back to article 'I found the intern curled up on the data centre floor moaning'

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday morning folly in which we usually feature a reader's tale of gigs gone goofy. But this week we're going to bring you two, because they're all both good but individually not quite enough for the usual On-Call experience. Let's start with “Pete” who once worked for “a large …

  1. frank ly

    A possible 'Laura' scenario

    What would really have brought Laura wide awake would be if after a few minutes of following her instructions, the caller had screamed and shouted, "They've all launched! The missiles have all launched!!"

    1. Haku

      Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

      The missile comment made me immediately think of this; This Is Not Happening - Jim Breuer - Bombing in Sears - Uncensored (YouTube)

      Background: There's a tv show in America called "This is not Happening" where comedians tell true stories of things that happened to them in their lives, often nearly unbelievable, almost always hilarious. The tv show trims the stories short to fit in the timeslot, the YouTube uploads are full-length.

      P.S. Long live PAINT!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

      Well, here's my Laura-like tale for the heap:

      Oncall. Woken at 3am by the mobile. (One of those wake-ups where you aren't sure at first what your gender, species, or planet is...)

      In an impeccable upper-class English accent, a gentleman on the other end of the phone tells my booting brain:

      "Hello. Elvis is dead. Can you do something about that please?"


      It eventually turned out that Elvis is someone else's software system, and he'd dialed the wrong oncall number, but I shall always remember that moment when reality broke down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

        "Oh. He's left the building, has he? And I suppose my refrigerator's running? And you've got Prince Albert in a can?"

      2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: AC Re: A possible 'Laura' scenario

        "....Elvis is someone else's software system....." Server and system names often go in fads dependent on what the sysadmins of the day had been reading/watching in college. It used to be very popular for VAX and early UNIX machines to be named after characters from The Hobbit, the next generation was often a lot of Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica, and nowadays I see a lot of Marvel comic heroes. Unfortunately, a very old set of systems in one branch of the civil service were all Greek deities because the names were not chosen by the sysadmins but set by the Oxbridge-educated mandarins, and it was a real bitch trying to remember how to spell Mnemosyne and Aigaion when dialing in remotely at 2am on a Sunday morning!

    3. Just Enough

      A better 'Laura' scenario

      “It was years ago, and we still laugh about it.”

      "We". Was this the start of something special?

  2. Allan George Dyer

    "Pete' has omitted some details...

    Like, who closed the server cage door?

    I hope the gift card was good, a week of intern's pay is pretty cheap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

      Well, most likely, it shut by itself when the poor sod entered in it ...

      1. Pascal

        Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

        What makes me skeptical on this one is that he has just the *one* call / voice mail? So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

          So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?

          Or call the fire department for a rescue?

        2. Midnight

          Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

          Making all those calls would run down the phone battery, which is needed for playing Pokemon.

          You've got to have priorities.

        3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

          "What makes me skeptical on this one is that he has just the *one* call / voice mail? So the intern didn't call 50 times in a panic, just once, left a voice mail, and waited the rest of the day?"

          Written as if by someone who has never had a debilitating phobia-induced panic attack. I'm surprised he got the one call off, personally.

          1. Juan Inamillion

            Re: "Pete' has omitted some details...

            Exactly. I'll never forget many years ago my then best friend at the age of about 16, getting locked into our rather small bathroom. He totally panicked and practically destroyed the room trying to get out. The lock was a simple slide bolt that was a little bit sticky...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    similar to Laura

    When working on call, for a big company, there was this painfull operator, who would call you at 3:00am with a very slow voice, like "Hello, Pete ... Hope ... you .... are ... well ?".

    One night, 3:00am indeed, said bloke rang on the mobile, unfolded his 3 mins long "hello" protocol, and then said: "wait, ... oh ... bummer ... I was after the other support group ... wrong ... number ... hope you'll sleep ... welll ... good night."

    I was so upset I could never sleep again that night ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: similar to Laura

      I used to work on call, I switched jobs partly to get away from it.

      We were a small firm who had a few ( by comparison ) large clients. Their main business hours were overnight.

      Very often I got a call that "something, I'm not sure what, is wrong, can you have a look", only to find out the next day that their boss was in the office and wanted to know why there were less transactions than they expected.

      As they were very important customers, I had to look into it.

      You don't need that shit at 3am.

    2. Snark

      Re: similar to Laura

      I had the same. Not a slow voice though, but a very cheery 2nd line guy who would be bright and chipper at 3am "Hey! How are you? What's happening" *bites tongue and doesn't go, nothing, its 3am, I was asleep, I'm grumpy because you woke me up, just get on with it".

      This particular night the phone rang, the cheery greeting and mumbled response. Then it went into "we have a problem on XXX, I already rang Y but then realised he was handling HP-UX and it's a Solaris system so he said to ring you". Then a slow "oh bugger, you aren't on call this week are you? Don't worry, I'll call who is on call".

      The only possible response was "no, I'll deal with it, no point to wake up the 3rd person tonight." Well, ok I checked who actually was on call and it wasn't someone I disliked, otherwise my answer might have been different...

    3. Snark

      Re: similar to Laura

      Another occurs to me. Management "escalations" and panicking when no one knew where the problem was yet.

      Management wanted everyone "ready to engage". So a 2am phone call telling me there might be a big problem, but no one was sure yet "just to make me prepared". Of course I didn't hear back from them spent the rest of the night unable to sleep and checking my phone to make sure it hadn't gone off and didn't hear a thing about it the next day to say the problem was fixed.

