This article is more than 1 year old

We know it's hard to get your kicks at work – just do it away from a wall switch powering anything important

Does your office have a singing swinger?

On Call It seems that hardly anyone is flying these days. Handy because in today's On Call, one false move interrupts the monitoring of air traffic.

The tale, from "Chris", takes us back 30 years to a helpdesk tasked with supporting the mainframes and PCs for an unnamed air traffic control centre.

On the day in question, he received a call from "En-route Charges". This department was a big deal – it dealt with understanding flight movements and the associated charges. "Very important," emphasised Chris, "as this is how we made our income."

The problem was a PC that randomly powered itself off and on. There was no pattern to it, and it was affecting the smooth running of operations. "Work was backing up," said Chris.

car speeds away

The Linux box that runs the exec carpark gate is down! A chance for PostgreSQL Man to show his quality


"We went through all the normal checks to understand if we could cross-correlate the issue to any specific fault, be that with the PC or power to the room."

No joy. An in-person visit was needed.

Once on site, though, there was still no clue about what was causing the mysterious reboot. Chris opted to swap out the PC for a known good unit and planned to test the seemingly possessed box back at base. However, he'd barely reached for his screwdriver when the phone rang again. The new PC was exhibiting the same behaviour.

Cutting to the chase, Chris decided to sit with the user until the fault recurred. He didn't have to wait long; the new PC repeated the mystery off-and-on trick. He checked all the logs and inspected the connections. Everything was in order.

An hour later, it happened again. But this time Chris heard something. A click. From the wall.

"The penny dropped."

The user in question was not tall. Certainly not reaching more than five feet in stature. What the user lacked in inches was made up for in enthusiasm when it came to singing to herself.

Mumbling along to some ditty or other is a sin committed by many of us over the years.

However, during a particularly exuberant bit of soloing, the user would swing her legs enthusiastically. The table had no back (unlike the ones she'd sat at before). Her legs would go quite high...

You can guess the rest.

"This meant that she could reach (just) the switch in the wall, switching it off on the way up and turning it back on the way down."

The user, having insisted that the IT team was not up to snuff, was left somewhat red-faced.

And the fix? "To move the desk slightly away and to the side, allowing the swinging of legs (and singing) without upsetting the power."

Ever ruled out the impossible only to find the solution erred toward improbable? Or been caught out in performance of your own when you thought nobody was looking? Share your story with an email to On Call. ®

More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like