When the boss receives the wrong draft report • The Registry


NSFW Who, me? Have you ever written that angry email and accidentally hit send instead of deleting? Take a trip to the 1990s equivalent with a Who, Me? slightly NSFW?

Our story of “Matt” takes us back the best part of 30 years to a time when cell phones were the preserve of rising young professionals and landlines ruled over far more than your elderly parents.

At the time, Matt was working for a UK-based landline operator. He was dealing with a telephone exchange which served a relatively large town. “I ran a reasonably ordinary read-only command to query for a specific parameter,” he told us.

The answer didn’t make sense. So he rerun it, in case there was any corruption on the line. Same result.

Confused, he showed the results to a colleague who agreed it sounded a bit strange. More people got involved and the request was executed over and over again.

“Unbeknownst to us,” said Matt, “every time we performed this the switch filled a bucket-to-leak error counter. Eventually we hit the limit causing a restart.

“The whole city lost its phone service for several minutes.

Ouch. The superiors were obviously very keen to know what had happened since the whole point of being a telephone operator was to allow the operation of the phones. All eyes turned to Matt, who had been identified as the main driver of the unfortunate event (the real culprit was a questionable processor card).

He wrote a report explaining what had happened. He described himself as “in a funny mood to be a scapegoat,” so the document, intended for colleagues who can confirm the story, was similar to the following:

Command executed

The answer was bullshit

Run again to verify

Always bullshit

While showing the problem to nob-end and cockwomble [presumably Matt’s affectionate terms for his colleagues] the switch has flipped

I started getting reports that things were royally fucked up

Rock on his feet

Customer services are pissed off because a geezer with a boat called and ripped them a new asshole

Switch may have restarted but I’m screwed if I run the X command again to see if the problem is still there

“The actual report was a bit longer than this example,” he told us.

Now, of course, that first draft was for Matt’s own benefit to get the times and events straight into his mind. He rewrote it without swearing, making it more suitable for management. Another copy, sanitized, was printed and Matt put it in the boss’s inbox (“a real inbox, made of wire, full of paper”).

No longer thinking about the question, he set off at a trot for a well-deserved lunch.

On his return, he was greeted by his supervisor. The boss had gone to get the report. Matt replied that the papers were in the inbox (and, it turned out, they were still there. The boss hadn’t bothered to look properly).

“Oh good,” the manager said brilliantly. “The boss needed it now anyway, so I gave him the copy on your desk.”

Matt felt his lunch fall several feet away. The boss and the boss of the boss and who knows who else had been the target of his current of conscience, swearing and all.

However, he heard no more of it. “I don’t know how far this report has gone,” he said, “but no one has ever disputed it.”

Sometimes the first draft is the best draft.

Never written this report and accidentally sent it, only to make your boss find frankness and honesty a refreshing change rather than a torrent of career-ending swear words? Share your story with an email to Who, Me? ®

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