The Day the Computers Died . . .

I guess that when the computers go down on campus, the worst job to have is at the Help Desk. The minute, nay the second, the network is down, they are inundated with phone calls from students, staff, and faculty wanting to know what is wrong and when it’ll be fixed. And because the network is down, they can’t simply email the campus with some information. Yes, their job is the worst to have when the computers go down.

In my humble opinion, the second worst job is in the library. We too are inundated with questions, but the main difference between us and the help desk folks is that we are as in the dark as the students. But that doesn’t keep the questions from coming.

Today, we knew three things: A transformer blew in the building that houses the servers. All electricity was off in that building, and there was no computer access. We knew this because an announcement came over a loud-speaker. And that was all we knew. But the next few hours went something like this:

STUDENT: What’s wrong with internet? (BTW, we had put up a sign.)

US: It’s down due to a power outage.

STUDENT: When will it be back up?

US: We don’t know.

STUDENT: I have a paper due.

US: I’m sorry.

STUDENT: This is bad timing.

US: I’m sorry.

STUDENT: Well, if I come back in a hour, will it be up?

US: We don’t know. You can call us and see.

Now most students were extremely gracious and understanding. They tried to do the work they could, went to lunch, and checked back later. But the lack of basic technology did drive some to the edge. One student, in frustration, hit our sign announcing the problem and sent it flying across the floor. He apologized profusely. Another wanted to know why we couldn’t tell him when the network would be back up. He seemed to find our ignorance an example of poor customer service.

About 2;30, all the servers had been restarted, and we all could email, send assignments, check Facebook, and do all the thousands of things we take for granted each day. Good humor was restored. Those who had taken advantage of canceled class and beautiful weather trickled back in to finish up some homework.

The only reminder of the day was a lingering headache on my part. And a slightly bent sign.

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