Your Customer Could be a Space Alien
by Tonya Engst, TidBITS editor

This article, a deliberate takeoff of urban legend article, "Your
Co-worker Could be a Space Alien," goes out with a grin to people
who do telephone technical support.

Many callers are actually space aliens who sound human, but you
can expose these visitors by looking for certain tip-offs, say

Odd or mismatched software and hardware.

Aliens might run "MacWriter on their Apple Microsoft," or use
"PerfectWord on a Claris 610."

Strange or unusual software habits.

An alien might not understand the hierarchical filing system, so
she might put all her files and applications in the same folder.
(probably the System Folder)
Aliens can also exhibit paranoia, so an alien may worry that if he
throws out one document, all other documents will disappear.
Perhaps this occurs in different solar systems.
(of course, they are all aliased together...didn't you know that!!)

Bizarre sense of humor.

Aliens often exhibit inappropriate senses of humor. For instance,
an alien may burst out laughing in the middle of a serious
discussion about the difference between clicking and dragging.

Puts you on hold frequently.

Aliens have trouble with human language and often must put you on
hold to consult references in order to figure out what you are
(I especially like the ones who have Music-on-hold in their house)

Keeps a written or recorded diary.

Aliens worry that they won't retain every subtlety of the
conversation and feel more comfortable recording it.

Misuses everyday items.

Aliens have trouble with human-based objects, so an alien would be
more likely to use a mouse upside down. Aliens having Pivot
monitors are constantly pivoting them. Scientists speculate that
they are trying to align their monitors with a distant magnetic
wave system, but tests have been inconclusive.

Constant questions about customs.

Aliens want to know why thing happen as they do, so they may
interrupt every suggestion you make to ask why or to suggest
another way of doing it. Don't be put off by this behavior, aliens
can't help it.

Secretive about personal life-style and home.

Aliens don't like to give anything away for fear of blowing their
cover. If a caller has a great deal of difficulty telling you,
say, the names of the fields used in a print merge, and then
finally tells you the information is classified, you are probably
assisting a space alien. Another tip-off is aliens that cannot
reveal the names of their hard drives.

Frequently talks to himself.

The alien may be rehearsing or practicing what he will say next.

Displays a change of mood when near certain high-tech hardware.

An alien may become nervous or hyperventilate when near computer
hardware. Aliens also become unobservant and have trouble reading
labels. If a customer cannot identify the name of the computer,
and the name is affixed to the front of the computer, you may have
a space alien on your hands.

Experts point out that a caller would have to display most if not
all of these traits before you can positively identify her as an

...There here...among us...