back to article For blinkenlights sake.... RTFM! Yes. Read The Front of the Machine

There was a time before phones went wireless (and before Apple made sure we all carried a spare charge cable.) Take a trip back to those halcyon days with another entry in the pages of On Call. Our story, told by a Register reader we'll call "Andrew" (not his name), takes us back 40 years to when he was an IT manager of an oil …

  1. Fabrizio

    Broke my little toe...

    ... running to the mobile phone charging station at 06:30 AM.

    It was an anonymous call they called the wrong number and didn't even apologize.

    When I showed up with a cane at a customer meeting,at 09:00 AM the customer told me I should have cancelled the meeting instead of going through the agony of driving there and walking around in agony.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Broke my little toe...

      I tell people I once dislocated my toe playing Monopoly...

      Well, it was actually more due to getting the Monopoly box from off the top of a tall wardrobe in a bedroom. I wasn't wearing shoes and the box was just out of reach. So I jumped up, grabbed the box successfully and landed. It was only when I started walking away that I realised something was wrong and discovered that the second toe on my left foot was pointing straight upwards at the second joint. I clicked it back into place and then had to suffer a swollen toe and limping for several days. What fun!

      (And, no, I can't even remember whether or not I won the game of Monopoly.)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Broke my little toe...

        Does anyone win? I thought they just went on and on until everyone lost interest.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

          Re: Broke my little toe...

          Or mass murder ensues.

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Broke my little toe...

            Or the ex Mrs Oncoming Scorn is caught paying her liabilities out of the bank (Amazingly none of her family had ever caught her doing this).

        2. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Broke my little toe...

          You've not met my Sister playing any board or card game. Either she wins or there are accusations of cheating, death threats etc. We have to play Trivial Pursuits in teams now so that she has a broader knowledge base. During a particular game of Trivial Pursuits she said I was cheating. This was because I had answered four questions correctly one after the other. Not only that I'd answered two of them without needing to hear the full question. Playing Monopoly is worse.....much much worse.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Broke my little toe...

            And that little sister is now home secretary

          2. DeVino

            Re: Broke my little toe...

            Co-op Game ?

            Feisty offspring likes Pandemic, Forbidden Island and (god help my short-term memory) Eldritch Horror.

            Or maybe you like winding up little sister almost as much as Marlowe did ? ;-)

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Broke my little toe...

          Does anyone win? I thought they just went on and on until everyone lost interest.

          Usually whoever is the "banker" in my experience. My little brother used to win a lot of times and always as the banker. He turned that experience into a carrier. And now people wonder why I don't trust financial types.

          1. whitepines

            Re: Broke my little toe...

            Usually whoever is the "banker" in my experience.

            And this is different from real life in what manner?

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Broke my little toe...

              Less cocaine

        4. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Broke my little toe...

          "Does anyone win? I thought they just went on and on until everyone lost interest."

          Or one player (you know who you are) is so relentlessly annoying and competitive that the others don't care what happens just so long as that player goes bankrupt. Queue a formation of a cartel of the other players. I'll give you the property which completes your monopoly and you give me the same. Build a bunch of houses on each one and by the way, rent is cancelled if you show up.

        5. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Broke my little toe...

          if you're playing it until everyone dies of boredom then you haven't read the rules

          hint: when anyone lands on an unowned spot they MUST buy it or it's immediately up for auction. The result is a much faster game and the bank always wins - just like real life

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Broke my little toe...

            That doesn't make it work. If you play with a sufficiently large group, the chances are incredibly high that one of these things happens:

            1. Everybody lands on properties and buys them immediately because they have the money to do so. They thereby block everybody's chances at a monopoly. People then circle the board paying low rent payments to each other and hitting the random squares from time to time. Often, there's one property unclaimed which could give someone a monopoly except nobody has landed on it all game.

            2. The same thing happens but someone manages to get a monopoly. They have one and nobody else does, so they are going to win. Unless the other players concede then, there will be a long death spiral as people don't happen to land there this time around or the player with the monopoly gradually builds up the capital to build more houses.

            The more rare options just result in the game ending faster, not the game being any more interesting.

  2. The curmudgeonly one

    Was working in an academic environment. I got rung one Sunday afternoon while painting my garage to be told that our mail server was down.

    Checked. It was fully functional. So I phone the august academic back. He was adamant that our server was down because the PC in his bedroom couldn't email the PC in the kitchen.

    When I told him to check those two boxen before annoying me again he tried to demand a house-call. He only desisted when I told him the chargeout rate.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      I'd have gone & claimed the full callout & travel time, to ensure he really learned the lesson!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        And a surcharge due to having to start all over again on the garage.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Family member called a while ago and said their TV isn't working. It's a digital telly and showing "weak or no signal" on screen. First thing I ask is whether the aerial is still plugged into the back and yes it is is the reply. So navigate through various menus over the phone to no avail. Said it might be the roof aerial or the cable from it. Thankfully we were in Lockdown so I said I can't do anything else as I'm 150 miles away unable to visit. So next day it's obvious from the message I get that the aerial cable wasn't plugged in and the cat is the guilty party. Very pleased I couldn't get dragged over to fix that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Family member called

        Whatever follows those memorable words, it's not going to end well, is it?

        Vaccine passports? There should be a law that says you can only work in IT if you've got the certificate of attendance to the course on saying no to friends 'n' family AND got an A in the practical exam.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "the cat is the guilty party"

        Or at least, the only one who can't deny it.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Not Me But.......

    In-house guy first time solo on nights, uni graduate in Electronic Engineering has spent weeks shadowing engineers & following in-house training servicing humping great Xerox printers that sent you those lovely envelopes from Sun Alliance life insurance in Swindon (Actually in the tower block that was above Debenhams) full of an Amazon rain forest by-product.

    Thus the 3am call came....both printers have got an issue & up the stairs like a gazelle he sprinted, ran through the diagnostics & was forced to admit he was stumped.

    He escalated to his On-Call Manager, who walked him through some steps that he hadn't previously considered.....

    Was there power coming from in the fucking great big wall socket or present in the printer, (To whit the answer was no & the response of then it's not our fucking problem is it!) which concluded with the strongly & expletive laden.

    "Come & see me in the morning for a fucking clue in basic diagnostic procedures, before you go off shift!".

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      Re: Not Me But.......

      The clever ones can be sooooo stupid :-)

      1. UCAP Silver badge

        Re: Not Me But.......

        .. or possibly too clever to actually think about the problem.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not Me But.......

          At 3 am thinking isn't necessarily available, not even as an optional extra.

        2. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

          Re: Not Me But.......

          I think we've all been that guy at some point.

          I was on the phone to my ISP because the Internet had been down since they'd installed it a couple of days before. The installer had thought it was just waiting for the service to be activated.

          They took me through the usual checks on the router: power, cables in right place, reboot etc.

          It eventually dawned on me that the installer had put the WAN cable in a LAN port and vice-versa. It felt so stupid for not seeing it myself and apologised profusely.

          It was just one of my own ID10T moments... there have been a few.

          1. yetanotheraoc

            Re: Not Me But.......

            "the installer had put the WAN cable in a LAN port and vice-versa"

            Hmm, that seems a little obvious, and anyway isn't the installer supposed to test things before leaving? If it works in the test but doesn't work afterwards, what does that imply?

            Ages ago we had a second phone line installed. I wired inside the house, the phone guy showed up to connect from the street to the box outside. "Okay, done." And he's gone in a flash. I picked up the handset, no dial tone. If I had called in a ticket at this point, doubtless they would have told me the issue must be inside the house. Opened up the box outside, and the red lead from the street was connected to the green pole on the box, and vice versa. So I switched them, and the phone was working. I could only assume the technician wanted a callback so he could be paid twice for the same job.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Not Me But.......

