back to article When you're On Call, only you can hear the silence of the clicks

It is Friday the somethingth of Marchtober. No, we're not sure anymore either. Still, even in these troubled times there remains a crumb of comfort to be gleaned from the oopsies of others. Welcome to On Call. Cast your mind back to The Before Times. The mid 2000s, to be precise, where our protagonist, "Bob", was gainfully …

  1. Sampler

    Classic Errror

    Never, ever drink on call, you can guarantee that will result in a call, a pretty nasty one too.

    I used to like our on call procedure, we had pagers, but, when out of network, they didn't receive any notification, even when they re-joined the network, so you could show the pager and be like "didn't get it boss".

    Was a good couple of years I got on call bonus whilst living in a network deadspot..

    1. wyatt

      Re: Classic Errror

      Very frequently I find myself also on call with someone who has 'really poor' phone signal in their house. Or, as they work in the City, any calls that come in whilst they're underground travelling home come to me as the next in the line.

      Unfortunately for them as I'm not trained in the same products as well they stack up ready for when they do answer the phone.

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Classic Errror

      In principal I'd agree with you but as IT Manager for a multi-national with a very small team I'm sort-of on call 24/7 (although the New Zealand office did have the decency to wait until 06:00 our time before ringing me recently). The plus point is that as I'm not actually contracted to provide the coverage I can, and will, ignore them if I wish, which I'll do if I've had a few beers or if the person ringing is an a******e (like the manager at a previous employer who called 3 times in the early hours of the morning because he had a spreadsheet problem)..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Classic Errror

      try doing out of hours planned maintenance with someone else remotely who has alcohol issues..........

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Classic Errror

        "double click on the bar !"

        "dont mind if i do , i think i'll join you . bottoms up!"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Classic Errror

      Not IT related, but my experience with a pager. It was back in the late 1980's and I was on 24/7 call to arrange vendor inspection for a large multi-national oil company. I received a simple pager - it just beeped - no message facility back then. Also, no mobile phones (bricks installed in cars were just becoming popular show-offs). In rural Scotland, there seemed to be very few dead spots for that pager - out in the middle of nowhere with the family and I'd get the dreaded beep-beep-beep! Then it was a case of trying to remember where I last saw a phone box (or a pub - probably nearest but usually so noisy I'd struggle to hear anything on the phone). The rule was to phone back to the company emergency desk where I'd get a message regarding what was needed. Then a second phone call to find out what was really needed (all too often an arbitrary delivery deadline - kit must be on the Sunday boat - was no longer urgent as the boat had been delayed until mid-week). Finally, if needed, a third call to one of the on-duty inspectors.

      If anyone wonders why I took the liberty of going gallivanting whilst on call - I'll reiterate it was a 24/7 setup and I didn't get any extra pay for the "privilege". I did it because the inconvenience was less than the mess I'd have to clear up when back in the office (because a vital bit of kit actually *was* needed on the rig and the downtime was costing $100,000 per day)!

      I enjoyed that job (for five years before manglement decided the problems they'd hired me to fix had been fixed - needless to say, the problems started to return a year or so after I left because I'd been the fix - knife and forking the issues that didn't fit the norm). I learned a lot and made contacts that stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Classic Errror

        Late 80s?


        That would have been just out of range of NMT450 coverage, then. (Both Norway and Denmark had networks with range extending far out to sea)

      2. Andy A

        Re: Classic Errror

        I remember well the days of pagers with just a beep. They were great tor escaping from annoying people in pubs.

        1. Head to the pub toilets.

        2. Use the payphone to call the magic number. It's a free call, so no cash outlay.

        3. Return to table and pick up drink.

        4. Pager squawks loudly while both your hands are in view

        5. "Sorry. Gotta go."

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Classic Errror

          escaping from annoying people in pubs.

          Or buying your round?

    5. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Classic Errror

      We had a consultant, he didn't have a home telephone, but the company put him on-call anyway...

      So he would go home at 5, then toddle off with the dog at 9 o'clock to the next telephone box and call duty op, to see if there were any problems. If there weren't, he'd toddle off back home and go to bed.

    6. MOH

      Re: Classic Errror

      My first night on call in a company and it was a Friday of a leaving do, half the IT department was in the local beside work. Reckoned I could have a slow pint or two before the batches finished around 9pm and still be back at my desk in two minutes if anything came up.

      Spent the first hour sipping a pint and nervously checking the support phone every five minutes, then one of the Ops guys burst through the door, scanned the room, grabbed me by the arm. "They've been trying to call you for the last 20 minutes, no time to find your coat, come on!"

