Oh god, we've all had to work at jobs we didn't like for money, not everyone has opportunities and choices right off the bat. So there's this mom and pop computer store (you'll find out why they're still mom and pop in a bit) I regrettably worked at. The owner of this business, Owner, is a great and knowledgeable guy. He was the one who interviewed me and I was genuinely wanting to work with him. Unfortunately he failed to tell me about the manager of the store, king hippie. I walk in the first day and see Hippie and start wondering, well maybe Owner comes back in the middle of the day. Nope, I've just quit my old job to now deal with this one. Well, I can tell you it was good for a while, at least... that was before we started to run into easy problems that Hippie can't fix.
They are your typical computer store, been working residential clients and trying to do the right thing and get business clients, and they do have a few. One of the first big "projects" Hippie works on is trying to get a VOIP phone system working at this location. They have top dollar managed networking equipment, I'm not at all criticizing that. Now, looking back, I know exactly why this was a "project" - Hippie didn't really know what he was doing, which is why he spent the better part of a MONTH "fixing" this in the worst possible way - changing it during business hours, then waiting for their angry call 3 minutes later saying nothing is working. I don't... I just don't ever want to see that firewall config, for reasons which you'll understand later. I want to spring the surprise on you at the worst possible time, for the greatest effect.
Now you may note I like to use the words "in quotes", just like that, because that is how Hippie talks when he doesn't know what to do. It took me a looooong time to figure that out. So, he puts quotes on them by having a brief pause, and giving me a glare. That's how I know. He would say, "I need to go to the PC... and turn on "the program".... (pause)... and then make sure "the firewall" ... (pause) ... is going to allow it." That means he doesn't know what the program is, or what the firewall is.
The thing about Hippie is that he is into this new age shit. I'm not going to say which new age shit, because it's all the same secret club garbage, they say it in the corner and hope you don't hear and don't listen because they think they're better than you, or some shit like that. So Hippie's thing is "new information". New information this, new information that, we need to allow new information to come in as a species, as a nation, etc. New information in the morning, afternoon, and evening, a big bowl of new information for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He had sex with new information, had new information kids, and had "new information" inscribed on his grave. So I'm obviously kidding about this, but I'm doing so to shortly tell you that I never stopped hearing about that. Just keep that in mind for later.
Hippie's other word he likes using is "tool". Ironically coming from somebody who is one. Hippie loves software "tools", apps that do only one thing. I wonder how he thinks the server world actually works? Inside the server is just a bunch of tools, or something, who knows. I'm so burned from these words, "new information" and "tool" that I can never say them again, I will always find a different word to say them instead.
After a few ups and downs, mostly acceptable experience at the job for 5 months, we get the call from one of our business clients. The call in this case is your typical "we're completely down" cry for help from a cell phone. The client is very desperate to get their network back, he's not mad at us, just wants one of us to come over. I'm mentioning this because this client is smart enough to know that it wasn't our fault, and it's always nice to go there with welcome arms instead of also having to deal with "this is completely your fault" the entire time.
With a couple of questions, we already determined their router died. Let's list out the evidence along with the reason why it's the router, and you really don't even have to be an IT person to see why. Just in case you didn't know - you get internet access from the modem, then the router splits that connection to your PCs. If it's the modem, we can't help them and have to let the ISP take care of it. But with just 10 seconds on the phone I already knew it was the router.
- The networking device that has died had the word "ROUTER" in it. Like "ROUTERBOARD". Okay.
- They get internet access from one laptop that is plugged directly into the modem, with the (dead) router taken out
- They have already called their ISP, and they have said the same thing about points number 1 and 2 and also confirmed that the modem is not dead.
- Their internal networking software (which relies on the router to work) is not working.
I'm keeping that list short because I'd never been to this client before, and I could still determine it was the router in the first 10 seconds of the call. However, Hippie insists he should go because "they love him". There are those quotes again. I force him to take one of our routers we stock with him. Strange looks the entire time and he obviously takes it just to shut me up. Oh boy. Now I'm known as a very negative person, and if only the people who love calling me that could know, I tried and tried and tried to play this positively. Maybe they have one there already... maybe he knows something I don't about this client... not bloody likely!
The call came before business hours so we had all day to fix it. Hippie leaves at 8:20 and they're 15 minutes away so he has over 7 hours to get this one done. I play his game for now and enjoy a relatively stress free 3 hours or so of getting paid to watch youtube videos. And that's when Hippie calls.
Hippie calls up in his defeatist voice. I know this voice, and it's that typical american "help me but don't help me" kind of thing. He's too stupid to figure this one out, and wants me to spoonfeed him, but is angry about being spoonfed. So we have to talk in the third person. For example, don't "fix their router", instead it's, "if this problem happens, then that means you have to fix the client's router, wherever it may be." Uh oh, now I'm the one doing quotes. Anyway, his dinky little problem, he wasn't expecting me to know the answer, except I actually did.