              "Ages ago"?

              After roughly the 1960s, two-wire systems didn't care about polarity at the consumer end (diode bridge built into the hybrid). It was probably poor termination which was fixed when you swapped the wires. I'd bet that it worked when he tested it, and then rattled loose when he bolted the box back together. I doubt the installer did it on purpose, that kind of mistake would have had him laughed at by his peers for weeks.

            2. Pangasinan Philippines

              Re: Not Me But.......

              Red . . .Green....- Colour Blind maybe?

            3. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

              Re: Not Me But.......

              Like I said, the installer thought it was still awaiting activation.

              I forgot to mention that in my checks I opened up the box outside and re-attached the two wires which had come loose.

            4. Just Another SteveO

              Re: Not Me But.......

              That reminds me of my experience in the US of Comcast contracted 'engineers'.....

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Not Me But.......

                let's not forget that in the USA, a floor sweeper is a "sanitary engineer" and extrapolate from there

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Not Me But.......

            "It eventually dawned on me that the installer had put the WAN cable in a LAN port and vice-versa. It felt so stupid for not seeing it myself and apologised profusely."

            To be fair to yourself, just remember that when you are dealing with a "professional", it's not your job to assume they made a mistake and fix it for them. I'm sure we all have colleagues who have been to a job, diagnosed a fault, ordered parts and then when the part comes in, you are the one to go out for scheduling reasons and when you get there, assume the original diagnosis was correct right up to the point when you realise they screwed up. You don't go in on a follow-up expecting to have to start diagnosing from first principles because that was supposedly done by the guy(ess) who went in first.

            1. PeterM42

              Re: Not Me But.......

              Absolutely - don't assume the "professionals" know their job. My gas boiler main valve kept dropping out then back in again. After 3 or 4 visits from British Gas, I had a look and realised it was the relay on the circuit board which was faulty (slight vibration and it dropped out), Still took British Gas TWO more visits to fix it.

              I only paid for ONE visit. They weren't getting away with that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Me But.......

      I hope he got something added to the in-house training too. How hard would it have been to have had "Item 1 - confirm power is present" to the weeks of training he had gone through?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Me But.......

      On that visit, I would have led with a bottle of the manager's fav libation in my two hands before the rest of me entered through the door.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Brunei is dry country last time I checked. The drinks would be pretty cheap for a bar tab.

    Unless he went to a speak easy. In which case, keep the name anonymous.

    Anon because I've been to a few over there. Interesting times but only Budwiser or Tiger beer to drink and the small cocktail menu (kept in a crate just incase it had to move quickly).

    1. AlanSh

      Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

      No, I'm sorry, but when I was there (yes, I am the "Andrew"), it was not dry. At least, not for the ex-pats.

      We also had a "club" you joined called the ditch diggers - you got into it if, when driving home from the last round of alcohol induced party, your car/truck went into a ditch. It had quite a few members.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

        Ahh, I was there visiting one of the rare non-Muslim locals (now a very high ranking doctor) so things seemed quite restricted at the time as they'd been cracking down on drinking and as for ditch digging.. No, we avoided that one.

        We did however find out that the wading depth of a Merc E Class appeared to 3 inches deeper than the float depth of a range rover... That was a fun event time on one of the main highways. Avoided the police completely since their vans had water to the roofs and the cars beneath the waves.

        1. seven of five Silver badge

          Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

          Mercedes E?

          G Wagen, surely.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

            Nope, most definitely an E Class. We had the water over the windscreen, but kept enough of a bow wave to leave a void around the air intake and not flood the engine.

            Kept perfectly watertight too. They certainly don't make them like that anymore.

            1. seven of five Silver badge

              Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

              Impressive. May I strongly recommend not to try this with any newer models...

              sadly, including the G.

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

        Spent a month out there in 1986 visiting relatives, and can confirm the ex-pat community was quite comfortably stocked with beverages to suit all palates...

        Managed to avoid joining the ditch diggers club, although there were a few hairy moments during a weekend trek over the border into Sarawak thanks to the road down from KB to Miri consisting in parts of what can best be described as a churned up semi-sunbaked mud/sand mix. At one point all the traffic diverted off the road through a gap in the trees onto the beach, as driving along that provided a smoother and safer route than trying to persist with the road. Ah, fun times.

        1. AlanSh

          Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

          Ah, Sarawak. I had to visit over there a few times - Shell had The Panaga Club which was a nice drinking hole too (and served the largest prawns I have ever seen).

          One day I will regale you with my story about getting out of there in the monsoon season. But not yet :)


          1. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

            Ah, the Panaga Club... just a short stroll along the beach from my relatives house, so spent some pleasant hours there lounging by and in the pool, spending our chits at the poolside bar, before a slow wander back along the beach taking in the view.

            First time I'd been further afield from the UK than the regulation week in Spain, so to be stood there with the warm waters of the South China Sea caressing my feet, felt like I was in a dream. Also the only holiday I've been on where I've spent so much time in the same place that I've started to feel like a local - took a few days to get used to being back in the UK at the end of it.

    2. sandman

      Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

      Back in the 70s, The Royal Brunei Yacht Club was mostly run on alcohol. Chinese restaurants would serve Tiger Beer from teapots into teacups, complete with saucer, so as not to offend Muslim customers. Expats seemed to have two main occupations, drinking and adultery. It's a lot stricter now, sadly. ;-)

      1. AlanSh

        Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

        Ah, Adultery. I do remember one of our people having to hide under a bed for a night before he could be flown out the next morning. Why? Because he's been dallying with a local chief's wife and the chief and his henchmen were looking for blood.

      2. Outski Bronze badge

        Re: Hummmmmmmmm.....

        A couple of times in KL I rocked up to the bar my wife worked at, to be met with a few besuited gorillas with very short haircuts and suspicious bulges under the armpit, lounging against large black SUVs and not looking like they were going to entertain this skinny-arsed mat salleh entering the premises for a nightcap... until MrsO leant out of the first floor window and shouted to them who I was, and that yes they should definitely be letting me in. Apparently their patron was the eldest son of a Sultan, who, along with his mates, was definitely NOT knocking back thousands of ringgit in champagne every visit, oh no (nor sending comps up to me & the missus).

        Especially not on Fridays --->

  5. smudge

    The Agony and No Ecstasy

    ...the agony with which all those who have lifted something silly will be familiar (ours was an incident involving a washing machine, some stairs and the overconfidence of youth – you?)

    Re-arranging the furniture in a meeting room at work. Picked up a table in the wrong position (me, that is, as well as the table) and bang! - something just went in my back.

    Phoned up my wife to accompany me home - Tube and train out of London to the sticks - and had a few days off work, after which I thought I was fine.

    But if I had had any inkling of the amount of pain that recurrences would give me over the years since then, I'd have sued the arse off my employer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      Many years ago I was helping set up and be a casualty for a 48hour SAR exercise on an uninhabited island off Scotland. On the Wednesday I had several trips between shore and the island in an inflatable ferrying food and assorted supplies for the support team. There were two of us on that shift and we then set about creating a range of rescue scenarios. I also carried several containers of water and a couple of portable generators up a hill to an abandoned lighthouse that would be the basecamp for the support team.

      The support team and the SAR team on the exercise arrived on the Thursday in their own boats and the exercise commenced. I recall one scenario where I was buried under a collapsed building; I was to be unconscious (per the scenario) so quiet (making it harder to find me) but also unable to help myself out (and also unable to feel pain as I was hauled unceremoniously out)!

