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 …

Laura's Tale

Used to happen to me too,

Back in the late 90's working for a long gone CTI firm on the outer rings of that there London, it transpired that our DDI range was 0208 and the corropsonding 0207 numbers were Scotland Yard (presumerably published behind 08 NGNs)

At least once a day one of us in the office had to stop someone confessing to something we really didn't need to know about

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Devil

Re: Laura's Tale

For a while, my direct line was one digit different from the oncology department at the local hospital. I'd get a few calls a year, with people ringing up to get their results. I'd say, "I'm sorry, I've got some very bad news for you...You've called the wrong number."

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Number ranges

I used to get regular fax calls to my voice line and eventually I connected a modem up to it in order the receive the fax. It was from a museum in Nicosia addressed to the British Museum with a single digit error in the number. I replied with the correct number. Nicosia kept re-sending the fax so I forwarded it to the BM. Nicosia contined to periodically fax my line and never acknowledge my responses

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Re: Number ranges

Nicosia contined to periodically fax my line...

Well they never did get those marbles back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Laura's Tale

We had something similar. The local police station's direct (non-emergency) number ended with the digits 991. Regularly people would try to phone the police station but instead of xxx991 they'd dial xxx999, which happened to be our IT support desk.

We had another number in our block of direct dial numbers that was apparently one digit different to Comet's delivery helpline, we got some irate voicemails on that one.

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Re: Laura's Tale

"I'm sorry, I've got some very bad news for you...You've called the wrong number."

You are the BOFH and I claim my five pounds.

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Re: Laura's Tale

Aaaarrrgggg - it's bad enough everywhere else, but I'd have hoped that people on The Register would know better than to refer to 0207 and 0208!

The area code for ALL of London (including the local numbers that begin with a "3") is 020. Not 0207. Not 0208. Not 0203. It's just 020.

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Re: Number ranges

I got a fax on my dorm phone in uni at 7am every Saturday for several weeks. I eventually hooked up a fax modem and received some very confidential legal documents. I faxed them back, telling them that they had the wrong number but if they wished to continue to send me confidential information that I could leave the fax modem running.

I never heard back.

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Facepalm

Re: Evil Graham Re: Number ranges

"....Well they never did get those marbles back." The Elgin Marbles are from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, whereas Nicosia is in Cyprus.

/need a "Pedantic geography Nazi alert" icon, please!

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Re: Laura's Tale

Many years ago I had a phone number that was very close to the office number for one of our local District Court judges. I would get phone calls all the time from lawyers. I had great fun with that.

A lot of the calls would be asking if a hearing or trial could be postponed. I would reply "so what date works for you?". Then, whatever the date, I would pause and rustle some papers, and answer "Okay, that date will work fine for his honor..." With all of the "failure to appear" rules, I wonder how it worked for them? God I hate lawyers!!

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Re: Laura's Tale

"The area code for ALL of London (including the local numbers that begin with a "3") is 020. Not 0207. Not 0208. Not 0203. It's just 020."

Some of us remember when it was all just "01", but it's changed a few times since then. And no, I'm not old enough to remember when all calls had to go through the operator, "hello, can you get me Whitehall 104 please?

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Re: God I hate lawyers!!

@ usbac

Don't we all, but now you have the 'summa cum laude' distinction of having lawyers that hate you !

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Re: Laura's Tale

Hmm. I guess mis-dialing the BOFH would rather lead to conversations along the lines of

"Doctor, did you get my test results?"

"Yes. You've flunked."

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Re: Laura's Tale

A local phone direct managed to print my work number as being the number of xxx cinema. Amazing how many people could listen to a greeting message saying "This is xxx of xxx County Council's IT department" and then rant about the cinema having voice mail on. I soon appended "and if you wanted xxx cinema the correct number is xxx" to my voice mail message. Public service and all that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Laura's Tale

Transpose the last two digits of my phone number and you get the local Chinese takeaway around the corner. To be fair, I only had a couple of numpties dialling the wrong number.

Anyway, if some weasel wanted my phone number for "marketing purposes" in exchange for freebies, or I just didn't any contact with certain people, I would accidently swap the last two digits.....

