Saturday, May 14, 2011

A true story

I work for a systems integration firm which specializes in providing solutions for the communications and security industries; specifically, I am "the IT guy" for our internal operations, though I work alongside several contractors who also maintain our network.

Sounds important, right? I'm not so sure that it is.

Two days ago, one of the contractors with whom I work needed to drive out to a nearby tunnel system with an engineer in order to swap out a server mounted on a rack full of modulator-things (I'm not an engineer, so I don't need to know exactly what the engineers do, apparently. As long as I do my part and make my money, right?). The goal was to change out the server, update the database, and test the modulator-things by way of a radio in order to ensure that the signals that the modulator-things were modulating were strong enough. Still sounds somewhat important so far.

But I wasn't there to do any of that. I was supposed to be back at the office re-imaging a hard drive and recovering its lost data from a backup system provided by a fairly unreliable (but cheap!) third party. Why did I have to drop everything that I was in the middle of and go, then? Because the contractor's back was hurt, and he wanted me to carry his suitcase for him.

That was it. I was there to carry a fairly light suitcase into a building, into an elevator, and then into a server room; the rest of my time was to be spent sitting in a chair and waiting for the other two guys to finish. Honestly, the contractor didn't seem all that hurt, but even if he was, the engineer who was also tagging along could have easily grabbed the contractor's stuff on a second trip from the car to the building. Basically, this was an inefficient use of man hours on the part of the contractor.

I normally wouldn't complain about such a thing, no matter how obviously poor the decision was -- especially on this blog -- but there's more to this story. In addition to my role in this operation being needlessly redundant, it turned out that neither of the two guys working on this system really knew what he was doing, and both had been rushed by their managers to get the job done that evening at all costs. Oh, and on top of that, the system turned out to be full of errors.

This combination of unfortunate elements -- all generated by a society obsessed with self-perpetuation and gratification, no matter the cost -- caused us to stay at this place until almost 9 at night, when the goal was to be done by 5 or earlier (we got there at 2:30). In other words, from approximately 2:30 until 8:45 or so, I was sitting in a chair. I could have been eating dinner, but because I was "needed" for carrying a relatively light load to a place where a project "needed" to get done that day, I just sat there for the entire day, doing literally nothing.

Even if I really was needed for carrying the suitcase -- which I am somewhat open to being a real possibility -- the system's lack of criticality indicates to me that there was no need whatsoever for us to stay any later than 5; the push to stay as long as it took makes no sense to me in this case, as we weren't exactly performing heart surgery.

All that aside, I still wouldn't have posted this entry if it weren't for this: The goal of the system that they were working on is to allow you to hear your radio when you're driving through the tunnel. I spent over six hours (three of which were outside of my normal hours of work) doing nothing -- not helping anyone back at the office, not eating or drinking, not enjoying a recreational activity at home -- just so that the people who drive through that tunnel can hear an extra thirty seconds of their favorite Lady Gaga song. With all of the things that need to get done on this planet to make the burden of life more bearable, apparently, what we did that day was more important.

Do you still think our society is sane?


  1. > Do you still think our society is sane?

    I don't - but I didn't before reading your post either ;-)
    Anyway, it is a very nice example of the strange priorities that "we" have.

  2. Haha, agreed.

    I'm glad that you picked up on my use of a possessive. The irony of referring to the society in which I live as "my" society or "our" society is that the current iteration is probably the most individualistic and alienating of all, with communality only really manifesting during wartime or football games -- and even then, only superficially.

    Yeah, it's "our" society, alright.

  3. Maybe everyone just wanted the "guys stop talking about football we need to reform society RIGHT NOW" guy out of the office for a day? Huh? Ever think of that?

  4. Man, I love that last comment. I've been reading through some old posts over the last few days and never really appreciated some of these. The above caricature would make for an interesting sitcom character for sure.