be used as tea boys/ladies, I still see that as a form of bullying."

      A fair point if that's all they're being used as; trainees should be trained and that's where most of their time should go. But someone has to get the tea so it might as well be the one whose time is least valuable in terms of the work being paid for.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        But someone has to get the tea so it might as well be the one whose time is least valuable

        If they're that useless they probably make crap tea anyway. If you want a job doing well, etc.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          "If they're that useless they probably make crap tea anyway."

          Tea-making training is the first thing to tackle. People don't know that? No wonder the country's going down the tubes etc. etc.

      2. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        But someone has to get the tea so it might as well be the one whose time is least valuable in terms of the work being paid for.

        Drinking tea is a part of the job?

        1. kain preacher Silver badge

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          "Drinking tea is a part of the job?"

          Depends some times you need coffee to mask the whiskey.

        2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          Drinking tea is a part of the job?

          Without tea I wouldn't get beyond checking the e-mails in the morning. And with checking I mean opening the e-mail client and see how many new mails I've got and not reading any. Let alone any other even more sophisticated tasks.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          Yes, drinking tea IS part of the job. Which is why I always bring a 1L steel thermos with me on any job out of office.

          My colleagues have learned that;

          1. Don't bother me when I pour a cup or take the first few sips, and

          2. Do NOT touch the 'Flask of Calmness'.

      3. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        Reminds me of when a newish middle management wonk was fuming at the lack of milk yet wouldn't go across the yard to the front office where it was always delivered.

        Unfortunately for him, one of the directors (also a very good engineer) overheard, came in the room and made a show of checking the fridge, then in a very loud voice said "No milk? Ok I'll pop over and get it."

      4. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        I agree, but i do not like the term bullying being branded around so easy as it is these days.... Its got to a point that you cant tell anyone they have done something incorrectly without being accused of bullying.

        If all they ever said to him was "You useless twat, you are only use is to make the tea, so you are also a waste of money because a chai wallah would be cheaper to employ*", then that's bullying....

        but giving them a crappy task that needs little or no training, (except, making the tea for the workers on a site can be a very skilled job to get right, getting everyone's tea made to exactly how they like it, i.e. more or less milk, 3 or 5 sugars)** is part of the training.... back in the day of apprenticeships, all they did in a machine shop was brush up and clean the machinery until they knew all the names of the parts. it would take time to learn the skills to work on actual client works...

        *with minimum wage a trainee would be on the same pay as a Chai wallah..

        ** we used to have a chart on the wall in the kitchen area with your name and a picture of your mug, with instructions for tea or coffee and how you liked it, so who ever it was making the brew could get it right, and for the newbie in the office it was a good way for them to learn everyone's name !!

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          When I was a trainee we were expected to make the tea - but it was also expected that we actually got training and instruction. Supervisors who didn't do that got pushed into other roles quickly.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Key word is "Trainee"

            "but giving them a crappy task that needs little or no training, (except, making the tea for the workers on a site can be a very skilled job to get right, getting everyone's tea made to exactly how they like it, i.e. more or less milk, 3 or 5 sugars)** is part of the training...."

            It seems really pointless. Primarily, I'd assume that people should just make their own tea. If there is something that needs to be done by one person so that everyone can do that, fine make the trainee do it, but if that's the main thing they do, it feels like you can't be bothered to respect the skills they are supposed to be enhancing. Theoretically they were hired to learn things because they showed promise. If you're going to use them as a person to do odd jobs for which their experience is by and large pointless, then you might as well have hired someone who didn't have the skills. They'd probably have been somewhat cheaper, there are many people needing the job, and they would have knowledge of what you were going to ask them to do.

            "back in the day of apprenticeships, all they did in a machine shop was brush up and clean the machinery until they knew all the names of the parts. it would take time to learn the skills to work on actual client works..."

            Exactly! That's what I'm talking about. Sure, they're doing something that is relatively easy, but they are learning something relevant. This part is called X. It is part of that thing over there, and it performs task Y. This is how to clean it properly. Once you've cleaned it, so that we can use it again, you'll learn what part Z does and how you can use parts X and Z together. They may have learned faster if their supervisor just taught them, but that wouldn't be efficient.

            In the end, they got the benefit of knowing what was going on, their employer got the benefit of their work, and either they continued to work together, in which case both were successful, or the employee was able to use extra experience to get or set up a career for themselves. Meanwhile, someone who is used as cheap labor for making tea or similar completely unrelated tasks gets next to no benefit. They have learned nothing, so all they get is something to put on their resume that shows that they worked on something. It's single sided toward the company, but there are very many options for it not to be. That's why I have a problem with it.

            1. diver_dave

              Re: Key word is "Trainee"

              Exactly! That's what I'm talking about. Sure, they're doing something that is relatively easy, but they are learning something relevant. This part is called X. It is part of that thing over there, and it performs task Y.

              Catering collage... The first class is always cleaning. You don't even get to make the mess yourself! Other classes love being able to f*ck up a kitchen then go home!

        2. fruitoftheloon
          Thumb Up

          @pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐRe: Key word is "Trainee"

          pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ,

          quite, my now retired dad spent 7 years learning to be a decorator, apparently the first year was just rubbing stuff down, the last year was working with gold leaf, marbling and graining...

          I remem him stating that then (when stuff were done prop'ly) it took longer to become a decorator than it did a lawyer - I doubt that is the same nowadays...

          Cheers,

          Jay

          1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

            Re: @pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐKey word is "Trainee"

            "quite, my now retired dad spent 7 years learning to be a decorator, apparently the first year was just rubbing stuff down"

            And your old man will tell you that with decorating, its the prep that's the most important bit to get right. if you get the prep wrong then the finish will be shite....

            1. fruitoftheloon

              Re: @pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐKey word is "Trainee"

              Yup!

        3. Clarecats

          Re: Key word is "Trainee"

          "giving them a crappy task that needs little or no training, (except, making the tea for the workers on a site can be a very skilled job to get right, getting everyone's tea made to exactly how they like it, i.e. more or less milk, 3 or 5 sugars)** is part of the training...."

          Agree. I started out on sites, anyone working there had filthy hands. You do not want them lining up to make tea using general tea making equipment. Much better to have one person with clean hands make it all. The lads appreciated straightening up and being handed a nice warm mug of tea or coming to sit down and getting them all handed out. Don't suggest they each go wash their hands first, they would always leave the facilities filthy and coveed in Swarfega.

      5. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        No no no no no! A thousand times NO! The trainee's time is the most valuable. He/she is there to be trained. Every minute wasted is a lifetime of training that hasn't been given. Yes they might add nothing to the job in hand. But over a lifetime the value of every second of learning is multiplied by every job they do.