      The exercise ended on the Saturday morning and everyone mucked in to clean up and get all the kit back to the mainland, cleaned and returned to a local store. I recall hauling generators out of the van and carrying them into the store. We then had a cup of tea and the first debrief. Washing up the cups I turned to pick up a tea towel and put my back out!

      That's my excuse for, ever since, refusing to help with the washing up - too risky for my back :)

      ('er indoors doesn't accept the excuse, of course)!

      1. sbt Silver badge

        Re: I turned to pick up a tea towel and put my back out!

        That's what we in the camel game call 'the final straw'. It's not for nothing that cliché relates to the back and not say, the final cup of tea and the side table.

      2. ColinPa

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        I was involved in one of the Olympics. We had a big test event about a month before the games, and they tested all sorts of problem scenarios. One morning I got out of bed, bent over to do my shoes up and pulled a muscle in my back. I managed to lay on the floor, and phoned in.

        An hour later I still hadn't been contacted. I phoned in again and said I could not get up from the floor and needed to go to the bathroom, at the risk of a wet floor. Within 15 minutes I was in a wheelchair at a doctors who spoke no English (but very good acting skills). It all got sorted.

        A couple of weeks later I was talking to a senior manager who apologised and said they thought I was the "medical test case", and they had their hands full with another "emergency".

      3. smudge

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        Washing up the cups I turned to pick up a tea towel and put my back out!

        Nowadays, with me it's often putting on a sock, my underpants or my trousers. Just have to get my right leg into the wrong position, and...

        Discussed this with my doctor, who said, yes, it will now always be when you don't expect it and aren't thinking about. He's right, of course - if I am lifting anything heavy, I make a conscious effort to do it the proper way.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

          The back:

          Cleaning my teeth. Bent to spit and AAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

          And the knee:

          Doctor: How did you sprain your knee?

          Me: Sleeping.

          1. Robert Sneddon

            Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

            An old friend of mine once broke his leg sitting in an economy seat in a plane. He was a bit over 2 metres tall and not exactly slim and he usually got a free upgrade to business class when he turned up at the gate but not this time.

            He had been hit by a car a few years back and this, along with general bone loss due to age meant that folding and twisting to lever himself into the plane seat resulted in his leg breaking. The guy who turned up with a wheelchair to get him off the aircraft took one look and said something to the equivalent of "we're going to need a bigger wheelchair."

    2. Wokstation

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      I sneezed. That was it.

      1. mtp

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        I just sat down on a chair. It was a extra unexpected 10cm of drop but it has blighted me for years. I really do have a chronic injury caused by a overly soft cushion.

        You can never be too paranoid about your lower back!

      2. Robert Moore

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        Working in PC repair. Back in the days of mostly desktops. Opened up a case, blew out the dust with compressed air. Sneezed and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The doctor gave me 2 shots (Pain killer and muscle relaxant.) and sent me home. After walking into my apartment, I dropped my keys, and without thinking bent down to pick them up. Woke up the following morning still on the floor beside my keys.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      Sitting in a traffic jam on the M27, when a Volvo 240 rear ended me still doing 60mph... The brand new Astra I was driving (less than 50 miles on the clock, it was a rental from Avis that had been delivered to the office and I'd driven about 3 miles out onto the motorway) was several feet shorter, there was not a single panel on the car that was still straight.

      The police turned up and told me to move it to the side of the road, I was shaking like a leaf, but I managed to push it onto the hard shoulder... When the motorway maintenance guy turned up and pointed out the rear wheel wasn't turning, because the bumper was dug into it! That'll be the adrenaline then! He helped me rip the bumper free.

      The police then asked me if the car still ran. I turned the ignition and it started. It was very loud, the exhaust was no longer connected to the motor. All the lights were broken as well. They told me to bugger off, so I drove down the road to Southampton and pulled up at the first phone box I could find (again, before mobile phones) and called Avis. I told them I'd had a bit of an accident, then made my way to their local office to get a replacement car.

      I've never driven so fast through rush-hour traffic in Southampton! The broken exhaust made people take notice of me, one look in the mirror at the heap approaching from behind was enough to panic them into getting out of the way.

      The Avis rep's face was a picture, when I turned up. The blinds were down, so I limped into the shop and told him I'd had a bit of an accident, he lifted the blind and exclaimed, "A BIT?!"

      I went to the hospital after that, mis-diagnosed as a bruised back, so I carried on with my trip to our Cardiff office, where I was on secondment. It was in fact the lumbar region compressed together, with no discs left. :-(

    4. John 110
      Thumb Down

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      Getting the wife's wheelchair out of the back of the car. Did all the right things, straight back, no twisting, then somebody passing talked to me as I was about to put it down. I turned to reply...sproing!! Three days flat on my back...

      As an aside, do you know how hard it is to buy an affordable car which'll take a wheelchair in the boot without being the size of an elephant?

      1. Noram

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        I've pulled my back picking up the junk mail that went through the letter box...That didn't endear the local takeaways to me that day :p

        It seems these days I pull it badly at least once a year, usually doing something "light".

        Re the wheelchairs, the old classic (first gen) Corsa was always a surprise in that it fitted a wheelchair (big rear wheel type ) fine, and I suspect did well on Motability because of that, as if you took the parcel shelf out the bulbous boot window allowed the wheelchair to go in it standing up meaning it was easy to get in and out (open boot, lift wheelchair, step back, lower it then unfold seat).

        It was also IIRC no upfront payment, and the diesel could pull a trailer from MK to Minehead/Taunton and back on a single tank. My father had one and would put a mobility scooter (one of those huge "noddy car" types that took wheels from a mini) in the trailer, the wheelchair in the boot and go down that way for a holiday and come back with some fuel left.

        For modern affordable cars that take wheelchairs the likes of the Kia's tend to do fairly well, the issue seems to be many manufacturers don't like giving a decent boot on their cheaper models.

        I had a 2003 Rio (extremely basic) from new that cost ~£7k and took my mum's wheelchair and ran until I gave it to my sister at about year 10, she stopped doing any servicing/checks other than yearly oil, and it lasted until year 15. It probably would have lasted longer but the labour cost to fix an issue was too much. You could even put a Shoprider Sovereign scooter in the boot, but you had to pack it in like tetris.

        I may have spent more time than I like looking at cheap cars that take wheelchairs in the past (and working out the risks and costs of buying new vs second hand, vs mobility lease).

        1. Potty Professor

          Wheelchairs in cars

          When my wife was in remission, she decided she would like to start driving again. We had sold her little Fiesta automatic when she was first ill, and I had a manual Mondeo estate. She did not want to drive the Mondeo, so we looked around for something she could manage. Our specifications included: Smaller than the Mondeo; Automatic transmission; Powerful and heavy enough to tow and control our caravan; Estate so we could fit her wheelchair and the dog in the back; I cheekily suggested 4WD in case we got stuck again pulling the caravan off a muddy site (don't ask!). Eventually the choice came down to a Land Rover Freelander or a Subaru Impreza. The Impreza won, and we bought one brand new with 22 miles on the clock, I later sold it at 23000 miles, 9 years later. Both the wife and the dog had passed away before then.

    5. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      Must have been about 1983 or '4. Working on a Citroen 2CV on the drive, and it gently tumbled off the jack - no drama, nobody underneath, no problem. Something in my weakened brain (yes, even then...) told me that I could put my hands under the sill and lift something that looks so much like a tin can as easily as, well, a tin can. It turns out that one cannot do that. Agony is a tough word, but I hope that is what I experienced, as I don't want to believe that there is anything too much worse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

        IIRC the 2CV could be lifted out of desert sand - with the added advantage of an air-cooled engine.

