Honesty: definitely the most improbable policy

Flashback to the 1980s, when this IT pilot fish is working at a small college for a boss who doesn't know nearly as much about technology as she thinks she does.

Case in point: "The Friday before she was to leave for a week-long technology conference, I heard her office door shut and she walked to the front of the lab carrying a small box," fish reports.

"She said, 'Well, I'm out of here and will be gone next week, but if you need me just call my number.'"

Fish knows his boss doesn't have a cell phone. I'm confused, he tells her. Aren't you going out of town?

She gives him an indulgent smile and opens the box to show fish what's inside. "Yes, but I have my phone," she says. "I'll just plug it into my hotel room's phone jack so you can call me."

Um, it doesn't work that way, fish says. The phone number is assigned to the phone jack -- not the phone itself.

Another indulgent smile: "When I started here, I told the phone technician I wanted my phone number to follow me, and he gave me this special phone that allows me to plug it in anywhere!"

Really? fish wonders. Let's try it out! He unplugs his phone, plugs his boss's phone into his phone jack and then dials his boss's number on a different phone. It doesn't ring.

Boss immediately snatches the phone from fish and repeats the experiment -- with the same results. "You must have broken it!" she snarls and marches out, carrying her phone.

Bewildered fish isn't sure what's going on, so he hunts down the department head -- his boss's boss -- and tells him what just happened.

Department head just groans, then explains that fish's boss really did demand a go-anywhere-with-the-same-number phone from the phone tech -- and eventually he just made up a story to get her off his back.

And the department head never told her differently because he doesn't want her constantly checking in while she's on the road. This way he just promises to dial her number if he needs her, he tells fish.

"He instructed me to track down her hotel number, dial her hotel room directly and say, 'Oh, you know what? I did dial your phone number and it worked! It must have been a glitch before.'

"So I did, and after that each time she went out of town I would make at least one non-important phone call to 'her number' to keep the ruse going."

Sharky honestly wants your story. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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