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It's the 1980s, and this pilot fish is taking a Cobol class where the professor's anger about her messy divorce is spilling into her classroom.

"One day I was having a seriously bad day, as my mother had passed away during spring break," says fish. "When I went to her office to ask a question, she demanded to know why I missed the point during class.

"I replied I was having issues due to my mother’s death. She retorted that the man across the street from her had died, yet somehow she gathered the strength to get to work. I was so taken aback by the bizarre comment I left."

A week later, fish is on his way to the Cobol class when the professor gets on the elevator with him and ignores his cheerful "Good morning, professor!" greeting.

Fish can see the box she's carrying requires both her hands, so as they approach the classroom, fish holds the door for her. She walks through without a word.

But when he puts the week's project on her desk, she immediately grabs it and marks "-5" on it in red. Stunned, fish asks, Why did you do that?

"She looked at me with a smirk and said, 'It's late!'" fish says. "I replied, 'But it's due today,' upon which she retorted, 'But you came in behind me.' I sputtered, 'I was holding the door open for you!' She said, 'Gee, that’s too bad!'"

Somehow fish survives her class, and the next semester he's hired to work in the new "Micro Computer" lab -- 30 early IBM PCs that won't let users save programs in Basic unless they're started by booting from a DOS disk.

Fortunately, there are printed instructions at each PC reminding users of what they must do to save their work.

One day fish's former Cobol instructor comes into the lab and, still trying to be nice, fish greets her with "Hello, professor!" She marches on into the lab without a word.

Two hours later, she returns to fish's desk. "The computer isn’t working!" she says. "I spent two hours typing my project and it won't save."

Fish follows her to the PC and spots the problem at once. Did you boot from the disk? he asks, pointing to the note taped to the computer.

"She turned red and stammered that she had not," says fish. "I then told her there was no way to save her program at all. She raised her voice an octave and said, 'Then that means I will have to type the entire program in again?!?'

"I said calmly, 'Gee, that’s too bad.' She grabbed her stuff and stormed out without saying a word."

Talk to Sharky. Send me your 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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