They have a switch (basically a dumb networking device that just lets you add more ports to a router) that has 48 ports. Only one PC is getting an IP address, and while it's supposed to be in the internal range of 192.168.0.x, it's instead getting a public one, in some other range like 188.8.131.52. When only one random PC gets a public IP address like this, it means you've connected the modem directly to the switch, and you're missing a router between those two. It will randomly hand out that address to the first PC that asks for it, and it's going to be random every time. Again, the modem in this case is NOT a router, we need one between them. Routers have something in them called DHCP, which is the process by which it "splits" the internet out.
What I get from him is silence, and I can already tell how the rest of my day is going to go. He's going to be a stingy ass about this and not accept any help and I'm going to have to do it, which is fine, but then he'll cry to our teacher Owner and he'll believe him because they've been butt buddies. I handle this as perfectly as possible when he is putting on a perfect cartoon show and being a stingy ass as expected. His response to my above paragraph which can be summed up as "you need a flipping router" is, "Well, it's just not working, and only one PC is getting an address." Congrats, you have ignored everything I said. So I dumb it down further. "This only happens when you have a modem and switch with no router between them. Try plugging in the router I gave you between the two. If it doesn't work you can blame it on me. Bottom line is, you need DHCP." Little bit of laughter on his end but he still repeats the initial thing he said at the beginning... so I know he's not going to do it.
Four more hours pass. It's 4:30, and nearly the end of the day. At this point I took it that he listened and then got it working and is now putting out fires...? Haha, a cruel joke obviously. He calls up and is even more defeatist than the last time. You'll never guess what he's been doing for over 7 hours straight! That's right! He was connecting the modem to random ethernet ports in the switch, expecting it to work. Okay, so ask yourself how long you would try something before it doesn't work. One, two, maybe three or four times? He's done it over 15 times by now, then goes and finds the random PC that got the public IP address... and then stares at it, wondering why nothing else is working, I guess. I try to be as cartoonish as possible and in his second phone call, stomach my utter disgust and just basically say, well okay you have nothing else to lose at this point, go ahead and call my bluff and try the router. Again, same shit, just repeats the "it's not working no matter what I do, come see for yourself". This is his invitation to come and try it finally, this is his way of giving up. In his mind, some magic is preventing him from continuing and he secretly wants it to happen to me when I show up...
I can hear in the background that the client and all his employees are not having fun. They probably threatened to drop us at some point, and I can't blame him, since he's wasted over 7 hours butt diddling a modem and switch. I close up the shop early and grab a few routers on my way out. I know I'm going to probably leave at 7:00 today, but it will be worth it to see how he reacts to how easily this will be fixed.
I show up at the client. Again, get the same feeling from everyone there, they are quite pissed that over 7 hours has passed with not even a word as to one bit of progress, they would even be fine with us passing them on to someone else as long as they had SOMETHING to go off of. The first employee is very harsh with me, and honestly I completely understand. "Are you with that guy in the back? Ugh fine just get back there with him, he's waiting for you." The manager is much nicer and his attitude is "do what you can" but they are both giving me the look of "we are going to drop you". I walk back there and Hippie is staring daggers at their server they have... they have Server 2008 and it's running some local software. Hippie has spent the last 3 hours convincing himself that the problem now lies on this server that he also doesn't understand. This is going to be my first hurdle to overcome.
Hippie is dead set that the server needs to be connected like a router between the modem and switch. I'm still curious as to why he's so dead set on never having a router in this picture. Needless to say I see the router I forced him to take HAS made its way back into the server room, but it's still shrink wrapped and in the corner, not even with his backpack. While it's true that you can have a server like this, it certainly isn't that model as it has only one ethernet port.
The manager comes in and gives me the same story he probably gave Hippie 7 hours ago. However, a fun detail is it takes him a moment to find the dead ROUTERBOARD unit. The conversation went exactly like he probably was with Hippie, just that delay in locating the router. "Well I called AT&T and they said the modem is fine... and that the "ROUTERBOARD" unit is dead and to call you guys... and uh... where is it? (looks on the table in the middle of the room) Oh there it is." (In a pile of old equipment in the corner.) That's because Hippie went and hid it on him.
After another 10 minutes of "conversation", it's obvious Hippie can't be convinced that it isn't the server. He's got the word right, "DHCP", and it is possible that windows server can offer DHCP. I have to wait for him to not be there and check its services to find that DHCP was turned off the entire time. Again, have to mention this when he's back in the room so he won't go and turn it on then fight me for 3 weeks saying that that was it. It's obvious what I have to do at this point.