      That job went progressively worse on-call. Expect to get any details on the call as to what the problem is or what has been done before? Forget it, if you were lucky you'd get a ticket number. If you were unlucky you'd have to login and start pinging people to see who knew what the system was that had issues. Not on-call and forgot to turn your phone off, expect to get random calls instead of the on-call person "because they are really grumpy and rude when you call them at 3am and you helpful".

      My new job I'm not on-call. Whatever grief there maybe in the day, that makes it all worthwhile.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: similar to Laura

        Why is it that when people call you up at 3am they sound pissed off if you don't seem particularly bright and alert?

        You woke me up at 3am. You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone.

        1. 404

          Re: 'You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone.'

          Or when you fall asleep with your hands/arms under your head, THEY fall asleep, and you can't answer your phone even if you wanted to...

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: similar to Laura

          "You woke me up at 3am. You're lucky I could work out how to answer my phone."

          Those moments usually started with me banging on the clock/radio in an attempt to hit the snooze button. After a few unsuccessful attempts, my wifes voice would impinge on my madness saying, "it's the bloody phone you moron!" followed by her snoring again. Sadly, how she can get back to sleep so quickly is one of lifes little mysteries I shall always be ignorant of.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: similar to Laura

            I have a similar experience, although at the time I used an Iphone 4, both as my on-call phone and as my alarm. When abruptly woken at a godforsaken hour, I couldn't tell the difference in ring tones.

            I still get a feeling of intense dread when I hear the default iphone ringtone though. My dog doesn't like it either, although maybe that's because he senses my discomfort.

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: similar to Laura

      "Hello, Pete ... Hope ... you .... are ... well ?".

      In my experience, the operators on the third shift are often...quirky

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: similar to Laura

        In my experience, the operators on the third shift are often...quirky

        On the plus side, it can help keep things interesting. :)

    5. TimB

      Re: similar to Laura

      I've had a couple of call outs when I've either been the wrong team or not on call. I *always* make a point of getting it properly logged even if I'm not the right team. Occasionally, the helpdesk have realised I'm the wrong person and tried the apology followed by a quick hang up approach. That results in them getting called back to get the ticket reference.

      I don't have a problem with them waking me up at 3am for something that isn't my problem, but I'll be damned if they're going to worm their way out of paying me for it.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    What are the odds

    Laura now asks Reg readers to consider the odds of operations at one company dialling a the wrong number for the right person, at the wrong company.

    I saw something like it, one Sunday dinner time in the pub. The phone rang and the barman picked it up. "Can I speak to Andy, please?", he was asked. "Andy?", he replied. "Yeah, Andy the barman." The barman said, "Sorry, there's no-one named Andy who works here." The caller replied, "Oh, that is the Cotswold, isn't it?" "No, this is Copperfields. You must have read the wrong line in the phone book. But Andy from the Cotswold is sitting at the end of the bar. I'll hand you over."

    1. Ol'Peculier

      Re: What are the odds

      Few years ago I was in my local and the phone rang, landlord asked me to answer it (it was also a payphone), "Hello"... "Yes, this is the xxx"... "Speaking"... The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

        You don't think you might have a problem? ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The guy didn't have my mobile but knew where I drunk...

          You don't think you might have a problem? ;)

          Definitely yes, but not an alcohol one. ;)

      2. Nano nano

        Re: What are the odds

        "drank" ?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: What are the odds

          '"drank" ?'

          For the rest of us, yes, but, given his handle, maybe he was right.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: What are the odds

          "drank" ?

          Depends how much he had.

          "I drank a pint or two"

          "I drunk 10 pints"

        3. Allan George Dyer

          Re: What are the odds

          "but knew I was drunk..."


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are the odds

      In the past I used to be Novell NetWare sysadmin. One day I found in my mailbox a package from Novell - some software, apparently. But the name on the label was different and, while street was the same, house number was different. So it appears a postman managed to deliver a package to a different Novell sysadmin... How did he knew? ;-)

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: What are the odds

        This one is so weird I'm not sure I believe it myself anymore, but I swear it happened.

        I was walking through the local town with a couple of mates on my way to a friends house (this was before mobile phones mind) and as we were walking past a couple of phone boxes, one of them started ringing.

        I love that sort of shit, so I went over and answered. The other person on the line immediately new it was me (it was my mum), and in fact had rung to ask me to get something from the shop on the way home.

        When I asked her where she thought she had rang, she said my friends house. When I told her where I was she didn't believe me.

        A small bit of info, my mum used to work as an operator for BT and had a good memory for numbers, so it is just possible that the payphone number was lodged in her memory somewhere - but how and why she rang it we'll never know - she swears to this day she rang my friends' number.

        Weird eh?

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: What are the odds

          The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project that was never rolled out to the main network because of... well, I can't be too specific. But GCHQ and Area 51 may have been involved.

          All that's left of it now are a few stories like yours from the limited beta, a bricked up room in Martlesham, and an article that was supposed to be printed in the Fortean Times but was pulled for national security reasons.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            Re: What are the odds

            "The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project"

            Post of the week for me, have some virtual beer and 100 pseudo upvotes :)

          2. Nano nano

            Re: What are the odds

            They sometimes come as an extra bonus small brown-box package in the main Interocitor kit of parts.

            1. Midnight

              Re: What are the odds

              No interocitor part can be replaced. Bear this in mind while assembling. Use only genuine interocitor parts.


              Cal, are you gonna work naked again?

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What are the odds

            "The Transdimensional Personnel Locator was a BT skunkworks project "

            To differentiate it from normal phone boxes is the "Transdimensional Personnel Locator" painted blue, perhaps with a blinking light on top?