      6. mathew42
        Joke

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        > it might as well be the one whose time is least valuable in terms of the work being paid for

        Manager?

      7. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        Not everyone drinks tea or coffee. Some of us are fine with water all day. Another point that annoys me. You're also marked "A soft lad" if you don't drink builders tea or go for a pint after. Some are to fucking stupid to realise some of us don't drink alcohol.

        Everyone needs to take a 5min break so I suggest you take your break and make your own tea/coffee. If you expect me to do it, then don't expect the coffee to actually be coffee. You might end up finding it's made up of mud, dandruff and saliva*

        *Good old Baldrick

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      Re: Key word is "Trainee"

      Many years ago in my first adult job (age 21) I was bullied relentlessly. Continuously getting abusively yelled at for screwing up thing I hadn't been shown how to do, or hadn't even been involved with. That was the culture of the construction industry.

      One dark evening I accidentally reversed the shiny new works minibus into a skip in a far corner of the construction site. The skip was unscathed but made a lovely mess of the van.

      I decided right then that I'd had more than enough abuse for things that weren't my fault and kept quiet about it.

      It was days before my bullying supervisor found out (the vans were his responsibility) and no-one could trace the damage. I got away with it.

      After 25 years of hindsight I still believe I was right. I was owed it.

      I learnt from my brief time in construction. I take great care of my trainees now, because they need help, and their screw ups are my screw ups.

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        PFY Tea Runs, hang on to them otherwise they will be replaced with a deadful Klik machine.

        We all were PFY's once, nearly killing ourselves on something electrical (Me on a UPS which decided to melt all its cables whilst sparking and not re-tripping fast enough).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Key word is "Trainee"

        I'm with you on that one. I was bullied on my first job out of Uni. I took the first line job as you have to start somewhere and I knew I needed to learn real world stuff not the theory uni teaches. Thing is, they didn't want to share their knowledge yet expected to keep the work away from them. On my own initiative I started documenting all fixes in full detail with pictures and such for my fellow first liners, present and future. After a year I started to not give two f***s and start giving it back and starting looking for work elsewhere. From thereon every time I took time off for an interview they took me aside and gave me a pay rise but the relationship had already been damaged and I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got another position.

  5. Bavaria Blu
    FAIL

    talking of second fixes and phone sockets

    We had an office redecorated, and the painter took a phone socket with patress off the skirting to paint behind it with the intent of fixing it back after the paint was dry. The pattress had been nailed on to the skirting and somehow became attached to the floorboards where it was resting as they were fairly old and soft!

    After the paint was dry the carpet fitters came and did a very neat job. Except they cut a neat square out of the carpet in order to accommodate the new horizonal phone socket nailed to the floor!

  6. Kurgan

    Lift and long screws...

    I thought he had locked himself in the lift by screwing the doors shut.

  7. JJKing Silver badge
    Coat

    Sorry!

    He needs to take a good hard look at himself in the mirror.

    He did and found he was up to scratch.

  8. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    Screws and escaped death.

    He wasn't a trainee or apprentice. He was supposed to be a proper assistant experienced with wiring.

    Many disasters before he was sacked.

    One was fitting the 25 litre water tank on a steel frame high on the wall. He was supposed to wire the pump and fill the tank. I completed the control console wiring and operated the pump. He said it was all done. No water.

    I went to look, up the ladder. The frame and tank fell off on my shoulder as I climbed the ladder. The screw heads smaller than holes in the bracket.

    He'd neglected to put ANY water in it, so I was only bruised.

    Two other horror stories involving him come to mind, but I'll save them for another day. I've lost count of the overall disasters and accidents in that company.

    I don't mind heights, but depths worry me. I didn't join to do that sort of work, so I started my own company and left.

    1. qwertyuiop
      WTF?

      Re: Screws and escaped death.

      He wasn't a trainee or apprentice. He was supposed to be a proper assistant experienced with wiring....

      ....One was fitting the 25 litre water tank on a steel frame high on the wall.

      The problem I'm having here is why you consider it his fault that he screwed-up. He is, supposedly, an experienced wiring technician so you criticise him for not being able to install a water tank? The only part of the job that was within his acknowledged skill set was wiring the pump.

      I wouldn't expect a plumber to be able to install a ring main so that he could then fit a water heater...

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Screws and escaped death.

        As well as drilling holes.

        No plumbing involved. It was CCTV installing. 12V car washer type pump on the plastic tank, supposed to be topped up by hose occasionally.

        He was less competent at wiring.

        He was employed to fit stuff on walls and wire it. He could do neither. Nor did he have qualifications or references. The accountant liked to save money.

        Sorry for not explaining.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Screws and escaped death.

          "He was employed to fit stuff on walls and wire it. He could do neither. Nor did he have qualifications or references. The accountant liked to save money."

          Nephew of the boss, by any chance?

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: Screws and escaped death.

        A skillset isn't just one specialist function. Those got automated a century or so ago: c.f Charlie Chaplin "Modern Times". Someone employed in a handyman job (like wiring) might reasonably be expected to be able to deal with another (like plumbing) with minimal guidance based on having general dexterity and at least adequate spatial awareness.

        Apply similar principle to your own skillset. The typical Reg commentard is - I would imagine, and yes I'm projecting myself - an IT person with core skills that we're paid for, but also a much wider range of skills in other areas of IT. Even to the extent of being able to sort out someone's Windows or Office problem by playing with the menus and applying an IT mindset, despite being a 100% Unix or Linux user ourselves.

        1. molletts

          Skillsets

          I was once turned down for a job, despite apparently being the preferred candidate of everyone on the panel except the "technical consultant" who had been brought in to advise them on IT-related stuff, and therefore had a veto over the appointment, because I'd listed Linux as well as Windows experience and knowledge on my CV. He said that I was therefore not a "Windows specialist" which was what he said they needed (their previous IT manager had been a Windows-only guy so their network was all-Windows, including the firewall and web servers - not an ideal situation in the mid-2000s).

        2. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Screws and escaped death.

          And equally importantly, the confidence to say to someone 'that is outside my skillset' . Which confidence is probably what the trainee lacked here, due to lack of....training

      3. dogcatcher

        Re: Screws and escaped death.

        "I wouldn't expect a plumber to be able to install a ring main so that he could then fit a water heater..."

        No, but I would expect him to be able to run a spur off the lighting circuit to do the same job.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Screws and escaped death. (@dogcatcher)

          That won't work unless he 'upgrades' the lighting circuit to a 40 amp breaker (or a scrap of 2.5mm if he lacks one of those)

          And it's always a he in these circumstances

        2. JulieM Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Screws and escaped death.

          A typical 3kW water heater needs a 16 amp breaker. A lighting circuit only has a 6 amp breaker. No hot bath for you!