    6. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

      I picked up a not-small-enough child, my sister's, and swung them from side to side. Don't. I think they did enjoy it, but I didn't.

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Unwelcome interruption to important drinking

    Not actually being on call is no block to being phoned up in the middle of the night, even when you're towards the end of the Friday night beer batch run.

  7. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Light maps

    Some of us of a certain age and experience will have been called on to complete a light map when the mighty mainframe has ground to a halt in an undiagnosable manner. Simpler times, when the state of the processor can be written down on (an admittedly large) sheet of paper.

  8. evadnos nibor

    late nineties

    Working for a small oil+gas services company, softwarev dev, systems admin, All Things Tech. The Boss is over in Saudi hawking our latest changes to $ENORMO_OIL_CO and encounters a licence problem on AIX. I'm at my partner's in St Albans, we're both sleeping off a heavy night in the pub. 02:00 the phone downstairs rings ... and rings ... and rings ... and rings. She goes and answers it, comes upstairs and tips a glass of water over me. "It's your fucking boss" as she falls face first (mostly) on the bed and zonks out. I fall down the stairs - still absolutely bladdered - and gibber down the phone. He won't leave me alone, and somehow manages to persuade me to try and sober up for half an hour and he'll phone me back. Buzzing on mainlined nescafe and satched and cold from the shower and now just pissed rather than palatic, I pick up the phone before it wakes her up. I mumble him through using vi and, yep, the licence file *has* been edited on Windows and has carriage returns in it and here's how to get rid. All working, sale made, Happy Boss.

    When he's back in the office I tackle him about it. Fortunately she was too drunk to remember much about it and the relationship survived, but how did the bastard get her number? He smiled "The office manager lives round the corner from the office, so I phoned her and got her to look through the phone bills and find a St Albans number, and it was dialled from your extension so there we are".

    Fair dos, he gave me a day off and promised never to do it again.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: late nineties

      The office manager lives round the corner from the office, so I phoned her and got her to look through the phone bills and find a St Albans number, and it was dialled from your extension

      Fair bit of detective work and it was urgent and work related. Nowadays it won't work as just about everybody uses a cell phone for private business. On the other hand, nowadays he probably would have had that number already, so less (chance of) strain on the relationship.

      1. evadnos nibor

        Re: late nineties

        we didn't have a formal on-call arrangement and "work-related" doesn't mean a lot at two in the morning on a Saturday. I only didn't tell him to fuck off because I liked him and didn't want to drop him in the poo.

        Nowadays he would defo *not* have had the number and there aren't enough strong men in the county to get me back on to on-call status ... I've done my stint, some other bugger's turn

        All that aside, there's a worrying tendency in modern Bossery to say things like "work-life balance? work *is* life" (that's a quote, and it made my mind up about leaving that job) and to want to impinge too far into your personal life. They pay for your skills and a set amount of your time, anything after that is a separate negotiation, which can usefully begin with what's being offered for the extra work rather than a presumption that you'll do it for nothing

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: late nineties

          It's always senior bossery talking about 'work-life balances' (normally while instagramming their latest Caribbean holiday)

          Your boss is always upsetting your chance of ever getting it in balance!

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: late nineties

          "work-life balance? work *is* life"

          Any "boss" who says that to me will quickly find himself without work (being a multiple B*FH does help) after which I will tell him to keep his word and to terminate his life.

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: late nineties

            'If work is life, you're underpaying me. Hang on a sec while I call an actuary.'

          2. JimC

            Re: Any "boss" who says that to me

            As a teenager I had a summer job in a nursing home as kitchen hand. Management changed and new manager was 3 weeks behind paying wages. Any complaints were greeted with "If you don't like it you can leave". I waited until the afternoon just about everyone was out for one reason or another and itwas him and me and a huge pile of washing up, and tackled him. Usual response. Oh, how I enjoyed shutting the door behind me and leaving him in deep whatever...

        3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: late nineties

          After the last job went from "get the job done sometime between 9 and 5" to "we want you on the phone desk from 8am" I'm refusing any contracts that specify a start time before 9 or without any allowance for flexibility. I'm getting too old to do that sort of crap.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: late nineties

            I prefer flexibility as well, but if possible I prefer to be at my desk by 6 AM, not because I enjoy getting up that early, but to avoid commuter traffic jams (both ways).

            1. A K Stiles

              Re: late nineties

              Had that conversation with a 'little manager' in a previous life -

              LM: "You're late!"

              Me: "No I'm not - it's 3 minutes to the start time"

              LM: "But you should be ready to be working at that time!"

              Me: "I am ready to start working"

              LM: "But your computer isn't turned on, booted up and logged in!"

              Me: "and where does it say in my contract that I should be turning the computer on in my own time? There are several technical solutions to that if it's such a significant problem."

              LM: "Buh buh buh...."

              Later shifted my hours so I was first one in (before Little Manager) and did the initial post-opening etc. and got everything set up ready for the rest of the team to arrive, which often included a quick 10 second circuit of the team's desks to turn on everyone's PC ready for their arrival, whilst my own machine booted up.

              1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: late nineties

                Yeah, I've had that.

                * You're not on the phone desk! It's 8:30!

                # I turned my laptop on at 7:55, it's still booting up

                * You should have turned it on 30 minutes earlier.

    2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      Re: late nineties

      @evandos nibor:

      In the late nineties, I was on the other side of the US from the office, when the phone rang at quite an early hour PST. The expensive technical consultant (ETC) needed to push some data from the HR/Payroll side of Peoplesoft to the AP side, and it was not working. It has escaped the ETC's notice that one field of PS_PERSONAL_DATA was four characters on the HR side and two characters on the AP side. I plugged in the PC, dialed in to work, and got the data pushed. (Substr is your friend.) I doubt I got back to sleep.

      When I returned to the office, one of the managers state proudly that the call was his doing. They knew at which hotel I was staying, but the desk knew of nobody by my name. The manager then looked up my wife's name in the files and called back.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: late nineties

        Not my story, but my colleague in the slaughterhouse, who rarely got a night without some phone call requiring his attentions at the plant at night or really early morning. No matter where he was or what the social occasion was.

        So the night came that he took his wife to the movies, phone off & halfway through the film a "Crew member" as they now call themselves rather than usherette made herself known to him & whispered.

        "Are you D*******"

        "Yes" he replied.

        "There's a problem at the plant, can you contact them please".

        He had told precisely one person his plans, that info was relayed to the manager when the issue occurred & they rang the cinemas local to his address sending in a crew member to to look for a tall "Shaggy from Scooby Doo" watching "film name" type & relay the message.

        He never told anyone his plans again after that.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: late nineties

        When I returned to the office, one of the managers state proudly that the call was his doing. They knew at which hotel I was staying, but the desk knew of nobody by my name. The manager then looked up my wife's name in the files and called back.

        I sure hope you hit him with a double overtime, starting at the moment you woke up due to the telephone call to the start of normal office hours.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was the back-up on call. Previous night I had a heavy beer session (the one and only time I've ever got plastered on beer - I learnt my lesson).

    Sunday morning, 08:30, I get called. Primary person not responding, and I need to go into work. And I feel ROUGH. I mean vomit-comet rough. So I persuade a family member to drive me to work, where I was promptly sick (pepto-bizmo tastes a lot worse coming back up than it does going down).

    Still, I sort out the problem, get back home and crawl back under the rock I'd ventured from.