Well, okay, I tried one more thing, and showed him all the evidence about the router, and drew your typical networking diagram on paper. We have even more evidence now that it's the dead router, since their wireless is gone after it died (DING DING DING) and it was dusty and grimy, it had to be at least 8 years old. Now one thing I notice about this one is that it does have an integrated antenna, so I can understand that at first glance you wouldn't think it was a router. So I reverse it around and hold it up to their 48 port switch and ask Hippie why there's one port on the ROUTERBOARD that's away from the other four. And this is when Hippie becomes a cartoon character, folks. You know this is gonna be true because you can't make it up.
Hippie tells me that "router" is just another word for "managed switch" (there's those random quotes again!) and that the distant port is just for aesthetics... so therefore it was a switch and connecting the modem to the switch must still work. Oh dear how wrong can you get!
The reason why the router has one port away from the others is basically that's the "internet" port, it's called the WAN port but this doesn't matter because he won't listen anyway. The internet port can basically be called "IN" and the four others can be called "OUT". Just connect the modem into IN and your devices and switch into any of the four OUT and you're done... yeah none of this matters because he isn't going to listen because he's a loser.
Hippie gets super ultra stingy on me trying to tell him about networking 101, the kind of stuff you can find on the back of a router box in wal-mart... remember Mr. "New information"? That flew out the window about as hard as physically possible, and then sprouted rockets I guess and flew past the moon.
Okay, time to lie for sure. Let me adjust my belt, pull up my pants, take in a deep breath, this is going to be a big lie.
I wait for Hippie to leave the room, and turbo flip a new router (not the one he brought and didn't use) out of the box and connect it between the modem and switch. I don't even bother to ask what their original subnet was (sometimes it might have been 192.168.whatever. instead of this router's default 192.168.0). Now I have to hide it conveniently behind a rack of books they mounted below the networking equipment. It usually takes about 20 seconds for these to start up. I see just the barest flashing of the lights against the wall, then the router started to hand out addresses, then the lights were flashing quickly. That means the network is back, and Hippie comes running into the room at light speed. "WHAT DID YOU DO??!??!?!?!" I have to keep the lie going and just claim the problem was intermittent. If before he was super stingy, now he is ULTRA stingy. He leaps right over to that server (still wrong) and starts opening 1001 windows to try to find out "what happened".
At this point the manager comes back to see us and he can tell that just by the time between me walking in the door, and it getting fixed, that Hippie couldn't figure his way out of a plastic bag. He invites me back to their staff room and congratulates me, and offers me the deer he shot last night. He was just so happy, to get his network back. After a few minutes or so, one of the other employees mentions that almost everything is back besides their dumb accounting software, so I get yanked away and get to work on that.
The problem wasn't really anything serious, the software still thought it was on their old subnet and a simple restart fixed that one. THIS is why they have their windows server, because the accounting software requires it. A little bit of vocal investigation reveals that it doesn't have a single other use. After about 10 more minutes of kicking back with everyone who has been in a rush to get all the orders in or whatever they needed to do for the last 7 hours, I start to get strange looks, the network has gone down again. I walk back to the server room slowly since I already know what has happened. Hippie found my secret router, and he turned it off.
Hilariously enough, I made Hippie a networking person! Just kidding... he managed to use the router's web interface to turn off DHCP, then he power cycled it and none of the computers in the network can communicate with each other anymore. Hippie has gone from idiot, to saboteur (Although he kept his title of "loser" the entire time!). Hippie is so dead set on "DHCP" being on the network but only from the windows server, that nothing will stand in his way! Not you, me, a router, or DHCP on that router! So even when the network is properly working, that is still not good enough for Hippie. He finishes the job by ultra-stingily telling me "I told you not to turn on DHCP on their network, it messed EVERYTHING up, now I have to find it in this server".
Ever heard the phrase "A little bit of education is wrong", and wondered what that meant? Now you know! Hippie *is* listening to me, but only in a backwards way... more like anti-listening. He still can't find where DHCP is in windows server as he won't turn his head to look at me... oh boy. How am I going to get out of this one?
Now before I get myself out of this one, I do have to say, I really experienced a bit of brain burn on this whole thing. It was a good feeling though, just dealing with this utter stupidity, every negative characteristic and trait has been cartoonishly demonstrated... sometimes you just have to step back and say "what the fuck" on sooooo many levels.
I flipped open someone's laptop and got on the router via wi-fi. We're in a hilarious situation here where he did only turn off DHCP... I guess he couldn't physically find the router, let's keep it that way. The laptop authenticates, however again it doesn't have DHCP, so I have to manually assign myself some random high address... the high ones (200-253) usually aren't assigned. I log back into the router via wi-fi, so I still didn't "touch" it physically, which is how Hippie must be working up there in what's left of his brain he didn't smoke away. DHCP won't take effect immediately in this case, the switch will have to be rebooted. Fortunately for me I knew this was going to happen, as every 4 minutes he would scream out "UGH!!!!!" and reboot the switch, I guess he thought the switch could hear him.