          (Unless it's a gas water heater with electronic ignition, in which case it will only draw about 5W for the electronics and another 100W for the fan. But even then, it would be preferrable for it to have its own 6A breaker and a switched, fused connection unit fitted with a 3A BS1362 fuse.)

        3. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Screws and escaped death.

          A spur off a lighting circuit to run a water heater...

          By God man, you must never, ever touch another electrical installation!

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Screws and escaped death.

      "Many disasters before he was sacked."

      One place i worked had someone like that. Unfortunately because of his incompetence noone would let him work in the field, so he'd been pushed to working on a bench and noone would let any important gear anywhere near that bench. As a result he spent most of his time reading and became a "bush lawyer", which made him even harder to deal with and nearly impossible to sack.

      (remember, he was supposedly qualified and experienced) In the end we gave him equipment to work on - then someone would quietly inspect the work & report on the cockups - of which there were many - and fix it properly. Then he was given field work. I was tasked with visiting every site he'd been to half an hour after he'd left, making notes of what he'd done wrong and correcting them. In some cases the cockups extended well beyond the stuff he was supposed to be working on. Some might even call it sabotage.

      Eventually he was fired, with all the supporting evidence used to fend off the inevitable unjustified dismissal case - during which the judge commented on his "creative" (but wildly incorrect) interpretations of the law.

      Not long after that I resigned and moved on - and had the misfortune to run across him being a biochemistry student in the university I'd started working at. Apparently he'd already almost killed a couple of lab techs and destroyed a high speed centrifuge by not following safety instructions (not only given as a specific class before being allowed near the lab, but followed up on when using the things)

    3. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

      Re: Screws and escaped death.

      I'm not a carpenter by trade so I usually ask someone who knows that they are doing to give me advice before I carry out any DIY around the house.

      The best thing I have ever been told is 'make it strong enough so your kids can jump, pull and shove it as hard as they can, if it falls off it could kill them'. I use lots of overkill screws plugs and legs / supports then try to break it myself before I let the kids or anyone else anywhere close !

      Sitting in the wall cabinet when the partner got home took some explaining... with 80mm screws / plugs into brick with a galvanised steel rail even the bottom shelf of an Ikea wall cabinet can support me. Good to know if I can't find the youngest when playing hide and seek !

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Screws and escaped death.

      Reminds me of a certain local authority department that needed a network cabinet in a certain location. As this certain person managing the department and who still is, has forever been trying to cut costs. I'm pretty sure this person has illegally been trying to fit people in odd locations, as most locations break Health and Safety. An old VERY small cupboard being one such location "Yeah just stick a small desk in there, will be fine".

      So this network cab was put on the wall by an external company. The wall really wasn't suitable but was used anyway and clearly not checked. Was a heavy cabinet. Said manager then decided to stick a desk under it to get another person in place. Lucky this person wasn't on the phone and heard a creek so moved. A few moments later said cabinet came crashing down onto said desk and put a hole into it. The poor member of staff would of been dead had they not moved.

      What happened when this was reported to the Health And Safety Commission. Nothing because it never was. It was quietly covered up despite it being a VERY near miss that would of resulted in death.

      The manager has continued to get away with health and safety breaches ever since.

  9. Vanir

    Sound like bad judgement on the part of the trainee's 'supervisor'

    <The trainee wasn’t quite up to speed on the nuances, however, so “was used to fetch tea and sandwiches and be given small tasks.”>

    Typical of poor supervisory practices.

    Was the trainee, judged to be 'not quite up to speed', given adequate information to the job safely and in safety?

    I've done 'software engineering' in C++ for >20yrs. Before this I earnt my bread-and-butter as an electrician / technician on building services, construction and maintenance for 16yrs; quite a few of them years in a supervisory role, a few jobs as clerk of works.

    Every trade has its 'sense of common' that has to be learnt: experience. That includes why certain screws are used and why sometimes one cannot drill holes into load bearing walls on the sole basis of convenience. Hopefully a trainee will have been 'educated' enough by their peers to use the correct screws for a job and why.

    'Fetching tea and sandwiches' has its place but a supervisor has to use this 'task' and others to assess the traiinee's character and potential competence.

    I've drilled holes where I should not have done and put lines of code in production software when I should not have done. I'm still learning common sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sound like bad judgement on the part of the trainee's 'supervisor'

      "I've drilled holes where I should not have done and put lines of code in production software when I should not have done."

      I replumbed my house - and the local water board then did their inspection. They climbed in the loft to look at the new water tank. They actually congratulated me on having separate outlet pipes for each major run. Apparently most plumbers would have saved time and materials by just having one,

      There can come a point where "professional" short-cuts become corner-cutting.

      I replaced a bath for a friend and attached the latest PVC waste pipe with compression fittings. They engaged a professional plumber to replace the main 100mm iron stack pipe. Venturing into the bathroom to see progress I found the plumber unsuccessfully trying to glue the white PVC pipe as if it was grey Osmaweld. He seemed nonplussed when I showed him how to use a compression connector.

      My plumbing supplier said that many plumbers never used compression joints because the components were more expensive than glued ones. Using glue also meant that future maintenance would be more difficult.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sound like bad judgement on the part of the trainee's 'supervisor'

        "Venturing into the bathroom to see progress I found the plumber unsuccessfully trying to glue the white PVC pipe as if it was grey Osmaweld."

        A friend wanted a large fibreglass swimming pool for his new garden. To save money he did a lot of the preparation and finishing work himself. When it was filled it looked very good - and the water circulated through the pump house ok.

        A pool party was organised. Someone put their heel in the water outlet in the bottom of the pool. There was a "whumpf" sound and a fountain of water went up from the pump house. A plastic pipe had become disconnected. It was re-glued and all was well again - until the next time.

        Eventually my friend discovered it needed a specific glue that worked by "melting" the mating surfaces of those Osmaweld pipes to make a permanent bond when it dried.

        1. David Nash Silver badge

          specific glue

          The problem here is thinking it's "glue" and substituting some other strong glue. It's not really, as you said it melts the plastic surfaces together.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: specific glue

            " It's not really, (glue) as you said it melts the plastic surfaces together."

