”SERVER’S DOWN! SERVER’S DOWN!”
It’s a Wednesday in August, and it is officially hot in my office at Dishonest Used Car Dealership. We’ve got an air conditioner, but, of course, it doesn’t work. So, not only am I grumpy from the heat, but our Incompetent Tech Guy is running around like an idiot shouting something about the server.
ITG: “SERVER’S DOWN!”
I walked out of my office to the hallway where ITG was standing, making sure to lock the door behind me lest he come in and “fix” my computer again.
Me: “So, what’s going on?”
ITG: “SERVER’S DOWN!”
Me: “Yeah, I caught that, thanks. What’s wrong with it?”
ITG: “It’s down!”
By now a small crowd of about half the office staff had gathered in the hall. Colossal Redneck butted into ITG’s shouting fit.
CR: “So… go an’ fix it.”
ITG: “…I… I will!”
ITG tromped up to the loft where the server was kept. Rom had moved it up there after thieves had broken in and snatched a couple laptops a few months prior, figuring that, “things that are up high are harder to steal.” Yeah, your guess is as good as mine as to what on earth he thought he meant.
Colossal Redneck leaned over to me.
CR: “This sh!t… this I gotta see.”
He was right, it was liable to be a spectacle. Were ITG to get our server back up and running it would be a miracle of the sort that tends to get people a sainthood. Saint ITG, patron saint of stalkers and used-to-be-working-until-he-fixed-it technology.
The server was so old and knackered that it was incredible it actually worked at all in the first place. But the bigger issue is that ITG had never once fixed anything correctly. One time he fixed my fax machine so good that every number you dialed actually just faxed the main phone line at the Sales office. Any time Mr. Ferrari was assigned to answer the phones over there, you can damn well bet I suddenly needed to send a LOT of faxes.
Colossal Redneck, Miami Vice, and I followed ITG upstairs into the loft. As much complaining as I had done about the temperature in my office, it was a blizzard compared to the conditions upstairs. How any piece of equipment managed to operate in the hellish inferno up there is beyond me. The poor server sat in a dark, hot corner. Once upon a time, it had been a boring little laptop from the era when laptops were heavy enough to act as reasonable boat anchors, but long before my time it had been repurposed it into a database / web server, which it most certainly did not have the horsepower to do.
At some point, the guy who had my job before me got so angry with it that he had smashed it until the screen ripped off at the hinges, leaving it hanging on barely by its ribbon cable. We limped it along the best we could, but it spent all day, every day, working its little processor to the max, fans screaming. One of the technicians had pulled the keyboard out and aimed a fan at the guts trying desperately to get it to cool down. The Raver tried his own hand at repairing things by hanging a crystal off the long-since-broken CD drive and writing something in Sanskrit on the wrist rest. Felonious Monk had helped in his own special way by just drawing a giant dick on what remained of the screen.
We hovered over ITG as he gingerly approached the server like a child might a large dog, not quite sure if it’s going to be friendly or if it’s going to bite your hand off. He reached out and gave the power button a quick poke.
ITG turned around and put his hands on his hips.
ITG: “Well, that’s about all the troubleshooting I can do here. I’m going to go call the company and get a technician to come do a warranty repair.”
CR: “Yer f#ckin’ kiddin’ me. 36055512 is dumb as hell, and even he knows how’ta press a damn power button!”
ITG: “Oh, no, I already did a bunch of troubleshooting before you guys came upstairs.”
CR: “What in the hell? Y’all been up here for less than a minute! Y’all ain’t done a damn thing.”
ITG shrugged and walked out, presumably to call someone at the computer company. There was no way in hell they were going to do warranty work on this computer. For one, it had been abused to the point where it only barely resembled a computer anymore, and two, it had to have been a good ten years old. Colossal Redneck and I shared our sentiments about how likely this was to get fixed and went back downstairs, forced to write up all our invoices and documentation by hand for the rest of the day.
”So, what’s the status on that there server?”
”I dunno. The computer company just wants us to buy a new one.”
Colossal Redneck, The Diplomat, and I were in a meeting with ITG the next morning.
TD: “Don’t you think that would be a good idea? That poor little laptop is ancient and it’s never been reliable as long as I’ve worked here.”
ITG’s eyes flashed with the kind of unreasonable, entitled anger that only he could muster.