      I was out the door and starting back to the office, confusedly wondering why the phone hadn't rung, when it hit me. Walked back in to see everyone cracked up laughing and patting the Ops joker on the back. (Must have been good luck though as I don't think I ever did get called on a night out.)

  2. jake Silver badge

    It's not Friday the somethingth of Marchtober

    Today is Friday, September the 9908th, 1993.

    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: It's not Friday the somethingth of Marchtober

      Eternal September ended almost 16 years ago:

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: It's not Friday the somethingth of Marchtober

        That's odd ... I didn't notice an improvement in the Usenet signal to noise ratio 16 years ago. Nor that of The Internet in general. In fact, I'd say it has been getting steadily worse Internet wide as time goes on.

        So no, I completely disagree. It's still September.

  3. MiguelC Silver badge

    Re: inflated pay packet due to an overnight call-out

    During the Y2K project I was in, my team was correcting an application consisting of almost a 100 programs chained together (just as COBOL likes)

    We were made aware that that particular batch chain would brake every single night, meaning an hefty on-call bill. And is had been going like that for years.

    So I analysed the failure point and it was seemingly simple to correct - IIRC there were numeric conversions that would fail under certain conditions, conditions that would almost certainly be met once or twice per run.

    That correction was deemed out-of-scope by our client rep, who, curiously, was also that application's IT boss.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I screwed the pooch with the OC pager.

    I "accidently" set it to vibrate instead of making noise. So when I set it on my desk & turned my music on, it's no wonder I didn't hear the burr as it rumbled on the wood.

    My first clue that the shit had hit the fan was my personal land line (before those newfangled cell phoney thingamajiggers) from my work... at 3AM. Oopsie!

    Pick up & get an ear full of angry manager wanting to know WTF. I lied & told him that my kid had gotten sick all over me & I'd been in the shower. I had just gotten out when I heard the phone ring. "What's up, Boss?" I asked like a certain cartoon bunny. I think he tried to explode. Needless to say I got to the office a few minutes later (I had to whip those horses into a right froth, lemmetellya!) and got to work fixing the issue.

    It didn't take long to sort the problem out & I stayed long enough to make sure that the fan wouldn't be collecting any more feces. I also remembered to return the pager to noise making mode.

    For some strange reason I wasn't given the OC pager for the next few weeks. Woe is me!

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: I screwed the pooch with the OC pager.

      A colleague used to set the on-call pager to vibrate then clip it to his underwear when he was out dancing when on call. I always gave it a full de-tox with proper screen cleaner ( 1,1,1 Trichloroethane) when I was next on the rota.

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        Re: I screwed the pooch with the OC pager.

        Should have coated it with juice from a Jalapeno or something...

        1. Trollslayer

          Re: I screwed the pooch with the OC pager.

          BOFH lives!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I screwed the pooch with the OC pager.

          Nah, Jalapenos are only about 8000 scovilles max. You need a naga if you can get them. Failing that, a habanero or scotch bonnet should do the trick. If you can get pure capsaicin then even better.

  5. Aladdin Sane

    Big financial institute blaming some poor sod for a failure of process? Par for the course.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well Worded Oncall Agreement

    I worked somewhere that had an on-call agreement that was so well worded that it said 'if the on-call engineer receives a call late in the evening and does not feel comfortable with their ability to drive, they use a Taxi or Private Hire service and be reimbursed by the company.' We all took this to mean 'if you have had a beer or 2, call a cab on us'!

    1. Martin-R

      Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

      Forget beer consumption, if it's late at night and you're already tired, you probably shouldn't be driving yourself into the office anyway, let alone home again a few hours later! I've done enough first flight out/full day on site/last flight home trips to know there's no way I'm safe to drive home, so the company can pay for the cab both ways or I'm not going.

      1. Paul Cooper

        Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

        WHere I worked, there was a set policy that you NEVER drove yourself to or from the airport.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

          Possibly financial. Airport parking could be more expensive than the taxi fare and the parking might be some way from where you need to be so might even take longer than a taxi dropping you off at the front entrance.

          1. Paul Cooper

            Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

            Possibly financial. Airport parking could be more expensive than the taxi fare and the parking might be some way from where you need to be so might even take longer than a taxi dropping you off at the front entrance.

            No, it was H&S based - the airport was a 2 hour drive (at least) away, and airport parking would have been much dearer. One airport we used regularly was 3-4 hours drive away - and it was the only option for the required destination (the Falklands)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

        If you're that tired/inebriated then you probably shouldn't be touching a computer system either - I always used to find that decisions made late at night were much easier to make than during the day, but seldom as well though through!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

          I disagree, my most creative coding usually comes after the second glass of whisky but before the third has been poured...

