My God, I am so tired right now. Today was one of those work days that leaves you completely drained, and looking at the clock hours out from home time. Normally, I get home after these days, and can only think of everything that went wrong, how many servers crashed, how many people called at exactly the wrong time (uncanny how after a period of silence, 5 people can call at the same time!), and how much I can't wait for the week to be over. Well, I still can't wait for the week to be over, but my tiredness tonight isn't so bad, because it's the result of talking to a truly awesome man today.
I work on an IT Help Desk, supporting one of the branches of Australia's Judiciary system. There are normally five of us, supporting around 1000 or so users, from the people who sit at the counter, to the Judges who sit in Court. Today there were three, the others being in Brisbane preparing to replace all of their aging computers with shiny new ones. Again, it's uncanny how the days when we're all there can be so quiet, but when we're one or two down, everybody has problems they need fixed. So it was with a somewhat sinking feeling that I answered the phone to hear the man on the other end introduce himself as Justice Smith (no, not his real name).
His notebook computer had already been upgraded, and he was now working through Windows 2000 (previously, it had been Windows 95(!) ) He is the only user in the Court to have an HP OfficeJet Pro 1175C sitting on the desk next to him - a combination fax/colour printer/scanner. He went on to explain how since the upgrade, after reinstalling the software that hadn't been carried over by us, he hadn't been able to get the automatic document feeder attached to the scanner to function. In fact, every time he tried to start a job, OmniPage Pro 10 would freeze up. I suppressed a sigh - a user who has a non standard piece of equipment, running through a non-standard application, is our worse nightmare. Normally it's not so bad - we'll do our best to help them, but if it's not a standard application or piece of hardware, there's not too much more we can do. When it's a Judge, the rules change. We bend over backwards to help our Judges as quickly and fully as possible. That doesn't mean our normal users are less important - but if a Judge is about to go into Court and deliver a Judgement, and they can't print it - well, it's a very big deal. There's also no concept of not supporting non-standard apps/hardware where they're concerned. If they need it, or want to use it, we support it.
So I started to troubleshoot. On these type of jobs, remote control access to the user's desktop is just automatic. I began looking at the scanner, checking it's drivers. Seeing what happened when jobs were sent to it through OmniPage. We uninstalled software, then reinstalled it. Downloaded updated drivers, removed hardware then reinstalled it too. I was madly searching HP and OmniPage's web site support areas for a clue about just what was going on, patches, anything that might help me. And we were making very little progress, things still didn't work properly. Time and time again, I'd make a change that may have helped - the scanner was initially being recognised as a 1170C, which doesn't have an ADF - bingo! Updated the drivers, tried again...it still fell over in exactly the same way. Patched OmniView, changed CAERE settings, used different TWAIN drivers. Every single inch of progress was a victory.
At the end of the day, I'd spent over three hours on the phone with this Judge, as he watched what I was doing, suffered through the lag I had from my location to his, made him reboot his computer countless times. And after those three hours, the problem wasn't fixed. He still couldn't use the ADF through OmniPage. It would work in the standard Kodak Imaging software included in Windows 2000, but OmniPage - no way. So I investigated using the Kodak imaging software to do the scanning, and opening that in OmniPage to do the OCR that he needed to do (the point of the whole exercise). I was so confident that I'd found a work around for him, I could give him something at the end of the day. Until that software fell over when attempting to save the scans as tiff files, and refused to use the ADF to do more than one page at a time.
Now, normally, I'd have been pulling my hair out in the most incredible frustration, totally clueless about where to go next. Today was different though - and I owe it all to the Judge on the other end of the line. Not one single time did he get frustrated - not once. I was trying different things, even though I was 99% sure my attempts would be doomed to failure. I got him to restart a good dozen times - every time he did this, my connection would be lost, so he'd have to re-establish it on restart. My vision of what was on the screen would sometimes be 10 of 15 seconds behind what he could see in real time - he understood this, and would read out what he could see, and ask me whether I wanted him to press ok, if it would be easier. Not once did he try to move the mouse on his end, and engage in the mouse control wars that are so common when remotely viewing a user's screen. He thanked me for my patience!
Three hours working on the one problem, with the user on the phone the entire time, is almost unprecedented. Three hours on the phone with a Judge...well, I don't know that anyone will ever beat that record. He had every right to be frustrated. This was one of the oh so rare days where he wasn't listed to go into Court at all, he had an entire day to work on Judgements, research cases, catch up on things he wouldn't normally have the time to do. I have a headset phone - he doesn't. He sat for three hours with a receiver to his ear. I hope his arm isn't too sore tonight, let alone his ear - at least I have a soft foam cushion surrounding the ear piece.
So I still have work to do for him, I still have to find a solution to his problem. It didn't end there however. Another piece of software he wants to reinstall after the upgrade is Dragon Dictate. This software allows him to dictate, directly to text, the things he needs written. He is the only Judge at his site who has the luxury of taking his associate into Court with him - the reason he can do this is the time saving he has created by scanning documents through OCR, and dictating directly to documents. Personally, it saves him no time. For his associate, he saves a huge amount of time. So he's got a brand new version of Dragon Dictate, ready to install. Asks for my help to install it - I'm happy to help. He puts the cd in the drive....and nothing happens. I look in explorer, there's no cd detected. After a restart (again!), it's still not there. I ask him to try it in his associate's computer, and it works perfectly, straight away... Still, after a day of everything failing, he doesn't sound the slightest bit annoyed, or grumpy. I'm sure that it's frustrating him greatly, it must be by this stage, but he doesn't ever take it out on me, or blame me for the trouble he's having.
I just have to say, that I'm in awe of this man's patience. If I ever have a need to go into a Court, I hope it's him who's sitting on the Bench. I may not have been able to fix his issues today, but I learnt something from him. He had the ability to make my day a living hell. He could have gotten frustrated, angry, annoyed - but he didn't. And now, I'm sitting here, feeling ok, because even though today was totally draining, and frustrating for me too, his attitude and understanding didn't ever make me feel like I'd failed. I hope, that out of today, I can learn to show the same understanding towards others, and recognise the real difference my actions, and attitude, can have on them.
Now, I sit with my eyes heavy, and my body drained...and I can't help but smile.