ITG: “NO! It’s their computer, and they’re going to fix it!”
TD: “Did we even get a business warranty on it when we bought it? I can’t imagine Rom and The Amazon would have paid for something like that. And every warranty runs out eventually, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine a computer that old could still possibly qualify.”
ITG: “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter if there’s a warranty or not! I’m just going to keep calling them until they come and fix it. It’s their machine, they can fix it!”
Every conversation with ITG was like standing on a playground slide. At the top was incompetence; at the bottom, insanity. You just had to try and push the conversation upwards hard enough lest you slide downwards into madness. Eventually, gravity would always win.
The three of us left the confines of ITG’s office and Colossal Redneck and I commiserated about yet another day of trying to fill out invoices by hand. We walked out to the service bay to grab a couple of beers from the refrigerator. On the way, we passed by our technician Splinter’s stall, where he was busy testing the wiring on a veggie oil conversion with a multimeter.
Suddenly Colossal Redneck had an epiphany.
CR: “Ya’ know, I’ll bet it’s jus’ somethin’ dumb like it ain’t plugged in or somethin’. You and me, let’s go see if we can’t figure it out all by our lonesome.”
Colossal Redneck grabbed a couple of tools and I followed him back to the office and upstairs to the server. We tried all the obvious: the machine was plugged in, the outlet it was plugged into was functional, and we even yanked it apart and shorted the wires on the power button to try to get it to go. We were just about stumped, but Colossal Redneck’s eyes lit upon the power adapter. He put his multimeter on the end of the cord and took a couple of readings.
CR: “This here power cord thing is lookin’ mighty dead.”
Me: “Awesome! That’s an easy fix. I’ll get ITG to order a new one.”
”Do NOT under any circumstances order anything for that server! I forbid it! That is MY responsibility, and I will NOT have you getting in there breaking things!”
Rom and I were in ITG’s office later that morning. A few minutes before, I had made the mistake of coming into his office and asking ITG to order a new power adapter the next time he was on the phone yelling at the computer company. As you may recall from an earlier tale, ITG had confiscated all of the company credit cards, and now every last purchase had to go through him. The conversation had not gone as smoothly as I had hoped and had rapidly devolved into enough of a shouting match that Rom had overheard, stepping in to the office to see what all the commotion was about.
Me: “Look, ITG, I know you and the computer company are in the middle of your little pissing match or whatever, but if you think they’re going to replace a power adapter on a decade-old machine just because you keep calling them, you’re out of your damn mind. We’d be lucky if they even still make parts for that machine.”
ITG swiped a few papers off his desk in anger.
ITG: “This is THEIR problem to fix, and they’re GOING to fix it. Even if I have to take them to court, they’re GOING to fix it.”
Me: “And while you’re arguing with them and “taking them to court,” every bit of software we have that touches the server is non-functional. Whether it satisfies your weird brand of idealism or not, we need this machine up yesterday. And look, if you’re so sure that the computer company is going to take care of this, we can always return the power adapter in a few days when it’s all handled, right?”
I looked to Rom for support, but it was in vain.
Rom: “I don’t recall IT being part of your job, 36055512. I’m going to need you to leave this to the expert. That’s all.”
Defeated, I stormed out of ITG’s office. I passed Colossal Redneck in the hall.
CR: “So when’s that there power cord thing comin’?”
Me: “It isn’t.”
Colossal Redneck’s shoulders drooped.
CR: “Well, sh!t.”
”Where do you two think you’re going?”
Colossal Redneck and I were on our way out the back door to go find some kind of substitute for the server’s power adapter when we were accosted by Rom and The Amazon.
Me: “Oh… we were gonna take the Dodge and, uh… pick up a TDI shortblock over at VW. Yeah.”
CR: “Yeah! One’a them there shortblocks, that’s what we’re gettin’!”
We were not very good liars.
Me: “I told you you should have hidden it, dumbass.”
The Amazon stood in the doorway blocking our egress. Rom shook his head and glared at us.
TA: “Both of you are are seriously overstepping your bounds here.
Rom: “ITG is our computer expert, and you both need to show a little trust that he will get this handled the right way. Both of you are on thin f#cking ice right now.”