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Holmes

Transposed numbers

When we bought a house back in the 80's, the phone was already connected, and all was well for a while. A couple of months later, the local cab company had an incoming only phone installed at the local cab rank in North Street, but unfortunately, the number was very similar to ours, so we had lots of calls from people asking for a cab to pick them up from home or somewhere else (the pub?) and take them to town (or home?). We politely informed them that they had the wrong number, and that this was not the cab rank. We occasionally had calls at ungodly hours of the night, but we understood, until at 3 AM on Christmas morning, we were woken by a call. Did the usual explanation, and went back to bed. Five minutes later, same bloke, rather drunk, and extremely irate. Another polite explanation. Five minutes later, same bloke, swearing and threatening us with violence, so I had to go downstairs and unplug the phone line so he couldn't call us again, he would only get the opt-out tone. The very next working day I made a complaint to The Post Office (as it was then), and they issued us with a new number. Blessed peace!

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Locked in a machine room

I was working for a large telecomms company that had outsourced development of a call billing package to a supposedly premier UK based software company. The third party were provided with a rather obscure proprietary UNIX system (made by the telecoms company) to develop on, because that was the platform the system would run from.

They proceeded to break it, and I was told to go up to London to investigate and rebuild the system for them.

After I arrived and booked in, I was taken and left (unescorted!) in a machine room in a building just off the Tottenham Court Road in London, where I discovered that they had extended the /usr filesystem over the swap space (this was when you had sys-gen'd disk partitions - it was some time ago), and diligently sorted the disk partition table, and restored the filesystem from the backup tape.

When I finished, I looked around. The machine room had no 'phones in it, and it was before mobiles were common. The door could only be opened with an electronic tag. There was nobody in listening distance of the door, no matter how much I pounded it. The only system I could log into was the system I had fixed, and there were no other users logged on.

Something like 4 hours after I had finished, someone thought to look in on me. I was cold, thirsty, and really needed the toilet. I had toyed with the idea of the fire alarm, or turning random machines off to try and attract attention, and also considered lifting a floor tile and leaving a 'present' under the suspended floor.

I cannot remember whether I received any form of apology. All I wanted to do was get out of there.

And you can guess how I felt when just two weeks later, I got a call saying that this 'premier' software company had done exactly the same thing again (after being given an explicit report of what they'd done wrong previously), and could I go up and fix it....

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Re: Peter Gathercole Re: Locked in a machine room

".....in a machine room in a building just off the Tottenham Court Road in London...." I heard a tale of a cabler working in a well-known datacenter down by Vauxhall Bridge. Story goes that he'd taken the tile out of the floor under a rack and was trying to pull some cables up from the underfloor, when he slipped in and and got his upper body jammed in the underfloor space. With only his feet visible outside the rack, no-one in the noisy datacenter noticed! Unable to reach his mobile, the poor guy was stuck there for several hours before anyone thought to check on him. Apparently he was quite lucky he didn't suffocate, but he was less lucky in that his bladder didn't hold out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Locked in a machine room

And you can guess how I felt when just two weeks later, I got a call saying that this 'premier' software company had done exactly the same thing again (after being given an explicit report of what they'd done wrong previously), and could I go up and fix it....

Never said IBM was run by geniuses...

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Re: Locked in a machine room

Nope.

Neither the company I was working for at the time, nor the one in London was IBM!

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Quite recent infosec support

We recently received a large number of a specific scam message, and put a warning on our helpdesk portal. I work at an educational institution, so the helpdesk portal is visible to the outside web (and crawled by Google).

Cue several phone calls from other people receiving the scam messages. I only twigged on the second call when the user couldn't provide their userid. I did help as much as I could ...

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FAIL

Proof

Does anyone proof read these as Laura who on one cold, dark might received a nightly mighty call

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3 am call from 200miles away

Ah I remember when I worked for a small IT support firm in Brighton (Sussex) that looked after Business and Residential clients. We had a note on our website and in the yellow pages ad that we did 24 hours support, but no one had made it clear this was for business clients only. So one fine morning I received a call asking for help recovering a laptop from a virus, from memory the conversation went as follows:-

Me - Can I check which client you are calling from

Them - Oh I am a new customer

Me - Ok, not a problem there will be an extra surcharge for the out of hours service. Can I confirm your company name

Them - I am not a company, I am a student and I think a virus has just wiped out my dissertation

Me - I have to warn you our out of hours service is part of our business support offering and this callout will not be cheap. Is this something that can wait for our residential team to assist with in the morning?

