Humor Magazine

The Technology Outage Heard ‘Round The Office

By Katie Hoffman @katienotholmes

When you work in an office, there are days when you come in to discover a glorious bounty of doughnut holes, and while you’re shamelessly carbo-loading at your desk, you think to yourself, “Being here five days a week ain’t so bad after all.” More often, though, there days like the one I experienced earlier this week, in which you want to wield your desk chair like a weapon, spinning the swivel bottom around like a helicopter propeller and using it to threaten anyone who impedes your swift escape from that hellhole you call work.

It was closing in on 10:00 a.m., and I was doing something on my work computer that might even be worse than Googling porn—I was looking at other jobs. I know, okay? It’s precarious to say the least, but I was in the mood to find an exciting job posting for which I’m not qualified and spend a little while daydreaming about how I’d somehow get hired against all odds because someone in recruiting truly believed in me, and after working there for three years, I’d be able to retire with triple my salary.

I was toggling between CareerBuilder’s website on one monitor and some actual work stuff on the other, when all of a sudden everything to load very slowly, and eventually my computer stopped responding altogether. I thought nothing of it and promptly restarted, but upon reboot I became a little nervous when the Windows “Please wait…” screen appeared longer than usual. I immediately jumped to the only logical conclusion…



I panicked and decided to press and hold the power button on my computer tower. I know this isn’t technically recommended, but I needed to start all over and completely erase the evidence of my job search. When the scary, black what-have-you-done screen appeared, I pleaded with Windows to start normally, but I was faced once again with the lingering “Please wait…” screen. I knew I was going to have to call the office IT help desk.

I decided to go pee before making the call, because visiting the restroom at the office is akin to playing ping pong in the outside world: it’s a delightful way to pass a little time before returning to the typical unpleasantness of your existence. In the cramped restroom stall, I gave myself a silent pep talk about calling IT when I got back to my desk. Don’t mention your Internet activity; just calmly explain the problem. You can do this.

My incriminating browser history notwithstanding, I had a few other legitimate reasons to be leery of calling IT for assistance. For instance, what if I overlooked some obvious solution to my computer problems, and as a result everyone in the office starts calling me “Old Lady Katie,” because as a young person I’m supposed to have a formidable understanding of technology? Even worse: what if I have to say my password aloud for some reason?


Wearing my “grim resolve” face, I was heading back to my desk when I ran into someone from the IT team. What is he doing on this floor… HE MUST BE LOOKING FOR ME!!! It’s too late… It’s all over.

“Are you having trouble with your computer, too? We’re aware of it.”

I furrowed my brow and glanced around to take stock of the goings on in the cubicles around me. I soon realized that a number of my coworkers were chatting animatedly, trading helpless arm gestures mid-conversation.

It’s not just me! I’ll live to job search at my job another day!

The network was down, emails weren’t sending, phones weren’t working, important websites were offline, and all of our shared drives were inaccessible. All that we were capable of doing was accessing files saved to our computer and browsing external websites. With my head held high, I urgently returned to my desk to get a head start on doing absolutely nothing. I proudly texted several of my friends/family members about my good fortune in the vain way all office workers do when something of vague interest happens to them at work. My enthusiastic texting was interrupted by the first of a series of remarks that completely spoiled my enjoyment of this unprecedented free time. Someone humorlessly stated,

“Guess we’re all taking an early lunch today.”


“We’re all?” Oh my, no. I apologize for any confusion, but there is no “we” taking a lunch at a time when there are still SEVEN hours remaining in the work day. You, as an individual, are free to squander this sacred time any way you choose, but I’m going to sit powerlessly at my desk for the foreseeable future. In fact, I refuse to take my lunch until the problem is fixed.

Employees who were still unaware of the technical issues started returning to their desks from various meetings, and news of the glitch traveled fast. The mass hysteria that followed might have been fitting at Olivia Pope & Associates, but not at our quiet, mellow office:

“What time did you receive your last email? When? ABOUT 9:45 OR 10? MAKE A DECISION: 9:45 OR 10, WHICH IS IT?!?!?!?!?! Did you get my email from 9:46? YES OR NO!”

