On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our Friday folly in which readers share stories of their professional adventures.
This week, we bring you the tale of reader “Kelly” who encountered a previous On-Call titled Outsourcer didn't press ON switch, so Reg reader flew 15 hours to do the job.
“I see you that story,” wrote Kelly, “and raise it with 'I was flown to Hong Kong for a week to do nowt'.”
That's got us interested, Kelly. Do tell more.
“This was back in the late 80's,” Kelly wrote. “ I was in the third line support team for a Mainframe DBMS based in the UK. We had a customer in Hong Kong who were running a business critical system based on this DBMS and I'd been in part responsible for the successful commissioning of that system the previous year when I'd flown out and helped diagnose a fault that was preventing the user acceptance test from being completed.”
“So, when they hit a hard fault that was stopping a critical job from running they fired off the distress flare and I found myself being fast tracked through an international trip authorization and was climbing onto a 747 on a Saturday morning.”
Kelly was a bit worried about the job, because “the fault they were hitting exhibited the same symptoms as one for which a fix was already available, and I'd already pointed this out and been assured that the fix in question was already in place.”
“This must be something new,” Kelly told himself after landing at the “late and not much lamented Kai Tak Airport”* and enduring “the customary wait on the plane while the ground crew presumably removed all of the laundry that had been collected during the final approach from the leading edges.”
Upon landing Kelly says “I was met by an old mate who'd been flown up from Melbourne to look into the same problem (did I mention that this customer had some clout?), who greeted me thus:
"You were right. They were loading the code from a library that didn't have the fix applied that you've been telling them about since Thursday. I spotted it about the time you were taking off yesterday. Shall we go to the Pub?"
Kelly got to stay there for a week: his cheap flight could not be rescheduled “and so I spent the next week languishing in the Excelsior Hotel, never quite getting overt the jet lag, and generally doing bugger-all.”
That wasn't Kelly's only pointless work journey. In recent years he says he was flown to Hanoi from Kuala Lumpur for a meeting in which it was thought his expertise would come in handy.
It didn't. “I spent a three hour meeting on Monday morning trying to stay awake while a bunch of guys discussed a network roll-out in Vietnamese,” Kelly wrote. “My only contribution to the meeting was having my chair collapse underneath me, which added some light relief.”
Where have you been stranded on a job? Go on – write to me with your story and we'll anonymise you in a future On-Call! ®
*Kai Tak was legendary because planes often had to execute a sharp turn not many seconds before landing, on a flightpath that felt as if it grazed the rooftops of nearby apartment buildings. The video below is an appreciation of the airport, since replaced by a dull McAirport.