          Documenting the outputted work is most certainly out though...

          1. Tom 7

            Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

            Alcohol can be strangely invigorating. I used to play pool/darts like a god from 4-7 pints (I'm not small). A friend of mine plays the most amazing guitar within two pints of falling off stage. I can appear to be devastatingly funny after a few - see brackets above though.Hemingway is reputed to have been a great writer when pissed though I and other may disagree.

            When it comes to coding though I rarely even try after a beer.anymore - just because it feels good doesnt mean you should try it. Most lines of code I write now affect 1000s of others. Too risky!

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              I've had a theory about this since college

              I think you perform best in tasks requiring fine motor control when in the same state of inebriation as you were when you learned them. I was always better at pool & darts when I was a couple drinks past the legal limit, since that's where I spent most of time playing them in college. By contrast my golf game went to shit well before I reached the legal limit, which fits my theory because I learned to play starting at age 12, well before I started drinking.

              Before someone says "drunk driving proves your theory wrong", safe driving is more about situational awareness and reaction time than it is about how precisely you steer etc. It is not a task requiring "fine motor control" in the way darts or golf is.

              1. G.Y.

                Pauli Re: I've had a theory about this since college

                Wolfgang Pauli did all his best physics after some schnapps; his mistakes were made when stone cold sober

          2. DropBear

            Re: Well Worded Oncall Agreement

            Well-known effect, documented ages ago. See Ballmer Peak...

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    Ah yes the joys of Pagers

    In another industry back in the mid 90s, a former boss\owner of the company would visit our office a few times a week. My office was small, and my assistant had to use it too. My former boss was a walking pig pen. After two minutes in the office, he would take off his coat, empty his pockets on my desk, grab a beverage and generally disrupt the office. One day he visited, and my pager was on my desk, he routinely dropped his crap everywhere, and when gathering his crap also snagged my pager! I didn't see it happen, and I didn't miss it at the end of the day, but when I got home, I felt naked! I tried calling him at home, as few people could afford mobiles then, to let him know, no answer... Fast forward to 2am, and the cops needed someone at the office( a garbage truck backed into our building), my boss paged me, I would have loved to be there when he realized that he had my pager!

  8. Barking House

    NO Entry ......

    I had in 1993 an analogue Vodac NEC P4 (Which had replaced a trusty pager) as I was told being reachable 24/7 whilst on call would improve service etc ......

    Apart from the concern that this thing was literally going to microwave my head, it suffered from the issue of a lack of masts for service coverage where I lived at that time, so would have variable service connectivity. However one night at about 11:30pm I got a call from Ops team that the trading system had borked, the software house had made a change during the day and it seemed it had unintended consequences - The software house was of course unreachable, so I was off to site in my trusty RS Turbo Fiesta :-)

    *Could not use my 9600 baud modem (Connected via a VT terminal) as this particular system was not cleared for remote access.

    As I drove out of the town I lived in, the local plod switched on their blues and twos and stopped me - As they explained it looked suspicious that a relatively young man driving a expensive car at that time of night (!!) - Could I prove I owned the car, that it was insured and show my driving license ..... Of course all I had on me was my company ID badge, which was not cutting it with them nor that I was on-call and responding to an urgent call. At this point the mobile phone rang (It was in my jacket pocket), I answered it and with mobile phones still being expensive and relatively uncommon I was then viewed even more suspiciously as I had all but confirmed I was a drug dealer in their eyes.

    On the phone was the ops team asking for an ETA as they new that if the overnight run was not fixed in the next hour or so it would be very very bad for everyone (As lots of money would have been lost etc). I asked the ops team to call the IT director and get him to phone me to help explain to the police I was who I said I was.

    10 minutes of the police doing checks and finding out the car belonged to a leasing company (And not me directly) it was looking like I was off to the police station for a more detailed interview, my phone rang and it was the IT Director - Not known for being particularly knowledgeable on IT, but it seemed he played golf with the Chief Constable and told the local plod he was going to call him to get this issue resolved.

    I was was given the go ahead to depart but with strict requirement to bring all documentation to the Police Station in the next 24 hours - I managed to get to site, fix the issue with the overnight run (Which was classic software developer stupidity).

    But first time I was grateful that I had the mobile phone and not the pager, plus was able to add in an additional hour for the chat I had with plod :-)

    1. nintendoeats Silver badge

      Re: NO Entry ......