          4. Not That Andrew

            Re: Transdimensional Personnel Locator

            I imagine The Laundry gained a few new employees

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What are the odds

          This same thing was mentioned in a documentary I saw many years back about amazing coincidences. A secretary needed to ring someone and they rang the first part of their home number but accidentally substituted their payroll number for the last part.

          It rang a payphone and the very person just happened to be walking past and answered the phone. A very confused conversation ensued where the secretary was speaking matter of factly and the person at the other end just couldn't understand how she knew he was walking past.

        3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: What are the odds

          Mums have super powers. Everybody knows that.

  5. Admiral Grace Hopper


    During early-morning support calls I've often clung to the belief that most often it doesn't matter what decision you take, just that you take a decision. This mostly works. Mostly.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Laura

      Of course. I'd whatever it was has happened at 9am then they'd be happy enough to wait till 5pm for a solution or some kind of ackmowledgement. But since it's 3am they want a solution now, not an acknowledgement and certainly not at 11am. Unfortunately 3am is a very bad time to take decisions.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A member of my team

    was once working late in an office in Europe delivering an IT project. This was an office that generally was only for day-workers.

    Later in the evening he was challenged at gunpoint by security guards demanding to know what he was up to with all the "Komputers"...

    Had to call back to the UK head office to convince them he we there officially and with permissions.

    Seems that the night security team had not been handed over to properly which created a brown trousers moment for us to laugh at in posterity...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A member of my team

      So I'm working late - very late - in my badly-designed office with the desk fixed to the wall so I have to sit with my back to the door. It's summer and I'm in a short-sleeve shirt. Some prat has come into the building on the floor below me then gone home and set the alarm as he left. A few minutes later I move a bit and activate the alarm which is silent and connected to the security company.

      The first thing I know about it is when the security guy's dog puts its nose on the back of my elbow.

      The security guy laughs so hard he nearly wets himself.

      I just ... nearly wet myself.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: A member of my team

        My very first "computer" job was running S-100 bus machines for a kitty litter manufacturer. About 1984 or so.

        So the brand was "Mighty Cat" and they snagged a tiger from the retired circus animals for doing ads and promos. He was a sweetie unless it was lunch time.

        One day I'm coding away at dBASE procs and the door opens. I didn't pay attention until a frypan size paw appears in my lap. I look over and it's Mr. Tiger. So I reached over and started petting him and he laid down against my leg just like any other cat. I grew up on a farm where if you treated the animals right, they'd treat you right.

        I'll never forget how my hand sunk into 5 inches of tiger fur. That was just the plushest thing ever.

    2. JimC
      Big Brother

      Re: A member of my team

      Not quite as bad as that, but a past employer (before remote access solutions) had decided to stop having 24 hour building security, but had not informed the security staff about what to do if someone needed to work on past the hours or given them any management contacts.

      I was faced with a problem that was going to stop a significant percentage of the organisation logging in the next Monday morning, so was anxious to fix it before I left on Saturday evening, and of course I hadn't been given any out of hours access contact numbers either.

      Security guard, completely fazed by the situation - he had been instructed that on no account was anyone allowed to work after hours for any excuse - ended up threatening me with physical violence! So after a bit of directory searching I managed to find a home phone number for one of my line management and dumped the access problem on him. Half an hour later a very apologetic security guard came round to see me...

      But as I said when I requested that no action be taken about the threats of violence, what on earth was the poor bloke supposed to do? Security guards aren't generally recruited for their flexibility of mind in unfamiliar circumstances, and the poor bloke had been left with no reasonable course of action. The fault was entirely with his management.

      He and I became good mates after that! Its always as well for IT to cultivate a good working relationship with building security...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laura's Story....

    ...had this many many times.

    As we operate service desks for many other companies, many time I've had a call that's been filtered (read that has blindly passed across) by our internal 1st line and spent 30 minutes trying to fix an issue with our internal systems. Only to realise it is actually is the 3rd parties systems and should be covered by their support team, not the internal IT team.

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Laura's Story....

      As have I.

      I was working for a company that often had external contractors come in for brief stints on special projects.

      During their time at my company, they ha saved my direct number as half the Helldesk was populated by muppets who could only follow a script, and relied on direct comms with me to get the real work done.

      Months go by, and I hear from them again, asking for help on systems at yet another company, because the Helldesk there was fully populated by muppets.

  8. Locky

    Laura's Tale

    Used to happen to me too,

    Back in the late 90's working for a long gone CTI firm on the outer rings of that there London, it transpired that our DDI range was 0208 and the corropsonding 0207 numbers were Scotland Yard (presumerably published behind 08 NGNs)

    At least once a day one of us in the office had to stop someone confessing to something we really didn't need to know about

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: Laura's Tale

        "I'm sorry, I've got some very bad news for you...You've called the wrong number."

        You are the BOFH and I claim my five pounds.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Laura's Tale

          Hmm. I guess mis-dialing the BOFH would rather lead to conversations along the lines of

          "Doctor, did you get my test results?"

          "Yes. You've flunked."

    2. 's water music

      Number ranges

      I used to get regular fax calls to my voice line and eventually I connected a modem up to it in order the receive the fax. It was from a museum in Nicosia addressed to the British Museum with a single digit error in the number. I replied with the correct number. Nicosia kept re-sending the fax so I forwarded it to the BM. Nicosia contined to periodically fax my line and never acknowledge my responses

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Number ranges

        Nicosia contined to periodically fax my line...

