Years ago, I was a senior field electrical engineer for a company that manufactured distributed process control systems. At that time, prior to the widespread adaptation of personal computers and flat-screen displays, our operator console (Human Machine Interface) was a piece of stand-alone furniture with a large cathode ray tube display and custom keyboard. We had recently shipped a system to a customer in a Midwestern state. The customer called me shortly after he received it and set up the system and informed me that one of the consoles was not working. I asked the customer if I could pose some questions in the hopes of troubleshooting the console issue by telephone to get an immediate resolution to the problem. The customer agreed.

I first inquired, “What exactly is the console doing? Is the power light on?”

The customer testily replied, “The console is doing nothing, and the power light is not on.”

I then asked, “Could you check to make sure the console is plugged in to the power receptacle?” The customer replied (using language that cannot be repeated here) that he was not stupid, and of course he checked to make sure it was plugged in. I told him that I would refer the issue to my supervisor and we would get a local service technician out as quickly as possible. I talked to my supervisor, who informed me that he had no one local to send to the customer on such short notice and that I, a senior engineer, should go. I could certainly address the console issue.

I bought my plane tickets, packed my test equipment, and took a 6 a.m. flight the next day from our Mid-Atlantic location to the customer’s site in the Midwest. After arriving at the customer’s site 5 h later, I was escorted to the offending console. I actuated the power-on switch and, sure enough, nothing happened. I then took a flashlight and looked at the back of the console, where the power plug was laying on the floor. I plugged the power cord into the wall receptacle, and the console came to life. It now operated as intended. Needless to say, the customer was embarrassed and apologized for his short temper. He then asked me if he would be charged for this service call since the console was under warranty. I replied that I had asked him if the console was plugged in to power, and he had responded that it was. I explained that providing power to the console was not covered under the equipment warranty and that he would be billed for the service call at our standard rate. I then headed to the airport for the return home. After that encounter, the customer and I were friends for many years.