Existential dread as phone and internet go dead

January 19, 2012

Yesterday I found myself cut off from phone and internet contact and in a state of existential dread. This is the story of how it happened and what happened next

This post is to announce that I am now on line again. It also helps me to thank a large number of people who helped in the process. Maybe it serves as therapy, as I calm down by writing what happened.

Dramatis personae:

Susan and Tudor. Occupants of Tudor Towers, whose home office arrangements for internet access have changed in haphazard ways as as earlier components such as dial-in modems and ancient PCs became obsolete or just passed away.

Wendy. Ace decorator working on making good the West wing. Wendy has appeared in earlier blog posts for her artistic efforts.

Laura and team of cleaning wizards. No we don’t have Downton Abbey scale staff. Laura et al arrive twice a month to reach the parts other hands haven’t got to.

Stan and Nora. Long-suffering neigbours who are first to be visited when something goes wrong.

British Telecomm. But you know about BT, whose billing practices and call-centres have also been mentioned in earlier posts

Michael. One of the team of master gardeners (see Laura for indication of working arrangements). Michael also knows how to get dead down-lights out of the ceiling, and replace them with live ones.

Paul 1 Friendly IT doctor at Manchester Business School

Unknown associate John Lewis, Cheadle Royal

Paul 2 Hardware assistant, B&Q

Rachel Wendy’s daughter

All clear so far? Then on to scene 1

Scene 1

My office in Tudor Towers. Late morning, Wed 18th Jan 2012. I am leaving to shop for essential liquid supplies. Computer is down-loading stuff. Wendy is ‘making good’ in the West Wing. Laura’s team (that reminds me of the music for Dr Zhivago) is attacking and repelling all signs of enemy dirt etc. I creep out.

Scene 2

I return early afternoon. Laura’s team gone. Computer has switched itself off but is ready to reboot. I reboot. Nothing happens. No internet connection. I jump to wrong conclusion. I assume router has been disrupted by Laura’s team as they plug in their various electrical weaponry. Not happy. Check the router. No internet connection. Hmm. Call Susan to get Laura’s number. No phone connection either.

Put 2 and 2 together. Wendy had been asked to remove that ancient box on the wall she was about to decorate. Check with Wendy. We both think we know what happened. We agree grimly it was not just an obsolete box Wendy had whipped out, but a vital part of our telecomm system.

I Head out to Stan and Nora and prepare to battle with BT’s celebrated help-line.

Scene 3

I will spare reporting the various human and computer interactions that took place over the afternoon. Stan and Nora on messenger duty with cleft stick, to bring us news if BT engineer(s) contact them. Fast falls the eventide. Susan arrives to give moral support.

Scene 4

BT engineer arrives. Reconnecting telephone. Warns the internet router now has to be relocated in the West wing. Can’t help more as he has to go once the job is done. Points out I need a new router connection. But at least the phone works. I dial Michael for technical support and leave message on his answerphone. He retuns call and says he can drop by over during the weekend. OVER THE WEEKEND!! Existential panic kicks in. I have no internet at home. UNTIL THE WEEKEND. I’m doomed to working in cybercafes in Stockport. Resolve to get IT advice from MBS in the morning.

Scene 5 The next morning. MBS

Susan holds fort on my planned work at MBS. I visit friendly internet doctor who says he doesn’t have the connection I need. Suggests somewhere in Manchester. I decide to try somewhere closer to home.

I Head forJohn Lewis’. Friendly person there says they don’t sell accessories like that but B&Q down The road does. That’s what I like about John Lewis. Helpful.

Scene 6 B&Q

Find almost deserted cavern that could serve double as hanger for building super jumbos. Entire aisle of accessories that look as if somewhere the shelves contain what I’m loking for. Hello, I shout, my voice echoing around the rafters. Anybody there…? Eventually someone at the front of store puts out an APB for a hardware assistant. Even more eventually Paul 2 arrives. He can’t decide which cable I need either. Finally rips the plastic wrapping off one item which seems the closest to requirements.

Scene 7 Tudor Towers

Wendy working with daughter to do the room’s ceiling. I show them triumphantly how clever I had been and how Michael will be able to get me back on line. Daughter Rachel inspects cable and router. Points out how they need to be connected. Can’t see it myself, but agree she should do it. Ha! It doesn’t work. I knew it.

Seconds later she finds a safety switch and the Netgear modem flickers into life. I scamper back into my office. It’s fixed. I am reconnected. I should find some tangible expression of gratitude. I just keep repeating thank you, thank you, thank you.

The end

So there you have it. Must call Michael. Now where did I put that phone number?

Note to my students

This is not a good example for you to take as illustration of how to write a blog post for examination purposes. It is too self-indulgent, lengthy, and needed far more reflection on the relevance of the story for leadership issues.