Don't ask how I got back, I just did. Suffice to say that work frowns upon
management material that uses electrodes to gain client information. Especially when you
do it to the boss's in-laws. That's HIS entertainment.
So I'm back in the saddle. Unfortunately, that means there's a surplus of operators in
the computer room. One slam of the tape safe door later, the problem is solved. The
knocking dies down in a couple of hours, so I guess the safes really *are* airtight.
To welcome myself back, I send a message out saying there's a shutdown in 10 minutes. 5
minutes later I shut the system down. I love doing that. I see the hard-disk activity
lights flicker as the "disk recovery" phase of startup run through, globally
deleting journal files. Funny how we always start up with lots of free disk..
I just get Wolfenstein started and the phone rings. What the hell, I almost missed it
while I was away, so I answer it.
"Computer Room" I say
"THAT WASN'T TEN MINUTES!!!!" the voice at the other end screams
"What wasn't 10 minutes?" I ask in a pleasant manner. I can see that things
have deteriorated in my absence. Spare the rod and spoil the rm -r, that's what I always
"THAT! You said it was going to be te... >pause< "Who is this?"
"This is the Operator; who did you expect it to be?"
"Darren? Is that Darren?"
"Uh, No. Darren.. Darren is... unavailable... at the moment."
"Oh. Do you know when he'll be back in the control room?"
"Probably around the time of our next backup - the year 2007 or sometime
thereabouts I should imagine"
He's toying with asking me if he can recover their files or not. I let him dangle for a
"Was that all?", I say, nice as pie
"Well.... NO, it doesn't matter"
"Of course it doesn't. Would you like me to check if your files are ok?" I
"Would you? I'm a bit new to this system and I'm not too sure what to do"
"Sure. What was your username?"
Everything inside him is screaming at him not to say it - People beside him are
screaming at him not to say it.
He says it.
You just can't tell some people.
"Ok. Well, it looks ok to me, all your files are in perfect condition!" I say
"THEY ARE!! GREAT!!"
The relief in his voice is overwhelming
clicketyclickety "Yep. Both your x-defaults and AND your newsrc file are ok"
"But.. But what about my site monitoring data?"
"There were about 10 files in my research subdirectory, data I'd collected over
the past year."
"Oh. Well, I can't see anything. Perhaps you backed them up somewhere?"
"I put a copy in my girlfriend's account.."
"What was her username?"
"Uh.... pause Is he going to do it? Is he?
Like running down a snail with a steamroller...
clickety clickety "Nope, nothing there either. OH! Hang on, there looks like some
form of journal file in your account, it's quite large... I think maybe you should login
there and try to recover with it..."
I cat about 100 man files together and slop them in his girlfriends account under then
"How do I do that?"
"Ok; can you login yet?"
"Yeah, I think so..... Ok, I'm logged in"
"Ok, You need to run the file thru the mailer to clear the eigth bit, other- wise
the journal recovery will probably choke with an instruction error"
DUMMY MODE ON "Oh... How do I do that?"
"Well, you have to type in `mail root "Ok!"
"HANG ON! You have to type it with your nose."
I flip the excuse card till something appropriate pops up. "HARDWARE STRESS
"Well, it's got to do with hardware stress fractures. You probably type too hard
with your fingers which upsets the internals of the keyboard. It's got to do with dry
joints and electromagnetic inductance"
DUMMY MODE IRREVOCABLY ON "Oh. Ok"
"Now, you've got to type it in 20 times"
He hangs up.
I ring campus security
"Hey, we've got another crazy in the lab. Apparently he's typing with his nose. He
might be armed..."
3 minutes later I hear the shots. I close his account, he won't be needing it any
The phone rings. It's my Mum.
"Hi Ma, what can I do for you"
"Simon, I've got a problem at work, the floppy disk with all my personal stuff on
it is failing I think"
"Oh. Ok. Well, have you got any nail polish remover and some cotton wool
"Ok, take your disk out, and clean that brown stuff off the inside of the disk.
That's what gets the heads dirty. You should just have a nice clean plastic disk when
you've cleaned it completely"
"Oh, Ok Simon, Thanks"
"You're welcome. Oh; remember that time you wouldn't let me go over to Graeme's
place to watch videos when I was 11?"
"Oh, No reason.."
It's a warm afternoon in the computer room. I dunno, maybe I should turn the chillers
back on, but what the hell, I've got a cold and I need to keep warm.
I flip today's excuse card. Magnetic Interferance from Money/Credit Cards. Hmmm, vague
enough to be plausible. The phone rings
"Hello, Computer Room" I say "Hi!" the caller says "I want to
fit some RAM to my machine to upgrade the memory. I just bought some 8 meg chips off a guy
in town and wanted to know if you guys would fit it."
"Well," I say "normally we would, but today the technicians are busy
trying to gas axe open our tape safe to see why it smells - You could probably fit it
"Really? I thought that was dangerous?" she says
"Nah nah, it's safe as houses, just remember to get the chips out of those stupid
plastic bags before they stuff them up altogether"
"Really?! How do they do that?"
"Well, you've heard of static RAM right?"
"Well, Why pack static RAM in an antistatic bag? Sounds really suspect if you ask
me!!! Yours might even be stuffed already, so you'd better remove them.."
"Oh >crinkle crinkle< Ok. Now what do I do?"