Them - No I have to hand this all in in the morning and I cannot lose it. Please I will pay anything just help me.

Me - Ok what has happened and I will take some details so we can start to get the ball rolling.

Them - I had a bluescreen flash up, now my laptop just keeps rebooting. It said something about safe mode but wouldn't boot in to that so I have put my restore disk in and now I am in windows but cannot find my files.

Me - Ok, It sounds like you have reset your computer and may have deleted your files, do you have a backup? if not power off the computer and we will have to collect it to perform data recovery.

Them - no backup, sorry, how soon can you get here?

Me - whats your address and I will send someone along? As you are not a contract customer it will be £200 per hour including all travel time.

Them - Manchester

Me - I recommend you call a data recovery specialist, they will be cheaper since it will be 10 hours round trip for you to pay for, plus our onsite time. As you are outside of our normal cover area I will need to take a deposit of 50% of the expected travel, could you provide me with details of a credit/debit card I can charge £1000 to?

At this point I heard them start crying and they hung up. Oddly they didn't call back. I do hope they got their file back and they were ok in the end.

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Coat

Re: 3 am call from 200miles away

@ OGShakes

Since the advent of virtual learning environments in Universities, these kind of total loss incidents may have decreased in frequency. The literature survey, notes, key references and drafts will (usually) be uploaded in response to a series of deadlines set by the module tutor. The 'cloud' (i.e. dropbox/google files/whatever Microsoft calls skydrive these days) helps as well. For the students in the lower tail of the normalish distribution, I'd recommend a Chromebook if I was still tutoring at that level.

Coat: I'm off out now 'cos it is a nice day

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Firearms licensing

The local plod revamped all their firearms licensing forms, sadly paying little attention to the phone number on the forms. As a result, we had a few weeks of guys on the shop floor getting phone calls about punters wanting to renew shotgun licences.

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Not quite as random as in the article, but when I was *much* younger I was trying to phone my uncle (This was back when phone numbers were still 5 digits) anyway I thought I could remember his number so I dialled it from memory and he answered. However the number that I remembered was not his, it was his father in laws number who he just happened to be visiting...

I also remember reading something in a magazine (back before the internet came along and ruined everything) about some manager at a company who tried to call his secretary on her day off but mis dialled and instead called a public pay phone... which the secretary just happened to be passing so she answered it... I have no idea how much truth there is to that, but I suppose it could happen.

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"but I suppose it could happen"

It can indeed, I posted such a story above - no idea how it happens though.

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This definitely falls under the FM* Option.

*Freakin' Magic

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I presume it's geographical numbers

Payphones will have originally had phone numbers assigned from the same block of numbers as the homes nearby.

So a 1-digit change gets a phone near the home, and if that happens to be a payphone then it's probable that it's a payphone near their home.

So the probability is higher than pure random that the right person is near enough to the payphone.

On top of that, nobody ever remembers the millions of times somebody phones a wrong number and gets the wrong person, only the occasion where the right person was on the wrong number.

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One of the incident folks I'd known for a few years changed companies. Ran into a linux issue at the new company, and without really thinking motor memory called me.

For what its worth, it was 3 in the afternoon, but it was still a chuckle and a half.

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Not so much on call

as doing an all nighter watching a job that needed to be finished asap and ran on an old OS on the same machines that ran Prestel. The job would just stop for no apparent reason and when restarted carry on quite happily. So there I was every twenty minutes of so banging a couple of keys to see if it was still running and around 2 in the morning I started to doze off and leaned forward to press myself into a standing position to go for a walk and the roll chair shot backwards and up the wall behind me leaving me face down on the floor with the chair pressing me down in a position that even your most supple porn star couldn't achieve. It bloody hurt and I couldn't move without it hurting even more. I think I stayed it that position for three hours until my back went into spasm and I think I dislocated both shoulders and my hips involuntary forcing my way through the side of the desk I was trapped under.After an hour or so of rolling around putting myself back together I went and found another terminal and restarted the job and finally logged out at 10 in the morning after it finished and it being a Saturday went to the pub for the rest of the weekend.

