There have been a lot of big disasters lately. Floods in Colorado, a government that is so lazy that they are making excuses about why they can’t “come in to work today” (something about their healthcare, IE faking sick again) and the ending of Breaking Bad(I heard it was a show about chemistry. Uh, wow that sound sooo interesting). I know I should be more concerned about all these things, but I am trying to fight the good fight on more pressing things. There are disasters that have happened at work that just take way more time and energy.
You may not remember the Coin in the Ice Machine crisis of early May or June, (it was such an ordeal that I can’t remember when it was), but I do. This disaster started when someone….how do I explain the complexeties of this matter in a way that makes sense…someone dropped a coin in the ice machine. This caused all kinds of stress and questions. The supervisor was called in to handle this delicate, yet very frustrating matter. So many questions were floated. Should we call our building maintenace? How about the police? Would the Fire Department be a better choice, so they can use some of the fire they carry around to melt the ice? Many issues were discussed in detail, so much so, that co-workers had to put actual work aside so we could make it through this crisis. This disaster was much bigger than us. After much kvetching, and with the wisdom of the supervisor, a decision was made. We would place a sign on the ice machine, alerting other employees not to use it, and then the contents of the ice machine would be emptied. It was a tense time, having to wait out the hour before the drastic measure would be taken. Drinks of water just didn’t seem as cold in that hour, but we soldiered on. Just as we were about to excavate the ice to find out if the coin survived its harrowing time deep inside its ice tomb, the coin was discovered, nice and warm, in the pocket of the person who supposedly “lost” the coin. Disaster averted, but not before some tense time of avoiding work.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there was the Mid July eruption of Mount Coffeespill in Kitchenatwork, Washington. I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I was sitting at my desk, avoiding work as usual, when the annoying voice of my co-worker rang out. This was not the normal neurotic paranoid voice I was used to hearing. It was a slightly elevated whine. “There has been a spill in the kitchen. Coffee is all over the floor. What do we do?” Somehow, the little hole of the coffee pot was slightly out of line with the drip line of the coffee and the person responsible left their responsibility. My co-worker did the right thing coming to us for help. You never want to attempt to clean up a spill by yourself. A scientist would need to be called in, to test the toxicity of the coffee before any animals could be caught in the toxic sludge. The supervisor was again called to the scene to ascertain what could possibly be done. I was sitting in my cubicle, shirking duties as normal, when the call came. “Ben, could you go into the bathroom and find the mop. When you find it, could you bring it to me…in the kitchen. We must, at all costs, find a way to clean this up!” But what about all the chemicals? Was it safe to clean up, when the scientists haven’t tested the coffee levels? I’m not normally a brave person, but I leapt to action. (By leapt, I mean after I did a quick eye roll safely behind my computer, then I stood up slowly like I always do.) I went into the bathroom, and bravely walked into the janitor’s closet, pushed aside all impeding obstacles,(stupid, evil garbage can) and grabbed the mop(by the handle, like a boss). It seemed as if I was walking from the bathroom to the kitchen in slow motion (because I was) and I handed the mop to the supervisor, who proceeded to clean up the mess(without dying from the toxic ooze). We survived the day, but we were never the same again.
This was nothing compared to Strange Thing showing up on Computeracalypse. Oblivious to other people’s problems as usual, I was working when I heard from the other side of the half wall, a co-worker complaining about something that was showing up on their computer “that just wasn’t right”. After years of hearing disasters and crisis, I have become numb to “warnings” until it is almost too late. So when I heard about that disaster, I just ignored it, until it was 3 hours later and the “weird thing” was still there. It seemed that this was at such a critical level of making her uncomfortable that she just couldn’t concentrate on a mundane task like entering an order. Something had to be done. But what? Should IT be called in? Should Microsoft’s CEO be called home from his vacation on his own island? Should a special committee of the world’s greatest computer minds be called onto the scene to decide what must be done with this “weird thing” that was preventing any normal work to be done? I was about to think really hard, but decided against it, because that would hurt since I’ve never really done it. It’s kind of like trying to lift a 200 lbs. weight when you’ve never lifted things in your life. My mouth got the best of me though, and before I could control what came out of it, I said something I knew I would regret. It was too late though. Now everyone would know what a fraud I have been my whole life. “Did you try to restart your computer?” I said. IDIOT! That never works! Why would I ever say something so stupid! All eyes locked on me. It was over. I started packing my stuff up to leave. But the most amazing thing happened next. They actually tried it. And it didn’t blow up our whole building. Tense minutes later, it was discovered the that thing that “just wasn’t right” was gone. Obliterated. Although the anticipated ticker tape parade was cancelled because of weather(there was a light drizzle outside), celebrations of “Oh, I guess it worked” were thrown around. I will never forget the day I saved that particular program from distracting a person from entering that $14.00 order.
I’m pretty bitter because those big disasters are the ones that get all the press and coverage, while the little disasters toil away in obscurity, hoping that someday, someone will tell their story. But no one ever does and the disasters go about their day, every day doing what they do without any recognition except from the one or two people that lived through them. And to the disaster, that is all that really matters. (Not really. They want a parade.)
Bitter Disaster Ben