            Which is why I was taught to always refer to it as "solvent cement", to emphasise that it IS NOT GLUE

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sound like bad judgement on the part of the trainee's 'supervisor'

        Having grown up in a construction family I am a little surprised to see a mindset here that suggests a belief that bean counters only exist in IT. A lot of firms specify what fittings and methods are used by thier staff - as is the case in every industry. I know several of the largish contracts my late father was employed on (both domestic and industrial) had him cursing under his breath that they were making stupid penny pinching decisions on the build that would come back to bite them later in terms of maintainance costs. In terms of flows and return sets, often that is specced in the plans, nothing to do with the tradesmans preference.

        It really bugs me to hear the "superior" tone that comes from some in IT - This is an industry with more than its fair share of shortcuts and sloppy practises.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Sound like bad judgement on the part of the trainee's 'supervisor'

          "is the case in every industry. I know several of the largish contracts my late father was employed on (both domestic and industrial) had him cursing under his breath that they were making stupid penny pinching decisions on the build that would come back to bite them later in terms of maintainance costs."

          In such a case, explaining _why_ XYZ is a bad decision will result in the spec being changed (beancounters know nothing about what they're specifying, one classic example being the IT team who were told to stop buying hideously expensive rolls of tape and use the same stuff that everyone else did - the response being "we tried that, but it tends to gum up the backup drives")

          On the other hand most contractors installers _don't_ give a shit about maintenance and unless something is specced, will use the cheapest possible items they can lay their hands on at the wholesaler regardless of longevity or suitability for the task. After all, they don't have to deal with the long term maintenance (and if they do, they get paid, so it's not in their interest to make something maintenance-free)

          Larger contractors have things called "quantity surveyors" whose job is to look at what's being used where and work out where corners can be cut to reduce costs. One quantity surveyor found that a building he was tasked with was vastly overengineered and the floors would take ten times the typical loading you'd find in an office, so choppied out a lot of material.Much backslapping and hero status all around - until it was discovered that the newly built 5 floor city library had floors so weak that it could only have bookshelves on the ground and first floor and the stacks plus librarian workspaces had to be located somewhere else.

  10. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    FAIL

    Choosing Sutable Screws

    For whatever reason a CD Burner was not installed\ordered\supplied in a customers system (Back in the day when they cost serious money).

    One was despatched by post as client was by his own words competent enough to install it.

    He then complained it was faulty\DOA & brought the system in for diagnostics.

    He then failed to understand why the massive wood screws used to secure the drive instead of the supplied ones voided his warranty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Choosing Sutable Screws

      I kept a supply of CD/disk mounting screws in my desk drawer. It was not unusual to find that our IT department had either used the wrong ones or only fitted two instead of four.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Choosing Sutable Screws

        I kept a supply of CD/disk mounting screws

        Kept? I still do! Can't remember the last time I needed them though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Choosing Sutable Screws

          "Can't remember the last time I needed them though."

          That was in the office before I retired. I still have a large box of various screws and spacers needed for PC repairs. However as the need for PC upgrades has diminished in the last few years they just take up space in the garage with all the other PC electronic spares.

          In the later years midi-tower PCs were coming with their own "no screw" proprietary fixings for CD etc - rather than the traditional generic screws. In some cases you couldn't use screws instead.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not really IT related but I fitted a mobile phone car kit to my car back in the day and was very pleased with the location I'd found for the little speaker. Until, that is, coolant started coming out as I was screwing it in. Turns out right behind the plastic trim was the heater matrix.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I've heard of many car-related gotcha's like that. Such as a welding repair on the sills of a Hillman Imp, without knowing that the radiator hoses for the rear-mounted engine ran inside them. (No, I didn't do it, I know I'm not competent with a welder).

    2. Gergmchairy

      I hope it wasn't on a Ford Escort... back in the day I decided to be 'hands on' with a heater matrix change..the first line in the Haynes Manual - 'remove dashboard' !! took a while longer than expected and I had a varied collection of bits left over, but I got it done !

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] the first line in the Haynes Manual - 'remove dashboard' !!"

        They were fond of those vague "remove" instructions. On the Range Rover - "remove back seat cushion" without saying you had to slide it - not lift it. After a struggle it was off - with a bent metal tongue that facilitated the slide lock.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          They were fond of those vague "remove" instructions.

          And "replacement is the reverse of assembly" ignoring how awkward it is to hold some concealed nut in place whilst you get the thread started or how to do some tricky alignment. I think the Hayes garage must be a collection of disassembled cars.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            " ignoring how awkward it is to hold some concealed nut in place whilst you get the thread started "

            " I think the Hayes garage must be a collection of disassembled cars."

            The difference is that the Haynes Garage has 56 varieties of locktite and other things onhand and they assume that hobbyists do too.

            I always tried to obtain a partsbook and workshop service manual for my vehicles along with the Haynes.

            1. hoola

              Ah the Phone kit

              I decided to swap the head unit in a VW from a Sat Nav with a tiny screen that was not much use to the same size unit I had in a previous Golf. All went well, I got the old one out without breaking any of the stupid little clips, found I had the correct connector and put it all back. A quick test and it all appeared fine until a few days later the phone would not connect.

              A bit of research revealed that the cheap unit had Bluetooth built in whereas the replacement had a funky external module. I spoke to an acquaintance in the car radio business and he supplied me with the correct module and the advice, just plug it in to the loom a the back of the radio.

              No chance, having taken the whole lot apart I could not see where the big plastic module was supposed to go. There were some references about it being under one of the front seats but there was not space (this was a Touran with drawers under the seats). Anyway, I gave up and took it to the acquaintance at the car radio outfit. I collected it later that day and thought nothing more of it. The vehicle went in for a service and they dealer needed to do something in the dashboard. At this point the Bluetooth module was revealed, wrapped in some card from a cereal packet floating around in the dashboard.

              The Bluetooth unit does fit under the seat but needs the carpet removing for the wiring and a piece of moulded foam for it to sit in. The foam is often thrown away by the fitters as "packing" and why bother taking up the carpet if you can hide it in the dashboard.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Turns out right behind the plastic trim was the heater matrix."

      One tech (qualified and should have known better) managed to to that to brake and fuel lines running under the floor on a high-end Nissan Skyline (this was the days when car kits were big and phones were the size of 3 housebricks)

      The annoying part was that when handing the job over to him, I'd specifically warned him to _check_ that he wasn't going to drill through any brake lines when putting the floorplate in for the kit. The fact that it belonged to the financial director didn't help.

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "A trivial request and one with which the carpenter complied without question."

    It's the "without question" bit that's the problem. He should have asked enough questions to determine what size screws to provide.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "He should have asked enough questions to determine what size screws to provide."

      In all fairness - the potentially damaging effect of a longer screw would not have been obvious to a casual observer.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        The guy is definitely in distinguished company - except when you do it to a plane's windshield you end up with the pilot flapping in the wind on the outside...