      Do they call that a DWY (driving while young)?

    2. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: NO Entry ......

      A friend had a hotted up 3.1L Ford Capri, wide wheels, extended arches, the lot.

      He was forever getting stopped as, "You look to young to be driving this, have you got your driving license?" At which point he'd usually reply, "No, but I've got this!" and show them his warrant card*.

      He sold it in the end, too much hassle.

      *Police badge for the non-UK readers.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: NO Entry ......

        How much did he get for his warrant card?

      2. Caver_Dave Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: NO Entry ......

        I had an Audi 100 CD5E (the one rallied before the first Quattro) - one of 50 made for homologation of the rally car.

        I was 22 or 23 and it cost me exactly the same on insurance as the car cost. (Then I found out why the car was so cheap.)

        In the end I gave it away as no one would buy it, as it was such a Police magnet, not even the local scrap yard! It was far too fast for the road anyway - 90mph in first gear! (3 speed automatic).

        I saw a photograph of it in the local paper a year or so later, as the guy I had given it to, had set a class lap record at Silverstone in it. I was still glad that I had given it away through.

        1. Tom 7

          Re: NO Entry ......

          I used to live near a place where they made replica Cobras. I say made, they grew in hedges at the nearby roundabouts and used to take them to the shop and clean them up and sell them

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: NO Entry ......

        "He sold it in the end, too much hassle."

        Here in the States they frown on Cops selling their badges.

    3. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: NO Entry ......

      I'm getting old - I hadn't realised that the Fiesta RS Turbo came out 30 years ago!

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've made the mistake of drinking while on call, in the alcohol induced haze that is xmas I forgot I volunteered to take on call on boxing day, so of course a system that required someone in the office to reboot fell over. Everyone present who could drive was out of their face, myself included, so I threw on a warm jacket and some wellies and walked 4 miles to the office in freezing, slushy snow. This sobered me up somewhat, so it was a miserable 4 miles back.

    Have never drank while on call since.

    1. LeahroyNake


      I live a half hour drive from our main site but luckily I have a 'switch flipper' that lives a 5 minute walk away. If they don't answer it's not getting fixed.

    2. ICPurvis47

      How to give up drinking without really trying

      When I turned 16, I was living in Louisville, KY. My father was attached to an ophthalmic research group at University College, London, and we were sent over to help set up Louisville Lions Eye bank (early 60s). I passed my driving test on my 16th birthday, just before Christmas, and my then GF invited me to a Christmas party at the U of L. During that Christmas Eve, I downed three Mint Juleps (Bourbon infused with Mint leaves), and then drove the 5 or so miles home through the snow. On parking the car in front of our rented house, I suddenly realised that the only set of tyre tracks were on the wrong side of the road. With growing horror, I retraced my journey, and followed the tracks all the way down Hillcrest Avenue to the junction with Frankfort Avenue, where I lost them in the slushy mess churned up by the main road traffic. I walked back the 1¼ miles length of Hillcrest, and by the time I reached home, I was stone cold sober (and freezing cold to boot). I vowed there and then, never to drink again, and I haven't.

      Many years later, Christmas Eve 1979, I was pulled over (back in England) and accused of DUI, but when I blew in their little bag, it was clear. The copper asked me when I had last had a drink, and I said Christmas Eve 1963, to which he replied "but that was 16 years ago!".

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how do i get that gig?


    If its that easy to pay out $100m I'd have done it on day one and headed for South America!

    anon obvs!

    1. swm

      Re: how do i get that gig?

      It is amazing how loose banks are with cash. There don't seem to be any checks for large transfers - certainly not to the degree IT uses to secure their machines.

      1. rototype

        Re: how do i get that gig?

        And it's also amazing how much tighter they are with parting with cash to replace/upgrade/fix their IT kit when it's end of life - I remember another unnameable financial institution that left 2 machines that drove document scanners (no, not the big expensive ones, small SCSI ones with feeders - when one went titsup we had to resort to ebay for a replacement) running on NT when they upgraded their estate to XP.

        They were still there when we upgraded them several years later to Win 7. Their excuse was "It's a key system but the guys who wrote it left X years ago and no-one knows how to make it work with anything newer" - as far as I know it's still there and they're probably still buying second-hand junk off ebay to keep patching it up because it's cheaper than actually getting something that works properly and is actually secure.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    got away with it

    i once forgot to come in one day over xmas when the rota was all out of kilter to change the backup tapes.

    It took a black ops vist the next day and some frantic relabelling and scribbling on about 15 tapes to cover my tracks ....

