back to article 'I found the intern curled up on the data centre floor moaning'

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday morning folly in which we usually feature a reader's tale of gigs gone goofy. But this week we're going to bring you two, because they're all both good but individually not quite enough for the usual On-Call experience. Let's start with “Pete” who once worked for “a large …

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A possible 'Laura' scenario

What would really have brought Laura wide awake would be if after a few minutes of following her instructions, the caller had screamed and shouted, "They've all launched! The missiles have all launched!!"

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Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

The missile comment made me immediately think of this; This Is Not Happening - Jim Breuer - Bombing in Sears - Uncensored (YouTube)

Background: There's a tv show in America called "This is not Happening" where comedians tell true stories of things that happened to them in their lives, often nearly unbelievable, almost always hilarious. The tv show trims the stories short to fit in the timeslot, the YouTube uploads are full-length.

P.S. Long live PAINT!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

Well, here's my Laura-like tale for the heap:

Oncall. Woken at 3am by the mobile. (One of those wake-ups where you aren't sure at first what your gender, species, or planet is...)

In an impeccable upper-class English accent, a gentleman on the other end of the phone tells my booting brain:

"Hello. Elvis is dead. Can you do something about that please?"

"......."

It eventually turned out that Elvis is someone else's software system, and he'd dialed the wrong oncall number, but I shall always remember that moment when reality broke down.

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A better 'Laura' scenario

“It was years ago, and we still laugh about it.”

"We". Was this the start of something special?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

"Oh. He's left the building, has he? And I suppose my refrigerator's running? And you've got Prince Albert in a can?"

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Re: AC Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

"....Elvis is someone else's software system....." Server and system names often go in fads dependent on what the sysadmins of the day had been reading/watching in college. It used to be very popular for VAX and early UNIX machines to be named after characters from The Hobbit, the next generation was often a lot of Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica, and nowadays I see a lot of Marvel comic heroes. Unfortunately, a very old set of systems in one branch of the civil service were all Greek deities because the names were not chosen by the sysadmins but set by the Oxbridge-educated mandarins, and it was a real bitch trying to remember how to spell Mnemosyne and Aigaion when dialing in remotely at 2am on a Sunday morning!

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Coat

"Pete' has omitted some details...

Like, who closed the server cage door?

I hope the gift card was good, a week of intern's pay is pretty cheap.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

Well, most likely, it shut by itself when the poor sod entered in it ...

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Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

What makes me skeptical on this one is that he has just the *one* call / voice mail? So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?

Or call the fire department for a rescue?

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Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

Making all those calls would run down the phone battery, which is needed for playing Pokemon.

You've got to have priorities.

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Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

"What makes me skeptical on this one is that he has just the *one* call / voice mail? So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?"

Written as if by someone who has never had a debilitating phobia-induced panic attack. I'm surprised he got the one call off, personally.

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Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

Exactly. I'll never forget many years ago my then best friend at the age of about 16, getting locked into our rather small bathroom. He totally panicked and practically destroyed the room trying to get out. The lock was a simple slide bolt that was a little bit sticky...

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Anonymous Coward

similar to Laura

When working on call, for a big company, there was this painfull operator, who would call you at 3:00am with a very slow voice, like "Hello, Pete ... Hope ... you .... are ... well ?".

One night, 3:00am indeed, said bloke rang on the mobile, unfolded his 3 mins long "hello" protocol, and then said: "wait, ... oh ... bummer ... I was after the other support group ... wrong ... number ... hope you'll sleep ... welll ... good night."

I was so upset I could never sleep again that night ...

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Re: similar to Laura

I used to work on call, I switched jobs partly to get away from it.

We were a small firm who had a few ( by comparison ) large clients. Their main business hours were overnight.

Very often I got a call that "something, I'm not sure what, is wrong, can you have a look", only to find out the next day that their boss was in the office and wanted to know why there were less transactions than they expected.

As they were very important customers, I had to look into it.

You don't need that shit at 3am.

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Re: similar to Laura

I had the same. Not a slow voice though, but a very cheery 2nd line guy who would be bright and chipper at 3am "Hey! How are you? What's happening" *bites tongue and doesn't go, nothing, its 3am, I was asleep, I'm grumpy because you woke me up, just get on with it".

This particular night the phone rang, the cheery greeting and mumbled response. Then it went into "we have a problem on XXX, I already rang Y but then realised he was handling HP-UX and it's a Solaris system so he said to ring you". Then a slow "oh bugger, you aren't on call this week are you? Don't worry, I'll call who is on call".

The only possible response was "no, I'll deal with it, no point to wake up the 3rd person tonight." Well, ok I checked who actually was on call and it wasn't someone I disliked, otherwise my answer might have been different...

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Re: similar to Laura

Another occurs to me. Management "escalations" and panicking when no one knew where the problem was yet.

