Biscuits for Breakfast – The Special One

They’re a funny lot the guys I work with. When I first started in the job I very quickly gained a reputation amongst them for being ‘special’ as every time I phoned one of them for help with one error or another invariably no-one else had ever seen it before. The response I got most often was “Yeah, good luck with that!” but I was usually able to muddle through. Most of time I was actually just unlucky with the errors but there have been some incidents which have made the nickname ‘The Special One’ stick.

Some time in 2008 I was assigned to job in Milan and things did not really start well. I was flying out in a Sunday afternoon so I could be on-site first thing Monday but on my way to the airport I realised I had forgotten my passport. I pulled into the services just before Heathrow and called my manager to explain exactly why there were going to be some unhappy Italians the next morning. He was surprisingly understanding as it turned he out he’d done the same thing in the past so after a minimal amount of abuse I carried on to the airport where I found there were no more flights that evening and had to book myself onto the first flight the next morning. Which was at 5am. Which meant I would have to be back at there at 3am. On a bad day it can take 2 hours for me to get to Heathrow and I’m not very good at early mornings, but as it was my own fault it seemed a reasonable punishment, and punishment enough. Apparently it wasn’t.

So it was the following lunchtime I found myself getting out of a cab outside a bank somewhere in Milan with all my luggage and a couple of bleary eyes. As all the information I had was a name and the bank address so it seemed reasonable to try and find my contact inside. I don’t know if all Italian banks have the same entry system or if it was just this one place but to get in you had to go through a kind of revolving door. It seemed like any other normal revolving door but only one person could step into it at once, it then revolved to let that person into the bank properly while blocking entry to anybody else, a simple and clever security system that appeared to be weight-activated. I say it was weight-activated because when I stepped into it with my laptop bag and small suitcase it span halfway round and then rocked back slightly, perfectly balancing between the entrance and exit positions, leaving me unable to get into the bank or back out into the lobby. Italians are an excitable lot and the sight of a tired, confused Englishman trapped in the door that was their only access to their Euros caused a predictable commotion which was what attracted the attention of the security guard rather than my embarassed knocking on the glass. Through hand-signals and broken English he managed to convey that he thought I was an idiot and released the door so I could get through. I managed to explain what I was doing there and was informed that I should have actually gone into the building next door. I thanked them and sheepishly made my way out through the disabled access door, not wanting to risk the revolving door again. You’ll be glad to hear that after that the rest of the job went well I’m sure.

Sadly, although such incidents have become fewer and further between, they still happen. Just as I start thinking I might have become a sensible and uneventful engineer, something special happens. Not long before Christmas I was working in a datacentre in Peterborough. The gentleman I was working with had never been to the site before either and as it turned out the information we had telling us where the server we were to work on was located was wrong so we got a bit lost, to the point where we ended up in a generator room which our security passes had let us into but then would not let us out of again. We were stuck in there for about an hour and were only rescued when someone walked past the door and saw us waving.

Still, it gives me something to write about.


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