At least now he doesn't have to keep calling back

First-level help-desk pilot fish is working the early shift, which means he's all by himself when a password-reset request comes in from a contractor.

"We had a large number of contractors, both at the main office and overseas," says fish. "There was a large amount of turnover and consequently an occasional contractor would literally step into the footsteps of his predecessor -- even using the same user ID as the previous contractor, which was a definite no-no.

"Eventually, they would all need to call the help desk to have their passwords reset."

And the rules for that are simple: Fish has to verify the user's identity with two questions, typically birthday and the secret question and answer that the user chose when the account was first set up.

If a contractor can't be verified, fish tells him to inform his supervisor, who will call so fish can verify the supervisor's identity and reset the contractor's password. If the contractor can't contact his supervisor, he's out of luck.

This time, when fish asks the the secret question, the contractor stammers a bit but comes up with the answer. No big deal, fish figures -- he may have forgotten exactly what he put in. Then fish asks for the contractor's birthday.

"Uh, January?" contractor says.

Sorry, but I need the correct month and day, fish says.

Contractor says he'll have to call back.

A minute later, he does call back -- and as soon as fish identifies himself on the phone, there's a pause.

Then the contractor tries again, still guessing the wrong birthday. It's clear his predecessor didn't tell him what birthday to use, and at this rate it's going to be a long year.

"He tried several more times," fish says. "I suspected he was trying to get someone else on the phone at the help desk. Since I was the only one there, he was doomed. I decided to put an end to this game.

"The last time he called, I told him I had reset his password. I could hear him breathe a sigh of relief. 'What is it?' he asked.

"'I reset it to your birthday,' I replied.

"He didn't call back."

What Sharky wants for his birthday is your true tale of IT life. But don't wait -- send it to me right now at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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