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Sometimes It’s Best To Just Take the W And Walk Away

February 7, 2022

I wasn’t as smart as they thought I was. But, I wasn’t dumb enough to let them know that.

I was working for WordPerfect on their S.W.A.T team: Strategic WordPerfect Assistance Team. My job was to get on a plane and fly to wherever the problem was and fix it.

Pretty simple job description. And really high pressure.

I’d actually been the very first SWAT team member before we had a SWAT team. I just just a guy who a Product Manager convinced to fly to Washington DC and try to fix a problem for the EPA. Well, I fixed that issue and our new team was born. (Oh, it also cost the Executive Vice President his job, but that really wasn’t my fault. . .much.)

I spent a lot of time flying to Washington DC. On the trip I’m thinking about I don’t even remember who was paying for me to fly out to DC. Probably EPA or World Bank. But, when one of the SWAT guys came into town, the Sales guys lined up several visits.

Oh, while you’re here could you just pop in and see XYZ corp? They’ve been having some issues with their Email system.

The only problem is that before flying out to visit the EPA or the IMF or whomever, I did a bunch of research. I knew what their issue was. I knew what we had tried to in order to make it work. I had a relationship with the IT folks I would be working with.

But, walking into a client cold? No research? No prep? I didn’t even hear the issue until I was through the door being fitted with a temporary access badge.

My sales buddy asked if I wouldn’t mind stopping by Hyatt Hotels headquarters. See, they had a version of our product called WordPerfect Library and they were getting some weird errors and “it will only take a minute.”

Sure. I don’t mind jumping in blind. Not like I had a lot of choice.

The Hyatt IT guys got me logged into a computer. Sure enough. If you loaded our Library menu program the system crashed hard with a DIVIDE BY ZERO error. That means somewhere the software went seriously off the rails.

Okay, smart guy, you’re in a room surrounded by a WHOLE bunch of people who make a lot more money than you do and who’ve been in IT a lot longer. But, I’m sure you’ll do fine!

To kill some time, I rebooted the computer (nothing else when you get a DIVIDE BY ZERO error back in the DOS days. And I did a directory listing. A bunch of files scrolled by. They seemed to be okay.

But, something caught my eye. The amount of free space seemed especially high.

Do y’all have a lot of free space on this drive?

Yes, we’ve been cleaning up our network drives. There is probably over a gigabyte of free space.

(This was a VERY long time ago when a gigabyte was a VERY large amount of space.)

One of the features of our Library program was that it showed you how much free disk space your drive had. I’d never seen a drive with over a gigabyte free. I wondered if the program hadn’t seen it either.

Can I make a quick phone call?

Sure, just dial 9 for an outside line.

I called one of the programmers who wrote the Library program. His name, incidentally was Rod.

Rod, yeah this is Rodney, I’m at Hyatt headquarters here in Washington DC. Can you do me a favor. Would you check and see what the largest amount of free disk space Library can display? Sure, I’ll wait.

A few minutes later Rod was back on the phone.

Looks like we can display up to 640MB of free space.

So, if they had a gigabyte free, would that cause the program to crash?

Oh, definitely. You’d get a DIVIDE BY ZERO error.

Thanks, the sales guy is going to be requesting an enhancement for Hyatt.

I looked like a genius. I certainly didn’t feel like one. That was not the client I was in town to see. There was no way I should have figured that out after they’d been working with support for weeks on it.

But, sometimes you just have to take the Win and move on.

Yeah, our sales guys always loved it when I came to town.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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