Some people have all the luck

When an old masonry building needs some new network cable pulled, this pilot fish gets the task -- and he figures there's just one problem.

"Drilling those walls was loud," says fish. "I carefully measured and marked to clear the ornate trim on both sides of the door. I waited until after hours and put my hammer drill to the office wall.

"B-r-r-u-p-tttt, not a tough job, and soon I was ready to go home. Pulling the cable could wait. But I peered inside the office to check my hole -- and I had snagged 47 wires of a 50-pair telephone cable!"

It seems the cable has been neatly stapled to the door trim and painted over. And now nearly all the 20 phones in the building are dead.

Without phones, the staff will be paralyzed in the morning, so fish jumps into action. First, a quick trip back to his shop to call home and pick up his soldering iron and tape. Then a fast search to find something reasonably sturdy to stand on, so he's chest-level with the drilled-up mess, and a hat rack to set his hot iron on between joints.

Then the next hour is stand-up work to sort colors, twist wires, solder and tape -- and by the end, his back is strained and his legs are tired.

"It was a really ugly job, wires and tape sticking out every which way," fish admits. "But I thought I got them right, and secure enough to hold out until Ma Bell could replace my kludge. Still, I'd better test."

And sure enough, the phones ring -- but the lights showing which line don't work. Each phone has five lines, and the only way to tell which line is ringing is by the lights.

Fish knows one of the 50 wire pairs carries power for the lights, and his drill must have shorted the power long enough to blow the fuse. And that's in a locked telco-only closet. And nobody is at the telco support desk overnight.

With the office staff arriving early in the morning, there's only one thing to do: Fish leaves notes with key staff members, telling them that the phones are half-dead and they should call Ma Bell first thing.

"Next day I caught the Ma Bell technician," says fish. "He said my emergency repair looked functional, and he only changed the fuse for the lights. Turns out that fuse had failed before, and the staff had work-arounds to check each button for a likely call-in. They were glad for the notes but not upset.

"When I left the company a decade later, that repair was still in service."

Got lucky? Tell Sharky about it. 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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