        Well they never did get those marbles back.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Evil Graham Re: Number ranges

          "....Well they never did get those marbles back." The Elgin Marbles are from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, whereas Nicosia is in Cyprus.

          /need a "Pedantic geography Nazi alert" icon, please!

      2. Nolveys

        Re: Number ranges

        I got a fax on my dorm phone in uni at 7am every Saturday for several weeks. I eventually hooked up a fax modem and received some very confidential legal documents. I faxed them back, telling them that they had the wrong number but if they wished to continue to send me confidential information that I could leave the fax modem running.

        I never heard back.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laura's Tale

      We had something similar. The local police station's direct (non-emergency) number ended with the digits 991. Regularly people would try to phone the police station but instead of xxx991 they'd dial xxx999, which happened to be our IT support desk.

      We had another number in our block of direct dial numbers that was apparently one digit different to Comet's delivery helpline, we got some irate voicemails on that one.

    4. RFC822

      Re: Laura's Tale

      Aaaarrrgggg - it's bad enough everywhere else, but I'd have hoped that people on The Register would know better than to refer to 0207 and 0208!

      The area code for ALL of London (including the local numbers that begin with a "3") is 020. Not 0207. Not 0208. Not 0203. It's just 020.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Laura's Tale

        "The area code for ALL of London (including the local numbers that begin with a "3") is 020. Not 0207. Not 0208. Not 0203. It's just 020."

        Some of us remember when it was all just "01", but it's changed a few times since then. And no, I'm not old enough to remember when all calls had to go through the operator, "hello, can you get me Whitehall 104 please?

    5. usbac Silver badge

      Re: Laura's Tale

      Many years ago I had a phone number that was very close to the office number for one of our local District Court judges. I would get phone calls all the time from lawyers. I had great fun with that.

      A lot of the calls would be asking if a hearing or trial could be postponed. I would reply "so what date works for you?". Then, whatever the date, I would pause and rustle some papers, and answer "Okay, that date will work fine for his honor..." With all of the "failure to appear" rules, I wonder how it worked for them? God I hate lawyers!!

      1. Uffish

        Re: God I hate lawyers!!

        @ usbac

        Don't we all, but now you have the 'summa cum laude' distinction of having lawyers that hate you !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Laura's Tale

        Transpose the last two digits of my phone number and you get the local Chinese takeaway around the corner. To be fair, I only had a couple of numpties dialling the wrong number.

        Anyway, if some weasel wanted my phone number for "marketing purposes" in exchange for freebies, or I just didn't any contact with certain people, I would accidently swap the last two digits.....

        1. ICPurvis47

          Transposed numbers

          When we bought a house back in the 80's, the phone was already connected, and all was well for a while. A couple of months later, the local cab company had an incoming only phone installed at the local cab rank in North Street, but unfortunately, the number was very similar to ours, so we had lots of calls from people asking for a cab to pick them up from home or somewhere else (the pub?) and take them to town (or home?). We politely informed them that they had the wrong number, and that this was not the cab rank. We occasionally had calls at ungodly hours of the night, but we understood, until at 3 AM on Christmas morning, we were woken by a call. Did the usual explanation, and went back to bed. Five minutes later, same bloke, rather drunk, and extremely irate. Another polite explanation. Five minutes later, same bloke, swearing and threatening us with violence, so I had to go downstairs and unplug the phone line so he couldn't call us again, he would only get the opt-out tone. The very next working day I made a complaint to The Post Office (as it was then), and they issued us with a new number. Blessed peace!

    6. JimC

      Re: Laura's Tale

      A local phone direct managed to print my work number as being the number of xxx cinema. Amazing how many people could listen to a greeting message saying "This is xxx of xxx County Council's IT department" and then rant about the cinema having voice mail on. I soon appended "and if you wanted xxx cinema the correct number is xxx" to my voice mail message. Public service and all that.

  9. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Locked in a machine room

    I was working for a large telecomms company that had outsourced development of a call billing package to a supposedly premier UK based software company. The third party were provided with a rather obscure proprietary UNIX system (made by the telecoms company) to develop on, because that was the platform the system would run from.

    They proceeded to break it, and I was told to go up to London to investigate and rebuild the system for them.

    After I arrived and booked in, I was taken and left (unescorted!) in a machine room in a building just off the Tottenham Court Road in London, where I discovered that they had extended the /usr filesystem over the swap space (this was when you had sys-gen'd disk partitions - it was some time ago), and diligently sorted the disk partition table, and restored the filesystem from the backup tape.

    When I finished, I looked around. The machine room had no 'phones in it, and it was before mobiles were common. The door could only be opened with an electronic tag. There was nobody in listening distance of the door, no matter how much I pounded it. The only system I could log into was the system I had fixed, and there were no other users logged on.

    Something like 4 hours after I had finished, someone thought to look in on me. I was cold, thirsty, and really needed the toilet. I had toyed with the idea of the fire alarm, or turning random machines off to try and attract attention, and also considered lifting a floor tile and leaving a 'present' under the suspended floor.

    I cannot remember whether I received any form of apology. All I wanted to do was get out of there.

    And you can guess how I felt when just two weeks later, I got a call saying that this 'premier' software company had done exactly the same thing again (after being given an explicit report of what they'd done wrong previously), and could I go up and fix it....

