Don't lift a finger

A techie brings new meaning to 'by the seat of your pants' with this server save

This incident dates back to 1998 when I was an employee of a very large IT company on the North Side of Dublin. My position there was as a junior member of the IT support team: a team supporting 650 users.

One day one of the other guys on the team asked me to head down to one of the server rooms and shut down a particular server. It was a noncritical server, so there was no issue with doing this, at least I didn't think there was.

A brief amble later I arrived at my final destination, and entered the server room. It seemed more like a scene from a NASA film with huge fans and blinking lights everywhere. The Server I was to shut down was called "Dub06." It was connected along with 5 other servers to a single keyboard, mouse and monitor via a switch box. I selected the corresponding button on the switch box to give me control over Dub06. All fine there. I then told the computer to shut down, and after about two minutes I got the message saying "It is now safe to switch of your computer."

Grand, I thought. I reached over to the left to the front panel of Dub06 and hit the power button. As I pressed the power button, I had a moment of horror as I realized this machine was not Dub06; it was in fact "Dub01."

Dub01 was the server that housed all the files those 600 people were working on, and I was about to turn this off in the middle of what they were doing.

Those of you in the know will remember that in the late '90s, the power switch on a computer did not turn it off until after you released your finger from the button (when it clicked back out after you pressed it in).

Luckily, I realized before I let go of the button that if I continued to hold the button in, the machine would not turn off. At this point I breathed a little sigh of relief, albeit too soon, as I thought, "All I need to do now is call the IT department and tell them to get everyone to close what they are working on, thus allowing me to restart this machine safely."

I looked to my right, to where I expected to find a phone. All I found instead was a phone minus a handset, and no speakerphone option. "Great," I thought, "I’ll just use my cell phone." Wrong again. I took out my cell and because the server room was located in the basement, I got no signal whatsoever.

I now started to panic. I was standing in a server room, unable to move with my finger and arm starting to ache while holding this button down. There was no one else with me, and unlikely to be anyone else coming and if I let my finger off the button, I'd lose my job.

In my desperation I looked around for options. I spotted a phone sitting on a tall stool behind me, about 10 feet away from me. Out of reach.

I now felt like crying, but soon, a cunning plan entered my head. I proceeded to take my right shoe off and aimed it at the bottom of the stool, in the hope that it would cause the stool to fall toward me. A delicate operation considering I was still holding the button down with my left hand. Sadly I missed. I took off my second shoe, took careful aim and -- a hit! But it wobbled and failed to fall, the phone hanging over the edge as if to tease me.

Finally as my panic worsened, I realized I had now only one chance: my trousers. I dare any of you to remove your trousers with one hand while stretching the other arm to a fixed point from which it cannot move. Not easy.

After a few minutes of careful fumbling, I was holding one leg of my trousers in my hand, standing in the server room pressing a button in for dear life itself, trouserless, shoeless, shameless, and exposing my boxers to my surroundings.

My button-pressing arm was now in total agony. I started to swing my trousers at the stool in the hope of coaxing the stool/phone toward me. After about 20 total misses, and a very very near miss where I almost knocked the phone away from me, I managed to catch the phone and tug it forward crashing to the floor toward me.

I now managed to reach to the phone with my toes and slide it toward me. Once it got within range I picked it up, and found it had survived the crash to the floor. I dialed the IT dept and after about 15 minutes the IT dept got everyone to close their files. My job was safe!

Alas, all did not end there. I asked the person on the phone not to send anyone down to me for reasons I would explain to her later. Big mistake. I had an audience of about 40 people in those last 15 minutes. The sight of me standing there semi-nude no doubt haunted the nightmares of some spectators for years ... Laughs were had, concerns for my mental health were highlighted, insults were made and my self respect was decimated. A day in the life, I guess.

Moral of the story: Removing one's trousers should not be treated as a universal remedy to everyday problems.