    The primary on call person called me later in the afternoon and it turned out the on-call phone battery had run flat! He said he'd get me a beer to make up for it, but that just made me feel very queezy..... :D

  10. jake Silver badge

    Blinkenlights ... they are not just for looks.

    Back in the day I worked on a lot of T-carrier stuff. I can't tell you how many times an owner/client ranted about a shiny new (fractional) T1/E1 link being down, how the equipment was shit, the field guys were incompetent, and how pretty much everybody involved with the installation should be taken out behind the barn & horsewhipped. Most of the time[0], it was an incorrectly set loopback switch on the new node. Seems bosses in general can't resist flipping switches ... and can't read blinkenlights.

    Sometimes I'd casually reached out and toggle the loopback switch, thus fixing the link and painting the boss's face an interesting shade of red when I presented him with the bill reading nothing more than "Call out. Flipped loopback switch. $1,000" on an official invoice.

    But once in a while, after inspecting the node, I'd stand aside & motion the boss through the door before me. While he had his back to me, I'd flip the switch ... and we'd go off to his office for a chat about fixing the obviously broken machine. I'd let him rant on for several minutes, around 20 was the record, but always ending up with something along the lines of "so what are you going to do about it, then?". To which I would quietly reply "Oh, I've already fixed it. We'll invoice you for the call out". Sometimes the resulting sputtering reached epic proportions ...

    [0] The rest of the time it was a cable that had fallen out of the CSU/DSU because it hadn't been screwed down properly. We always took the blame for that, even if it was their guys bolting stuff together. We've all done it, we're only human, I'll take the blame, no charge ... sometimes it's handy to have a friendly couple of faces in a client's datacenter who probably won't ever try to throw you under a bus.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Blinkenlights ... they are not just for looks.

      Do you have that one on copy/paste? I've read it before.

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Blinkenlights ... they are not just for looks.

        Yeah, bloody repeats! The Reg forum is getting as bad as TV for this!!!

        (Actually, I shouldn't complain, I've told my "washing my balls" story at least twice here - no, I'm not going to repeat it again, go look it up.)

        1. Shadow Systems

          At DJV, re: washing your balls...

          Just to save everyone else the time to find it, his ball washing comment can be found at:

          *Hands you a pint*

          Still funny now as it was then. =-)p

          1. DJV Silver badge

            @Shadow Systems


            ...I just wonder who the downvoter was on that one...

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Blinkenlights ... they are not just for looks.

          The way I see it, as long as it's faintly on topic repeat whatever you like, whenever you like. There is no way that every commentard who might be interested in what you have to say read it the first time around ... and there have Shirley been many new commentards added since then, too.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Blinkenlights ... they are not just for looks.

        OMG! A.P. Veening has read it before! Whatever shall I do?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    calling when having sex

    Yes, true. I was having sex around 3:00am with the missus, when the operator called.

    I tried to still continue, while holding the phone, but when the operator told me of the issue,

    aka about a totally SHITE file transfer tool, completely mandatory for operations, which was us support staff

    the worst nightmare ever, meaning my night was over, I completely failed to still being motivated.

    It was a nice try, but complete failure.

    Worst of all was the dude tone: "Hello ... <wait 5 s.>. How are you doing ? <wait 5s>", etc ...

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: totally SHITE file transfer tool

      Obviously, someone was, um, accessing the wrong orifice...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: totally SHITE file transfer tool

        Something gone wrong in the back office?

        1. David 132 Silver badge

          Re: totally SHITE file transfer tool

          Cock-up at the office.

          Cock-down at OP’s residence.

  12. vujune

    Soul of A New Machine

    The Soul of A New Machine by Tracy Kidder is a brilliant historical account of Data General building the successor to the Eclipse, when debugging involved blinkenlights, oscilloscopes, and wire wrappers.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Soul of A New Machine

      I was there (not on the MV development team though) while that was going on, and knew a few of the people in the book. My group was the Comms & Networking Hardware group (I wrote the keyboard scanning routines for the Dasher D200 "Darth Vader" terminal). The book is an accurate depiction of the DG development process. It was a fun place to work for a new grad.

      I have a NOVA 3 front panel sitting on the shelf in front of me. One of these days, I should hook it to a RasPi...

      // the one with SoANM in the pocket, natch

      // (mine has Tom West's signature stamp on the flyleaf)

      // also worked on numerous terminal multiplexer cards, thick wire Ethernet, voice messaging and...though I hate to admit it...Token Ring [ugh!]

      1. Down not across Silver badge

        Re: Soul of A New Machine

        You've earned few of these then ---->

        I have (well, hopefully still have, not been to where they are stored in years) half a dozen D215/412 terminals might have had dasher (D200) or two, DG30 and MV/4000 (running AOS/VS 7 iirc). Never did come across Nova or MV/8000 that needed rescuing.

    2. smudge

      Re: Soul of A New Machine

      Yup, I haven't read it for years, but I still have it upstairs. Brilliant book.

      Always remember the guy who burned out, and left a note saying he had gone to something like a commune in Vermont, and would no longer recognise any time period shorter than a season.

      1. Daedalus Silver badge

        Re: Soul of A New Machine

        There were a lot of personalities involved. There was something about a status bit that would control whether the CPU operated in one mode or another - I think it was word width or possibly VM usage - and one guy storming out yelling "You're going to hang a bag on the side of the Eclipse!".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Soul of A New Machine

        "[...] and would no longer recognise any time period shorter than a season."

        "Getting back to the earth" was a common sentiment in the 1970s. After 10 years in IT trouble-shooting - on a whim*** I went off to a kibbutz as a volunteer. After 3 months working in the fields I was called home for a family emergency. My old employer immediately offered me a job at a higher salary. It was nice to do something that changed faster than the seasons - and continued in that mode for another 35 years.

        ***in hindsight I was trying to impress a young woman whom I had lusted after for years.

    3. Daedalus Silver badge

      Re: Soul of A New Machine

      He went away from the basement of Building 14 that day, and left this note in his cubicle, on top of his computer terminal: "I'm going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season."

      Great quote from the book. IIRC the guy in question did not stick with life in the slow lane.

  13. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    Talking of light, many eons ago, the organisation I was working for got one of the first Intel Hypercubes that were allowed out of the US (export restrictions). The debugging software was f*ng awful, but it had red and green lights that indicated communications and processing. These came to be invaluable in debugging and optimising thre codes we were writing (parallel Fortran with a McFarland comp[iler - the one with the infamous "this error should never occur" compile message).

  14. chivo243 Silver badge

    All too many times

    I've gotten a call to race to a D level's assistant because the printer won't, and the D level needed this document for a meeting that started 10 minutes ago... turn up to find the printer is only out of paper! I always left the area saying when your stapler is out of staples...

  15. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge


    What is this 'Red and Green' of which you speak? To my eyes, and approx 1 in 10 of all men, there was just yellowish and yellowish. (Modern LEDs can manage a more usable saturation level, but then blue is considered cooler.)

    And some severe cluebattery due to whoever thought it cool to have them appear in the same place.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Blinkenlights

      Greetings, fellow "chromatically challenged" engineer!

    2. vincent himpe

      Re: Blinkenlights

      yup. as a deuteranopy sufferrer myself (red/green colorblindness) i lost count on how many battery chargers i have taken apart to replace those red/green ( in one package) LED's with red/blue contraptions of my own ( two 0603 leds and three recycled resistor pins)

      cable/dsl router/ modems are the worst. they have like 8 led's and call all blink red, green or red/green. grrrrrr.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: Blinkenlights

        Though, thankfully, now it seems to be SiC "traffic light" green, instead of the old "is that yellow or green?" color.

