Sympathy for the Klutz

We’ve all had incidents at work that we’re not very proud of, but they’re the kinds of incidents that inspire a lot of good-natured banter with our co-workers. The day the wrong file was deleted, or an armload of dishes was dropped, that kind of thing.

A utility worker in the Arizona desert had that type of experience late last week. As he was trying to fix or replace a finicky piece of equipment, he flipped the wrong switch or cut the wrong wire or something, and all the lights went out from Orange County to Tijuana to Arizona.

As much of a disaster as that was, I’m willing to cut the poor worker some slack. We’ve all had our own experiences creating disasters, but things got fixed, and now we laugh about it with our coworkers in the lunch room.

For instance, a very good friend of mine (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) was once working in the back of the company wiring closet adding some cables to the patch panel. As tall as he is, he had to do an extended reach to get at some high and distant wires, and somehow bumped an electrical connection at his heal.

That plug was briefly disconnected from the outlet in the wall, and every device in the wiring closet went dark. Routers, switches, and hubs no longer supplied a network connection to any of the fifty computers at that company. Servers disappeared from desktops on every computer on two floors of a downtown office building. The phone started ringing in the IT office, and announcements were made on the paging system.

Not much later, the wiring closet was plugged back in, server connections were restored, and the system was down for the same amount of time as a long bathroom break. Even though it felt like a major disaster at the time, in the grand scheme of things it was a hiccup in the workflow. And this guy has a story to share with his old coworkers who say, “Remember that day you kicked out the plug to the wiring closet?…”

In the grand scheme of things, the lights weren’t out in San Diego for that long. People that live in the city got to see a dark sky for one night. No one died from it (that I know of). And some technician in Arizona and all of his coworkers will have a story to share the rest of their lives that starts with, “Remember that time you bumped that cable [or whatever it was] and shut off power for millions of people?”

I’m glad he’s not being identified, because I’m sure he’s embarrassed enough by now. Let’s not give the guy TOO hard of a time, because it can happen to the best of us. I should know, because it’s happened to me.

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