The truth is up there

User calls the help desk to report that a green liquid is coming out of her phone -- and this pilot fish takes the call.

"She offered her expert opinion that 'the liquid crystals are probably leaking out,'" fish says. "I assured her that liquid crystal are not green but that I would come check it out."

And sure enough, when fish get to her cube there's a small puddle of an oily, odorless green liquid under her phone, with obvious trails of it weeping out from around the phone's buttons.

Fish is sure it's not liquid crystals leaking out, if only because the LCD screen is working fine. Do you have any liquids in your overhead bin that might be leaking? fish asks user.

"Certainly not," she replies indignantly. "That would be against the rules!"

So fish replaces the phone with a new one and chalks it up as a mystery.

A few weeks later, fish gets an e-mail from the user's boss -- cc:'d to the user, fish's boss and the company president -- informing fish that the new phone is oozing green liquid, the problem needs to be fixed immediately, and why didn't fish fix this weeks ago since that's his job?

OK, fish thinks, this is not the X-Files. There is an explanation.

It's back to the user's cube, where this time fish looks closely at the underside of the bin that's right over the phone. And there it is: a small green trickle coming out from under the bin door -- invisible before because the drip was hidden by the lip of the door itself.

Fish asks the user to unlock the bin. Inside, as expected, fish finds a plastic bottle of household cleaner. An old bottle of cleaner -- one with a tiny hole on the side near the bottom.

That solves the mystery. Fish figures that the cleaner has been slowly leaking out, dripping onto the phone and running into the case, where the warm electronics helped to evaporate the water. After two weeks, enough concentrated cleaner filled the phone so it could start to weep green liquid again.

"As I chewed the inside of my cheek to hamburger, I asked, as casually as possible, 'You do know that this cleaner is a liquid, right?'" says fish. "All I got in reply were tight lips and a slight huffing sound.

"So I replied to the e-mail, informing everyone of the situation and attaching the previous trouble ticket, which contained the end-user's initial vehement denial of having any liquids in her overhead bin.

"The odd thing is that at no time did either phone stop functioning."

Sharky counts on a nice steady trickle of true tales of IT life. Send me yours at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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