    1. EagleZ28

      Re: Black Ops?? ;-)

      Did I hear some anonymous coward say something about "black ops"?

      (BTW - isn't that a contradiction in terms?)

      Having drunk WAY too much alcohol one night, I was awakened by the alarm.

      My roommate asked me if I had been the one who "ralphed" out the window during the night.

      I asked if he'd locked the door... which he had.

      Even after hours of "paying homage to the porcelain god", which had left me incredibly sore, particularly in the abdominal muscles... and bruised knees and buttocks from "hugging the throne", I had somehow stumbled over to his side of the room, opened the old-fashioned tilt-out (rather than lift-up) window, then proceeded to do a "technicolor yawn"...

      right down the side of the building... from three floors up.

      Bleary-eyed and draggin' ass, I looked across the narrow alley to the neighboring barracks... to the first floor office directly across from my room... the office which belonged to a CAPTAIN in the Army.

      I was mere lowly airman... in the AIR FORCE. One word, even delivered with a grin, from that captain to MY major... and I'd be... probably flushed down the toilet myself.




      Quickly (well, as quickly as I could!) I tied several sheets together, into a make-shift rope, hung a bottle of Windex by its trigger from one belt loop, and tugged a rag into the opposite side, then rappelled out the third-floor window to begin cleaning my mess.

      Ah! Thank God! The second floor window beneath my own was closed!

      Further down the wall I clean...

      Oh... Oh NO... the FIRST floor window was OPEN!

      Peer inside... no... no one visible... no angry NCO glaring at me across a mess...

      QUICKLY... and QUIETLY... clean the window, inside and out, until it's spotless... then quietly close it... and pray... as I climb back up the 'rope' and back into my own room.

      And yes, people noticed the single spotless patch... vertical stripe... of wall beneath my room.

      1. Unruly Pikcahu

        Re: Black Ops?? ;-)

        "Technicolor yawn" is now my new favorite phrase

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Black Ops?? ;-)

          A lot of people claim this one was an Australian invention, but I remember it as part of the surfing slang in Northern California in the early/mid 1960s ... Maybe the surfers brought it back from, or over to, Australia? There was a lot of cross-culture stuff going on in that world back then.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    end of on call week

    My on call week always ends on a friday when these stories come out!

    like today!

    4.5hrs to beer o'clock!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: end of on call week

      4.5hrs to beer o'clock!

      That depends on your time zone, I am typing this one hour later and it is only 2.5 hours to beer o'clock (at 17:00, some here mutter it should be at 16:00).

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: end of on call week

        It is Friday, and the sun's past the yardarm somewhere on this roughly spherical, dampish rock. Cheers!

        1. rototype

          Re: end of on call week

          In the immortal words of Alan jackson "It's 5 o'clock somewhere"

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: end of on call week

            That phrase existed long before Alan Jackson was an itch in his daddy's pants ... He didn't write the song anyway, it was written by Jim Brown (no, not that one) and Don Rollins (also not that one).

            It was a popular enough phrase for both Herb Caen and Stan Delaplane to use it in their columns in the San Francisco Chronicle at least as early as the late 1940s.

            After the festivities in Korea in 1953, my Uncle was mustered out and passed through Pearl Harbo(u)r on the way home. While there, he purchased a rather tacky ceramic statue of a drunk leaning on a lamp post, with the phrase "It's 5 o'clock somewhere!" on the base. He intended it for the bar he was going to build when he got home ... but my Aunt, who was never convinced that the '50s cocktail culture was a good thing, said something resembling "over my dead body!" ... so the statue sat on a shelf over the workbench in his garage for many decades. I asked my cousins for it as a memento when he passed, and it's still sitting on a shelf here in the office.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On call phone.

    Our team was given one of those new fangled mobile phones (back when they were new) so we could be contacted out of business hours. This was a bit redundant as we all had our home numbers on file.

    We decided that because it was valuable and attractive [ie likely to be purloined] that we had best keep it locked in a filing cabinet.

    As far as I know it is probably still there and has never been turned on.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: On call phone.

      But what if you were invited to a dinner party...

      ...never mind. :-)

    2. rototype

      Re: On call phone.

      Bit of a difference to our place at the time, the one they got us was so cheap and cr*p we dual SIMMed our own phones and just passed the SIM around (also saved carrying a normal phone and the 'support' Brick. That 'support' phone was so cheap & nasty that within 2 months the battery was totally knackered.

