NSFW Who, Me? Ever written that angry email and accidentally hit send instead of delete? Take a trip back to the 1990s equivalent with a slightly NSFW Who, Me?
Our story, from "Matt", flings us back the best part of 30 years to an era when mobile telephones were the preserve of the young, upwardly mobile professionals and fixed lines ruled the roost for more than just your senior relatives.
Back then, Matt was working for a UK-based fixed-line telephone operator. He was dealing with a telephone exchange which served a relatively large town. "I ran a reasonably ordinary, read-only command to interrogate a specific setting," he told us.
The response made no sense. So he ran it again, in case there was corruption on the line. Same result.
Confused, he showed the results to a colleague who agreed it looked a bit odd. More people got involved and the query was run again and again.
"Unbeknownst to us," said Matt, "each time we ran this, the switch was filling a leaky-bucket error counter. Eventually we hit the limit causing a restart.
"The whole town lost its phone service for several minutes."
Yikes. The higher-ups were obviously very keen to know what had happened since the whole point of being a telephone operator was to allow the operation of telephones. Eyes turned to Matt, who had been identified as the prime mover in the unfortunate event (the actual culprit was a dodgy processor card).
He wrote a report explaining what had happened. He described himself as "being in a funny mood at the thought of being made a scapegoat," so the document, aimed as his colleagues who could confirm the story, was similar to below:
Response back was bollocks
Ran it again to check
Whilst showing the problem to nob-end and cockwomble [presumably Matt's affectionate terms for his colleagues] the switch went arse-over-tit
Started getting reports that things were royally fucked
Switch staggers onto its feet
Customer Services are pissed off because some geezer with a boat called in and tore them a new arsehole
Switch may have restarted but I'm fucked if I'm running command X again to see if the problem's still there
"The actual report was somewhat longer than this example," he told us.
Now, of course this first draft was for Matt's own benefit in order to get the timings and events straight in his mind. He rewrote it without the swears, making it more suitable for management. Another, sanitised, copy was printed, and Matt popped it into the boss's inbox ("a real inbox, made of wire, full of paper").
Thinking no more of the matter, he trotted off for a well-earned lunch.
On his return he was greeted by his line manager. The boss had been round, looking for the report. Matt responded that the paperwork was in the inbox (and, as it turned out, it was still there. The boss hadn't bothered to look properly).
- Config cockup leaves Reg reader reaching for the phone
- Firewalls? Pfft – it's no match for my mighty spares-bin PC
- Don't touch that dial – the new guy just closed the application that no one is meant to close
- I would drive 100 miles and I would drive 100 more just to be the man that drove 200 miles to... hit the enter key
"Oh good," said the manager brightly. "Anyway, the boss needed it now, so I gave him the copy on your desk."
Matt felt his lunch drop several metres. The boss and the boss's boss and who knows who else had been on the receiving end of his stream of consciousness, expletives and all.
However, he heard no more about the matter. "I don't know how high up that report went," he said, "but nobody ever challenged it."
Sometimes the first draft is the best draft.
Ever written that report and accidentally sent it, only for your boss to find the bluntness and honesty a refreshing change rather than a career-ending torrent of swears? Share your story with an email to Who, Me? ®