Management wanted everyone "ready to engage". So a 2am phone call telling me there might be a big problem, but no one was sure yet "just to make me prepared". Of course I didn't hear back from them spent the rest of the night unable to sleep and checking my phone to make sure it hadn't gone off and didn't hear a thing about it the next day to say the problem was fixed.

That job went progressively worse on-call. Expect to get any details on the call as to what the problem is or what has been done before? Forget it, if you were lucky you'd get a ticket number. If you were unlucky you'd have to login and start pinging people to see who knew what the system was that had issues. Not on-call and forgot to turn your phone off, expect to get random calls instead of the on-call person "because they are really grumpy and rude when you call them at 3am and you helpful".

My new job I'm not on-call. Whatever grief there maybe in the day, that makes it all worthwhile.

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Windows

Re: similar to Laura

"Hello, Pete ... Hope ... you .... are ... well ?".

In my experience, the operators on the third shift are often...quirky

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Re: similar to Laura

I've had a couple of call outs when I've either been the wrong team or not on call. I *always* make a point of getting it properly logged even if I'm not the right team. Occasionally, the helpdesk have realised I'm the wrong person and tried the apology followed by a quick hang up approach. That results in them getting called back to get the ticket reference.

I don't have a problem with them waking me up at 3am for something that isn't my problem, but I'll be damned if they're going to worm their way out of paying me for it.

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Re: similar to Laura

Why is it that when people call you up at 3am they sound pissed off if you don't seem particularly bright and alert?

You woke me up at 3am. You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone.

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404
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Re: 'You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone.'

Or when you fall asleep with your hands/arms under your head, THEY fall asleep, and you can't answer your phone even if you wanted to...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: similar to Laura

In my experience, the operators on the third shift are often...quirky

On the plus side, it can help keep things interesting. :)

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Re: similar to Laura

"You woke me up at 3am. You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone."

Those moments usually started with me banging on the clock/radio in an attempt to hit the snooze button. After a few unsuccessful attempts, my wifes voice would impinge on my madness saying, "it's the bloody phone you moron!" followed by her snoring again. Sadly, how she can get back to sleep so quickly is one of lifes little mysteries I shall always be ignorant of.

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Re: similar to Laura

I have a similar experience, although at the time I used an Iphone 4, both as my on-call phone and as my alarm. When abruptly woken at a godforsaken hour, I couldn't tell the difference in ring tones.

I still get a feeling of intense dread when I hear the default iphone ringtone though. My dog doesn't like it either, although maybe that's because he senses my discomfort.

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What are the odds

Laura now asks Reg readers to consider the odds of operations at one company dialling a the wrong number for the right person, at the wrong company.

I saw something like it, one Sunday dinner time in the pub. The phone rang and the barman picked it up. "Can I speak to Andy, please?", he was asked. "Andy?", he replied. "Yeah, Andy the barman." The barman said, "Sorry, there's no-one named Andy who works here." The caller replied, "Oh, that is the Cotswold, isn't it?" "No, this is Copperfields. You must have read the wrong line in the phone book. But Andy from the Cotswold is sitting at the end of the bar. I'll hand you over."

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Pint

Re: What are the odds

Few years ago I was in my local and the phone rang, landlord asked me to answer it (it was also a payphone), "Hello"... "Yes, this is the xxx"... "Speaking"... The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

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TRT
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Re: The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

You don't think you might have a problem? ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What are the odds

In the past I used to be Novell NetWare sysadmin. One day I found in my mailbox a package from Novell - some software, apparently. But the name on the label was different and, while street was the same, house number was different. So it appears a postman managed to deliver a package to a different Novell sysadmin... How did he knew? ;-)

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WTF?

Re: What are the odds

This one is so weird I'm not sure I believe it myself anymore, but I swear it happened.

I was walking through the local town with a couple of mates on my way to a friends house (this was before mobile phones mind) and as we were walking past a couple of phone boxes, one of them started ringing.

I love that sort of shit, so I went over and answered. The other person on the line immediately new it was me (it was my mum), and in fact had rung to ask me to get something from the shop on the way home.

When I asked her where she thought she had rang, she said my friends house. When I told her where I was she didn't believe me.

A small bit of info, my mum used to work as an operator for BT and had a good memory for numbers, so it is just possible that the payphone number was lodged in her memory somewhere - but how and why she rang it we'll never know - she swears to this day she rang my friends' number.

Weird eh?

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Re: What are the odds

The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project that was never rolled out to the main network because of... well, I can't be too specific. But GCHQ and Area 51 may have been involved.

All that's left of it now are a few stories like yours from the limited beta, a bricked up room in Martlesham, and an article that was supposed to be printed in the Fortean Times but was pulled for national security reasons.

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Pint

Re: What are the odds

"The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project"

Post of the week for me, have some virtual beer and 100 pseudo upvotes :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What are the odds

This same thing was mentioned in a documentary I saw many years back about amazing coincidences. A secretary needed to ring someone and they rang the first part of their home number but accidentally substituted their payroll number for the last part.