The worst bit came on Monday morning when no-one believed my explanation as to why there was a wrecked desk and monitor, a chair with two broken wheels and a filing cabined that had somehow got involved and needed cutting open with a hacksaw as it was so badly dented two drawer were jammed. I was not inclined to demonstrate and still am not sure how I managed to get stuck in that position let alone get out of it.

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Re: Not so much on call

Which is why nobody should ever be lone working.

Things can go oh so very badly wrong even when you're sat at a desk.

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Early hours of the morning

While I was working in the support center of one of the major IT suppliers, I was awakened by the pager in the small hours of the morning.

When responding to the call center, the operative said "I hope you don't mind, but the customer has asked who was on standby before they placed the call". Obviously, the customer had different opinions about the people who were on the standby rota. Apparently, I had passed their vetting, and I called them up.

I then spent about 20 minutes listening to the details of the problem, interspersing a few appropriate noises. At the end of this, the customer said "OK, I think I know what I need to do now".

I said, "But I've not given you any help or assistance", to which she replied "No, but you let me describe the problem to someone who would understand it, which has allowed me to think it through".

I said that I would be available if she needed to call me again, and she thanked me, and hung up. I did not hear from her again that night, so her solution must have worked. Easiest call-out I ever had.

I came across her again several years later after I had started contracting. Apparently, my CV passed across her desk for a role they were trying to recruit, and she remembered me (not just form the call described above, but from other support calls). I got a rather bemused agent on the phone, who said that she's called them unprompted to say that the role was mine if I wanted it, without any interview, and at the highest rate he'd been told to recruit at.

Unfortunately, it was London based, and I was not looking a role in the Capital. Still, it's nice to be appreciated sometimes.

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Re: Early hours of the morning

I've noticed that once you reach a certain level in this business, reputation counts for a lot more than qualifications or a well polished CV.

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Re: Early hours of the morning

"I then spent about 20 minutes listening to the details of the problem, interspersing a few appropriate noises. At the end of this, the customer said "OK, I think I know what I need to do now".

I said, "But I've not given you any help or assistance", to which she replied "No, but you let me describe the problem to someone who would understand it, which has allowed me to think it through".

I've done that myself a few times over the years. You try everything in your arsenal to get the job done 'till eventually you give up and phone for help from your team. Sometimes, just the act of dialling the phone brings the eureka moment, sometimes you get as far as actually speaking to someone. The brain can be a strange thing at times, especially at stupid'O'clock in the morning.

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Strange phone call at work

I received a call that the switchboard had put through to me because the name matched. The garage told me that my car was ready, but my car was not in for repair. It turned out that the car owner lived a dozen miles from me. So how did they get my work number, since there was nothing to link me to the company (so soon after joining, and, in 1983, so no Internet presence)?

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Anonymous Coward

hmm it occurs to me much mischief could be made by scouring company, and more likely gov / edu websites for "on call number" .

perhaps if you own Technical support are no help , someone elses could be ....

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The ex-contractor

We had a contractor come work for us who was apparently a Domino expert, he was coming up from London to Glasgow, so a bit of helping him with letting agents and stuff went on and he got to work.

Only he didn't provide any skills training to anyone (core part of his contract) disappeared at odd times and generally was a pain while telling everyone he was a genius, but his skillset stopped at the Domino console, even basic tasks seemed beyond him (pasting text into excel, adding a print queue).

Anyway after 6 months he was let go and off he went, still muttering about how everyone else was no good and he was the genius...

skip forward three weeks and the weekend shift lead gets a ping from a lad in India "x is on the line and wants to know when y will be back from lunch"

"why is he calling that line?"

"oh he often calls in to speak to y and his team"

Transpires he'd got a new gig and was calling up people in our Domino support group for guidance on how to do tasks!

We invoiced him, he never called back

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Re: The ex-contractor

Sounds like his Domino expertise was limited to how much cheese to put on the pizza and someone mis-read his CV.