TA: “That’s right. Neither of you are to leave the office, and should I find out you’ve continued to go over ITG’s head, well, neither of you will need to bother coming in in the morning. Or ever again. How about that?”
Our plan stymied, we slinked back into the office.
”Look at the back of this here thing.”
Colossal Redneck and I were back upstairs looking over the disaster. We may have been forbidden from leaving the office, but that didn’t mean we weren’t going to try and fix this mess. He tossed me the dead power adapter. I looked over the markings on the back.
Me: “13.5VDC, 2 amps…”
Colossal Redneck nodded his head.
CR: “What else‘ve we got layin’ around that’s just about that voltage?”
Me: “…A battery charger is right in that range, aren’t they? 13.2–13.4 or so.”
CR: “Mmmhmm. You think that there laptop’ll cry ‘bout a tenth of a volt here or there?”
Me: “I’ll be damned if I know. But we can’t make it any deader than it already is, can we?”
We ran downstairs to the storage room and dug through the shelves looking for a spare battery charger we could rig up as the computer’s power supply. Eventually we found an old disused trickle charger that looked like it would do the trick. It was dented and covered in spray paint, but we plugged it into the wall and it hummed to life. We ran back upstairs with our quarry and got to work on wiring.
CR: “Check this sh!t out. If I go an’ cut the wire on the power adapter thing right down by the bottom here, it’ll jus’ look like it’s plugged in all normal-like and ain’t nobody gon’ know the difference.”
Colossal Redneck snipped the laptop’s power wire down by the power brick, stripped the wires bare, and clipped the charger’s alligator clips onto the bare ends. We looked at each other in disbelief that this was an actual thing we were actually doing.
Me: “Fingers crossed we got the polarity right.”
CR: “If this don’ work, I’m throwin’ you under the bus.”
I plugged the charger into the wall and watched the needle settle around 2 amps. Colossal Redneck closed his eyes and gave the power button a touch. We were greeted by a fan whirring up and a beep from the machine. A minute later, the smashed-up LCD lit up as best it could with the NT4.0 splash screen.
CR: “Well I’ll be f#cked in the ass, look at that!”
It appeared, at least sort of, to work.
Colossal Redneck and I gave each other a hearty handshake and then shoved our electrical contraption into a dark corner, piling a few cardboard boxes on top to cover it up.
”I’m so glad the server situation is cleared up!”
It was the following day, a Friday, which meant a meeting for the office staff. The Amazon was standing in front of us in the break room, pleased as punch that our computer disaster was as short-lived as it was.
TA: “I think we all, each and every one of us, owe ITG a “thank you” for how quickly he solved this and got us back up and running.”
I started to stand up protest, but Colossal Redneck grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back down into my chair. He leaned forward and whispered in my ear.
ITG stood from his chair. As he spoke, he made deliberate eye contact with Colossal Redneck and me.
ITG: “Well, you know, there were many doubters who just wanted to throw money at the problem, but let this be a lesson to all of us that if you leave things to the experts, things tend to work out for the best.”
One or two people tentatively clapped for a moment before going silent. I spent a minute choking back the vomit that was welling in my throat. Colossal Redneck leaned back over to me.
CR: “Alright, I’m ‘bout done with this sh!t.”
He leaned back in his chair and addressed ITG.
CR: “I gotta say, ITG, that’s a pretty amazin’ job. I mean, you got that thing back up an’ runnin’ without even havin’ to get that there computer company out to fix it. I mean, that’s amazin’, I mean… just unbelievable!”
ITG cleared his throat.
ITG: “Uh, thanks! Yeah, well, um… there’s a lot to know about these machines, which is why you need an expert.”
Colossal Redneck stifled a laugh.
CR: “Yer right, we do need an expert. So what wound up bein’ the trouble?”
ITG: “Well, uh… I ran… I ran a few scans on it, and it turned out it… uh… it had a virus. Once I got that fixed, everything else took care of itself.”
The server was not a real happy camper on its life support system, but it did function. The little battery charger worked its tail off night and day keeping that laptop running for nearly a month before we had a large enough order from our electronics supplier that we were able to sneak a new power supply into the order without ITG noticing.
When I quit, I swiped the little battery charger that could. It now lives out its retirement in my garage, living a lazy life, keeping the battery in my Mercedes topped up.