We're 'not big enough'? Let's try that again.

Pilot fish is dispatched to his company's Seattle office to figure out what's wrong with a critical new semi-experimental system -- and then get it fixed, budget be damned.

"I arrive in Seattle, talk to all parties and run some diagnostics," says fish. "I then call the three vendors involved, and they agree to come out the next day to troubleshoot and repair."

But the next day, fish finds the three vendors in a conference room, blaming each other.

Fish decides it's time to take a different tack: A few months earlier, he got help on a similar problem from a high-level communications wizard who works for one of the three vendors. Fish calls the wizard, who says he can figure out and resolve the issue if fish can get his bosses to send him to Seattle.

Then it's back to the conference room. What will it take to get your telecom wizard to Seattle? he asks the local rep for the wizard's employer. "We don't have anyone like that," rep says. Fish identifies the wizard by name, title and other details. "Even if we have him in the company, we can't get him for this," rep says.

"I feel like I'm talking to an alien and ask him why," fish says. "He tells me we are not a big enough account."

As it happens, fish plays in a company bowling league with his company's head of Accounts Payable. He makes a quick call and asks the A/P guy if he's sent out the monthly equipment-lease check to this vendor. No? Then can you please hold the check and call our national rep and tell him I'm having a problem with the local rep?

Back in the conference room, the local rep won't budge. The phone rings. It's the vendor's national rep, who exchanges pleasantries with fish and then asks why the six-figure check is being held. Fish explains the situation and asks what it will take to get the wizard to Seattle.

National rep asks to speak to the local rep. Fish hands over the phone. Local rep's face goes from pleased to puzzled to ashen. He hands the phone back to fish and leaves the room.

National rep apologizes to fish for any misunderstandings, asks for the wizard's contact info and says the wizard will be on the next flight to Seattle -- at no cost to fish's company.

"The wizard arrives, spends an hour on diagnostics, locates a fault at the local telco office, and the problem is repaired," says fish.

"The system is now working fine and is reliable. I get big kudos -- and the local rep is never seen again in our Seattle office."

Anybody can be big enough to tell Sharky a story. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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