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Peter Gathercole Re: Locked in a machine room

      " a machine room in a building just off the Tottenham Court Road in London...." I heard a tale of a cabler working in a well-known datacenter down by Vauxhall Bridge. Story goes that he'd taken the tile out of the floor under a rack and was trying to pull some cables up from the underfloor, when he slipped in and and got his upper body jammed in the underfloor space. With only his feet visible outside the rack, no-one in the noisy datacenter noticed! Unable to reach his mobile, the poor guy was stuck there for several hours before anyone thought to check on him. Apparently he was quite lucky he didn't suffocate, but he was less lucky in that his bladder didn't hold out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Locked in a machine room

      And you can guess how I felt when just two weeks later, I got a call saying that this 'premier' software company had done exactly the same thing again (after being given an explicit report of what they'd done wrong previously), and could I go up and fix it....

      Never said IBM was run by geniuses...

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Locked in a machine room


        Neither the company I was working for at the time, nor the one in London was IBM!

  10. Bumpy Cat

    Quite recent infosec support

    We recently received a large number of a specific scam message, and put a warning on our helpdesk portal. I work at an educational institution, so the helpdesk portal is visible to the outside web (and crawled by Google).

    Cue several phone calls from other people receiving the scam messages. I only twigged on the second call when the user couldn't provide their userid. I did help as much as I could ...

  11. chappers


    Does anyone proof read these as Laura who on one cold, dark might received a nightly mighty call

  12. OGShakes

    3 am call from 200miles away

    Ah I remember when I worked for a small IT support firm in Brighton (Sussex) that looked after Business and Residential clients. We had a note on our website and in the yellow pages ad that we did 24 hours support, but no one had made it clear this was for business clients only. So one fine morning I received a call asking for help recovering a laptop from a virus, from memory the conversation went as follows:-

    Me - Can I check which client you are calling from

    Them - Oh I am a new customer

    Me - Ok, not a problem there will be an extra surcharge for the out of hours service. Can I confirm your company name

    Them - I am not a company, I am a student and I think a virus has just wiped out my dissertation

    Me - I have to warn you our out of hours service is part of our business support offering and this callout will not be cheap. Is this something that can wait for our residential team to assist with in the morning?

    Them - No I have to hand this all in in the morning and I cannot lose it. Please I will pay anything just help me.

    Me - Ok what has happened and I will take some details so we can start to get the ball rolling.

    Them - I had a bluescreen flash up, now my laptop just keeps rebooting. It said something about safe mode but wouldn't boot in to that so I have put my restore disk in and now I am in windows but cannot find my files.

    Me - Ok, It sounds like you have reset your computer and may have deleted your files, do you have a backup? if not power off the computer and we will have to collect it to perform data recovery.

    Them - no backup, sorry, how soon can you get here?

    Me - whats your address and I will send someone along? As you are not a contract customer it will be £200 per hour including all travel time.

    Them - Manchester

    Me - I recommend you call a data recovery specialist, they will be cheaper since it will be 10 hours round trip for you to pay for, plus our onsite time. As you are outside of our normal cover area I will need to take a deposit of 50% of the expected travel, could you provide me with details of a credit/debit card I can charge £1000 to?

    At this point I heard them start crying and they hung up. Oddly they didn't call back. I do hope they got their file back and they were ok in the end.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: 3 am call from 200miles away

      @ OGShakes

      Since the advent of virtual learning environments in Universities, these kind of total loss incidents may have decreased in frequency. The literature survey, notes, key references and drafts will (usually) be uploaded in response to a series of deadlines set by the module tutor. The 'cloud' (i.e. dropbox/google files/whatever Microsoft calls skydrive these days) helps as well. For the students in the lower tail of the normalish distribution, I'd recommend a Chromebook if I was still tutoring at that level.

      Coat: I'm off out now 'cos it is a nice day

  13. brassedoff

    Firearms licensing

    The local plod revamped all their firearms licensing forms, sadly paying little attention to the phone number on the forms. As a result, we had a few weeks of guys on the shop floor getting phone calls about punters wanting to renew shotgun licences.

  14. d3vy

    Not quite as random as in the article, but when I was *much* younger I was trying to phone my uncle (This was back when phone numbers were still 5 digits) anyway I thought I could remember his number so I dialled it from memory and he answered. However the number that I remembered was not his, it was his father in laws number who he just happened to be visiting...

    I also remember reading something in a magazine (back before the internet came along and ruined everything) about some manager at a company who tried to call his secretary on her day off but mis dialled and instead called a public pay phone... which the secretary just happened to be passing so she answered it... I have no idea how much truth there is to that, but I suppose it could happen.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      "but I suppose it could happen"

      It can indeed, I posted such a story above - no idea how it happens though.

      1. Mark 85

        This definitely falls under the FM* Option.

        *Freakin' Magic

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        I presume it's geographical numbers

        Payphones will have originally had phone numbers assigned from the same block of numbers as the homes nearby.

        So a 1-digit change gets a phone near the home, and if that happens to be a payphone then it's probable that it's a payphone near their home.

        So the probability is higher than pure random that the right person is near enough to the payphone.

        On top of that, nobody ever remembers the millions of times somebody phones a wrong number and gets the wrong person, only the occasion where the right person was on the wrong number.

  15. Alistair

    One of the incident folks I'd known for a few years changed companies. Ran into a linux issue at the new company, and without really thinking motor memory called me.

    For what its worth, it was 3 in the afternoon, but it was still a chuckle and a half.