        I'm a designer, and I always refuse to do "color only" indicators, unless *I* can tell the difference.'s red (seldom used due to international standards), yellow, traffic light green, or blue. Which reduces to yellow or traffic light green. Fine by me. I'll use the old green (works on a 3.3V supply, where SiC green needs 5V) when it doesn't a link activity indicator or a power present indicator.

        More than you ever want to know, right? I can't count the number of times I've called a colleague over to tell me whether that LED is green or yellow....

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Blinkenlights

          The blue ones are so bright! I had an HDMI switch box that insisted on having a blazing blue LED for CEC detected, dim red ones for source and a dim green one for power. I took the power LED out, as there was no condition whereby one of the red ones would not be lit, and swapped it for the blue one, didn't need any resistor changes. For a device that's going to sit underneath your TV in a darkened room, you didn't really need a CEC detected light at all, let alone one that is brighter than the screen.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Blinkenlights

            "The blue ones are so bright!"

            Effective LED brightness can differ considerably between types. I used a traffic light sequence this week of 1.8mm LEDs. The greens with the clear packaging were very bright from all angles - whereas the green ones with a diffused coloured package were very dim. However - the diffused red and amber were more effective than the clear package ones. The latter were actually very bright - but with almost no off-centre diffusion.

            While red/green is the common colour blindness - some people can have blue/yellow problems instead.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Blinkenlights

            I have a "media dashboard" (USB, various memory cards, IDE, SATA, ...) in one of the 5.25" bays of my desktop. It has a blue LED that lights up briefly when the computer boots. It'll cast shadows on the opposite wall even with the overhead light on!

        2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          Re: Blinkenlights

          Upvoted for traffic light green. Whoever designed those knew their stuff.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Blinkenlights

            Is that the incandescent bulb with coloured glass traffic light green or the heading towards blue LED version of traffic light green?

      2. VerySlowData

        Re: Blinkenlights

        And why oh why is the led brightness on the devices so high that a single box could light up a football stadium???

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Blinkenlights

      My area of forensic science involved a lot of colour matching. Oddly enough nobody thought to make a check for this an obligatory part of recruitment until my office-mate & I raised it. One of my colleagues actually was R/G colour-blind but was senior enough to avoid that aspect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blinkenlights

        One of my colleagues was red/green colour blind. He was often asked to do a user test of any GUI we designed.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blinkenlights

        I know a guy who sometimes has to do some wiring in industry who's pretty much entirely colorblind. I can only think of once when he asked me to make sure he connected wires with the correct color codes; the shades are usually far enough apart that he can manage. He does occasionally get our red and green stickers mixed up, though.

    4. ITMA

      Re: Blinkenlights

      I absolutely *hate* effing blue LEDs - or more precisely I absolutely *hate* they way they have been stuffed in effing everthying with an LED in it

      Most equipment that has blue LEDs fitted has no justification what-so-ever for using them and the are WAY WAY too bright.

      This is design "fashion" gone stupid, pure and simple.

      STOP IT!!!!

      I'll give you a hint - why do most emergency services us BLUE LIGHTS?

      So how monumentally stupid is it to use them everywhere. It's hard to find an LED bedroom alarm clock that doesn't have a blue display these days (most of the LCD ones are rubbish as bedroom alarm clock). I don't know about anyone else, but NOTHING with a blue LED is allowed in the bedroom. I just find it impossible to sleep because they are so attention grabbing and disturbingly bright.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blinkenlights

        " I just find it impossible to sleep because they are so attention grabbing and disturbingly bright."

        It is recommended to avoid any blue light source near bedtime - especially in the bedroom. That includes any white light that has a high blue component.

        Apparently it acts as a trigger to resynchronise your diurnal body clock as if it is dawn.

        1. ITMA

          Re: Blinkenlights

          Don't tell me - tell the morons who keep putting them in kit because blue LEDs are "the in thing".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blinkenlights

        Ugh, yes. Even my razor charger has one, which is always on whether the razor is in it or not. To make it worse, it's designed to make the cleaning solution tank (which I don't use) glow, so it's a big area. To try to dim it, I scribbled over it with a sharpie.

      3. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Blinkenlights

        Blue lights are banned in the bedroom. But not red ones.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Blinkenlights

      at least you can SEE them.

      A good chunk of sufferers can't SEE red at all.

      Mty father works on the principle of "if there's nothing visible, the traffic lights are probably red" and keeping WELL back from the car in font - although in that case there's enough chroma bleed he can usually see something from brake lights (not red leds though)

      Some people can't see green

      Possibly the two worst possible colours in existence for indicators or traffic safety unless other pigments are mixed in

    6. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Blinkenlights

      Back in the good old days those blinkenlights -- the ones showing a register's contents -- were usually small organge neon lights. Other indicators would have a small incandescent bulb fitted into the switch so they'd be any color. They would light up on a button press to indicate some status or another, assuming the bulb hadn't burned out. (There would be a carefully hidden button somewhere on the panel labeled 'Bulb Test' who's purpose is to be overlooked.)

  16. Notrodney

    Many years ago we had an engineer that lived just around the corner from one of our customers. They had a system down at around 7am but he didn't start work (or answer his phone) till 8am. They rang him repeatedly but no answer. So they sent one of their mixer trucks to his house and it sat outside with the drum turning until he answered the phone. They were told to never do that again.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On Call escalation? Check your priorities first!

    This past summer here at the at the southern hemisphere me and the family were visiting one of my wife's relatives, on one of those now strange non-lockdown moments. They convinced me to fire up a BBQ, on an improvised grill. After puffin my way through the roasting for over two hours, I swear I got more smoked than the meat!

    When I called everyone to the table and finished cutting the pieces, and I was ready to serve them, I got the dreaded call from the Senior DPE of the account. He told me the UNIX support team in India needed my help because there was a major issue they were unable to resolve by themselves (they hadn't given him all the details because "it was urgent"), so my seniority was called for. I looked at the tray filled with meat I was holding and everyone who had just sat to the table with my most miserable face, put the tray on the table, and proceeded to lock myself up in one of the bedrooms.

    Downloaded WebEx to my phone, looked for the meeting info, called in. There were a couple of customers reps screaming and cursing. I waited until they stopped to catch a breath, introduced myself and asked to be briefed. Some VM was deleted in error and there was no backup. I suggest a recovery procedure, the support team tells me they already were working on it. Then I asked why did you summoned me here, they tell me their on call backup was sick and they weren't sure who should they put in to take over this incident, since the primary on call guy was wasted after a night of major issues. All in all, I spent 45 minutes on the call until they finally came clean to me.

    That certainly blew up my lid. I excused me out from the customer's call, called the support team's manager and proceeded to explain he had another 16 resources to rotate the secondary on call before calling me in, since I certainly wasn't part of the support team in the first place. All in all, his shady move was motivated by the general lack of skills in his team, so in a pinch and since he didn't have my cell phone number, he decided it was safer to bother all the chain of command up and pull me into the issue to see if they could persuade me to complete the recovery. I told him I hadn't brought my laptop with me, I was three hours away from it, and I certainly wasn't thinking of driving back anytime soon, since nobody had ever requested for me to be part of the on call escalation.

    Then I wrote a chat to the Senior DPE and explained him why I was summoned, how I lost my well earned BBQ, and how I was having it over an hour after everyone else, poorly re-heated in the microwave oven. He answered a couple of hours later telling me he had given the support team's manager quite a shake and promising to never call me in again without knowing all the details.

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: On Call escalation? Check your priorities first!