        1. Ian Emery Silver badge

          I am thinking Concorde, are you??

        2. Trygve Henriksen

          I've been told that the RNoAF lost an F5 once(or was it an earlier jetfighter?) because a spannermonkey had lost the correct bolt to mount the brake chute, and picked a random bolt of the same diameter.

          It would have gone unnoticed, except the pilot accidentally triggered the chute while still in the air.(the handle is supposedly next to the gear retraction handle). He wanted to lower the gears as he was preparing to land, released the chute instead, and when he tried to eject the chute, nothing happened...

          He was forced to eject as the plane was becoming uncontrollable, and both he and the plane ended up in the ocean off the coast somewhere.

      2. shedied

        Until he sits and watches the doors close, and sees the two scratch lines on his neck in the reflection

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One of my neighbours would send his son to borrow a tool from me. The request would be for "a spanner" or "a screwdriver". Questioning rarely elicited enough information - so he would be given the appropriate toolbox - and possibly the large Stillson wrench too.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Questioning rarely elicited enough information - so he would be given the appropriate toolbox - and possibly the large Stillson wrench too."

        Crafty neighbour.

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        One of my neighbours would send his son to borrow a tool from me. The request would be for "a spanner" or "a screwdriver". Questioning rarely elicited enough information - so he would be given the appropriate toolbox - and possibly the large Stillson wrench too.

        I've found that's a wonderful way to have tools disappear; If I'm not busy, I'll usually accompany my toolbox to ensure it's safe return. :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "If I'm not busy, I'll usually accompany my toolbox to ensure it's safe return. "

          There is then the danger that you end up doing the job for them - and solving all its knock-on problems.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            > There is then the danger that you end up doing the job for them - and solving all its knock-on problems.

            Make sure you discuss costs up front. :)

            1. J. Cook Silver badge

              > There is then the danger that you end up doing the job for them - and solving all its knock-on problems.

              Make sure you discuss costs up front. :)

              Nope! I'll kibbbitz with them as they are doing the job, though. (or if they *are* paying me, I'll have worked something out with them)

              In general though, I only loan out tools and gear to people I trust. (although I do have a set of cheap 'throwaway' tools that I won't cry much over if they disappear that I loan out to people like co-workers and such.)

        2. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

          @J.Cook

          I find that ends up with me showing how or doing the work for them.

          I have a crap / seconds box that they can borrow and take the nice tools with me when they get stuck.

          It really is amazing how many 13mm and 10mm sockets you can lose in a year.

          I get paid in bottles of Rose now.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge
            Go

            Don't I know it! and I don't even loan out my socket sets, I'm good at losing those size sockets all by myself!

            Now if I can find a better way to organize my tool bag for the wrenches and sockets without spending a fortune, I'll be happier- the sets I have use bugger all for tool organization, and apparently no one makes a box to hold sockets that isn't a blow-molded case made of cheap garbage.

            1. jake Silver badge

              @J. Cook

              They make soft and hard tool bags with "pallets" shaped to hold particular tools. You can purchase them both fully populated with tools, or empty to fill as you see fit. Some of the kits designed for specific professions are quite well thought out, with quality tools in them. They may be spendy, but the gear won't let you down in a pinch ... and exact replacements for lost/stolen/strayed tools are easily available. For existing tooling, the "pallets" are available individually for you to fill as you see fit, as are to tool bags with empty pallets.

              Socket savers/holders are available from many vendors. Poke around. I recommend (and use!) SnapOn socket rails & clips. They work, they last, and are not as spendy as most of SnapOn's products. And no, I'm not a SnapOn lackey, most of my hand tools are near fifty year old Craftsman.

  13. Danvango

    Second fix-up

    I was working a night shift once to get a new office open on time. This was after working a day shift as well, so as you can imagine everyone was getting a little tired, but blitz spirit had kicked in.

    Come 10pm everyone was hungry and thirsty, so I volunteered to go out and pick up a curry for the team.

    I returned with a box full of Indian loveliness, only to trip over a trailing patch cable, and throw all the curry over the newly laid carpet.

    At this stage there were no spare carpet tiles, so we spent about 2 hours lifting the stained tiles, and swapping them for tiles that were hidden under cupboards.

    When occupation of the office started a couple of days later there was alot of speculation about why certain parts of the building smelled of curry - but nobody could find any reason..........

  14. jake Silver badge

    What else is new?

    Person new to job makes error, scarpers, is never heard from again. I've seen this several times, and heard of it happening many more. I think it's human nature to run from embarrassment ... It's probably a survival function, encoded in our DNA. Survivors run away instead of getting clubbed to death and eaten for farting at an inopportune moment during the hunt ...

    1. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: What else is new?

      I came into work one Monday morning, and found my parking space full of bricks.

      Looking up, I could see the front of a forklift hanging out of the tower housing the lift.

      Whoever had done it had just walked away, no one ever found out who he was; ditto the guy who smashed an 8" riser and left the basement 4ft deep in water.

      GUS; run and staffed mostly by people who make Mr Trump look smart, honest and dedicated

    2. Grant Fromage

      Re: What else is new?

      The firm I was working for had recruited a full time "wireman" to cut the costs of the two subbies from a firm on the same estate that they used on an ad-hoc basis.

      He had a gleaming new toolkit straight out of the RS catalogue which I thought unusual.

      I had a control panel to wire, I reckon it would have taken me perhaps 2 days, but i`m slow and perfectionist., there were 2 other jobs on time penalty contracts, so it was fraught.

      On the wednesday I delegated it to him with cable numbers, layouts switch ID`s wiire specs.. I was in on the Saturday programming a PLC and saw only some cut lengths with numbers on by the panel about an hours worth. Monday he didn`t tun up,

      On that Friday evening I had a breathing space to go to the pub and I got the story from the two proper wiremen. Matey was in flip out week before and as they had tried to help him he `fessed up, he was a carpenter, had been made redundant and someone had convinced him to bluff being a wireman (?) the glowing reference was from a joinery company and the production manager who took him on didn`t twig, only looked at that he was cheap!

  15. AustinTX
    Headmaster

    Let's call him Jacob, for no particular reason...

    I was part of a team replacing Dell motherboards for that lovely swollen capacitor issue which they denied for another decade. One member was in such a hurry to be free for lunch that he crammed the CPU into the socket and slapped down the restraint without bothering to match the pins properly. It wouldn't close properly so he opened it up again (we were all standing there, waiting for him), observed all of the squashed pins, said in his nonchalant professor expert voice "Hmmmm, how did that happen?!". He didn't come back after that day.

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Let's call him Jacob, for no particular reason...

