Is this really how Sherlock got his start?

Pilot fish has just taken a programming job with a government workgroup whose previous IT support guy left hurriedly -- leaving zero documentation for his successor.

"I needed to focus on software development, but I also needed to cover hardware support," says fish. "Right after beginning my employment, it came time to replace the group's PCs. All PCs had inventory tags, yet there wasn't any record of who had what PC.

"I decided to start tracking the inventory with the new PCs, figuring that with under 50 users, the swap-out would go smoothly, and with management pushing me for quick results with the software development, the quicker, the better!"

Because of fish's busy schedule, volunteers do the actual PC transfers -- they put the new PCs in place, give users a few days to make sure all relevant info has been transferred from old PCs, then tell users to leave their old PCs outside their cubicles to be picked up.

But when fish checks over the rows of old PCs, they're one short -- and no one knows where the missing PC might be.

Fish sends out an email asking again for all old PCs to be returned. No response. But since all the users are in one building, that evening after everyone else has left he does a little sleuthing -- and sure enough, he finds the missing PC hidden behind a stack of boxes under a table in an employee's cubicle.

"I immediately suspected foul play," fish says. "After all, this was the perfect time and way to steal a government PC, as someone could take advantage of the fact that we didn't know whose PC was missing.

"The next day I met with the managers and shared what I had found. To my surprise, they all looked at each other and laughed. They told me that particular employee wasn't bright enough to take advantage of this potentially perfect PC theft scenario."

But they all wonder, what will it take to finally get the clueless employee's attention? The workgroup's senior manager volunteers to send out another email, this time mentioning that an unreturned PC would be a theft of government property.

Still no response.

So fish tries once more, with an email announcing that because no one had come forward with the missing PC, security personnel would come in the next week to begin a criminal investigation.

"This time we got a response," says fish. "The employee went to his supervisor and asked if the email referred to the old PC in his cubicle.

"When asked why he hadn't paid any attention to the previous emails, he said, 'I really didn't think anyone would want it back!'"

Sharky's looking for your true tale of IT life -- you know, the old one you forgot behind those boxes in your cube. Send it to me 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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