Think having a pager is bad? Try NOT having one

This bank's applications automatically generate text pages with error messages whenever problems occurr, reports an IT pilot fish who's part of the carry-a-pager rotation.

"You were expected to respond to a page within two hours," says fish. "You weren't necessarily chained to your home computer, and while pages were uncommon, you still had to provide a reasonable level of support.

"One Sunday, I drove out to our vacation house, about 75 minutes from our home. I chose Sunday to do this because none of our application batch scripts ran on Sunday, so it was extremely unlikely there would be a page."

But when fish gets to the vacation place, that's suddenly the last thing on his mind.

Turns out torrential rains have raised the level of the vacation house's pond by more than six feet, and the boat dock has floated away -- with fish's canoe still locked to the top.

Fortunately, the dock has floated to a nearby shore, where fish can retrieve it. He takes off his socks and sneakers, wades into the water and soon manages to pull the dock and canoe up the bank far enough that he knows they won't float off again.

"It was at this point I realized that my pager, which was clipped to a holder on my belt loop, was missing," fish says. "The holder was there, but the pager had fallen off somewhere."

He frantically searches the shoreline, wades back into the murky, muddy pond, and retraces his steps up a 600-foot hill -- but he comes up empty.

So when he returns to the office the next day, fish has to explain to the new IT director that he has lost the pager and will need a replacement right away.

In reply, his boss wisecracks, "Oh, so you thought you could avoid having to answer the pager by losing it, eh?"

Sighs fish, "I responded that, without the pager, I now had to periodically log into the server throughout the night, checking to see whether any issues had occurred. Far from making my life easier, now in order to provide diligent on-call service I would be giving up a restful night's sleep to poll frequently for potential problems.

"It took three days to get the replacement pager, but boy was I relieved to have one again!"

Sharky is frequently checking his email to see if your story has arrived. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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