There's book-smart and then there's phone-smart

It's the early 1990s, and this IT pilot fish and his boss are working on a project to replace the aging administrative systems for a state university system.

"We had office space in the IT building of one of the universities, but also had a larger classroom space on the main floor of that building, room 123, assigned to us as a project room," says fish.

"In that room there was a seldom-used phone line that was an extension of my boss's office line."

Not long after fish and his boss settle into their new space, the university's new president needs a place on campus to meet with a group of bigwigs, and settles on fish's project room as a usable location.

That doesn't bother fish -- he has other work to do, and his boss is going to be out of the office on the day of the meeting, so he thinks nothing more about it.

But the morning of that meeting day, fish can hear his boss's phone ringing frequently in the office next door. Hmm, when he gets back I'll have to tell he was really popular, fish thinks.

"Just before noon, the office manager for the IT department came by," fish says. "She looked at my boss's locked office, then poked her head in my door and asked, 'Just where is Fred today?' I said he was out, but asked if I could help her."

Office manager: "The president is meeting in room 123 with some very important people, and the phone keeps ringing and disturbing them. I contacted telecom, and they told me that the phone in that room is an extension of Fred's phone, and I came to talk to him and find out just exactly why his phone rings in that room."

Fish: It rings in that room because it's our project room, and telecom told us it was easier and cheaper to run an extension off his line than have a separate line in that room.

Office manager: “Well, telecom will be disconnecting that line later today. We can't have the president disturbed during his meeting."

Fish: Gee, you'd think a president would be smart enough to just go over and unplug the phone from the wall if it was disturbing him.

Reports fish, "She left my office stammering and red-faced. I'm still not sure if that was because she was embarrassed that no one else had thought of that solution, or if she couldn't believe I didn't have enough deference for the president to join in the panic party."

Sharky isn't quite ready to panic yet, but I could sure use more true tales of IT life. Send yours to me at You'll get a stylish Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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