Anyway, 4 minutes later, another UGH, another switch reset... everyone's back. Hippie goes apeshit trying to figure it out, I can hear him opening 2001 windows every second. We're just waiting for the owner to come back at this point, it's 6:30 just like I knew we'd be out here. I go and waste some time with the manager, and give him the typical sales explanation, try to lie for Hippie's sake and say it was something complicated, give him the standard schpeal about how this router is not business class worthy and we will eventually be replacing it with a proper unit after we get it in the mail after a week or so...
It's during this time that I get an e-mail on my phone, a job I applied for a month ago finally made a decision and sent me an offer letter. Oh happy day. I'm not even going to mention that job because temporarily it was an escape from this joke. So I decide to let the owner know all about what Hippie has been doing, even though I know this will backfire but I don't care anymore since I'm out of here in two weeks.
Owner walks in and makes a bee line for Hippie and very badly wants to know why he's been getting such desperate calls from him and why it took over 7 hours to fix this problem. I wasn't in the room for that one. I assume Hippie brought up their childhood friendship to get out of THAT one. Hippie is steamed and does not make eye contact and goes home. If I had had a cardboard cutout of the owner to show him would he have left earlier? He IS a cartoon character after all. Goodbye Mr. New Information.
Owner's mind is blown and he spends over 45 minutes trying to find how the windows server "must have been configured", those are Hippie's words. He can't find it... because it isn't there, and wasn't there. I then show him my secret router, and tell him how pissy Hippie was to me on me trying to explain Networking 101, and how over 7 of the 8 hours we've all been here have been a complete waste. He has no choice but to go with me, I can see their gay little childhood friendship defense melting away. Most of the time spent there is the owner checking on random PCs, but everything is working. He even spends 10 minutes finding that DHCP was never on the server and comes to the same conclusion I did. I choose not to spring the fact that I'm quitting right now... it's just too good of a night. I go home finally at 7:30, I don't complain that I should get a few hours off, the whole thing was just too great... that night I slept very well.
I log into our invoicing software to find that Owner has only billed them for 2 hours, and not the 9 that we were there. Owner was 100% firm on always charging them the full time to the minute, "no exceptions ever", since we had too many people inadvertently either on purpose or not tell us lies, and then we had to waste time figuring something simple out. But under his name I saw the charge for 2 hours only. So deep down he knows that Hippie fudged up quite badly.
The next mostly silent day finishes, Hippie did not make too much eye contact except when he needed me. That was also a very fun day, he would change immediately back to mr. stingy after he got the answer from me on some random problem, and remember "what I done did" last night. Maybe I shouldn't quit, this is just too much fun! At the end of the day, Owner comes back and gives us a textbook lecture, all progressive and modern, that's really aimed at me but he uses the words "anyone". I remember his words so vividly... "I don't want anyone at this business being selfish and trying to be condescending to others who don't know something". Whoo boy. I already know what happened: Hippie gave him a big soppy phone call either over last night or during today in the bathroom crying about how I was sooper mean to him, when he still refuses to learn networking 101.
I had a standard resignation letter written, not much I could even fake in there to pretend this wasn't a waste of my time. I handed it to him right after that "meeting" and gave him my two weeks. I will never, ever forget that look in his eyes. It wasn't helplessness, or any kind of "eff you", it was that deep down he knew his Hippie friend was long past his expiration date and wasn't going to learn the most basic stuff to help his business, and that it was never going to succeed with him in it. I just want to say Owner, I truly and legitimately cry tears of pity for you, and I am not being sarcastic. Maybe Hippie was good 5 or 6 years ago, but he's gotten soft and knows that Owner won't ever fire him so he just gave up. It's all so very, very sad. Unfortunately that was a complete waste of my life. If it was just me, that might have been fun and would be more reason to stay, but there's nothing for me there as Hippie would just be fighting me every day from now on.
I am so burned from Hippie that I still see a little bit of him in every person I've ever worked with since, it's just impossible to forget something like that. Sometimes I have to try very, very hard to push those feelings right back down when I'm working with someone knowledgeable. I can't even quit and be free of Hippie.
I can tell you right now the future of Owner's business. This client was happy being stupid and down for only one day but the next time, they or someone else won't be so forgiving. He'll eventually see his clients slowly drop him, maybe it won't be tomorrow, maybe he will get new stupid clients to make up for it, but there's simply no way Hippie is going to ever bring any success to him. After a long enough time he's either going to have to enter the desert of reality and fire Hippie and end their childhood friendship or pay out of his savings to keep that lie going.
We often joked about firing angry clients but will Owner ever fire Hippie? Maybe if he does then Hippie will have to get some "new information" (quotes!) and find out what DHCP is...