Friday, November 30, 2012


This is a list of things that happened at my work this week:

  • A man whom I've worked with for over ten years got very sick and had to be taken to the hospital.
  • A woman whom I've worked with for around five years might be forced out of her job because of a jealous spouse's suspicion that she's having an affair with the man she works with.  I can absolutely guarantee that there is no affair happening.  It breaks my heart to see this poor woman in tears over the situation.  She's done nothing but an excellent job and is getting kicked in the teeth for her troubles.
  • A long-term employee was discovered to have done something sneaky and illegal, which will definitely require them to be canned.  Fortunately this is not my employee.  Unfortunately this is the employee of one of my best friends (another manager).
  • One of my favourite older guys in the organization (what a sweetie!) handed me his letter of resignation (he's retiring). I will miss him.
  • A piece of equipment in my computer server room exploded.  No exaggeration.
  • A computer virus infected our file server. 
These things are on top of all the ongoing drama: peoples' messy divorces going over various bumps in the road; other people's moderately concerning health problems causing worry; squabbles; miscommunications; new people settling in; new computer software settling in; and a quajillion other things that escape me at the moment.  *sigh* 

Today I worked from home.  Often working from home is relaxing.  I can make myself a nice, hot lunch from scratch, and I can take some extra-long breaks if there's nothing in my inbox.  Today the phone never stopped ringing and the e-mails never stopped flowing.  The only advantage to working from home is that I slept in 1.5 hours instead of spending 45 minutes commuting each way.

My work has a high ambient level of drama and disaster.  Usually I can roll with that and still maintain my good humour.  In fact, anything less and I might get bored.  But this week?  This week was off the charts.  The thing that really threw me was the explosion.

I was standing by someone's desk in conversation when we heard a very loud bang, almost like a gunshot, followed by a second, almost-as-loud bang.  I was mildly concerned, but upon looking around I didn't see any immediate disaster.  People in the area were muttering "What was that?", to which someone answered "Probably something fell over" and they all went back to work.  Then someone who'd been closer to the computer room came rushing in, talking very quickly and almost incoherently, followed by two more people who were both loudly proclaiming "Get Spark!  Get Spark! There's been an explosion!"


Since when did I become the resident expert on explosions?  Like any sane person, my instinct was to run away.  But I am a Leader, and Leaders have to be Responsible, so I put on my game face and marched towards the trouble.

There was definitely a bad, chemical, burning smell in the computer room.  Burning... was something on fire?  I went around behind the rack of computer equipment to assess the situation.  A couple of women were standing in the doorway shouting at me to get away from the computers in case there was another explosion, but I didn't see that I had much choice.  I had to determine whether or not I should pull the fire alarm and evacuate the premises.

I didn't see any signs of smoke or flames, so I immediately called my trusty computer consultant to evaluate the problem.  Their closest representative would take 40 minutes to get there.  I asked if I should shut down all the computer equipment, but everything seemed to be working normally so I was advised to just leave it running.  We proceeded as usual, except that every five minutes I ran back to the computer room just in case some smouldering embers had burst into open flames since I last checked.  It was a very unnerving interval.

It turns out that two of the batteries inside one of our uninterruptible power supplies had blown up. I guess battery acid corroded the casings and caused a short.  The technician said it was due to age.  (They were only three years old!)  When he pulled the metal housing out of the rack, a full hour after the explosions, it was still so hot that he couldn't touch it with his bare hands.  He found some rags in the cleaning closet to use as oven mitts.

Fortunately, although the soldered-on tops of the batteries had blown off, the external casing had contained the force of the blast, and no battery acid had spilled out.  It's a freaking miracle, in my opinion, that no one was hurt and no equipment was damaged other than the batteries themselves.  One of my employees was standing in the room when the explosions occurred.  She just about had herself a heart attack from the first sudden BANG!, but nothing that couldn't be put to rights with a glass of wine (or two, or three) that evening.  If you want, search up some images of "battery explosion" and you'll see how destructive such things can be.

I'd like to hold up a big, red STOP sign to keep any more disasters away, at least for a couple of days until I recuperate my emotional equilibrium.  There have been too many adventures in Sparkland this week.


G. B. Miller said...

Never a dull moment when your nickname is "Fearless Leader". :D

I feel bad for the lady who might be forced out her job 'cause of that paranoid spouse. Something definitely doesn't smell right and I hope she fights the good fight to hang onto her job.

Jameil said...

O_O Thank God it's over!! I had a busy week connecting with job opportunities. Nerve wracking but nothing like what you experienced!

DarcKnyt said...

Holy smoke. I've never, in my almost 17 years in the IT industry, seen a UPS battery explode. I'd have been too chicken to check it out!

*Shudder* I'm all aquiver with admiration and stuff!

I'm glad your hell week's over, Spark. As always you handled yourself with grace and dignity.

Sparkling Red said...

G.B.: The jealous spouse is one of the most horrible people I have ever had the misfortune to know personally. I believe that she's not fully sane. My co-worker, on the other hand, is a lovely woman, and if she can't stay in her current position, she'll be "repurposed" in a new job elsewhere in the same company. She doesn't want to change her job, but at least she's guaranteed to maintain her income.

Jameil: Yup, TGIF indeed. Good luck with those potential jobs!

DarcKnyt: Thank you. Heavy lies the head that wears the crown and all that. Or at least, nervous is the stomach of she who must make the decision as to whether or not to evacuate a building. Possibly put lives at risk, or stop production and lose thousands of dollars for the company with every passing hour? Sheesh. And I'm as surprised as you about the explosion. I've worked with IT for more than a decade, as have several of my friends, and I've never heard a story like this one either.

Adam said...

sounds very bad

LL Cool Joe said...

So as a Leader I hope you walked into the computer room armed with a fire extinguisher? ;)

What a nightmare week, it makes mine seem quite stress free now. :D

Nothing worse than a paranoid spouse.

Granny Annie said...

Who knew you would need a hard hat for your job? I'm thinking you probably should NOT have gone in to access the situation but so much for hindsight. Our military, police and firepersons are paid for hazardous duty but I'm betting you are not.

Sparkling Red said...

Adam: It sure was.

Joe: There was a fire extinguisher right across the hall, but it's not rated for chemical or electrical fires. I wasn't sure, if I found a fire, whether or not our standard extinguishers would be at all useful.

Granny Annie: No, in fact I'm underpaid for the amount of responsibility I have. That's one of the "perks" of working for a family business. (In return I get to set my own hours and almost be my own boss, so I don't object much.)

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Sounds like an exciting week, but at least it kept you awake. Amazing how people associate certain people to disaster control ;-) I usually get a "Get Ron" when there is an injury and I have no medical training. I've seen a guys arm bone from elbow to wrist and my contribution was mainly asking "Where are the paramedics?!"

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Holy crap! If I was called in for that kind of injury, my contribution would be to faint dead away. Fortunately there are lots of medical professionals in my workplace so I've never been called upon to deal with physical injuries or illness. Sheesh!

Lynn said...

Wow! I hope this week is better! That's terrible about the jealous spouse.

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh my gosh! Hey, you should have said, "Oh no, never a good idea to bring a Spark anywhere near an explosion!"

*rimshot* Sorry about that, I couldn't resist!

I'm glad you and everyone else is okay. How nervewracking!

I suppose where there are people, there will be drama, of one sort or another. We seem to walk hand in hand. Hopefully this week is the top of the mountain, so to speak, and everything walks smoothly down the path from here on out.

Jay Shenton said...

Hmm I never have heard of a UPS blowing I would definitely get on the blower to your ups power suppliers right away! any way keep going sounds like you can handle it!