So THAT'S what it takes to change the boss's mind!

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It's the 1980s, and this office building's elderly security guard has just retired. But the building's owners decide to replace the human being with an all-electronic system, according to a pilot fish on the scene.

"We never knew how lucky we were," fish says. "That guard knew everybody in the building and would send the couriers to the correct floor every time. Ah, the good old days.

"With the new system, to get into and out of the building there were keypads you used to input a PIN code. When entering, the keypad was on the outside of a double-door porch area, and when leaving, it was inside the lobby."

Another tricky bit: After hours, the building alarm goes off if either of the front doors is unlocked for more than a few seconds. So getting in or out means entering the PIN, unlocking the door, going through, relocking it, unlocking the other door, going through and locking it again.

A bit slow with your keys? The doors to the "porch" lock magnetically and the alarm goes off. And one of the horns is right there between the two doors. And it's loud.

One night fish is on call when the pager goes off. But instead of the usual message of a customer number, case and reference, the pager's tiny screen just says "go into the office."

Must be a mistake, figures fish. "The office closed at 5 p.m. and opened at 9 a.m. There should be nobody in the building," he says. "I ignored that message and many more after it, till I got really annoyed and decided to head into the office to see what was happening."

When he arrives, fish hears the alarms going off -- and sees one of the bosses stuck between the front doors.

After fish lets him out, boss tells fish he has a bad key that's difficult to use, and ended up just a little too slow locking the first door -- upon which the doors magnetically locked down and the alarm began blaring.

In fact, the alarm was so loud that every voice message he tried to call in was impossible to understand over the din -- hence the simple but unfamiliar "go into the office" message.

"Now, all of us employees had issues with this -- many a time have I been stuck in that @#$%! porch with no way out," says fish. "We reported the problems to management, but nothing ever happened.

"But after it hit one of them, the alarm system in the porch was rapidly changed to add a keypad that was actually between the doors.

"Ah, seeing him stuck in there was such pleasure..."

Sharky gets his pleasure from seeing an inbox full of true tales of IT life. So send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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