BOFH: Lights out for Contractors

A bastard's got to do...

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Episode 39 BOFH 2000: Episode 39

So I'm investigating a routine fault ("My machine won't work") in the Basement - which I usually avoid like the plague because of the weirdy types who are cellared there - when my enquiries result in forcing me to go to the basement Comms room for the first time.

With some trepidation - having seen the rooms in other parts of the building - I open the door to the Comms Room, take a quick look, then slam the door shut.

Well, TRY to slam the door shut. I slip a wedge under the door before any more cable can slop out the gap while I go to find The Boss.

"What" I ask him, when he's wheezed his way downstairs, "the *HELL*, is THAT?"

"That's a COMMS room!" he blurts, topping his previous personal best effort by reading the label off the door without sticking his tongue out.

I open a door to reveal the horror of the room within. A rat's nest of cabling, thinwire, thickwire, UTP, some stuff that could be unshielded serial, and - oh dear - what looks to be a token ring experiment...

"Obviously a little tidying is needed.." The Boss admits grudgingly.

"A little?"

"Well, not so much as to cause an outage or anything, but perhaps you could, uh, repatch them, a few at a time."

A few minutes and one "Facts of Life" briefing later, The Boss is informed about of the infinitesimal chances of fixing this without a major outage.

"I see. So it would be an overnight process then?"

"Overnight would be how long it would take just to get the cables out of the hardware - if we used a gangmower and an axe. Outside of that, it's anybody's guess as to what's in there and what it's connected to."

"So what do you suggest?"

"Someone's going to have to go in there and fix it."


"Someone with networking knowledge..."

The PFY starts beating a surreptitious retreat.

".. A bit younger and more agile than me.."

The PFY accelerates somewhat..

"..someone who could get lost for days without anyone knowing or caring!"

"A CONTRACTOR!" The Boss and PFY cry in unison, both happy that they don’t meet the exacting criteria..

"Yes, and what better contractor than someone who KNOWS about the cabling firsthand, someone who perhaps, PUT it there in the first place," I cry, fingering a self-promotional label on the back of the door.

"THE ORIGINAL CONTRACTOR!" The boss cries, enlightened.


. . . ONE DAY LATER . .

It's been a several of hours since the cabling contractor went in - after some bad-mouthing of 'The current IT unprofessionals' to The Boss when he thinks he's out of our earshot. Still, after he'd extorted a hefty hourly rate from the boss, he was more than happy to sign on for the job.

"Poor bastard," The PFY mumbles quietly, shaking his head, proving once and for all that he bears no grudges against people who disparage his good name.

"But not so poor that you didn't wedge the door shut again once he was in..."

"I was worried about.. uh.. loss of.. uh.. aircooling in the riser.." he adlibs.

"We don't HAVE cooling in the riser.."

"Oh. Oh well."

. . .

In the end we open the door in response to the complaints about a "loss of Internet" and discover that the poor sod's in a bit of a state.

"Which of you bastards turned off the lights?" he cries, a bit on the hysterical side

"Are you sure it wasn't a breaker tripping? - it happens all the time in this building!" The PFY suggests helpfully. "Apparently you installed budget electrical cabling too.."

"Oh yes and it just SO HAPPENED that the handle on the inside of the door is missing AND a box of thinwire connectors just HAPPENED to fall down the comms riser.."

"That's where they got to!" The PFY responds. "I was looking for those - couldn't find them anywhere! Course, it was dark with the lights not working in the riser, so maybe I accidentally knocked them down the cable gap.."

"..Then I tripped on the floor ventilation grill which wasn't secured properly!" our contractor continues.

"And my, you have made a bit of a mess!"

"It was a mess when I started!"

"Yes, but it was a WORKING mess. In fact, that's why the company always puts penalty clauses into its standard contracts - to recover lost income, etc, in an outage situation like this. I hate to think what this must be costing you!"

"But this has nothing to do with me!"

"The cables pulled themselves out of the patch panels and switch gear?"

"Y-No, but it wasn't my fault!"

"Of course it wasn't. It wasn't like you installed all the cables in the first place, charged a hefty premium on the top by selecting the longest cable length possible, didn't document your work, didn't label any of the gear, provided no strain relief, AND cut corners on the electrical cabling spec and circuit breakers. I'm sure the court will find in your favour."


"Well, these things usually end up there after an outage of this magnitude. And the repatching's will probably take you days to complete, which'll mean even more mo.."

"Well what can I do?"

"Well, I s’pose you could hire a couple of contractors with intimate knowledge of the network structure to give you a hand... But then again at such short notice it's probably going to be expensive...."

"I'll pay!!!"

"Well, I think we can help you out. Course we'll need someone to feed all the broken fibre up from the sub-basement spool for resplicing.."

So it's decided, he'll give us a hand. No sooner has he signed a large cheque than we promise to say it was a routine outage and he's installed in the sub-basement comms room with the fibre loom.

While The PFY's placing the wedge and flicking the lights breaker, I'm popping up a couple of stories with five boxes of thinwire terminators.

Just like clockwork. ®

BOFH 2000: Kit and Caboodle
That's right, the whole shebang

BOFH is the Bastard Operator From Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don’t mess with his copyright.

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