So when will you be able to do this?

This IT tech pilot fish picks up part-time work from a support company that uses a notoriously buggy online service to let techs accept assignments as their time permits.

"This service has well-known issues, and for at least the three years I've been using it, they still haven't been fixed," fish says.

"One day, an electronics retail chain requests a bunch of visits. Supposedly they can be scheduled over a range of ten days, any time the store is open, and should only take an hour and a half each. Oh, and they require two technicians for each visit."

Fish gets two assignments for stores that are 20 miles apart, accepts them and schedules both on a single day, with a four- hour cushion between them to make sure traffic won't be an issue getting from one store to the other.

A few days later, two more assignments from the same chain come in. Knowing about the ten-day window, fish figures that shouldn't be a problem -- until he opens the tickets and discovers that now the service indicates the visits need to be made "on or before" the ten days start. Huh?

Still, fish has some time available before the ten-day window starts. He logs into the scheduling website to accept the assignments -- and now the service insists that the work has to be done "on or after" the first day of the ten-day window. Time to contact the supervisor.

Turns out the supervisor is aware of the problem, and he suggests that fish accept the assignments so he'll have the work reserved. Meanwhile, the supervisor will keep working on a solution.

Then it's back to the scheduling website for fish to accept the assignments. But now the system has changed the requirements again: It will only let fish schedule visits on the first day of the ten-day window, and only at 10 a.m.

OK, fish thinks, two visits have already been automatically changed to that date and time, so why not? He clicks OK.

"Only now the site detects the conflict and won't allow it," sighs fish. "Hey supervisor!

"To review: Four visits that should be possible to spread out over ten days -- but they're only being permitted on one day at one time, and they can't be scheduled at the same time.

"And the total distance to travel to all four sites even if they can be scheduled: 76 miles. Scotty, beam me up -- there's no artificial intelligence here!"

Sharky relies on all-natural intelligence -- and your true tales of IT life. So send me your story at 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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