      A long time ago I took a contract where they insisted on-call time would only give time off in lieu. Quite a generous multiplier though. I agreed on condition they also paid for e.g. theatre tickets wasted.

      They were also too cheap to pay for a solicitor to amend the contract...

      I put in a claim for rescheduling a barbecue, including paying the guests a day's rate to be there midweek instead of at their usual job. They offered to pay for meat and charcoal. I pointed out they were lucky I wasn't insisting on having the party flown to somewhere we'd be likely to get another nice day.

      I eventually settled for a couple of days off, because the real point was that they left incredibly strict instructions for no-one to ever call me out of hours for any reason whatsoever. (And anyway, we had a fun barbecue that day even if I did have to spend half an hour on the phone in the middle of it.)

      The moral of both stories is that if you're any good at your job, it's easier for you to find another job than for your job to find another you. Don't be a doormat :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On Call escalation? Check your priorities first!

        (Same AC as before, to keep stuff in context)

        Ha! yeah, my first assignment with Big Blue was actually under rules which infringed labour laws down here, since they wouldn't pay overtime, and exchanged it for twice the time off on workdays, as in your case. When the account we were working for became so unstable it meant the on call week would render you and the back up assignee almost sleepless (while also allocating you two weeks off the daily schedule), they tried to take it back, but still without paying for the overtime. Me and a couple more of the freshmen sent to cover the on call said we would stop doing so, and since our contract never specified any kind of work beyond the usual 9-5 schedule, there was nothing they could do about it.

        Our FLM busted into flames and threatened to shift us to one of the worst local accounts, but we all ended up landing in a much more insteresting position, migrating servers into the company for new customers...

        As you said, you could become indispensable at yout job much faster than your job becomes necessary to you.

  18. Chairman of the Bored

    Communicating with only obscenities?

    1) The amount of information your drill instructor can convey using only screamed obscenities is truly staggering. It's a wonder I can even pee in a parabolic arc anymore without someone screaming, "That fucking thing is so small, why the fuck do you need to use your hand?"

    2) I had a piece of equipment RMA'ed back to the States from somewhere hot and sandy. The only documentation was the spray paint on the side of the crate: "WTF assholes? This POS is NFG"

    1. JohnG

      Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

      In the same tone, an ex-British army guy at a European organisation, inspecting a failed voice circuit with a young female German engineer, gave this analysis "The fucking fucker's fucked!".

      1. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

        That's fucking brilliant!

      2. Spacedinvader
        Thumb Up

        Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

        I use that one all the time

      3. smudge

        Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

        Anthony Burgess - "A Clockwork Orange", etc - said he heard a mechanic in the Army say, whilst trying to fix a Jeep, "Fuck it — the fucking fucker’s fucking fucked the fucker.”

        He then subsequently used it in teaching English, since the word is used as a different part of speech (adjective, noun, verb etc) in each occurrence.

        1. G.Y.

          documented Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

          General R Simpkin's "race to the swift" has some documented examples (end of his "deep operations theory" book; p.53 of paperback)

          1. G.Y.

            scan Re: documented Communicating with only obscenities?

            managed to scan my copy:

            At a symposium I attended in

            Canada, Peter Vigor, then head of the Sandhurst Soviet Research and Study

            Centre, was asked how a Soviet NCO might tell one of his men to do some

            simple thing. His sample order contained, I think, seven words, five of them

            variants on the soldierly expletive which the Russians, in a true spirit of

            democracy, use freely through the ranks. This is a record I have only once

            heard equalled. Working on a muddy side-slope, one of my Centurion crews

            had just got a thrown track back on and tightened, when the track-adjusting

            mechanism came away. Falling back into the mud with the 3-foot spanner

            and its contents on top of him, the driver uttered the immortal phrase "The ****ing ****er's ****ed, **** it!" Perhaps Peter Vigor too was

            indulging in a touch of poetic licence.

      4. Potty Professor

        Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

        Sounds like my brother in law, every second word begins with F, no matter what the subject.

        1. Martin Silver badge

          Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

          In the early seventies, just before I went to uni, I did some temporary work during Easter and Summer at a large well-known photo factory.

          The first job was order picking - the team was all men, and literally every other word was fucking. A typical conversation:-

          Me: "Excuse me, I can't find this item - can you help me, please?"

          Member of staff: "I've just fucking got to get this fucking order to the fucking desk and then I'll fucking be able to help you."

          And said in a polite tone, with no malice or impatience. Eventually, I learned to filter out the f's...

          The second job was in the boxing department - the team actually made the boxes that film and developing paper came in. It was all women - just four men to move pallets, and we two (male) students helping cover during holiday staff shortages. The women swore a bit (though never the f-word), but the men were nice as pie - never even a "bloody" escaped their lips. But in the changing room, where the women couldn't hear them, it was fucking this and fucking that again.

          I found it fascinating that the men would NOT swear in front of women - it was considered to be utterly beyond the pale.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

            "I found it fascinating that the men would NOT swear in front of women - [...]"

            Cue the apocryphal story.

            A Polish airman is invited to a posh girls' school to give a talk about his wartime fighter experiences. When he says "The fucker came out of the sun" - the headmistress interrupts to explain that the Focke was a German make of plane. The airman says "No! - the fucker was a Messerschmitt".

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

            [...] - it was considered to be utterly beyond the pale."

            Which gave rise to two common expressions. "Mind your language!" - and "Pardon my French".

            The latter reminds me of a UK childhood neighbour who was French and married an English soldier after the war. Her daily English vocabulary was peppered with Anglo-Saxon swear words.

          3. ITMA

            Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

            "I've just fucking got to get this fucking order to the fucking desk and then I'll fucking be able to help you."

            Sounds like perfect Geordie to me!

            It's part of the reason Geordies generally talk so fast - they (I should say "we" as I am a Geordie) have to get double the amount of words out in the same space of time. Think of it as "packet padding" LOL.

            And that is without taking into account the additional throughput required to get in the obligatory Geordie vocalisation of ACK - "Bonny lad/lass".

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

          "Sounds like my brother in law, every second word begins with F, no matter what the subject."

          I used to work with someone like that. We once bet he couldn't last through a 15 minute tea break without saying fuck or some derivative. He lasted 30 seconds. And that was because it took him 25 seconds to get the cup of tea before sitting down and opening his mouth :-)

        3. David Hicklin

          Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

          "every second word begins with F, no matter what the subject"

          sounds like our neighbours when in a full flowing argument - which is quite often and loud, hence they get through the walls

      5. Shooter

        Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

        I'll just leave this here...

    2. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

      The amount of information your drill instructor can convey using only screamed obscenities is truly staggering.

      That takes me back!

      When I went to college and joined the OTC, I already knew how to do drill etc (many years in the ATC).

      My first parade there had someone make some negative comment about the new batch. The RSM proceeded to verbally dismember them, no obscenities and no repetition.

      They get intelligent, verbally able ones to show students the stuff. It was very impressive.

      ¿How long did this last? I don't know. I did not move during this!

    3. Pangasinan Philippines

      Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

      I'm not one for for swearing, but I was down the pub explaining that the job I had just landed in Saudi Arabia was tax free.

      Having checked all the UK tax info papers (1981, before internet) a farmer was trying to tell me that I could not return to the UK to visit without incurring tax, or so his brother said.

      This guy became insistent that he was right. I knew different having read all the rules.

      " I don't care what your fucking brother says". said I before going out to a night shift.

      You could feel the shock among those propping up the bar.

      The next visit to the pub the landlord was all smiles and gave me a free pint.

