Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Hero But for a Word

I came THIIIISSS close to being a hero at work.  If only I had remembered one word...
It started right as I got to the office.  
"The Office Manager is looking for you.  She needs you, NOW!" 
This is what the receptionist said to me before I could even get, "Good Morning," out.  I dropped my stuff in my office and went to find out what the problem was. 
It turned out the network was down in the new office space our Order Processing unit moved into.  No internet.  No phones.  No database.  Zip.  Our IT department, based in Houston, had given the Office Manager instructions to follow.  She had waited for me to show up. 
Now, I'm no IT expert.  But I am the one they call when things like this happen.  This mainly due to three things: I'm not afraid of computers.  I remember what I'm told.  I like solving problems.  Especially "insolvable problems."  If you don't fix it, it's no big deal because you weren't expected to.  But if you do...?  Then you become A Hero.  
I like being The Hero.
After finding out what was up, the Office Manager and I went to what passes as our "Network Room."  It's actually the general storage room which holds the network tree way in the back.
Once there, the Office Manager read off the instructions she'd been given.
"Reset the port."  
Hmm?  That was it?  I looked at the tree.  There were dozens of ports with lines running into them.  Which one was I supposed to "reset"?  And by "reset," I assume they meant to unplug the bad port and plug it back into some other port where it might work.  Or...  Did they mean, "reset the switch" which had the ports everyone in the affected area was plugged into.  
The Office Manager replied, "Reset the port.  That's what they told me." 
It took a while, but I was able to get our IT department to clarify what they wanted done.  They wanted me to reboot the switch that everyone in the affected office was hooked into.  The Office Manager had written down the port numbers of some of the affected work stations to figure out which switch it was.  Easy stuff.  I'd done things like this before.
Except, the port numbers I'd been given didn't match what was coming into the tree.  
It was looking more and more like one of those "insolvable problems" was what I had on my hands.  And the stakes were high.  While the network was down, we were paying people for checking their Facebook status on their phones.  And I was being told by IT that it would take "up to five hours" to get a tech out there to fix the problem.  If I couldn't fix it right away, a day's work would be lost.   
I will admit something right here, right now.  I can be quite surly at work.  Growling and being short with people.  I try not to be that way.  A cool truncated politeness is the best you can get out of me sometimes.  This is not news to anyone that has worked with me and isn't the insight into my personality I was planning on giving.  
The insight is this: I am at my surliest when I think I should achieve something when I'm not.  If I'm THIIISS close (I'm holding my thumb and forefinger a millimeter apart in front of my computer screen) to achieving the desired end, but can't seem to get there, I get frustrated and angry.  I want to hunt down whatever, or whoever, is keeping me away from my goal and throttle them.  Then stomp on their dead body and set it on fire.  THEN scatter the ashes across the continent to ensure that the particles making up my antagonist can never, ever come together again and reanimate.  
But...   If everything stands against me, and a gulf as vast as the space between Earth and the Milky Way core, without any possibility of a working Faster Than Light drive being created under the laws of physics as we know them, I'm a really nice guy to work with.  Honest.  Because I know IF I do somehow fix what's wrong, they will sing songs of praise about me in offices throughout the capitalistic world for generations to come.  It was in this mindset that I threw myself at the problem.  I was having fun. 
But sometimes, you don't get the breaks you want.  I knew there was something up with the numbering I was given.  Nothing matched what it was supposed to match with.  One computer that still had a connection was labeled with a port number that was empty.  Another one continued to work even after I unplugged it from the port that its numbering matched.  I began to think that whomever had wired the new office space had been blindfolded when it came time to label the tree.  They couldn't haven been THAT wrong, could they?  It had to be something simple. 
And once I started thinking that, that the problem was something simple being overlooked and that I was actually close to spotting it, the surliness began to bubble up inside me.  Where was it?  What was I missing?  
"Erick?  The Tech Guy is here."  
He came in only a couple of hours, much earlier than expected.  But after it had been decided to send everyone in that department home.  I came out to meet him.  
"Hi, I'm Doug."  
"Nice to meet you.  I'm Erick.  I'll show you to our network room."  
"Are you the IT guy on-site?"  
I sighed.  "No.  But I'm the guy on-site they call when they need something done."  I started to give him the same explanation I gave above, but he stopped me with a laugh.
"I get it, I get it.  You know a lot, but you're not trained, right?  Yeah, I get it."  
I took him to the network tree.  I explained everything I had seen, tried and been told.  He nodded.  He checked my work.  He confirmed that what I had tried had been reasonable.  
Then he looked up at me, a pondering expression on his face.  
"You said that you recently moved into that space, right?  Did they install an intermediate switch?" 
My mouth dropped.  "Intermediate."  I knew that word.  And what he was asking made perfect sense.  They wouldn't run ALL those connections through the building to reach this tree.  They'd hook them into a separate switch, an "intermediate" switch and run just one line.  
And if they had done that, I knew with complete certainty where it had to be.  
"There it is."  Doug the Tech Guy nodded as I opened the cabinet that was just inside the entrance to the new office space.  It was built over the phone machinery I had seen while they were remodeling the place.  
And I could see that almost all the lights on the intermediate switch were off.  
It took a moment to reboot the intermediate switch.  A few minutes more were spent verifying that all the machines were reconnecting to the network.  I signed Doug's paperwork as he was calling his office, reporting everything as all clear.  
I went back to my office and sent IT a message to order a back-up power supply and surge protector.  The intermediate switch was plugged straight into the office power supply and had probably been knocked out by a power outage or surge.  
I've been a lifelong nerd.  It's ironic, but in the post-google world we live in, I've experienced a loss of status.  People don't come up to me and ask things they don't know.  They pull out their phones and google it.  
Computer stuff, though, things related to the boxes that sit on their desktops THAT they still call me on.  It is one area that remains where my nerdy knowledge can rise up to save the day.  
As long as I remember words like "intermediate."  I'll not forget it now.  That's for certain.  


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