Flashback to the 1980s, when this fresh-out-of-college pilot fish gets a job as a programmer at a big insurance company. "My first 'assignment' is to make sure that a daily report -- a full box of the old 11-by-17-inch greenbar paper -- is delivered each morning by 8:15 a.m. to an exec on the upper floors," says fish.

"I'm told by my new boss that it's absolutely necessary that the report is delivered by 8:15 and if it's not, there will be hell to pay when the exec calls to complain. I'm further told that this report is highly critical and that I was hired to replace the previous rookie, who was fired for late report deliveries on several occasions."

So fish make that 8:15 report his top priority; he even shuffles his schedule to arrive at 7:30 each morning just to make sure he has time to deliver the report. Having worked for this company part-time in the data center, he knows ways of collecting the printout even when the overnight batch job is running late.

And for months, fish gets the delivery made -- and his manager is so impressed that, after three months, he gets a promotion and a considerable raise.

But one morning, everything goes wrong. A storm delays fish's morning commute by an hour, the overnight jobs are backed up because of month-end processing, and power outages are slowing down the data center, too.

It's almost 9 a.m. when fish arrives with the 40-lb. report on the 40th floor -- where the exec's secretary tells him that fortunately the exec is away on a trip.

After calling his boss with the good news, fish asks the secretary why the report is so important. "Well, Fred's office is against the building's south windows, and it gets very warm by 9 each morning," she tells him.

But what does that have to do with the report? "Nothing really -- the report is obsolete," she says. "But it's the only thing heavy enough to keep his door open, and the cleaning women are instructed to remove any boxed reports that are on the floor each evening."

Reports fish, "At home that evening, I went down to the basement and made a simple wood wedge. Next morning, I instructed the secretary in how to use it to keep the door open, and told my boss about the report's 'important' use.

"We never heard another complaint from that exec -- or, for that matter, a thank you for saving the company $150 a day after stopping the 'critical' report."

Sharky's door is always open for true tales of IT life. Send yours to me at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

The Best of Shark Tank includes more than 70 tales of IT woe submitted by you, our readers, since 1999. Which all goes to prove, conclusively, that hapless users and idiotic bosses are indeed worldwide phenomena. Free registration is all that's needed to download The Best of Shark Tank (PDF).

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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