  16. Tom 7

    Not so much on call

    as doing an all nighter watching a job that needed to be finished asap and ran on an old OS on the same machines that ran Prestel. The job would just stop for no apparent reason and when restarted carry on quite happily. So there I was every twenty minutes of so banging a couple of keys to see if it was still running and around 2 in the morning I started to doze off and leaned forward to press myself into a standing position to go for a walk and the roll chair shot backwards and up the wall behind me leaving me face down on the floor with the chair pressing me down in a position that even your most supple porn star couldn't achieve. It bloody hurt and I couldn't move without it hurting even more. I think I stayed it that position for three hours until my back went into spasm and I think I dislocated both shoulders and my hips involuntary forcing my way through the side of the desk I was trapped under.After an hour or so of rolling around putting myself back together I went and found another terminal and restarted the job and finally logged out at 10 in the morning after it finished and it being a Saturday went to the pub for the rest of the weekend.

    The worst bit came on Monday morning when no-one believed my explanation as to why there was a wrecked desk and monitor, a chair with two broken wheels and a filing cabined that had somehow got involved and needed cutting open with a hacksaw as it was so badly dented two drawer were jammed. I was not inclined to demonstrate and still am not sure how I managed to get stuck in that position let alone get out of it.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Not so much on call

      Which is why nobody should ever be lone working.

      Things can go oh so very badly wrong even when you're sat at a desk.

  17. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Early hours of the morning

    While I was working in the support center of one of the major IT suppliers, I was awakened by the pager in the small hours of the morning.

    When responding to the call center, the operative said "I hope you don't mind, but the customer has asked who was on standby before they placed the call". Obviously, the customer had different opinions about the people who were on the standby rota. Apparently, I had passed their vetting, and I called them up.

    I then spent about 20 minutes listening to the details of the problem, interspersing a few appropriate noises. At the end of this, the customer said "OK, I think I know what I need to do now".

    I said, "But I've not given you any help or assistance", to which she replied "No, but you let me describe the problem to someone who would understand it, which has allowed me to think it through".

    I said that I would be available if she needed to call me again, and she thanked me, and hung up. I did not hear from her again that night, so her solution must have worked. Easiest call-out I ever had.

    I came across her again several years later after I had started contracting. Apparently, my CV passed across her desk for a role they were trying to recruit, and she remembered me (not just form the call described above, but from other support calls). I got a rather bemused agent on the phone, who said that she's called them unprompted to say that the role was mine if I wanted it, without any interview, and at the highest rate he'd been told to recruit at.

    Unfortunately, it was London based, and I was not looking a role in the Capital. Still, it's nice to be appreciated sometimes.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Early hours of the morning

      I've noticed that once you reach a certain level in this business, reputation counts for a lot more than qualifications or a well polished CV.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Early hours of the morning

      "I then spent about 20 minutes listening to the details of the problem, interspersing a few appropriate noises. At the end of this, the customer said "OK, I think I know what I need to do now".

      I said, "But I've not given you any help or assistance", to which she replied "No, but you let me describe the problem to someone who would understand it, which has allowed me to think it through".

      I've done that myself a few times over the years. You try everything in your arsenal to get the job done 'till eventually you give up and phone for help from your team. Sometimes, just the act of dialling the phone brings the eureka moment, sometimes you get as far as actually speaking to someone. The brain can be a strange thing at times, especially at stupid'O'clock in the morning.

  18. Caesarius

    Strange phone call at work

    I received a call that the switchboard had put through to me because the name matched. The garage told me that my car was ready, but my car was not in for repair. It turned out that the car owner lived a dozen miles from me. So how did they get my work number, since there was nothing to link me to the company (so soon after joining, and, in 1983, so no Internet presence)?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmm it occurs to me much mischief could be made by scouring company, and more likely gov / edu websites for "on call number" .

    perhaps if you own Technical support are no help , someone elses could be ....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ex-contractor

    We had a contractor come work for us who was apparently a Domino expert, he was coming up from London to Glasgow, so a bit of helping him with letting agents and stuff went on and he got to work.

    Only he didn't provide any skills training to anyone (core part of his contract) disappeared at odd times and generally was a pain while telling everyone he was a genius, but his skillset stopped at the Domino console, even basic tasks seemed beyond him (pasting text into excel, adding a print queue).

    Anyway after 6 months he was let go and off he went, still muttering about how everyone else was no good and he was the genius...

    skip forward three weeks and the weekend shift lead gets a ping from a lad in India "x is on the line and wants to know when y will be back from lunch"

    "why is he calling that line?"

    "oh he often calls in to speak to y and his team"

    Transpires he'd got a new gig and was calling up people in our Domino support group for guidance on how to do tasks!

    We invoiced him, he never called back

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The ex-contractor

      Sounds like his Domino expertise was limited to how much cheese to put on the pizza and someone mis-read his CV.

  21. nerdbert

    Get a room! But not the server room!

    When I was at university many years ago I ran the computer network of the Electrical Engineering department (long story, involving a VMS admin who had tried to run the Unix systems with disastrous results and I got drafted to take his place on the Unix systems because my systems had never been under his administration and everyone liked how they worked).

    One night close on midnight I had complaints that one of the labs went down. I checked and sure enough, the server for that lab was down. I walked down to the lab and found two of the student admins playing hide the sausage on server. They'd gotten energetic enough that they'd knocked the power cord from the wall. They were shocked, but I turned and left without a word.

    Firing them the next day was kind of awkward.

  22. earl grey

    In another lifetime

    Many, many years ago I was called in the middle of my sleep period (working shifts you just sleep "sometime") and apparently got a call and not only answered, but resolved the problem and hung up.

    I had no recollection of ever having been called; although several people at the office at the time swore up and down that i had been on the phone (and coherent) and resolved the problem.

    1. HeliosFA

      Re: In another lifetime

      I have had this sort of thing happen to me as well - In my final year of an undergrad degree we were doing a group project (four of us) and it is the night before hand-in. Like a good student, I had written up everything I had done and so had one of the others. We were left trying to chivvy along the other two so it could be proof read, munged into a consistent and coherent story and formatted before the deadline.

