Friday, August 9, 2013


Life is full of surprises.  After a couple of bad surprises in a row, it's easy to forget that there are good surprises too.

Yesterday I discovered something unpleasant in the server room at work.  I went in there to tidy up a few things, and realized that it was in a much bigger mess than I'd realized.

Several years ago, at my work's old location, I didn't have a proper server room.  The most important computer, the one that kept the whole business up and running, was on a folding table in a storage room.  It wasn't the greatest set-up.  For example, someone's mouse would quit on them.  They'd go looking in the storage room for a spare one, they'd find one that "no one was using", and they'd steal it for their PC.  Yes, you have guessed it, they stole the mouse from the server.  People also regularly borrowed the boom box that "no one was using" - the source for the hold music on our telephone system.  Fortunately no major damage was ever done by these sneaky thieves.  But it wasn't ideal.

What was handy about having the server in the storage room was that I had a lot of shelving on which to store my extra computer bits and pieces.  I had everything organized in labelled boxes, and in bags within the boxes.  Every different kind of cable you can think of, adaptors, spare whatchamawhoozits, it was all there, and I knew where it all was.

Anyone who's ever had to look after a fair-sized computer network will realize that you can accumulate a lot of extra accessories in a very short period of time.  For example, let's say a printer goes to the big network in the sky.  You order a new printer to replace it.  It comes with a USB cable that connects the printer to the PC.  However, the old USB cable from the old printer still works just fine.  So you use the old one.  Same thing goes with monitor cables, power cords, mice (mouses?) and keyboards (included when you replace a PC), etc.  Not to mention that every item comes with a box full of packaging (bags, styrofoam, cardboard, instruction booklets, CD's, twist ties, bubble wrap, warrantee statements etc.).

You have to keep on top of that stuff or it'll add up pretty quickly.

When my server was in the storage room, everything was sorted neatly.  When we moved a few years ago, all my nicely labelled boxes were transferred to the new storage room.  And my servers were transferred to (*trumpeted fanfare*) a proper server room!  The new storage room isn't located next door to the new server room.  So what did my contract I.T. guys do with all the stuff I listed above?  They threw it into cardboard boxes in the corner of the server room, all higgledy-piggledy.   When a box got full, they just started a new one.

When I got into one of the boxes yesterday and started digging through it, I was stunned.  I thought that at least they were keeping the network cables in one box, the power cables in another, etc.  But no, there was no order to be seen.  I started pulling out fistfuls of tangled cables, multiple copies of identical driver CD's (you only need to keep one, if that), dusty spare parts, a surge protector with a dead beetle stuck to it....  I even found new things, inventory that I didn't know I had, because it was buried under old stuff.  Nothing major, maybe $150 worth, but still.

I called the contracting company and the woman on the service desk was adequately horrified by my story.  She apologized sincerely and offered to send someone help me sort out the mess.  I told her that I wanted to do it myself because I want to see exactly what I have in those boxes so I can decide what to do with it all, and update my inventory.  Those lazy guys who couldn't be bothered to stay organized are going to get in sooooo much trouble!  This is actually a good thing - it gives me a bargaining point for our next annual meeting to discuss their monthly fees.  If I can embarrass the sales guy enough he won't feel that he can bump up our rates.  Silver lining!

To balance that, here's a good surprise.  A temporary employee who just started has pleasantly surprised me.  He's only here for a couple of months to cover someone's medical leave, but he's caught on fast and is fitting in with the team like a hand into a glove.  He told me that while he was unemployed he spent some of his time writing letters to Canadian and American troops overseas, to encourage them.  Isn't that sweet?  He's one of those chronically under-appreciated people who is good-hearted and smart but doesn't look like he just walked out of GQ.  I (and my team) are super-happy to have found him, and he's obviously thrilled to be with us.  I wonder if I can find a way to keep him on once my other employee comes back from her medical leave?  We'll see.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

I hear ya on the extra bits and pieces of computer parts, I got boxes upon boxes.

Jenski said...

Yay silver linings! I should start a list of them to go with my other lists of things that are not pleasant surprises. :-)

DarcKnyt said...

Silver linings RULE. Boxes full of unsorted/tangled/disorganized computer crap...don't.

And I sure hope you get to keep the temp! That would be a boon for both. He sounds well-deserving of an opportunity somewhere!

Vanessa T said...

Uh-oh! Boxes of tangled and unorganized parts and cables would drive me crazy too! I feel for you! Score if you can use that in the next meeting - teach those barbarians a lesson!

So happy to hear the temp guy is working out so well. I know how hard it is to be in that situation, and so many temps just don't seem to give much of a darn. He sounds like he's definitely a silver lining, and I hope it can work out for both of you. :)

G. B. Miller said...

For a moment, it sounded like George Carlin's bit about having lots of stuff with no room for more stuff.

Glad to hear that you'll (hopefully) be able to turn this into a positive.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: You'd think that with the price of copper being what it is, they'd make all those extra cables optional.

Jenski: It's a helpful habit. The sucky stuff still sucks, but 'tis an ill wind and all that, as they say.

DarcKnyt: There are so many under-appreciated people. I could start an employment company that specializes in them.

Vanessa: I wonder who they thought would clean up after them. Me? As if. Oh wait, that's what ended up happening after all... :-p

G.B.: I love that bit. Your house is just a box for your stuff. When you have too much stuff, you have to get a bigger box!

Granny Annie said...

My family was recently surprised when trying to install my new flat screen television and my new computer. There were added cords called for that did not come with the packages and I opened this drawer in my desk that was filled with a vast array of cords of every kind and sure enough, I had what they needed in both instances.

Lynn said...

I hope you get to keep that temp - he sounds like a jewel!