'I knew the company was doomed after managers brawled in a biker bar'

Plus: It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, or freezes off their toes

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call,The Register's regular... hang on, isn't On-Call a Friday thing?

Why yes it is, but in the week before Christmas there's so little news around we need something to run on the site. And it's only fair that we empty out the On-Call mailbag, which is full of fine stories that aren't quite enough to sustain a story of their very own and mash them into festive omnibus editions.

Today: things that just don't belong in the data centre but appear there anyway, to celebrate the story of the car parked in the data centre for an oil change.

"William" told us the tale of a job he once had in the IT department at a stainless steel manufacturer.

One day he "walked in to the machine room and almost tripped over a cryo flask with an unsecured top. It turned out to contain liquid nitrogen."

It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter, so William decided to complain about how unsafe it is to leave liquid nitrogen around the office.

To which a colleague replied: "Oh, is that what it was? I thought it was a bomb!"

Managers brawl in biker bar

"Homer" sent a story about the time he worked for "a small company that occupied two different suites within the same business park".

Each suite had its own work area that was accessible from the street. In one, Homer said the company housed "a CALMA IC design system (dating myself I know) and a couple of laser memory trimming systems".

"But that did not fill the space. That task was left to president of the company's Porsche.

"Much to the consternation of the CAD group in the building, the president would regularly park his Porsche in the CAD area to protect it from the elements. Of course, he did not seem to understand that the workers in the CAD area could have used some protection from the exhaust fumes and other annoying aromas produced by the vehicle."

Homer told us the president's indifference to his own equipment was "but the first of many signals that the company was doomed. The most telling signal was the night that the president and the VP of Marketing got into a fist fight after getting hammered at a biker bar up in the hills one evening."

When elastic compute meant something different

"Andy" sent a story from "the era of perforated fan fold green bar paper printed reports, when the masses of paper were bound in large rubber bands".

"Our data center had a seemingly endless supply of boxes of the things," Andy told us. "In the support office the idle practitioners developed a sport shooting the bands through the overhead light grills. We removed a ceiling tile for some cabling and were deluged with thousands of rubber bands.

"The bands became missiles in practical jokes. Eventually the practice devolved into pitched battles. We who serviced the center hardware would have to clean them out of all sorts of places.

"Janitorial service complained and it stopped for awhile."

But the wars would inevitably restart and kept going until the old maxim "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" came all too close to reality.

"Someone was rushed to the emergency room," Andy told us. "No one was fired but management made it known that next time the police would be involved."

The backups that ground down gearboxes

Lastly for today, meet "Pat", who sent a story of working on a site so large that the data centre and the secure location for storing backup tapes were about a mile apart.

The tech team had a car just to move the tapes around. And of course they abused it, because the whole site was private property.

"Given we were young and spirited a number of competitions ensued. How fast can we get there in only 1st gear, or in reverse, or with no lights, or blindfolded with someone navigating. The van typically lasted just months between gearboxes!"

On-Call will run every day this week. If you have your own stories of weirdness in the data centre or the wonderful world of tech support share them with On-Call and it could be you cheering up far-off peers in 2018. ®

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