      At some point in the wee hours (about 3 am) I kick back on the sofa to catch some sleep so that I have some energy to do the final polishing. When I wake up at about 7 I get a bemused look from the others - apparently I had been contributing meaningful and coherent material while I was asleep and everything was in a vaguely consistent shape.

      Now, if only I could be that coherent in my middle-of-the night conversations with the wife - apparently "where is the um, where is the um, you know the um" doesn't mean much...

  23. TheAssassin

    Saturday oncall wasn't a day off but was entertaining

    One Saturday as the oncall support specialist I was invited to join a rather large all hands conference call with a large customer's logistic site. Every vendor was on the call and so were many network and other IT staff from the customer. Basically our system was timing out trying to receive small data sets from an on prem. FTP server as well as trying to send data back. I reported in that it appears there is extreme latency or slow through put on the WLAN and that without better performance our system was down. I was thanked for my report and told to stand by. I then listened in the next hour or two until finally the network team from the customer determined that someone had plugged a network cable in the conference room back into another jack creating a loop back condition that was flooding the network segment. Once removed the network began to recover quickly and all was well with our system very quickly.

    1. Adam JC

      Re: Saturday oncall wasn't a day off but was entertaining

      Oops! No STP then? :(

  24. OzBob

    My deskphone was 2 digits transposed from the local police station

    so I had quite a few calls from irate people insisting they had dialled the correct number and refusing to entertain the concept that I was not the police.

    One memorable occasion was when a middle aged lady phoned up to complain about the immigrant family across the road having a "matrimonial disagreement". She was quite incensed about this, going on at length and not letting me get much in the way of a response in. Being rather annoyed at this distraction, I said "well, our armed response unit is on the range at the moment, and they are short their quota of darkies this week, so I will send them down in about 30 mins or so to sort them out". She all of a sudden went very quiet and said "oh. thank you" in a small voice and hung up.

    I sort of felt guilty afterwards, and did scan the local papers for a few weeks, waiting for the headlines like "shock! police quota for immigrant violence" to occur (never did). Eventually I swapped my number with the fax machine and all was peaceful again.

  25. vinyl1

    Back in the 80s at a large US bank - well, Chase Manhattan - one of our application leads left, and she was replaced by another woman. They were both named Alla, although obviously they had different last names.

    You can imagine what happened. The data center never updated the numbers of the call list, which listed only first names by systems supported. So when a job failed, they called the wrong Alla in the middle of the night, and she automatically debugged the job without even thinking about it, and went back to bed. If was only when operations talked to the right Alla the next morning that they realized their mistake. They were at least gents about it, and called the other Alla to apologize.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a trap

      "they had different last names"

      Neither of them was Akbar, was it?

      1. Steve Aubrey

        Re: It's a trap


  26. Tessier-Ashpool


    In my student days as a part-time security guard, I once found a secretary on the office floor moanin, with a bit of rough on top of her. Definitely a case of coitus interrupt us.

  27. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Every time this headline scrolls into view I momentarily see it as "I found the internet curled up on the data centre floor".

  28. x 7

    around 30 years ago I used to get regularly woken at night by a synthesised robot dalek voice repeating a French phrase beginning "Vendredi..........."

    I couldn't track down the caller, and had to put up with it calling several times a week at around three in the morning. After a few months it went away

    Then around a year later, I read a newspaper report of someone else who had the same problem and the newspaper had tracked it down to an automated alarm system linked to self-cleaning toilets..........seems it originated with one of those street superloos that were imported from France and the bloody thing had run out of soap / paper / hot air or shit or something.

    Why the thing was dialing me in Suffolk was anyone's guess, and why the hell it always started "Vendredi........" when it could happen any day of the week is another mystery.

  29. JimC

    Reading through the BOFH style responses

    to wrong numbers, I do wonder how many tabloid exposes of evil doing by some organisation or other have a similar genesis...

  30. kain preacher

    I found the intern curled up on the data centre floor moaning

    I thought this was going to be a story about PFY that mind was frie by PHB that kept on asking him stupid things.

  31. Cpt Blue Bear

    Security cages

    Oh deary me years ago I worked as a junior muppet assembling PCs for the local office of a once quite well known Singapore hardware company. (I presume I did something terrible in a past life). The "facility" consisted of "nice" end facing the public and a warehouse. The latter was quite large considering and housed a steel cage where all the valuable stuff was stored - RAM, HDDs, CPUs basically anything easily pinchable. One of the jobs for a junior muppet was collating build sheets and taking result down to the warehouse with a trolley to pick the parts.

    Now the door on the cage was sprung so it couldn't be left open but would swing shut and lock (can you guess where this is leading?). One junior muppet unlocked the cage, stepped inside and started picking only to hear the distinctive clang and click of the door. The problem was he had left the key on the trolley and just out of reach.

    He was rescued an hour later when one of the grown up techs came out for a smoke.

  32. Cpt Blue Bear

    Wrong numbers

    A mate's parents live in Far North Queensland (if you wonder why I capitalise it, you've never been there). There phone number was one digit off that of the local Base Hospital. This was long before the days of mobile phones and drink driving capaigns so they would get regular calls in the wee hours from some poor bastard who'd been a car crash and walked great distances to a pay phone to call an ambulance. Such people rarely seem to have change for more than one call. They drove out to pick up so many people that a wag at the hospital made up ambulance signs for their station wagon.

  33. All names Taken

    History or potential future?