“Are you able to access this? I can’t access this!! Why are you able to access this and I’m not? I just don’t understand this.”

During the commotion of nearby coworkers completely freaking out, I had kicked off my shoes and curled up in my swivel chair to look for some cute animals on BuzzFeed. Like most technical glitches at work, the problem was resolved within about fifteen minutes…

“Wait… Wait… Sphericall is back up!”

“I can open this now! Gosh, that got really scary for a second. Now, where was I?”

…Only to subsequently crash again a few moments later.


“You saw that, right? It worked for a second! It almost worked for a second there.”

I was considering grabbing the fire extinguisher and propelling myself around our floor, but a few nearby coworkers seemed to be taking this latest setback pretty hard…

“I just don’t understand… It started to load… But then… Nothing. How can that be? It just isn’t right…”

“I was this close to accessing the one file I needed. This. Close.”

In the wake of the dramatic coworkers’ communal existential crisis, I opened a few windows on my desktop that appeared “workish,” and continued pissing away company time. What other choice did I have? I would gladly resume my tandem dream job searching/actual working at the first opportunity, but the tools I require to succeed in my job function had temporarily been stripped away from me. How was I, or anyone, supposed to perform at our usual capacity when even the most basic functions of email and telephone had gone AWOL in the technological abyss?

I was getting fed up with every goody-too-shoes and brown-noser acting as if these fluke limitations completely ruined their lives (or more accurately, their probability of promotion). We’re all on different deadlines, some people just care more than others, and certain jobs carry more pressure (mine for instance, carries little to none), but not being able to do your work for a reason beyond your control is pretty awesome regardless of where you fall on the chain of command. Embrace it. Kiss it. Make love to it. …On second thought, just embrace it.

Amidst all the coworkers who were mourning their handicapped productivity, there was a small group who had committed to worklessness perhaps a little too openly. They decided to completely turn their computers off and hold their iPhones right out in front of their faces like they were taking selfies. While I applauded their commitment, these oblivious coworkers were in flagrant disregard of the one golden rule every person should embrace on day one of accepting an office job: Don’t let anyone see that you’re not working, even if the cause for your worklessness is legitimate.

As if not working had a noticeable stench, one Mr. Big Shot came clomping out of his spacious office to deliver an important message in the snide, sarcastic tone most people reserve for calling their cable company’s customer support:

“So no one is able to access anything? Can we find out? Try refreshing, maybe. I see a lot of people on their phones just jerking off here!”


Personally, I echoed Mr. Big Shot’s astonishment. I had no idea that not having any work to do would allegedly drive employees to openly pleasure themselves in their cubicle, but I guess we all learned why we need work to do; idle hands are the devil’s playthings! The mere thought of someone doing that at their desk during this momentary disruption was almost as appalling as using the phrase “jerking off” as a synonym for “sitting around and not working.”

Aside from downplaying just how little we’re able to accomplish without the modern conveniences we rely upon, what should we have been doing, if not jerking off? It’s not as if we’d staged a covert coup and busted all of our necessary work tools so we could spend most of the day sitting around. I’ll admit, it’s a brilliant idea, and I wish I had thought of it before, but that’s not what happened.

As minutes and hours elapsed without an estimated resolution time, I learned that having nothing to do is only enjoyable when it solely affects you. When no one has anything to do, something horrible happens: people feel obligated to chit-chat with you to pass the time. Instead of using the Internet or opening long lost apps on your phone like normal human beings, people you haven’t spoken to months will wander over to your cube and pick up right where you left off during the last conversation you had:

“So I remember you told me you were visiting your aunt for the winter holidays, how did that turn out?”

Even though I had vowed to wait until the problem was solved before going to lunch, I had no intention of rehashing the last four months of my life with these assorted coworkers. I got out of there ASAP.