      Opposite problem for me; too impatient to get a proper removal tool or fiddle with a screwdriver to remove an IC from its socket I decided to pull it out with my finger tips on each end. My cry of "Fuck! That hurts!" as it pivoted and embedded itself in my thumb like a vampire with 18 tiny teeth drew so much attention that running away to hide what I had done was never really an option.

      That, and touching a soldering iron tip to check it had cooled down before packing it away, were two mistakes never repeated.

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Let's call him Jacob, for no particular reason...

        The best IC removal tools I have are blanking plates from an old PC. I just gave the narrow end a 90degree bend.

  16. BenDwire
    Unhappy

    "The phone had its own wee cupboard"

    Obviously not enough coffee before reading this, as I initially thought the lift had its own urinal ...

    But then the spark of association began to flicker as I remembered the 1970's and the way BT installed all those payphones in little red 'conveniences' on street corners...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What music was playing in the lift, Keep On Running by The Spencer Davis Group ?

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    I had a Production Controller who was less than fluent in English beep me one night in February in the days when there were no cell phones, PCs were so rare that there was no provision for remote service and everything was achieved by spelling the stuff you wanted done down the telephone.

    I climbed out of the giant co-ed Jacuzzi that was a large part of why I even played racquetball, wrapped a towel around me and called in, dripping wet, from the pay phone in the unheated foyer to the building. There was at the time about three inches of snow on the ground.

    I ascertained what the problem was - eventually and largely despite the efforts of the person who had called me - who in addition to speaking very poor English was unfamiliar with the Unisys 2200 operating system or the processes running on it that he needed me to remediate, and began spelling the commands needed down the phone.

    There were several false starts and restarts as he misheard or just couldn't understand what I was asking him to do. He was, for example, not familiar with what we called the masterspace symbol, or "at sign", which begins every 2200 command. All the while, ice was threatening to form on my skin every time someone entered or left the club.

    After what seemed like several years but was probably closer to five minutes the Production Controller made a strange noise like a cross between "Oh" and "Aw" and he became unresponsive.

    Luckily I had had this chap before and knew that this noise was his local dialect for "I'm unable to understand a word you are saying and have decided to deal with this issue by carefully putting the phone on the desk and walking away very quietly and hiding until I think you've gone away".

    I was at the time renowned for being a bit of a pushover in these sorts of confrontations, and I was terribly dedicated to the 24x7 uptime myth, but on this occasion I hung up and went back to the pool for an hour or so.

    Then I went home, where my very sturdy built-like-a-tank AT&T answering machine was attempting to melt, made some tea and answered the phone once I was snug and sipping.

    Production Control operative was mad. Why had I left this vital process hanging around in a broken state for two hours? The log showed I had been called. Why had I hung up?

    I told them that the real problem was that I did not speak the particular third world language in which their earlier employee felt most happy conversing, well, that and the fact that someone so monumentally unfit to be holding the fort had been left to watch the baby. Where, I idly wondered, was the Supervisor while all this was happening?

    I also opined that as their own operative had walked away from the phone after calling me, I saw no reason to supposed that the problem, whatever it was, was urgent in any way, shape or form. At this point the caller must've sensed I was in an unusually militant frame of mind, and he moved he conversation from the Blame Allocation Phase to the Actual Fixing Of The Actual Problem Stage.

    Mr Walkabout was quietly reassigned to somewhere he wouldn't be called upon to work outside his experience and no more was said.

    How he was ever thought to be a good fit for that position I'll never know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      "How he was ever thought to be a good fit for that position I'll never know"

      Because he was cheap, meaning the beancounters and the 1% got their bonuses.

  19. Andy Taylor

    This is the equivalent to

    "I have everything I need in my car." for field engineers.

    Incidentally, if anyone has the original BOFH questionnaire for which many of the answers were the above, please let me know.

  20. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Alert

    Basic mechanical ability

    He didn't have it.

    I'm a sixty-something, and I will admit, I have made my share of mistakes. But I learned from them.

    There used to be a basic set of knowledge that was expected of men (and women). On the man's side, it involved screws, nuts, washers and basic electrical repair. If you didn't have a dad to show you, there were (and still are) Time-Life "home handyman" type books to make it all clear for you. I have done many repair, wiring and plumbing jobs in my house, and for friends. It's not rocket science, but it does involve reading the label on the glue container to make sure it's the right glue for the pipe you're using, and knowing what gauge wire is needed for the current you expect it to carry. All information readily available in books or on the Web (careful about that, though).

    I've tried to pass this knowledge down to my kids. My wife has taught them how to cook for themselves. Seems like not everyone nowadays has managed to get that knowledge transfer.

    As I see it, you can either be somewhat self-sufficient, or spend more money to have someone do it for you. I'll be the first to call a plumber or an electrician to replace a furnace or to change an electrical panel over from fuses to circuit breakers, but there are some jobs that can (and I would submit should) be done safely by yourself.

    1. Gergmchairy

      Re: Basic mechanical ability

      Totally agree, had to build a basic set of flat pack shelves over the weekend and my 4yo lad was interested - so he did 90% of it under guidance from yours truely. (I then went round and tightened everything)... He was pleased as punch at the end..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        "had to build a basic set of flat pack shelves over the weekend and my 4yo lad was interested"

        Similarly, a couple of years ago I was assembling flat pack stuff for my daughter. Grandson was a bit older but also wanted to help. We progressed from him sorting out and hand me the correct screws to fitting them himself. Back in the day I mixed an awful lot of sand and cement and concrete for my dad, helped support the long end of 8x4 boards being put through the circular saw etc. You have to pass this stuff on.

      2. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        I found my 2 y/o using my electric screw driver to take live sockets off of the wall; then later that day he started to take my bed frame apart with a ratchet spanner.

        He is a qualified tool maker in the aerospace industry now.

        My 5 y/o daughter is learning computer programming, I expect her to be hacking into the WOPR at NORAD any day.

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          Re: Basic mechanical ability (@ Ian Emery)

          that is awesome. But, no, the WOPR got destroyed in the sequel. Oddly by products your son would understand.

          1. Ian Emery Silver badge

            Re: Basic mechanical ability (@ Ian Emery)

            I never knew there was a sequel; but then I found it was "Direct to Video".

            Sorry, stinkers dont count, the WOPR is still there.

      3. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        You have a 4yo lad who's interested?

        Get him a workshop(even if it's just a corner in the garage), and some tools STAT!

        Teach him to use them, and help him with whatever he wants to do(that is, supervise, so that he doesn't hurt himself)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Basic mechanical ability

      "There used to be a basic set of knowledge that was expected of men (and women)."

