It's the 1980s, and this pilot fish works for a big large financial services company. "Our group provided 24/7 support, with one lucky individual doing a weeklong on-call rotation," says fish.

"Technology was changing, and at one point the pagers that simply paged you with a tone, and you called back a prearranged phone number, were replaced with shiny new ones that had a small window where an actual call-back number was displayed."

On fish's first weekend with the new pager, he collects the device, along with a foot-thick bound call book with the thousand job streams he's responsible for and a take-home terminal complete with acoustic modem.

And at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, the pager goes off. Fish gets up, sets up the terminal on his dining room table, grabs a cup of caffeine and calls back the number on the beeper.

But instead of a human answer, fish gets a computer tone. Must be a home number sharing a fax, he figures. He hangs up and tries to figure out what he's supposed to do next.

Then the beeper goes off again.

"At this point I was a little ticked, since we had a 30-minute response time standard and it had not been anywhere near that from the first page," fish says. "And whoever the incompetent person was obviously had no patience and couldn't even be bothered to enter a number."

So fish calls back the original number and gets the same computer tone response. Again he hangs up and thinks, what kind of pointy-haired idiot can't even pick up his phone before the fax grabs it?

Then the pager beeps again -- and again there's no number. Fish dials the original number, and gets the same computer tone as before. He slams down the phone. A few minutes later, the pager goes off yet again.

Furious fish is ready to murder whoever is doing this to him at 3:30 a.m. when he happens to flip over the pager and spots the phone number taped on the back. It looks very familiar. It should -- that's the number he's been calling back, over and over.

"So the idiot was obviously me -- calling the pager number, hanging up so no number was entered, getting the self-inflicted page, and starting the cycle over again," says fish.

"The bigger question was, who the heck had started the chain of events? No one ever called or complained about not getting a response, and all my fellow workers thought it was hilarious when I described being stuck in the loop of calls and pages."

Sharky's calling for your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Now you can post your own stories of IT ridiculousness at Shark Bait. Join today and vent your IT frustrations to people who've been there, done that.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon