Bugged Out by Pests and Printers

I work as a freelance technician for a relatively large company. I troubleshoot and fix printers, computer parts, and so on. On the whole, the job is uneventful, but there are notable exceptions, such as these two experiences that deliver high doses of the "ick factor."

A pesky printer problem
One day, I got called to a food factory of some kind to do printer maintenance. I needed to replace a printer toner and drum roll, as well as take a look at a few odds and ends (roller engine, printed circuit board) -- pretty straightforward.

[ Get a $50 American Express gift cheque if we publish your tech experiences. Send your story of a lesson learned, of dealing with frustrating coworkers or end-users, or a story that illustrates a relevant takeaway to today's IT profession to offtherecord@infoworld.com. | Get a new tech tale delivered to your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter. ]

I arrived at the site and was led through the factory. Along the way, I noticed all kinds of posted policies and procedures; one prominent sign in many locations urged workers to report any pest to the nearest manager/supervisor immediately if found. Overall, the place looked pretty clean.

Eventually, we reached the printer, which was located in the office of a floor supervisor. Being that close to the food production area, the computers and the printer had some dried food on them but were in working order.

When I opened the printer, I made a shocking discovery. It was filled to the brim with small cockroaches, ants, and spiders. You name it, it was there, apparently attracted to food particles inside the printer.

My skin crawled when I saw the pests, especially since I'm allergic to cockroaches (actually, cockroach poop, but they leave it wherever they go). The floor supervisor who worked with the printer on a daily basis seemed as shocked and disgusted as I was.

The fact that the printer worked at all was miraculous. I replaced the parts as required, but I needed to take multiple breaks and wore gloves and a face mask while I worked. Even with these precautions, I suffered a bad allergy attack.

From what I understand, that printer was installed once, then remained untouched for six months or so, aside from basic print jobs. Somehow, either nobody noticed the cockroaches and ants and spiders making their way into the printer, or they just chose to ignore them and the signs. Who knows?

Last I heard, they have a new printer and a new policy about checking inside computers and printers for pests and food particles. I have not been back to that location.

One motivation for getting a job done fast
Another day, I was called to a job to replace a dead graphic card. The location was a residence. From the outside, the house looked innocent enough -- lawn was kept, cars looked clean. I rang the doorbell and was let inside.

It was like I'd walked into a crack den. The whole place was filthy. Every room in the house was used as a bedroom (there was a mattress in every room, including the kitchen); discarded clothes were everywhere; trash was on the floor; and the place stank of whatever the residents were smoking mixed with the smells of filth.

I believe it was one of my fastest jobs ever -- I was in and out of the house in less than 10 minutes.

What I learned from these experiences is that anything and everything is possible when you're going out on location to make tech repairs. You get to meet people in their home or office environments, see how they treat each other, and of course, view evidence of extreme neglect. I've learned to be at least mentally prepared for the unexpected.

Looking for more tech stories? Also on InfoWorld:

This story, "Bugged out by pests and printers" was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Subscribe to the Power Tips Newsletter

Comments