      As far as I recall it was purchased after numerous complaints of getting woken up at 7am on Saturday morning (yes, usually after the usual amount of happy juice on Friday night) by the warehouse phoning us on our personal phones (no idea where they got the numbers from) wanting to know when we'd be printing them some work to do, when it was someone elses turn that weekend. (Crap shift pattern: Mon-Thurs, off Friday, on Sat & Sun, off Mon, back in Tues-Fri & off the weekend. Completely put me off shift work for life).

      1. ICPurvis47

        Re: On call phone.

        When I was working as a drug runner, my employers (Co-Op Pharmacy) gave me a works phone so they could contact me whilst I was on the road making the deliveries. I installed a Blue Tooth Hands Free in the van and paired it with my own phone, and then automatically forwarded incoming works calls to my own phone, so they could ring me and it would come through on my own phone and be picked up hands free. If I needed to ring them, I would, of course, stop the van and use the works phone to make the call.

  14. heyrick Silver badge

    I have a bit of php on my site that informs me that today is the 230th of March 2020.

    As to the payment screwup, what sort of system permits that sort of money to be shifted around without extremely obvious feedback at each step? Saying it's a UI problem is akin to saying it is fundamentally broken.

    1. WonkoTheSane

      "I have a bit of php on my site that informs me that today is the 230th of March 2020."

      That means Xmas falls on March 300th this year!

      1. jake Silver badge


        That's in 15 days, right? (Last time I checked, Oct 31 was the same as Dec 25).

      2. ralphh

        I've simliar, though it's moved to 231 March 2020 now.

  15. riffrafff

    Stella Artois? Blech.

    1. jake Silver badge

      "Stella Artois? Blech."

      Congratulations. You've won the Understatement Of The Week award.

    2. Intractable Potsherd

      It's known as Still a Warthog round here!

  16. Helcat

    First 'on call' call I had was while I was on annual leave, and the call came through to my personal mobile. I was not impressed: I didn't do on call at the time, and I hadn't given permission for anyone at work outside of HR to have my mobile number (it being mine, not the companies). So I asked the caller who I was billing the time and travel expenses to as I was on holiday and it would be an hour's drive to get to site, and return, so it better not be that urgent.

    They hung up.

    The latest 'on call' was again to my personal mobile, and again I was surprised as I hadn't signed the on-call agreement (it was still being discussed as I did out of hours support already and was an emergency contact for on-call should our database servers go offline - and I couldn't do both those and on-call*), and was busy working on planned maintenance on a server. As it happened, the call was due to a system being unresponsive, which was due to the database being offline, which was due to me rebooting the server to apply a patch within the maintenance window agreed (and users notified) that included the server reboot. It did result in some rather serious questions being asked as to how I'd wound up on the on-call rota. Not that I got an apology, but I was taken off the rota and never went back on.

    *On-call escalated to duty manager escalated to the emergency contacts, and you couldn't cover two of those roles in the same or consecutive (7 day) periods, and I was the emergency contact for the databases every other week (officially at least). This was due to a pesky law saying you have to have 2 days off each 14 day rolling period (so no 2 days off, 12 days on, then 12 days on, 2 days off!). On call counted as being at work so... yes, it got a bit confusing.

    1. Down not across

      Personal phones

      I have had similar experiences of personal phone number abuse. I've since refused to give out personal number at all. If they want to be able to call me they can give me a phone. There is then the inevitable "what if we can't get hold of you on that phone, we need an alternative" get met with flat refusal. If all else fails, there is always the option of PAYG SIM that never ever sees a phone.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Power plants have those on-call phones too...

    ...But if something goes really, really, terribly, wrong... it´s not just the scapegoat that goes down, if you know what I mean.

    So yeah, the scapegoat phone-bearer has the right to wake up ANYONE he sees fit to share the resulting spray of whatever hit the fan. That includes his immediate boss, half a dozen physicists, and the entire superior staff. Worst case scenario, even the national grid operators must be alerted, because some NPP is about to be shutdown in *a very bad way*. Like, control-rods-plonking-down-on-reactor bad. And that takes 72 hours just to open the nuclear bits to see what went wrong. And 2 days off for you watching from the sidelines, followed by 7 days, 12-hours shift, straight, to help fixing stuff.

    Yeah, it never happened like this, but it's written on paper what should happen if it does. Not pretty for anyone.

  18. Marty McFly Silver badge

    Sleeping for dollars!

    Way back in my youthful IT days.... $50 per night to take the pager home. No calls half the time. Most were late evening calls. Only occasionally got the 2am panic calls.

    Did I imbibe on said evenings?? Come on! I was taking the pager home and extending my work day for a lousy $50. Do you think I could afford much to drink in those days?

