Germans in ‘brains off, just follow orders' hospital data centre gaff

Wow, Mainwaring was right, they are ‘unthinking automatons’

Captain Mainwaring

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular reader-contributed weekender in which we recount tales of the weird and wonderful things you've been asked to do at anti-social times in decidedly out-of-the-way places.

This week, reader Michael tells us that "a couple of years back I was working for a large German university hospital".

Most of the hospital's servers could be found in the university's data centre, but Michael said "we also had some odd machines in other locations" one of which was “a small windowless room about the size of a big cupboard".

“Needless to say, such a confined space heats up quickly, hence an air conditioning unit was installed,” Michael recalls. This arrangement worked quite nicely ... until the day the temperature sensors lit up.

“We rushed to the room and ducked the surge of hot air that greeted us upon opening the door and immediately saw that the aircon unit was gone.”

Michael's at pains to point out that when he said “gone” he doesn't mean broken. He means not there any more. Absent. All matter comprising air conditioners no longer present.

“For a moment we thought we were hallucinating,” Michael said, declaring his state at the time as "absolutely flabbergasted".

It turned out that “someone had ordered and authorised to have the aircon unit removed. The caretaker, after seeing the officially signed and sealed order, dutifully had unlocked the door, so that the mechanics could disassemble it".

“Sadly, nobody had given thought to the servers that were installed in the room, and it is hard to believe they were actually overlooked with the rack filling up about half of the available space," he added.

Michael reckons the incident can be put down to “the good old Germanic tradition of 'brains off and just follow orders'.”

Have you found yourself on the end of a similar SNAFU? Let me be your shoulder to cry on. ®

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