A man with a heavy foreign accent calls and tells you, “Our equipment has detected serious anomalies coming from your computer.”

What do you do?

1. Ask for clarification.

“What kind of anomalies?”

This throws him off script. “Serious ones.” Then he gets back on script. “So if you could just go to your computer and…”

2. Now count how many times you can get him to say the word “anomalies.”

“You’ll have to be more specific. What did you receive from my computer?”


“Can you describe what kind of anomalies?”

“Serious anomalies.”

“Yes, but what data came to you from my computer?”


“But what was in the data?”

Result: Nine uses of the word “anomalies” in under a minute. Can you do better?

3. String him along.

“So you want me to be at my computer?”

“Yes, sir, if you could just go to your computer, I will tell you where to find the anomalies.”

4. Sit down at your computer. Or just tell him you’re doing it.

“Okay, I’m at my computer.”

“All right, sir. Now do you see down at the lower left of your screen, there’s a ‘Start’ button?”

5. Destroy his universe:

“Oh, no, I don’t see a ‘Start’ button, because I’m running Linux.”

6. Contemplate the sound of silence.