Translating engineer excuses into non-fiction can be a difficult task - but nothing is too tough for The Bastard Bible...

Year 1998 - Episode 15


So I'm putting some finishing touches to The Bastard Bible, or as the PFY and I refer to it, 'Everything your users ever wanted to know about systems and networks management but were too afraid to ask because they didn't want to spend a bank holiday weekend stuck in a chemical toilet.'

The PFY wanders over after logging a hardware fault on an old RAID cabinet that's near the end of its serviceable life. Noticing my disdain, the PFY can't stop himself: "You don't like engineers very much do you?"

"Not particularly. It's such a crap paid job that all the good ones bugger off to private contracting while all the crap - or new - ones get sent out to look after our gear."

"It's not quite that bad," the PFY says, shaking his head. "They get the job done."

"Time will tell." I don't want to raise his hopes as I know that our maintenance contracting company tries to reduce costs by religiously claiming the fault is software, not hardware. When that fails, they'll attempt to 'repair' gear on-site using your tools to disguise the fact that they don't actually have a workshop. That is, they're operating from the back room of a minicab company.

As expected, the engineer arrives exactly at 11:53am, just in time to hook on to the crowd going out to lunch. He wants to blend in with the rest of the department so he can get some free food. Like company, like employee.

After lunch the PFY and I let him back into the computer room to see if he knows what he's doing. He flicks a couple of switches on the RAID unit to see if any of them will make the Disk-Fault light extinguish.

When that fails - maybe because the disk has a fault? - he comes up with his carefully considered diagnosis.

"Hmmm. That's interesting," he says. I direct the PFY's eyes to that phrase in the 'Engineer Speak' section of the Bastard Bible: "I have no idea what's wrong."

"So the disk is faulty?" I ask.

"Could be, but I'll need to get my service kit from the car."

The PFY reads the translation to himself: "I need to get XXX from the car/van/courier," equals, "I'm going to bugger off back to the office and hope the call gets re-assigned to another engineer."

"Oh, we've got one here!" I cry, knobbling him completely.

"Oh... great."

Now he's stuck. He's going to have to open the cabinet up and have a poke around. Otherwise we'll know he has no idea. I give him a clue by pointing at the dud disk in the unit.

"So I guess you'll replace that?"

"It's possible," he responds, still avoiding the commitment of having an opinion. "But I'd like to check it over first."

As I take my leave, he prepares the unit for the hot-removal with a hammer. A minute later he's back in our office.

"Have you got a bigger hammer?"

At this stage I feel compelled, if only for my personal sanity, to point out the quick release latches that are preventing the disk's removal. He yanks the drive from its bay and brings it into the control room for a once-over.

"Yeah, as I thought, it's a dry joint on the logic board. I'll just re-solder it."

"I'm about to ruin a piece of your hardware," the PFY reads aloud.

"Pardon?"

"Nothing." The PFY closes the translation chart before the engineer can peer over his shoulder. "Just talking to myself."

He plugs our soldering iron in, letting it melt the mouse pad he's laid it on.

"We'll have it back up in no time," he says happily.

"It's about to become a f*ing expensive paperweight," the PFY reads.

"Pardon?"

"Nothing - just my Tourette's Syndrome kicking in."

Before the soldering iron can work its way through the mouse pad to the table top, I decide to take steps.

"Shouldn't you work on that in the computer room to prevent possible thermal expansion /contraction problems?" I ask.

DUMMY MODE ON.

"Duh... yeah... I was just going to do that. Just making sure the soldering iron was working."

He wanders back into the computer room, then returns a minute later.

"You don't have any solder do you? I seem to have left mine in the car."

"Yeah, sure," the PFY replies, handing over some of our stash.

"Wait!" I cry. "You don't want that - you want the solder with the flux core to act as a catalyst to the soldering bond."

DUMMY MODE IRREVOCABLY ON.

I hand over some chunky stuff that's more suited to plumbing than electronics, and the engineer smiles.

"Cool, I was just going to ask for the catalystic stuff."

He wanders off happily.

"What did you give him that crap for?" the PFY asks. "It's horrible to use and always gives off tons of smo..."

His question is answered as the computer room fire alarm triggers.

We watch through the viewing window for a while as the engineer fumbles with the Halon Hold-Off switch, which some Bastard appears to have epoxy glued open.

Of course, we let him out before he passes out. Just...

Call me Mr Kind-hearted.