  19. MisterHappy

    One from me & one a friend told me

    I was told by my (long ago) boss that I was covering on-call despite not being rota'd in that week, when I asked why he happily told me that him and some others were going to the leaving drinks for one of the other managers & as I was not invited I could cover call. This did not make me happy so I asked a couple of colleagues if they fancied an after work meal & booked a table for 6 at a nice little basement bar just round the corner from work. Being the mid 90s the BT Cellnet brick had no signal as soon as we went below ground level.

    The next morning I had an angry boss demanding why I had turned off the phone because he had been called as the escalation contact, I was able to trot out my colleagues to verify that I was 10mins walk away, hadn't been drinking & the phone was turned on & on the table the whole time. Yes we knew it was a blackspot & yes, they thought I'd been stitched up too so were happy to omit the fact that the phone display had been showing "No Service" the whole time.


    From my friend:

    He was the on-call fitter a few years ago, at 2am one morning got called out, he was pulled over by plod doing 90 on the motorway in his van with a trailer on the back.

    When asked "Where are you going in such a hurry?" His reply of "Hinkley point, I'm the on-call fitter" got him a police escort. My understanding is that it was nothing nuclear related but it got him out of a ticket.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: One from me & one a friend told me

      Chap I know was pulled over at silly AM doing 120 down the motorway. Plod asked where he was going, he said 'the hospital, for emergency surgery'. Plod said he didn't look ill, and he replied 'I hope not, I'm the surgeon'.

    2. Medical Cynic

      Re: One from me & one a friend told me

      When I was a medical student in Oxford, The [only] cardiac surgeon, who drove an car that was both very expensive and very fast, was similarly pulled over on the M40. He explained he was going to perform life-saving heart surgery at the Radcliffe Infirmary. They too gave him a police escort with blue lights and all that. Bur sadly, they couldn't keep up with him...

  20. Daedalus

    Is it Monday already?

    Surely this is a "Who, Me?" story.

  21. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Why Oh Why Oh Why Oh Why Oh.... does user interface design have to be relearned again and again and again?

    In *any* human/computer interaction the absolute *first* action the computer *must* do is acknowledge the human. Not after thinking about it, not after initiating a connection, ****NOW*******!*!!!!! Thinking about it, deciding what to do, initiating a connection, all *MUST* be done at some later point, RIGHT NOW you have to tell the human that they have not misspressed the button, or hit it slightly offcentre or something. Inaction is an *EXPLICIT* instruction to the user to try again.

    This has got worse in the brave new world of touchscreen interfaces where there is no tactile feedback so you can't even depend on the motion of the actuator under your finger as the first feedback. You prod at a tablet, nothing happens, you prod again, nothing happens, you take careful aim and prod as hard and as accurately as you can, and your finger smashes through the bloody stupid thing.

    1. Luiz Abdala

      Noise is a good feedback.

      A noisy keyboard is a good feedback. I mean, a dial-tone response, not a shoddy quality touchscreen that creaks under pressure.

      Over my mum they have an elevator panel without any response. No glowing ring, no dial-tone noise, no LCD showing a floor number lit.

      Guess which panel gets pressed multiple times. Icon for reason.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Noise is a good feedback.

        Our office door has a combined hours worked / door lock. To clock on or off, swipe card. (The device is in "clock in mode" or "clock out mode", and it quacks at you if you swipe for in/out when you already are.)

        To exit, just press a button inside the room, the door opens.

        To enter, e.g. after powdering your nose, press the "not swiping in/out" button. I think. I haven't been there for a while!

        Anyway, that beeps... but sometimes it beeps but does nothing else.

        Which means that when you swipe, you are swiping in or out after all.

        So, don't just listen for the beep from the button; listen, and look.

    2. DropBear

      This. Also, while touchscreens can make this gnarly, desktops are by no means immune - modern web UI (I'm looking at you, accursed Polymer) is perfectly capable of derailing four-five clicks in a row, by first delaying response anywhere between five and fifty seconds, then shifting the UI and THEN processing my click to whatever NOW happens to be under it (which should be its own reason to bring back capital punishment). Murphy of course makes sure this causes maximum possible damage, with preference towards the most destructive action present anywhere on the UI, which just happened to be not too far from what you actually tried to click on before everything shifted...

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Awkward. Keyboard control MIGHT work better.

        I noticed today I was typing sequences of keys into a legacy application that didn't recognise them and luckily did nothing. I was on auto pilot, which is now Tesla branding for "the accident that's waiting to happen".

        If the mouse is unavoidable and the consequences may be grave, then:

        Press the mouse button and hold it down.

