It wasn’t my fault!!

The technical aspects of this story will take some explaining for the average non-computer geeks in the audience. However, having had my wife tell me more than once “I know you’re speaking English, because I recognize some of the little words in between, but I have no idea what you just said,” I will try to keep the techno-babble to a minimum. Once I get to the “meat” of this story, you will see WHY this was something that I broke which was very important.  I was working as a Customer Service Technician for a major computer company. The company for which I actually worked was a wholly owned subsidiary of the parent company, so I didn’t actually work FOR the Big Company (hereafter known as “BC”), but my supervisors, support and training were all through the Big Company. If this is not clear, never mind. It actually has little to do with what I broke. Then again.

Now the BC had a contract to repair, replace and maintain Point of Sale computers (aka: computerized cash registers) for a very large retailer we shall refer to as Big Box Mart (hereafter known as “BBM”). Part of this included upgrading the individual store’s network from a token-ring network to an Ethernet network.

A token ring network was quite the feline’s nightwear when it came out. You could run several terminals off of one hub, and have them all happily communicating like geese in flight. However, as with most technology, it had its drawbacks. If one goose, for example, was removed from the flock, the whole flock shut down. This could be a problem for the remainder of the geese, who want to keep going but can’t without the one that needs attention. With Ethernet, the vet could see the one goose while the remainder continued to make money- er, I mean on their flight south.

BBM is a very centrally controlled organization. All decisions, down to thermostat settings, are (or were at this time) approved by BBM Command Central in (ah now-that’d be telling you what organization BBM actually IS! Mom & Dad raised big kids, not stupid ones.) So when BBM Command Central decreed that this switch should be accomplished during the day, and not just during the day but at Noon, that was, as they say, that! This particular store was large enough to have two token-ring hubs. That way we could take half of the store off-line while the other terminals continued to working. This was the theory, anyway.

So here I was at the store, preparing to follow the instructions as prepared and sent out from BBM CC. There was no senior representative present from BC because they were all doing other stores, but it all appeared fairly straightforward. Remember, however, what they say about appearances. I coordinated with the local stores bicycle assembler / store tech support and proceeded to disable the first hub. Suddenly, we had several blue-smocked supervisors running in saying the front registers had all stopped working- at Noon. Apparently this store had the main switches for the individual hubs reversed from other stores, so that by carefully following the instructions from BBM CC and with no senior partner from BC with whom to confer, I effectively disabled this store in the middle of the shopping day. Had one of the senior representatives been present, they were aware of the switch-but they were all doing other stores. This can be a terrifying experience, unless one keeps one’s head. I simply re-enabled the front hub, which meant that the registers- I mean “terminals”- just had to go through their first-opening routine again. The store was down for less than 15 minutes-barely enough time for BBM CC to notice and call to ask why they weren’t receiving data.

I expected repercussions from this, but none were forthcoming. The store continued to trust my expertise, even as I installed the majority of the new terminals. Halfway through the job, BBM received permission to build a newer, even LARGER BBM on land across the alley from this one. Why did they put new equipment into a building they were vacating? Don’t ask me-ask BBM CC.


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