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    When first married and living in a 2ndfloor attic flat (3rd floor for transpondians) we bought a bookcase at auction. A huge thing in solid oak. It came up to my shoulder and was 3 doors wide. The staircase was in 3 flights with 2 sharp corners to the first landing and the same again to our landing. It was ridiculous to think we could have got it up the stairs.

    Several of us managed to do it, in fact it's been with us ever since & still has some white paint from the staircase embedded in the grain.

    It wasn't that that put my back out. It was reaching round the rear wheel to the jack handle after a brake adjustment that did that

    1. juice Silver badge

      Fun with terraces

      Ah, the joys of moving furniture.

      I was once given a wrought-iron metal bedframe, only to discover that it wasn't a standard "ikea" one that you could dismantle. Instead, it came in three pieces: the headboard, the footboard and a solidly welded 6ft*5ft steel frame covered in wire mesh, which slotted firmly into the headboard and footboard [*].

      And that's how I found myself stuck in a distinctly precarious position, halfway up the stairs and underneath said large and very heavy bedframe...

      Y'see, the landlord used to live in this property, and had done some remodelling. The original staircase was pretty steep/narrow and ran up the middle of the house; they'd knocked this out and built a shallower/wider staircase which ran up the side of the wall.

      And the shallower angle of the staircase meant that the vertical gap between the stairs and the ceiling was smaller than usual - it's only about 5ft. Which has caught a few vertically-challenged friends out, since they've never before had to duck when going down stairs ;)

      Which in turn means that the "angled" distance between the steps and the ceiling is only about 4ft.

      For an added bonus, the handrail was two wooden "planks" which ran up at the same angle as the stairs. And I'd rested the frame on these in the hopes of just sliding it up. Only to end up grabbing onto the bedframe for dear life, in case it slipped through and took a large chunk out of the backroom floor...

      Thankfully, I was able to reset things without dying or remodelling the property, and summoned another friend, who was able to help me get it up the stairs with a little bit of brute force; a wee bit of paint and TLC dealt nicely with the aftermath.

      But when I moved out, I was more than happy to leave said bed behind as a "gift" to the landlord ;)

      [*] Vaguely similar to this -

      Sadly, that website doesn't list the weight of the bedframe, but from personal experience, I can say that it's Very Heavy Indeed, and a nightmare to maneouvre solo...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fun with terraces

        Helped a relative move into a townhouse. He had a big, solid steel desk that was to go on the second floor. We managed to remove the top and carry that up separately, but the desk itself was almost too heavy to manage. Due to the narrow stairs with a small landing, we had to carry it vertically!

        I understand that when he moved out, he simply left it there.

    2. CuChulainn

      It was reaching round the rear wheel to the jack handle after a brake adjustment that did that

      I was laid up for nearly a month one time after reaching around the rear of my seat in the car for a folder that was in the footwell.

      The weird part is always how it doesn't hurt anywhere near as much just after you do it as it does the next day and thereafter.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "The weird part is always how it doesn't hurt anywhere near as much just after you do it as it does the next day and thereafter."

        I found that out after falling off a motorcycle(*) and bouncing down the road. The day after was agonising

        (*) You might think it was carelessness but it was a choice between road and the back of a car which pulled out in front of me. The road was softer

  20. CommanderGalaxian

    Got called offshore (helicopter to an installation in the North Sea) because the system (used for metering) wouldn't accept input from the keyboard and the mouse cursor had frozen.

    I plugged the keyboard and mouse into the KVM switch. For some reason somebody had disconnected them.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      How long did you have to wait for the return flight?

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Offshore Blues (Icon).

        Up all day, all night & stayed awake all day (Staggering around like a drunkard or something from The Walking Dead at one point) for my evening flight off a rig.

        Only to get to my hotel, found I couldn't sleep, finally dropped off about 4.30am (After watching an episode of the appalling US TV Max Headroom show).

      2. CommanderGalaxian

        Can't remember, but was probably there for a few days. These places do tend to operate a policy of "oh while you are here, could you also take a look at...".

  21. heyrick Silver badge

    ours was an incident involving a washing machine

    I can't blame youth, this was last year... I wanted to fix something on an old ride on mower. So I tipped it over on its side (and propped it up that way) in order to get at the bolt that I wanted to get at.

    Lifting it was heavy work, but not too bad.

    Getting it back down, however, was the back breaker.

    The worst thing? Couldn't fix anything. The mower was made in America or Mexico or something. So I'm in a metric country looking at a bunch of Imperial bolts. Grrr...

  22. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


    I've mentioned a number of times how on the day after major heart surgery, my boss rang my mobile not to ask how I was, but "how do we do X Y and Z? "

    I later blamed the expletives on the fact I was out of my head on painkillers ....

    And yes, he is the sort of man who'd call staff up 1/2 way through their mom's funeral service and say "You gonna be long there?"

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Think

      And yes, he is the sort of man who'd call staff up 1/2 way through their mom's funeral service and say "You gonna be long there?"

      Correct reply to that is that after your mother's funeral is over, you will have another, his.

      1. onemark03 Bronze badge

        "You gonna be long there?"

        Er, you mean you didn't have your mobile already switched off?

  23. Whomesir?

    Bloody painful

    As an enthusiastic and rather stupid 19yr old I once did myself a mischief whilst lugging boxed explosives out of their blast-proof shelter to my ‘intelligent’ and experienced colleague.

    Working as a trainee alongside a aging and very experienced shotfirer on a hard rock quarry I was roped in to help pull the packaged explosives from the stores and onto the truck ready for loading in the holes.

    As blast shelters are low in height (as you’d expect) even at my humble 5’10” I had to lean over to move about. Trying to prove how ‘ard I was I ignored all of the manual handling training and lugged these heavy boxes (30kg I think) from waist height, a couple of metres to the door and onto a waiting trolley.

    Cue several hours later, a trolley bed in A&E and a very red face after throwing up some blood and straining my back - a slightly torn oesophagus and pulled muscles meant all my bravado was for nought and I spent a week of work and several months of ridicule.....oh the fun we had....

  24. red floyd

    Mine wasn't a phone call... mine was an airplane flight. OK, a 60 minute flight, but SOMEONE still had to pay for it.

    A customer called to say that our software wasn't working (surprise!) with their serial port. I lived in Los Angeles, the customer was in Monterey, California. I loaded up my briefcase with everything I could think of, hopped on a plane, and was at the customer's site by 9AM. Took one look at the computer, flipped a single DIP switch (remember those?).

    The computer had been configured so that BOTH serial ports were COM1. I changed it so that one was COM1 and the other was COM2. Meanwhile, my return flight wasn't until 3PM...

    Oh well.

  25. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Ouch ...

    I reached over a desk to pick up the screwdriver that had rolled to the floor. It was a little further down than I thought, so I leaned a little more ...


    Broken rib.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Ouch ...

      Some years back, I moved a PC on my work bench late Friday afternoon, felt something "snick" but nothing more.

      Sunday night\Monday morning my shoulder, arm & hand is giving me a new definition of pain, which ran for about 6 weeks (Physio visits, pain killers, heat packs\rubs & a wrist support, topped off with a quick final massage by the physio, a return trip to Canada staying in a hotel with pool & hot tub which I used twice a day) before being totally fit for work.

      6 weeks ago in the arm "snicks" & I am returned to 2008, after the first 24 - 72 hours, a prescription anti-inflammatory cream & the first of a series of massages the pain finally diminishes to a barely tolerable level.

      Still in a great deal of varying levels of discomfort & have had to set up more ergonomically friendly work spaces.

  26. Alan Edwards

    Just because it says "Out Of Paper"...

    Just because it says it's out of paper doesn't actually mean it *is* out of paper.

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