      An old boy from my Secondary Technical School was saying that the people he knows seem to have very little grasp of practical skills. If he needed to supplement is pension he would have no shortage of handyman jobs available.

      A neighbour's 4 year old boy the other day was chattering away to me. Basically he was listing all the neighbours' things he has seen me repair - so he thinks me very clever. I said that it was what you learned in life - and one day he would be the same. However his parents are intent on sending him to the local religious school that does not specialise in STEM subjects - so I have my doubts.

    3. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Basic mechanical ability

      My dad taught me all the basics: hammering, sawing, etc by hand, then graduating to power tools (very chuffed when iused the big circular saw for the first time), and also felling a tree with an axe, splitting logs, fishing, survival know-how (it was Canada), and all those skills that make life easier when you grow up. The fact that I was his daughter didn't stop the flow of life-skills, and it gave me an appetite for more. Dad, I can strip down and re-build an engine now! I salute you in Valhalla.

      Sadly, my mother wasn't much of a cook...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        "Dad, I can strip down and re-build an engine now!"

        In the 1980s an ex-Navy engineer had two teenage daughters. The elder one could assist with his engine repair jobs very competently - but complained that her father never gave her any credit because she was "only a girl". His favourite was the other daughter whose lifestyle was "princess" mode.

        He then remarried and acquired two step-sons about the same ages as his daughters. Neither of them were interested in car mechanics. One of them came out as gay in his 30s - and was banned from bringing his partner on visits to the family home.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        "Sadly, my mother wasn't much of a cook..."

        Yesterday a neighbour and her daughter were obviously struggling to break up the soil in a flowerbed. I offered to help and found it quite easy - not by any brute strength but by devising a technique.

        In this day and age I was surprised that the daughter then said it proved that it was a man's job - while women do the cooking. I was a little tactless in pointing out that I do cooking as well - and everything else my home life needs.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Basic mechanical ability

          "In this day and age I was surprised that the daughter then said it proved that it was a man's job - while women do the cooking. "

          You might be surprised by that, but in my experience sexist attitudes/role assignments are more common in women than in men.

          1. fruitoftheloon
            Happy

            @Alan Brown: Re: Basic mechanical ability

            Alan,

            tell me about it !

            As I have mentioned hereabouts before, I pick our lad up from school, which a lot of women find REALLY weird, plus when asked about what wifey does for a living, I initially say 'she works in the hospital', the woman [it is ONLY ever a woman] replies: "so she's a nurse then?"

            My reply: nah she's got a masters in nuclear medicine and astrophysics, and is part of the team responsible for the invention of modern radiotherapy treatment, which they are a little surprised to hear, I could be wrong but I don't imagine their daughters inherit much imagination and big dreams from their mums!

            Cheers,

            Jay

    4. Grant Fromage

      Re: Basic mechanical ability

      This will have H+S orange twats and child safety freaking.

      When less than 3.5yrs due to constrained means we lived with the grandparents. I was given a hammer, a saw, some bits of wood, corks and a glass jar full of nails screws, segs and blakeys. That was my construction set. I was told the saw will cut and hurt, you will bleed this bit is sharp, the hammer will hurt your fingers, call me if you do. Never did, nearly forgot I had a chisel too! Built some lovely Eagle comic style spaceships with the rounding of the chisel and yes i was reading before 3, and talking before 18 months, that freaks people. Gran used to say. "he started talking just over a year old and he hasn`t bloody learned to shut up yet". True.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Basic mechanical ability

        Nursery classes should hae a little workbench and seom simple tools for the kids to role play with. Hammers, nails, little drills etc. Staff should model this to the kids.My experience visiting these sites is that it's usually left looking sad and abandoned in a corner somewhere. Which is hardly a surprise since most of the other equipment seems to suffer a like fate. Musical toys in a pile on the floor, water trays empty and so on. This because of a government agenda that says they have to do al the mechanical learning. Even if the kids aren't being drilled (hmm!) at the time the staff are too busy with that stuff to take time with them.

  21. deive
    IT Angle

    Maybe the problem was asking a tekkie to do the job of a chippy?

  22. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    The fate of the trainee?

    The fate of the trainee? Nobody knows!

    It was in a lift that this happened, yes?

  23. mmlj4

    cable modem installer fail

    I used to install cable modems for Cox, and my trainer told the story of the time he was asked to put a coax outlet in some woman's kitchen, so she could watch the soaps. He dutifully marked off where the line would be put, stripped off enough cable to be able to tie into the junction box outside and to run around the inside wall to where the outlet was to be placed, then drilled his hole through the outside wall of the house and pushed the 20 feet or so of cable into the hole. But he wasn't able to find the cable when he went inside to the kitchen. Something made him open the fridge after a few minutes of looking in cabinets and what have you, and there was his 20 feet of cable inside the fridge, sitting on top of a casserole.

  24. Celeste Reinard

    O lord, some screw-up...

    I have worked as a sun screen fitter for a few months, together with a team of window frame fitters. At the end of our gig, me and my mate noticed one day there was a leak... The window fitters had pierced the water system, not just a bit: over six floors, along the lenght of the building (say, 560 meters in total).

    What had happened was this: the window fitters used the prescribed screws, nothing wrong there, but there was an up-date in the plans, the overseeer had missed as 'critical'... something to be found out when testing the watertightness of the plumming... (after the fitting of the insulation and all, so that had to go too).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: O lord, some screw-up...

      The man measuring my house for double glazing told the story of his predecessor. He had measured the empty window holes on a new housing development - which were big "picture" windows. He forgot to allow for the mortar layer that would be at the bottom - so they were all delivered over-sized. The house builders finally worked out how to do a mod to fit the windows - and they got them at a bargain price.

      1. Robert 22

        Re: O lord, some screw-up...

        the window installer who replaced may windows told me about a previous customer, who, after the installer left for the day, decided to improve the installation by squirting polyurethane foam between the studs and the window frames. Unfortunately, it wasn't the low expansion type and ALL of the windows broke when the window frames were distorted by the expanding foam.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: O lord, some screw-up...

      "I have worked as a sun screen fitter for a few months,"

      I tried that once but wasn't fully qualified and got slapped by the lady in question for doing a shoddy application. Mind you, this was in Benedorm and everyone there thinks they are qualified sun screen fitters.

  25. derfer

    I'm sure we've all had at least one oops moment!

    My biggest was when I was fitting a bench in the back of a brand new van work had gotten me (we used to work out of the back of the vans).

    I measured carefully and cut the worktop to size then went to put it in behind the seats, resting on the existing framework in the back of the van. It was a little tight to lay down so I just knocked it in with a spare bit of wood, I though this was perfect as if tight it wouldn't move around when driving about.

