Monday, September 11, 2006

Robin, R-O-B-I-N

I guess it's time I put in some real work here and post a story of my own instead of just crazy people's emails. And the story I'm going to tell is of Robin, R-O-B-I-N.

Lest you think the crazy people only email Microsoft, let me assure you that they call on the phone too. Before I got on the email support team, I was on the phones. Back then, if you called in after 6pm and wanted help, you could get support for a charge. Also, the line you called for paid support was an 800 number, but the one for free support was long distance (unless you lived near Redmond).

So, once a week or so, after six pm a phone call would come in on the toll-free paid support line from Robin. You always knew it was Robin because when you asked for his name he would say it, and then spell it out: "Robin, R-O-B-I-N".

Robin was a nuisance. He always called and really just wanted to chat, and what he chatted about made no sense. One time he called and said he thought Microsoft should make a browser that was "compatible with both Internet Explorer and Netscape". I only actually spoke to him once, but I had already been warned about him by others. There was a major virus outbreak. There were two variants of the virus - one that affected Microsoft Word, and one that affected Microsoft Excel. Robin argued with me for 10 minutes that there was a third variant he had heard about that affected something else, and he wanted to know what. There was no third variant, Robin hadn't heard there was a third variant, he just wanted to talk to someone. Robin never wanted actual technical support. I suspect he just didn't have any friends, on account of he was a little bit crazy. I got rid of Robin the easiest way we knew how: I told him if he wanted help with something, he had to pay; otherwise, I had other customers waiting. He always gave up when you played that trump card.

Some guys on graveyard shift would use Robin to make their nights easier for 10 or 15 minutes. You could ask him an open-ended question, like, "Well, Robin, what do you think of Linux?" and then just kick your headphones off for 10 minutes. Robin would talk and talk and talk, and you would never have to worry about him asking for a response or hanging up.

There was one guy on graveyard who was just about as crazy as Robin. We'll just call him "B". B could regale you for an hour on the benefits of flaxseed oil, or how sugar was worse for you than cocaine. (Tangent: One night, B was in the breakroom when I came in for a soda, and he started talking to me. I was making my escape when another co-worker who I did not like came in, and asked what we were talking about. I said "flaxseed oil" and walked out. I saw said co-worker leave the break room 45 minutes later, holding his head like it hurt.)
The funniest times were when B would get a call from Robin. That was a half-hour call right there, guaranteed. Robin would talk about the internet, and B would talk about how it was all going to be virtual reality soon or how the internet wouldn't matter once we colonized the moon. I don't think either one knew what the other was talking about, but the one side of the conversations we heard were very interesting.

Robin was, in my view, just a harmless, lonely nutjob. Until one day we got an email from him. One of my other co-workers, who we'll call "J", got the email. Like me and most others, she did phone support before getting on the email team, so she immediately recognized Robin's name. "Oh my god!" she yelled, "It's Robin! He's emailing us now! And there's a link to his website in here!"
A few of us who had worked nights and knew who he was immediately gathered round. "Check out his site, let's see if there's a picture or something," we said.

Robin always mentioned that he was in college. We often doubted that, but his website was hosted by a college. The site had a hideous bright pink background with blue and red fonts. Some of the links on the page were set in fonts as high as 30 (huge). It was awful. No picture of Robin though. Mostly he had posted "papers" he wrote for school. These all - every single one - were about the internet. I have no idea what you can study in college and write all your papers about the internet, but Robin did. But no picture, so we were all sad. Then we saw, in tiny 6 point font, at the bottom: "Misc."

"Oooh, oooh, try 'Miscellaneous', maybe there's a picture there," we said. J dutifully clicked the little "Misc."
Up came a powerpoint slideshow. The first slide was the Olsen twins, in some seen where they were at the beach in bikinis. I'm not talking Olsen twins now, I'm talking when they were like 8. "What the hell?" we all kind of said. J clicked on to the next one. Full blown porno picture, money shot and everything. J screamed and closed the browser. We all kind of looked at each other and shuddered. "I need a shower," someone said. That was the moment Robin went from harmless crazy to sick freak in our minds.

Lest you think we were being too judgemental, some of us checked the site later (from home, not work). The whole slide show was like that - picture of child in swimsuit, picture of hardcore pornography. Picture of child in swimsuit, picture of hardcare pornography. EEEWWWWW. An anonymous report was made to the school about the slideshow, since they hosted the site, but none of us had the stomach to go back and check. It was the last time I wanted to have anything to do with Robin, R-O-B-I-N.


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