I spent the first half of my lunch feeling anxious about missing out on valuable minutes of paid free time, but around 1:00 p.m, I noticed I’d received a voicemail on my cell phone. It was a pre-recorded mass message from work informing me that the network was down. Without phone or email, apparently there were still some people panicking at their desk with no idea what the hell was going on, so someone deemed it necessary to utilize the emergency phone system that’s typically used for unexpected office closings.

It was at this moment that I realized the magnitude of this entire situation was lost on me. I mean, we’re just having some technical issues, right? Unless…



I bet they were all hanging out in their IT lair, discussing gigabytes and RAMs, when someone suggested playing an innocent game of Chubby Bunny. (IT guys love marshmallows.) It started out innocently enough, but when they made it to ten marshmallows, IT Guy With Glasses started to choke. IT Guy With Short Pants, IT Guy With Bad Haircut, and IT Guy With Unusually Long Arms tried to clear his airway, but during IT Guy With Glasses’ struggle to breathe, the marshmallow mass had lodged itself too deep to be recovered. IT Guy With Short Pants saw someone on TV perform a tracheostomy with a pen once, so he tried to save IT Guy With Glasses’ life with a nearby Bic. Sadly, his attempts went horribly wrong (in college, he read his computer science books during anatomy) and IT Guy With Glasses died. Completely distraught, IT Guy With Short Pants, IT Guy With Bad Haircut, and IT Guy With Unusually Long Arms decided to cause a diversion to buy some time to hide the body, because how could anyone at the office tolerate their snide IT superiority if anyone found out they play Chubby Bunny in their spare time?!


Now I was looking forward to going back to my desk, because I was hoping to come across the IT guys trying to move an oddly-shaped parcel without attracting attention. If I found them, I’d throw down my epic accusation Clue-style, exacting revenge on behalf of every employee that was made to feel like a novice when he or she called the IT help desk with a computer issue! But before I could celebrate my triumph, these despicable data dudes would inform me that they know all about my job searches during business hours!


I’ll be blackmailed into silence, forced to forfeit the satisfaction of making those IT guys pay! I’d have no other choice! Please accept my apology, IT Guy With Glasses’ Game of Thrones viewing party, I know you’ll be wondering what happened to your friend when he mysteriously doesn’t show up on Sunday, but I need my job.

I made it back to the office without compromising my scruples and found my coworkers in the same state of concerned exasperation. Sighs, harrumphs, and groans sounded from many cubicles, while others calmly surfed the Internet.

Eventually, my phone rebooted, and we were off…


“I’m getting emails now!”


It seemed our glorious hiatus had come to an end, which also meant poor IT Guy With Glasses had successfully been dumped in an alley somewhere, likely at the behest of Leroy Brown, a freelance no-goodnik who agreed to dispose of the body in exchange for an HBO Go password. It was nice while it was lasted, but I decided to finally back to work, without doing any more risky job searches. We had all reluctantly put our noses back to the grindstone when good ol’ Mr. Big Shot surfaced for an encore performance,

“Everyone can get back to work now. No more walking around or playing vid’ya games! I’ve been working this entire time.”

I had a feeling that at the dinner table tonight Mr. Big Shot would smugly inform his family that he really earned his exorbitant salary that day.

Later in the day we got an email that shed light on the entire IT incident:

Overview: At approximately 10:10 AM today, we experienced a forfeiture of important configuration material on our network’s data stowing structures.  Servers require storage to function, and if the connectivity capability is compromised, the storage system functionality is vastly impaired. This temporary disruption isn’t likely to have caused any data loss, so all of your favorite GIFs and email chain letter drafts are safe. No one knows what any of this shit means anyway, so take our word for it when we say it’s all fixed now. Also, effective immediately, IT Guy With Glasses is no longer with the company…

Outage Start: 10:13 AM CST

Outage Finish: 02:05 PM CST

Affected Systems: Just about everything. Our bad, yo.

User impact: I know you guys were losing your shit, but it’s all good now.

User action required: Please cross your fingers we all get to keep our jobs.

After enduring so many coworkers showing their true (crazy) colors, I left work that day clinging to the last idealistic hope I could muster: there better be some doughnuts tomorrow.

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