The Register


The Bastard establishes his territorial boundaries...

I'm sitting at my desk, reconfiguring my network monitor, when the phone rings. Caller-ID tells me it's one of the consultants in the Bean-counter department on the sixth floor. I pick the receiver up, say "Wrong Number", and hang up.

I know it's a wrong number - mine isn't listed internally. The number that is listed rings through (I believe) to a locked storeroom in the basement. Popular rumour has it that it was once answered... Network Engineering, like a major credit card, has it's privileges.

The phone rings again and I'm getting concerned. Twice in one day is a little excessive.

"Hello?" I ask, not wanting to give any clues away.

"Is that the network engineer?" a voice asks.

This concerns me even more. There's only one person who knows my extension number - that's the system operator, and he knows better than to divulge it to a user. At least, I thought he knew better.

"Yes?" I reply.

"I've got a little problem with my connection," the voice says.

"Call the helpdesk," I reply, and drop the receiver back into its cradle

Yet again the phone starts ringing.

"I already rang the helpdesk!" the voice wails. "They told me to call you!"

Oh dear. There are three things wrong here: one, a user knows my extension number, which means: two, the helpdesk has been talking to the operator again; but more importantly: three, the operator is giving out my extension number to people.

This is not a good thing. If I'd wanted calls, I would have put an advert in a personal column. I'd best get to the very bottom of this before things get out of hand.

"Why did the helpdesk tell you to call me?"

"Because they don't know what the writing on the patch-panels means."

My network monitor is now beeping at me, which brings the concern level into the upper percentiles.

"On my patch panels?" I say.

"No, the ones up here in our section on the sixth floor."

"Yes. My patch panels. The ones I lock away from everyone," I fume.

"Well, I ... "

"Just a minute. One question. What were you doing in the Comms Cupboard?"

"Well, my connection went dead, so I ..."

"So you broke into the Comms cupboard?"

"No, not broke into - the operator gave me the key."

"The ex-operator gave you the key?"


I grab the phone, go to the inspection window, and get the operator's attention. He exits to the corridor heading in my direction.

"And you've touched something haven't you?" I ask down the phone, knowing the worst.

"Uh ... I ... er"

"You got drawn in by the pretty lights, and you touched something. Don't bother denying it, I know you did, and you know you did. And pretty soon, if I'm not mistaken, most of your division will know you did too. What did you touch?"

"Well, I thought the router might have crashed, so I ... "

"Wait! Another question. Where did you hear the word 'Router'?"

"I read it in a manual that I got at Dil... "

"WHAT?! You've been reading forbidden literature as well?"

"It's not forbidden to read ... "

"Stop! The book was in the technical section wasn't it?"

"Well, it ... "

By this time the operator has arrived at my office and has realised the significance of the tones coming from the network monitor.

"What were you doing in the technical section? You know you don't belong there! But let me piece this together. You skim-read a technical tome, wait for your chance, impress the gullible ex-operator with a host of buzzword lies, then, under the false impression that the router had gone down, rebooted it. Didn't you?"

"Uh ... Yes. Sort of. I didn't know which of the three routers was at fault, so I ... "

"You booted them all didn't you?"

Sure enough, my screen shows the sixth floor as a sea of red.

"Uh, yes. I was just wondering if there's anything else I should've done."

Looking directly at the 'ex' operator, I reply: "Well, come to think of it, yes there is. Usual procedure after causing a major network outage is to collect your personal effects from your desk and work area, not forgetting your coffee mug, then sit in a large open area until security comes to escort you from the building."

"But I ... "

"Oh, and make sure they don't have to search you for your keys or ID card. I've heard people have nasty accidents that way. Bye now! Oh, and if you've written my extension number down anywhere, I'd advise you to dispose of it carefully."

He hangs up, and I prepare to show our operator why the electric stapler has all those warning signs about keeping the body clear.