It rang a payphone and the very person just happened to be walking past and answered the phone. A very confused conversation ensued where the secretary was speaking matter of factly and the person at the other end just couldn't understand how she knew he was walking past.

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Re: What are the odds

"drank" ?

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Re: What are the odds

They sometimes come as an extra bonus small brown-box package in the main Interocitor kit of parts.

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Re: What are the odds

No interocitor part can be replaced. Bear this in mind while assembling. Use only genuine interocitor parts.

...

Cal, are you gonna work naked again?

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Re: What are the odds

'"drank" ?'

For the rest of us, yes, but, given his handle, maybe he was right.

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Re: What are the odds

"The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project "

To differentiate it from normal phone boxes is the "Transdimensional Personnel Locator" painted blue, perhaps with a blinking light on top?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

You don't think you might have a problem? ;)

Definitely yes, but not an alcohol one. ;)

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Re: What are the odds

"drank" ?

Depends how much he had.

"I drank a pint or two"

"I drunk 10 pints"

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Re: What are the odds

"but knew I was drunk..."

FTFY

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Re: What are the odds

Mums have super powers. Everybody knows that.

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Re: Transdimensional Personnel Locator

I imagine The Laundry gained a few new employees

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Laura

During early-morning support calls I've often clung to the belief that most often it doesn't matter what decision you take, just that you take a decision. This mostly works. Mostly.

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Re: Laura

Of course. I'd whatever it was has happened at 9am then they'd be happy enough to wait till 5pm for a solution or some kind of ackmowledgement. But since it's 3am they want a solution now, not an acknowledgement and certainly not at 11am. Unfortunately 3am is a very bad time to take decisions.

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Anonymous Coward

A member of my team

was once working late in an office in Europe delivering an IT project. This was an office that generally was only for day-workers.

Later in the evening he was challenged at gunpoint by security guards demanding to know what he was up to with all the "Komputers"...

Had to call back to the UK head office to convince them he we there officially and with permissions.

Seems that the night security team had not been handed over to properly which created a brown trousers moment for us to laugh at in posterity...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A member of my team

So I'm working late - very late - in my badly-designed office with the desk fixed to the wall so I have to sit with my back to the door. It's summer and I'm in a short-sleeve shirt. Some prat has come into the building on the floor below me then gone home and set the alarm as he left. A few minutes later I move a bit and activate the alarm which is silent and connected to the security company.

The first thing I know about it is when the security guy's dog puts its nose on the back of my elbow.

The security guy laughs so hard he nearly wets himself.

I just ... nearly wet myself.

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Re: A member of my team

My very first "computer" job was running S-100 bus machines for a kitty litter manufacturer. About 1984 or so.

So the brand was "Mighty Cat" and they snagged a tiger from the retired circus animals for doing ads and promos. He was a sweetie unless it was lunch time.

One day I'm coding away at dBASE procs and the door opens. I didn't pay attention until a frypan size paw appears in my lap. I look over and it's Mr. Tiger. So I reached over and started petting him and he laid down against my leg just like any other cat. I grew up on a farm where if you treated the animals right, they'd treat you right.

I'll never forget how my hand sunk into 5 inches of tiger fur. That was just the plushest thing ever.

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Big Brother

Re: A member of my team

Not quite as bad as that, but a past employer (before remote access solutions) had decided to stop having 24 hour building security, but had not informed the security staff about what to do if someone needed to work on past the hours or given them any management contacts.

I was faced with a problem that was going to stop a significant percentage of the organisation logging in the next Monday morning, so was anxious to fix it before I left on Saturday evening, and of course I hadn't been given any out of hours access contact numbers either.

Security guard, completely fazed by the situation - he had been instructed that on no account was anyone allowed to work after hours for any excuse - ended up threatening me with physical violence! So after a bit of directory searching I managed to find a home phone number for one of my line management and dumped the access problem on him. Half an hour later a very apologetic security guard came round to see me...

But as I said when I requested that no action be taken about the threats of violence, what on earth was the poor bloke supposed to do? Security guards aren't generally recruited for their flexibility of mind in unfamiliar circumstances, and the poor bloke had been left with no reasonable course of action. The fault was entirely with his management.

He and I became good mates after that! Its always as well for IT to cultivate a good working relationship with building security...

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Anonymous Coward

Laura's Story....

...had this many many times.

As we operate service desks for many other companies, many time I've had a call that's been filtered (read that has blindly passed across) by our internal 1st line and spent 30 minutes trying to fix an issue with our internal systems. Only to realise it is actually is the 3rd parties systems and should be covered by their support team, not the internal IT team.

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Re: Laura's Story....

As have I.

I was working for a company that often had external contractors come in for brief stints on special projects.

During their time at my company, they ha saved my direct number as half the Helldesk was populated by muppets who could only follow a script, and relied on direct comms with me to get the real work done.

Months go by, and I hear from them again, asking for help on systems at yet another company, because the Helldesk there was fully populated by muppets.

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