Tales from IT: Man Vs Pager

In the IT department where I first worked, there was a Network Admin who was a bit ‘highly strung’. He’d get quite short when things got tense and he liked things done the way things were always done (he supported the physical network and Novell; this was in the time when Microsoft NT was just starting to make inroads into business).

It’s a good thing stress and rapid-change aren’t a big part of IT work, eh? Otherwise, a meltdown might occur….

Quick history lesson; management was keen on all the IT staff being contactable wherever we were (In Case Of Something Bad Happening) but this was before mobile phones were ubiquitous.

Michael-Douglas-with-cell-phone
Some people had them though they were hard to spot

So we all carried pagers. For people under a certain age, a pager was a small device with a tiny screen that could just receive messages; think read-only SMS. People would call a number then leave a short message with their phone keypad; normally a number for the receiver of the page to call them on. Helpfully, the pagers beeped and gave a short buzz when a message came in so you’d have no chance of missing it.

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzzz.

“Ah!  The CFO want’s me to call him. He probably needs his Etch-o-Sketch rebooted.”

On this particular day, our Network Admin friend was having a Particularly Bad Day; both the physical network and the Novell servers were having problems. The more technical parts of the business had moved to Windows NT for their servers but the Finance and HR departments still relied on their ‘tried and tested’ Novell systems.

And they were borked.

There was some financial deadline rapidly approaching and the two departments were stressed; as they were all fairly non-technical they had the added bonus of waiting helplessly, hoping the IT department would get things working.

We had a pair of pressured, non-technical, helpless departments waiting on IT to get things running. So what did that do? They paged our hero.

Repeatedly.

The rest of us were unable to help; he’d both resisted handing migrating the systems to NT and not trained anyone else up on the Novell infrastructure. So all we could do was listen to his pager catch fire and the increasingly terse responses as he called people back.

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

“No it’s still not fixed. We’re working on a solution.  Yes…. maybe an hour or two?”

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

“No… yes I know it’s not working.  What do you think I’m doing?”

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

“Still broken.  I’m working on it whenever I’ve not on the phone telling people I’m working on it.”

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

“No, it’s not.  I said I’d call you when there’s a change!”

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

Beep.  Bzzzzzzzz.

We all then heard a scream from the admins’ cubicle;  a combination of primal outrage and extreme Tourettes.  We all stood up in time to see him storm out of the department and the building.

Being on the ground floor we could see him stomp across the car-park but as he got near his car he stopped and put something on the ground.  He then got into his car, slammed the door and drove forward a few meters before stopping and reversing back the way he came.  Again he stopped, changed gears and drove forward a little.

He kept doing this forward / reverse action in his car for a few moments (as we all started looking at each other in puzzlement) before he accelerated out with a screech of tyres and disappeared down the road.

A few of the IT peeps went outside to watch him go.  As they turned to come back inside they noticed what was on the ground.

It was the mangled remains of his pager, covered in tyre tracks.

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