Years later, it was the beginning of the dot-bomb years. The job I loved, working on a great Web site (even by the accounts of competitors), had long since evaporated, and my ever-shrinking bank account cried for help. I went back to Biz X, which had doubled in size -- and yes, John and Sean had still been the cable guys, who had by then added many more layers and many more miles of CAT-5 cables to the plenum area.
Because the expansion to Biz X had been piecemeal, there was no apparent rhyme or reason to the numbering of the network and phone jacks. Numbers 24-50 were together, sort of. Then the sequence would jump to 126-183. Unless of course, No. 183 was really No. 187 in disguise! Sean was finally gone, much to my relief, but John still had his rag-tag crew of freelancers.
By this time, I had learned enough to actually know what I was doing and had learned to expect that after John pronounced his work complete, it was time for me to play "Find the Mislabeled Jacks." There were always one or two, always in critical areas. Business had picked up considerably and was even more time-sensitive than it had been. The company moved tens of millions of dollars every day, and it had to happen on time. I began my campaign to get a new cabling vendor hired. And heard again the refrain which would become all too familiar: "Well you know, John's been doing our cable work for years. Let's not get too exercised about it."
I became known as the go-to guy when somebody wanted something done -- and done right in a timely manner. And slowly, incident by incident, I realized that both my boss and the other staff tech hired before me were sour and angry, and they hated the users and their jobs. My boss, it turned out, would rather refuse to act, to the detriment of the company and his reputation, than create any new work for himself.
But I digress. Back to John and his motley crew. Life is good in our business, new records are being set every month. The high-speed fax machines are humming (after a long nightmare getting the fax queue software to work). It's time to prep for a major office expansion, and John's crew is on the job. Ceiling panels are open, and the boys are up on ladders preparing to remove a layer of cabling that's no longer in use.
"Cut all of the blue ones," says the foreman to "Brutus." He looks up from the top of his 12-foot ladder and wields his bolt cutters like a man on a mission. Meanwhile, I am walking my beat, making the world safe for e-mail and printing. Suddenly, someone yells, "Hey, I'm not getting any faxes all of the sudden!"
I look back at Brutus, and the sagging, spaghetti-like bundle of more than 100 blue CAT-5 cables. Drooping heavily among them is one solitary cable. It's also blue. The very same blue as the obsolete cables being removed. Oh no. Oh yes, it's a 50-pair cable, about an inch in diameter. The fax machines are dead silent. I am not.