    I wouldn't like to comment on past stuff no matter how laughable but! And to do it more justice -


    It seems that the distribution of utilities may be switching from centralist control to IoT upon demand control. Now that looks interesting, hopeful and not without challenge.

    Here you go IoT link:

  34. Wils

    I had an interesting incident.

    We had a 2 Mb BT Surestream DSL connection which was constantly throttled. I would phone BT jump up and down and the line would start running at full speed for about a week before the cycle started again. This went on for a years. Obviously BT never found a problem, but the line would suddenly fix itself for a bit. At that time BT were the only carrier for that exchange.

    One day a mass marketing letter came through the post whistling about BT's wonderful data service. It was at a time when BT were being investigated (once again) for their monopolistic practices. The letter was from the Director of Sales at BT. I looked him up on the Internet and there he was with the other 12 board members. For some reason the guy had put his email address on the flier (10's of thousands of these things must have gone out).

    In a moment of madness I banged out an email rant to this guy explaining the s**t service and that I couldn't wait to drop BT. To my surprise I got a brief response saying "we want to keep your business". Shortly after I got a phone call from a senior engineer at BT saying he's looked into the problem and was wanting to know how the DSL line was performing. Every day for the next week the guy called me, for the next two months he would call every two or three days. I asked if my email had really got to the Director. I was told that it had and the reply was from him, my problem had been made a top priority. For about 3 months the line performed flawlessly. Then one day the performance dropped off. By that time the exchange had been opened up to competition so switched to a new carrier.

    To this day I'm amazed that my rant email got to a top man at BT, not only did he respond, but put a senior engineer on the case. I did wonder if he ever made the mistake of giving out his email address. Anyone who has had the misfortune of trying to get past BT / Open Reach call centre will know what an unbelievable story this was.

    1. Cian Duffy

      I actually worked on the team that dealt with the complaints made to directors in BT at one point. 24 junior enough support agents - but with greater escalation and refund powers - in Dublin pretending to be in the UK as many complaints solely demanded an onshore call centre.

    2. All names Taken
      Paris Hilton

      Was it a dream?

      Is it really BT?

      The same BT that would wait 3 months to reconnect a residential phone line?

      If so, perhaps it has caught up to the 21st C?

  35. harmjschoonhoven
    Thumb Up

    Accidents happen,

    so carry in hazardous situations or when working alone a safety device like the NIROS TX 606. It is a battery operated radiotransmitter with a range of some 300m, communicating with an automatic telephone alarm system. The transmitter is activated when the device is not held upright, i.e. if the wearer falls, gets an incapacitating electrical shock, etc., unless a reset button is pressed. A very nice piece of antique hardware, containing three mercury switches.


      Re: Accidents happen,

      Or a pineapple style hand grenade with the pin out would have a similar effect..

  36. sjaddy

    Before banks moved to "national" numbers back in the 90's they had local numbers. Barclay's moved their Hertfordshire numbers to the Watford branch with a new number.

    The phone number for the Watford branch of Barclays had the last few numbers the same as our home number in Bushey (482000 for watford and 4820 for ours). People would often dial our number thinking they were calling the Bushey Barclays because they hadn't read the full phone number.

    There were a number of times I would come home and find that someone had left a message on our answerphone thinking they were calling Barclays and leave their name, account details and phone number asking for someone to phone them back.

    This was back in the days before most people had heard of the internet so if they were that willing to leave their details on a strangers answerphone I am not surprised they are taken in by so many scams nowadays.

    Barclays response to us when we contact them over this was telling us to change our phone number to stop us getting these calls!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police Station blues

    I was working oncall fro the Met police and had to attend a small police station to fix a CRIS terminal, I was told the keys to the station (only manned from 9-5) we in the letterbox outside, after retrieving the keys and fixing the terminal, i thought I would be a good idea to try on the various tit headed head wear that littered the small/house station. I was soon alerted to a loud banging on the outside window so in my tit headed state i looked out to see a man of who resembled Glolem holding a knife and screaming for me to arrest him, visions of precinct 13 were starting to form in my head, until the Golem faced character started laughing his head off and was joined by several other officers who had been altered to me breaking into there overblown tea room by an alert member of the local golf club, They let me keep the hat BTW, its a souvenir in my man cave.... did i tell you about the time i got bitten by fleas in a blockbuster video or am i that old help mummy

  38. C-L

    3am conscious or not?

    1973 or 1974. 3am call. Bla bla bla is nor working. I am diagnosing problem. Some database indexes went left when the rest of the database went right. Names, account numbers, addresses - none have any relationship to each other.

    On the phone is one of the brighter operators and so I dictate an assembler program(!) along with all the JCL (IBM mainframe-land!) to create a program that will recreate the index in-situ and then re-run the job. All is well.

    Morning the next day. I walk into my office and there are several big THANK YOU NOTE on my desk. Huh? Operators and their supervisor all signed.

    WTF??? I go to the computer room and eveyone is smiles and thankyous fly for saving the production run (also month end and quarter end!)

    I have no idea what is going on, but they tell me the night's events as I wrote above: diagnosing, dictating, recreating the indexes, but TILL TODAY I have zero memory of the event of my own - only the stories of the operators. Needless to say I panicked and immediately checked the program "I wrote". It was pristine, it was brilliant, it was impeccable! I called my wife, she confirmed I was on the phone for over an hour and seemed to dictate something technical.

    I decided to tske credit on condition that I can apply the overtime pay to several rounds at the local bar to all operators, supsn and 2 managers. I really deserved none of that - someone did, but no one knows who exactly.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like