        Wait for the button on screen to redraw indicating it is pressed (if they still do that).

        Then release the mouse button.

        If the wrong thing has been clicked, then, hold the mouse button down while sliding well away from the undesired object. THEN release.

    3. G.Y.

      and on the back end,

      the system should check for 2 identical requests, in very short order, from the same person, and make an extra "are you sure?" check.

      Belt &braces ...

  22. irrelevant

    Phones ...

    I was given a work phone, back when they were still relatively shiny and new.

    Eventually, I got given one that came in a bouncy rubber case - it seemed that the cheap plastic which nokias of the day were made from couldn't cope with being dropped when you had your head up in a suspended ceiling running cables.

    I don't think I ever intentionally dropped one, but I had one of those bosses that used to phone about every 10 minutes to see how you were getting along, and juggling cables, tools and phones atop a ladder was never a good idea.

    1. Rob Daglish

      Re: Phones ...

      Not the boss, strictly speaking... but my wife has an unnerving ability to ring when I’m at the top of a ladder balancing something awkward. Every single time...

  23. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Oh good

    So it's not just the users who hit the send/enter button until something happens then.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    on call hell

    I once worked for a disreputable person. He sold something he shouldn't have and I was the IT guy that put everything together. That made me valuable, but in his eyes I was just a lackey.

    You should know that I didn't go looking for this, I just took a job when I needed it and when it turned ugly I found it very difficult to leave and feel safe.

    I was never officially on-call but he was the kind of boss that didn't respect my skills or any personal boundaries. Some days I would be called around to his house to fix the smallest issue and I even found myself climbing over roofs installing CCTV cable at one point. Like I hinted above, I didn't feel safe walking away.

    However the worst on-call issue was when I was at my grandfathers wake, surrounded by relatives and he calls about something that could have waited for another day. He refused to get off the phone even when I reminded him where I was.

    It took a while but I eventually got away from him. He was the kind of person who could inspire fear, so I thank the IT gods that I no-longer have to deal with him.

  25. DropBear

    All I know is I'm quite wary of "click here to commit to purchase" buttons and there is no way in hell I'd click one a second time, sober or five minutes away from alcohol coma, if the first click fails to result in an appropriate acknowledgement. I gladly prefer to forfeit purchase and try again the next day (once I'm sure I really have no orders on standby) rather then end up ordering duplicates or triplicates of whatever I'm squandering my money on. Maybe working for a bank de-conditions one from such basic survival instincts, but I have my doubts...

  26. TDog


    When I first became a senior NHS manager it was mandatory for me to carry a pager. I wasn't a clinician then, nor would II have domain knowledge sufficient to make a decision other than in general management or IT. (This was about 1990). So putting my IT hat on I investigated how the pager worked --> a phone call to BT who informed me that there was no record of delivery, and no re-attempt to deliver as they could not tell whether it had been received or not.

    As the lowest man on the totem pole and not being capable of making an informed decision (see icon) I very carefully removed the battery from the pager, placed it in the bottom of the sock drawer and forgot about it.

    3 years later as the IT bod I was requested to do an analysis and audit of pager responses per board member. (new CEO). I simply asked BT if they could provide data about pager acknowledgements and very unfortunately they couldn't. Thus after a suitable delay I had to report that there was no reliable data due to BT's failure.

    The next person up on the list was a friend of mine and we did have a few bevy's on either odd or even days depending on whether the next day was odd or even. Having read my half page report about BT's failure to keep appropriate data he queried how long I had known this, later, in the pub that evening.

    My honest response was basically "ever since I got the role" and his was not to be repeated. Suffice to say that I bought Dennis the drinks for both that evening and the rest of the week. Seemed fair to me.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    During one post-mortem meeting, early 10s...

    Our very capable infrastructure made the CTO spit his tea all over the conference room by dryly noting that the reason he didn't log in immediately the phone went off was because: "I was in someone".

  28. 997Ahoy

    Forget Wife Swapping - Try On-call Swapping

    Many many many years ago I worked in the City with a bunch of souls who, as was the norm at that time scattered to the four winds after a few months; We all kept in touch and used to meet for Friday beers in Convent Garden or some such.

    All of us were on call for our respective masters and would get calls throughout our evening of highbrowed discussion on the finer things in life.

    Long story short, we'd swap calls, and dispense advice to bemused sounding Ops departments all over the City and beyond. No one actually died, but I do think some of the on-call logs made for interesting reading / explanation come Monday morning and one person struck up a long and meaningful relationship with an Ops person.

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