It's across the hall

There is one good thing about working from a cubicle: you get to overhear an interesting converstation every now and then. The following is from the tail end of a conversation I overheard this afternoon. It was between one of our a help desk techs and our telecom person about a user trying to send a fax from one office to another. Note that I was not involved in this conversation. I thought about sticking my nose in, but I had nothing useful to add and figured it would be unprofessional to ask about it just so I could mock the user.

Telecom: "I don't know why she'd dial that. It doesn't make sense."
Help desk: "But if it's a direct inward dialing, it shouldn't matter. She should be able to just dial the extension."
Telecom: "Yeah, but that extension was a phone."
Help desk: "But still, if the fax machine is on a DID line and she dialed its extension, it should have worked."
Telecom: "Well, yeah. But what really didn't make sense to me is why she would send a fax instead of just walking over and handing her the paper."
Help desk: "Yeah, I know. It's across the hall."

So there you have it. A user tried to fax a document to someone just across the hall, but screwed it up and ended up wasting her time and the help desks' time. What is the world coming to? The building isn't even that big, for God's sake! Even if the user was crippled, it still would have ended up taking less time to walk the paper across the hall.

Oddly enough, this reminds me of a Slashdot story I read some years ago about an interview with a well-known UNIX elder. I want to say it was Ken Thompson or Dennis Ritchie, but I really don't remember. Anyway, the interviewee said his current work involved moving multi-terabyte of GIS databases across continents. When asked what technology they used to do this, his answer was "FedEx." They just put the data on a server set up with some flavor of Linux with pre-configured NFS and Samba, so the customer can just plug the box into a network port and turn it on. His argument was that, when trying to move that amount of data, FedEx overnight shipping was actually faster and more reliable than a network transfer.

This incident is sort of the opposite of that: using technology, despite all reason, to make a five-minute delivery into a big ordeal. There truly is no limit to what mankind can accomplish.

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