    I stood back and admired my work, then walked round the side of the brand new van to see a dent all the way down one panel where I had 'helped' the bench lay flat.

    I was stuck with that dent for three years until the lease ran out - my boss was OK with it but never let me forget it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Special screws?

    Not sure if this is deliberate irony or a case of notmyjob by the picture editor, but the stock photo against this story shows the screws with a reverse thread.

  27. Robert 22

    I remember instructing a summer student to install a rubidium frequency standard (this was basically a very expensive box) in a chassis. He didn't notice the warning in the documentation that said to used short screws and the one of the ones he used broke a resistor when he tightened it. Fortunately we figured out what happened and were able to repair it.

  28. Am I Paranoid Enough?

    Not IT related but...

    I was 4th year BR apprentice (early 70's) and had finished overhauling (under supervision) the gas powered sanitary product disposal unit in a posh office block in the centre of Nottingham. I was working under the guidance of a experienced fitter with a 1st year apprentice (on his last day with us) and he was tasked to fix the supply pipe to the back of the unit and to clamp the unit onto its' base.

    All looked well, but the next day we had to go back as the damned thing had gone bang. At least the cut-off valve worked.

    Having lost the nuts to go on the screws to clamp the pipe, he used self tappers. One was nearly 1.5" long and it punctured the internal supply pipe causing a leak. Fortunately the woman using it at the time smelt gas (after depositing her used Item) and got out shutting the door behind her before it fired up.

    The young lad was dragged back from Derby the next day to clean the mess up which included several partially burnt used products and ash. The unit lid was embedded in the ceiling tile with half of the last deposited item expected to fall from it.

    Oh the smell!

    I know the person concerned is an avid El Reg reader. So if you don't want me to reveal your identity you know what to do little bro. No excuses you've been sent the link.

  29. Phrontis

    This post is a screw up in more ways than one.

    Who ever did the "artwork" for this post also managed to screw up in a big way as well. The screw shown has a left hand thread on it. I have never seen a left hand thread, pozidrive wood screw before. The image must have been mirrored for some reason. Real big cluster **** from my point of view. Even bigger than the scratched mirror.

    1. W4YBO

      Re: This post is a screw up in more ways than one.

      Honeytrap for the obsessive-compulsive.

  30. ThePhantom

    Many years ago I was an ex-pat ops manager in Shanghai. We were shutting down the office there, so a complete IT inventory was started, using college interns. The intern started in the storage room, bringing various items to me so that I could show him where the part and serial numbers were located.

    After an hour of this, I noticed that the status board was starting to go red little by little. It turned out that he was pulling drives from the production servers and bringing them to my desk for help. For the first time in my three years of being onsite, I lost it and started yelling at him. He started crying and when I looked around, I saw 2 floors of engineers had come into the NOC to see what all the fuss was about.

    It took me a bit to calm him down, send the engineers back to their desks, and explain why you don't pull components out of running servers.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now that's one hell of an 'apprentice mark'

  32. Strebortrebor
    Facepalm

    I did something similar at my daughter's apartment recently. Hung a shelf on the outside wall of the bathroom. Used the toggling plastic wall anchors and screws provided with it. Didn't notice that the screws were long enough to catch the pocket door, until someone went to close the door to use the facility. Was able to cut off the tip of the screw for clearance, once the plastic toggle had been drawn up. I still owe Mr. Landlord a spackle-and-paint repair of the door.

  33. Jakester

    Another Screw-Up...

    A former boss of me told of a time many years ago when he worked for a large computer company and had the task of having to add some equipment to a running main-frame. Unfortunately, there were screws of multiple lengths and he put a long one into where a short one belonged. The screw was long enough to create a short with one of the power busses. He said the sound was spectacular and the system came to a halt. He said he quickly removed the screw and went to another location in the room to keep from getting caught.

  34. Efer Brick
    FAIL

    Just wrong, on so many levels...

    Stupid boy

  35. UNIBLOB
    Linux

    WOT IS SAID TO BE WOT

    Sirs

    As one who has been traditionally schooled proper in the noble farts of one on top of two

    (aka 'The Building Trade')

    I must take exception to your ponced-up and inaccurate vernacular used in your esteamed piece above

    viz:

    1stly:

    ref '2nd FIX' Joinery*:

    [or Carpentry* if you're a puff from south of a line between The Wash and Brum** (Taffs excluded)]

    refers to the fixing of:

    Archs + Skirts + Doors + Fixed Cupboards (but not heavy structural carcassing for same) etc.

    The fixing of floor boards*** is deemed to be part of structure in std construction and is therefore as such carcasing work

    [***Except, of course, where said floorboards are an over-cladding (usually a decorative finish)

    on a bearing structural floor underneath].

    NB.

    Further:

    Some, in this time of deep division, include a 3rd FIX which includes the fixing of furniture

    (that is, to clarify : locks and latches and handles and knobs etc.

    NOT wot you park your nether-end on).

    Traditionally ye fixing of ye furniture have been included in 2nd Fix.

    +

    Should the office block in question be an existing build, then:

    The fix of the floor boards could well, and most probably, been a re-fix post works under

    and therefore would indeed in that situation could be deemed 2nd FIX works as they were 2nd FIX to the underlying prime works.

    ie. Further clarification needed of situation of build.

    + + +

    2ndly:

    Wot the oik you classified as a 'Techie Trainee' in your esteamed piece,

    is on a building site - an Apprentice Sparks,

    (and ever more shall be so - everwhere**).

    2A:

    'Chippies' are only found south of the above line**.

    In Gods own midden north of the line, such are referred to as Joiners.

    + + +

    Not withstanding your inaccuracies, the tale, even as you have described, does have resonance and reminds me of the story about the labrador raising a basket of bricks on a ginny wheel rig

    (See versions many and various - there's even a musical one).

    I digress.

    I do hope the above brings clarity to your world view.

    Have you sold your proof reader to the Grauniad?

    Yours in The Faith,

    P Dantic.

    25-06-18 :MON: 12.45hrs nom' BST.

    Half Done

    Much Banging-in-the Field

    Rained-Off

    Mancshire.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah He screwed up, but an implementation design flaw as well.

  37. tinman
    FAIL

    that'll never hold, let me fix it

    There have been safety alerts issued in the past for curtain rail systems used in healthcare settings where fitters have not followed the manufacturer's instructions because the installation was obvious. The problem has been that the rails in question were anti-ligature systems, designed to drop under a light load so that patients can't hang themselves, Unfortunately some installers would take one look at the set-up and say, "that'll never hold, I'll just put a few extra screws in there to keep that up", with subsequent fatal consequences

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