Definitely not something to make light of

Contractor pilot fish comes back from lunch one afternoon in early December to a corporate data center that looks like it's been abandoned.

"I find the junior computer operator in shock," fish reports. "Silence reigns in IT, and Operations is clearly the scapegoat."

Fish soon gets the story: Power has gone out for the office full of programmers. They've gone to lunch in disgust, having first terrorized the junior operator with dire threats if the power is not back on in an hour.

Junior has done all she can -- called Maintenance to track down the power problem -- so she hands the problem off to fish and flees to lunch.

"Maintenance seems to be having a long lunch too," says fish. "All cubicles are still dead as doornails by 1 p.m., and programmers swarm around me buzzing angrily. The programmer team manager stops by to tell me that Operations is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

"I mention that he hasn't logged this call with the help desk. He ignores this and waves his arms in the air."

Fish remembers Rule 1 of the contracting game: Always know where the circuit breakers live. A quick stroll down the hall, five breakers reset, and suddenly the PCs come back to life and the programmers go back to work.

Just about long enough for fish to return, anyhow. "Next thing, one whole team's PCs go dead again," fish says. "Uproar! I approach the row and investigate a new, undocumented feature: The separator dividing eight desks into two teams is festooned with lots and lots of strings of Christmas-tree lights. How lovely!

"I track wires to sockets and unplug them, return to that breaker and reset it. Walking back, I notice the programmer team manager plugging lights back in, whistling a happy tune. Well, who am I to criticize company staff? I'm a contractor -- lowly scum, a necessary evil, hired for the season.

"Seeing the Maintenance head honcho on the way into the building, I grin and put him in the picture. Maintenance guy works for the company and is very irate at being called out while his entire team is enjoying a free Christmas lunch."

That's when fish and the just-returned junior operator get to listen straight-faced as the Maintenance honcho chews out the programmer team manager for endangering lives and jobs and violating union rules.

And when the programmer team manager makes noises about stringing the lights to boost morale during the holidays, Maintenance honcho roars, "We've got a junior operator in tears over a problem you caused! You're a walking fire hazard! Is this your idea of Christmas team spirit? Don't you think my staff is busy enough?"

Sharky's busy shipping a bunch of French hens, turtle doves and partridges back where they came from, which is why you're getting holiday-themed tales from the Sharkives this week. But don't forget to send me your own true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp 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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