Writer’s Workshop: A Memorable Week At Work

I know the prompt was to write about a memorable day at work. I’ll try to be brief.

I worked for a software company for most of my career, first as a Technical Support Representative (or, as we liked to say, Traveling Social Reject). I traveled all over my company’s Midwest region (the western portion of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska), installing software and doing technical troubleshooting.

This particular week (it was 1986, before PC’s were prevalent), I had to install one of our packages at two different clients, for contractual reasons. My plan was to rent a car and drive to the first client, who was in Muncie, Indiana, spend Monday and Tuesday installing the software, drive back to Chicago on Wednesday morning, fly out Wednesday night to the second client, who was outside of Omaha, Nebraska, spend Thursday and Friday installing there, fly home Friday night and enjoy my weekend at home. Easy peasy, right?

Thursday of the week before, I got a call from the guy in Atlanta who’s packaging the software. He told me that he was just finishing the installation tapes, and as soon as they were ready he’d send them overnight to me, and that I would need to use the same set of tapes at both clients. Somewhere during the conversation he let it slip that they would be doing a beta test (i.e. a live test at a client site) of the same software elsewhere, and that although my tapes would say “General Release,” it wasn’t really.

So I got the tapes Friday. Sunday, I picked up the rental car and drove to Indiana. We get started on Monday, and by the end of the day I know I’m not going to be done on Tuesday afternoon. My new plan was to drive from the client to Indianapolis (about 75 miles) on Wednesday, catch a flight from there back to Chicago, get there in time to take my regularly scheduled flight, and everything will be well. Right?

Well, I didn’t get to Indianapolis Airport until twenty minutes after the last flight left. I turned in my rental car (which cost a fortune in one-way fees), booked the first flight out the next morning to Chicago and a connecting flight to Omaha, checked in to a hotel, and spent a couple of hours drinking Scotch in the bar.

The next day, I got to Omaha and learned that my bag went to Miami, that it was on its way back from there, and they’d send it on to my hotel when it arrived. Fine. I go to the client, and learn two things: the woman I’d be working with turned in her resignation and Friday would be her last day, and the tapes I brought would need to be taken somewhere and copied, because their tape drives can’t handle them.

We finally got started around 3:30, and by midnight were in a position where we could finish by mid-afternoon the next day. I went to the hotel, got my bag, and got about four hours of sleep. The next day (Friday), I got to the client and learned they had had some kind of catastrophic malfunction, and their system would be down until further notice.
At that point, I was at the “screw this” stage, and proposed going home and coming back when they had their act together. They wanted me to stay and finish it. So I stayed.

We finally got access to their system at 5 PM, and discovered that everything we had done the day before was gone. So we installed it again, and just as we were finishing, lightning hit the building and crashed our disk, destroying everything we had done. We started over again at 11:00 that night and were done by 5 Saturday morning. I wanted to do my demo (what we called the system test), but my friend tells me, “the user wants to see the demo.” So we wait.

He comes sauntering in at about 9, showered, shaved, and fresh as a daisy. We sit down at the terminal. I had been wired on caffeine and nicotine most of the night, but all that had worn off, and I was really starting to feel it. I yawned and started. “First you type ‘TAPS’ and press enter”…

I woke up two hours later. Without missing a beat, I said “and that brings up the signon screen.”

26 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: A Memorable Week At Work

  1. John,

    I had to grin just a wee bit with all that jumping through hoops. Talk about an aerobic workout. People have no idea what a big deal it was to do anything with computers 30+ years ago, do they? lol Boy, I do remember similar nightmares as this, except I’m on the user end as the system manager trying to troubleshoot problems with a techie on the phone. It was a huge ordeal when a company upgraded their computer hardware or software. And, the backups…oh good heavens, that took all night to do!! Great flashback to share with us. Thanks!

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    1. Earlier that week, at the first customer site, we had the whole system stop on us. We had to get the system programmer (I’ll never forget his name: Lamar Bink) involved. We were sitting outside the computer room watching him and the MTO (master terminal operator) try and get the system started for about twenty minutes. Finally, he comes storming out of the computer room, goes to his desk and takes a small deck of punch cards out, and as he’s walking by us he said “this’ll start it!” And it did. That’s what rebooting looked like in the old days…

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  2. What a horror! I often find that I have the same luck and I had to laugh that you fell asleep in mid sentence and then Resumed 2 hrs later. I did the same thing but I was home and a friend was there and I was talking and I closed my eyes for what I thought was a second. I continued with my thought and my friend looked at me and said I fell asleep for over an hour.

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    1. As a matter of fact, they didn’t. The following Monday, the user we waited the demo for was on the phone bitching about the fact I didn’t know the software–which wasn’t my job in the first place. I was just there to install it, and besides, no one save the people who wrote it had seen the system up to that point. They had their account manager coming two weeks later, after she spent a week in Atlanta learning how it worked.

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  3. Oh my gosh, by the time the lightening hit I would have thrown my hands up and just been like “nope. This is not going to happy. The universe does not want this to happen. I’m going home.” lol!

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