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Get a room! But not the server room!

When I was at university many years ago I ran the computer network of the Electrical Engineering department (long story, involving a VMS admin who had tried to run the Unix systems with disastrous results and I got drafted to take his place on the Unix systems because my systems had never been under his administration and everyone liked how they worked).

One night close on midnight I had complaints that one of the labs went down. I checked and sure enough, the server for that lab was down. I walked down to the lab and found two of the student admins playing hide the sausage on server. They'd gotten energetic enough that they'd knocked the power cord from the wall. They were shocked, but I turned and left without a word.

Firing them the next day was kind of awkward.

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Angel

In another lifetime

Many, many years ago I was called in the middle of my sleep period (working shifts you just sleep "sometime") and apparently got a call and not only answered, but resolved the problem and hung up.

I had no recollection of ever having been called; although several people at the office at the time swore up and down that i had been on the phone (and coherent) and resolved the problem.

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Re: In another lifetime

I have had this sort of thing happen to me as well - In my final year of an undergrad degree we were doing a group project (four of us) and it is the night before hand-in. Like a good student, I had written up everything I had done and so had one of the others. We were left trying to chivvy along the other two so it could be proof read, munged into a consistent and coherent story and formatted before the deadline.

At some point in the wee hours (about 3 am) I kick back on the sofa to catch some sleep so that I have some energy to do the final polishing. When I wake up at about 7 I get a bemused look from the others - apparently I had been contributing meaningful and coherent material while I was asleep and everything was in a vaguely consistent shape.

Now, if only I could be that coherent in my middle-of-the night conversations with the wife - apparently "where is the um, where is the um, you know the um" doesn't mean much...

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Saturday oncall wasn't a day off but was entertaining

One Saturday as the oncall support specialist I was invited to join a rather large all hands conference call with a large customer's logistic site. Every vendor was on the call and so were many network and other IT staff from the customer. Basically our system was timing out trying to receive small data sets from an on prem. FTP server as well as trying to send data back. I reported in that it appears there is extreme latency or slow through put on the WLAN and that without better performance our system was down. I was thanked for my report and told to stand by. I then listened in the next hour or two until finally the network team from the customer determined that someone had plugged a network cable in the conference room back into another jack creating a loop back condition that was flooding the network segment. Once removed the network began to recover quickly and all was well with our system very quickly.

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Re: Saturday oncall wasn't a day off but was entertaining

Oops! No STP then? :(

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My deskphone was 2 digits transposed from the local police station

so I had quite a few calls from irate people insisting they had dialled the correct number and refusing to entertain the concept that I was not the police.

One memorable occasion was when a middle aged lady phoned up to complain about the immigrant family across the road having a "matrimonial disagreement". She was quite incensed about this, going on at length and not letting me get much in the way of a response in. Being rather annoyed at this distraction, I said "well, our armed response unit is on the range at the moment, and they are short their quota of darkies this week, so I will send them down in about 30 mins or so to sort them out". She all of a sudden went very quiet and said "oh. thank you" in a small voice and hung up.

I sort of felt guilty afterwards, and did scan the local papers for a few weeks, waiting for the headlines like "shock! police quota for immigrant violence" to occur (never did). Eventually I swapped my number with the fax machine and all was peaceful again.

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Back in the 80s at a large US bank - well, Chase Manhattan - one of our application leads left, and she was replaced by another woman. They were both named Alla, although obviously they had different last names.

You can imagine what happened. The data center never updated the numbers of the call list, which listed only first names by systems supported. So when a job failed, they called the wrong Alla in the middle of the night, and she automatically debugged the job without even thinking about it, and went back to bed. If was only when operations talked to the right Alla the next morning that they realized their mistake. They were at least gents about it, and called the other Alla to apologize.

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Anonymous Coward

It's a trap

"they had different last names"

Neither of them was Akbar, was it?

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Re: It's a trap

Hu?

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Moaning

In my student days as a part-time security guard, I once found a secretary on the office floor moanin, with a bit of rough on top of her. Definitely a case of coitus interrupt us.

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Every time this headline scrolls into view I momentarily see it as "I found the internet curled up on the data centre floor".

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