"Ok, you'll need to get rid of the charge those bags have probably given your RAM,
after all, you don't want to blow up your computer, do you? Get rid of any woollens
you're wearing and switch to nylon. Run round some cheap carpet, then comb your hair a
couple of dozen times and then plug the chips into the comb to keep them steady. Turn your
machine on, then plug the memory in and out about 10 times to get the slots warmed up.
Then slop them back in, flick the power switch half a dozen times and that should do
"Don't mention a thing, all part of the service"
I leave for lunch - after all I have been here for 10 minutes solid - and walk past the
student labs. I hear a mass of beeping and look round to see a user's screen full of
garbage. They've either typed an image file or fingered my account and got the core file I
renamed as .plan. By the time he gets his terminal sorted out, his allocation of connect
time will be all used up. A tragic shame.
I get back from lunch early a couple of hours later and slip into the Usenet news
directory tree, slide on down to alt.binaries.pictures.erotica, then start deleting parts
3 or 4 of the really long gifs. (After taking a copies myself and overwriting them to the
last user backup tape, of course).
Then I get ready to watch the videos I got out from the video shop by taking the
printers offline and disconnecting the phone, and I notice that the frame-grabber video
player is gone from the office. Someone has obviously moved it while I was away...
I make some discrete enquiries under the threat of rm -r, and find out that the
secretary now has possession of it. So I mosey on down and ask to take it away. Only I
can't because I've got to sign *THE BOOK*, saying when it will be back, how many minutes
of tape I'm going to put thru it, if I'm going to be watching PAL or NTSC etc. Then it's
all fed into her *personal* computer (which I'm not allowed to touch because it doesn't
belong to us) so she can produce full colour plots about who's not working in the
I mention that it's not coming back - as I was the person that put the hammer through
the frame grabber in the first place, I should be the one to hold the video. She then
tells me that that's not acceptable, and I will have to find some other video to use, she
needs access to get to the video 24 hours a day, in case someone needs it. And because she
takes her PC home at night, I needn't think that I can fake any borrowing records. All
this I see for what it really is - a thinly disguised attempt to gain access to the seat
of power (The Operators Room) by the Bastard Secretary from Hell.
I decide to let it slide for once, after all she does get the snail mail into the
correct distribution slots about 20% of the time, so that can't be so bad.
Next morning, I get in about 2pm and find that I have three departmental memos about
the status of other stuff that is in the Computer Room that has been "incorrectly
inventoried" as "Awaiting Repair" (The shithead technician has been
leaking privileged information in an effort to score the secretary again - A tragic shame,
I used to quite like him..) with a note from the Big Boss authorizing the secretary to
investigate. Attached to all that is a note from the secretary herself stating that to
action this she requires a 24 hour access key to the Computer Room.
ONCE AGAIN I realise that letting things slide never pays off. I look up the
secretary's RS232, Ethernet, Appletalk and Phone port numbers and yank them from the comms
rack. What the hell, I kick the circuit breakers to her power points and lighting too
while I'm at it. Then I strip off some mains cable & plug it in..
The phone rings a couple of minutes later.
"WHAT'S HAPPENED TO MY ROOM?!" the secretary screeches at me.
"Your room?" I say, in a pleasant and innocent manner, using caller ID to
track down the room she's in. Ah! Just down the corridor
"Yes, MY ROOM! The power's gone off and everything is dead"
"Oh dear. What were you doing when the power went off? Perhaps you did something
"I did NOT! I was working on *my* PC!"
The way she says "*my*" is really getting to annoy me.
"You were working on *your* PC?" I say, reflectively.
"Yes!" She snarls
"Not your *own* *very personal* computer?"
"Yes.." She doesn't know what I'm getting at yet.
And now I exercise the basic law of Bastard Operating which roughly says, Bastard
Operators don't just win. Anyone can win. Bastard Operators win and totally DEMORALISE.
That's *real* winning.
"I hope you switched your machine off before you called."
"Why?" she barks, a little uncertain.
"Well, it's just that personal property isn't covered by the site insurance
policy. Why, if there was a power surge, heaven knows WHAT could happen to an expensive
piece of delicate *personal* machinery like..."
I hear her place the receiver down *very* quietly and sprint on tippee toe to the door.
As I repeatedly toggle her circuit breaker I start thinking about what I'll be watching on
video this afternoon... Still on the phone, I hear a bang way in the background which
probably means her pc has shit itself...
10 minutes later the phone in the control room. It's the secretary, and she sounds a
little stressed. I manage to translate her sporadic outbursts into a request that her
lines be connected to her terminal. I tell her they are, and has she got the technician to
look at it. She hangs up.
No sense of humour.
10 minutes later still, the technician rings up and tells me all the secretaries lines
are dead. I tell him I'll check them out, then plug her ethernet, phone and Appletalk back
in. Which leaves RS232...
Another 10 minutes later I'm startled out of my snooze by the phone. It's the
technician still greasing the secretary by being super-efficient. He tells me the RS232
still isn't working. I make some excuse about dry joints on the plug etc, and ask him to
put a new plug on the cable. I hear the >snip!< as he clips the old plug off, and
the receiver rattle as he starts to strip the wire in a manly way with his teeth. Then I
connect the mains cable to my end of the RS232.
As soon I hear the ">ERRRRRREEEERRKKK!<" coming down the receiver at
me, I know that the "incorrect inventory" problem won't be repeated.
Another problem solved by the Bastard Operator from Hell
It's a dirty, filthy, stinking dog-kill-dog job, but someone's got to enjoy it