Firefly in Japan, Part 10: There is a special feeling of horror when you’re an IT person experiencing a major, major issue.
Ginza is a famous area of Tokyo, filled with very expensive designer clothes stores, expensive cars, more expensive women, and a business district.
I was working at a client site in a prestigious area of Tokyo called Ginza. Two companies were coming together, and the IT systems needed to be consolidated. Bill and I went in on the weekend to work on thefileserver . Bill got to work doing the important stuff, and I cruised around the office doing the grunt work. The air was heavy, and warm. There is always a unnatural stillness in offices on holidays.
“Firefly!” Bill shouted from the server room.
“Coming,” I said.
“Alright,” Bill said, rubbing his hands together. “I moved all the information from the old hard drive, onto the new hard drive. Then I’m going to rebuild the server, and fix the permissions. Go around to all the PCs and make sure you can’t find any files in My Documents or on the desktop.”
“Sure.” I turned each computer on, one by one. The task was mind-numbing, which I actually didn’t mind. My imagination tends to spark up during these repetitive tasks, and I spent the next hour or two in deep thought. I copy files I find to the server in ordered directories. I returned to Bill.
“Done.” I said.
“Well we made progress faster than I thought. I’m going to set up RAID, leave this server building, and copy back all the data. Come back at 9am sharp on Monday to continue work.”
I nodded agreement, said goodbye, packed up my bag, and left. I was mildly irritated that a big chunk was taken from my Saturday for 2 hours of overtime pay (about 5,000 yen). Oh well, it’s not all about the money. My presence seemed to help Bill, even if he just wanted someone to talk with. I shrugged it off, and enjoyed the rest of my weekend.
I arrived on site at 8:50am equipped with my coffee, Monday morning fuzz, and my shoulderbag which housed my laptop that I purchased myself. I moved through the columns of desks, and found an empty space, and set up my computer and hung my jacket over the chair. I strained my neck over to the left and right, and was rewarded by satisfying cracking noises. I logged into the server, and had a brief look. Seems fine.
A user came over. “Excuse me, you are computer person?” she asked.
“I sure am, how can I help you?” I said, summoning my best Monday morning smile, and probably failing.
“I have trouble find file. You can help?” She asked, gesturing towards her desk.
“Sure,” I said, pushing the wheeled chair away from the desk and bouncing to my feet. “Let me have a look.”
I sat down at her PC, and brought up the pre-configured mapped drives.
“All the files seem alright to me,” I said, while flicking through the directories. “Whats the problem?”
“No – only half of files are there. Other half are gone.” She said, a crack developing in her voice.
Must be simple user error, I thought. It’s pretty unlikely that only SOME directories are missing, that just doesn’t make sense.
“Ok, sure – I’ll look into it for you. Can you tell me which folder is missing?” I said.
“Accounting folder missing. Also, Finance. Also, Sales.” She said.
“Um, accounting, finance and sales are missing?” I said with surprise. She nodded my head. “No problem. I’ll look into it.”
I stood up and walked over to my PC. Another foreign man came over to me.
“Excuse me, I seem to be missing the files in Sales – I need them for a presentation in an hour. Can you help?” He asked politely.
I visibly gulped. “Sure, no problem. I’ll just look into that right now. Give me a moment.” I said, breaking a light sweat. He nodded, smiled, and walked away.
An email popped into my inbox, subject “IMPORTANT FILES MISSING : URGENT” from the office manager. My muscles involuntarily tensed. The office manager was very rude and abusive – I’m sure she is going to blast me as soon as she sees me.
Another girl walks up to my desk.
“Excuse me. I am very sorry to interrupt, when you’re busy,” she intoned in quiet polite Japanese. “I seem to have lost some files. When you have time, can you please help?”
“I’m working on it right now actually.” I said, suddenly feeling my shirt collar tighten around my neck.
“You don’t know where they are?” She asked.
“I’m uh… .just.. starting to work on it now.” I said, fighting a sudden urge to panic.
She sensed the uncertainty in my voice.
“They are gone? The files?” Her throat constricted, and her voice came out as a croak.
“I’m.. just looking into it now. I’ll tell you soon.” I said, a little impatiently.
She stood there, unmoving.
I looked at her blankly, waiting for her to leave so I could begin work.
She started blinking fast. Her small mouth turned downwards at the corners. She choked back a sob, as a tear slid down her face.
“Oh geez, look, i’m looking into it now. Please give me a moment, and I’ll tell you whats happening as soon as I can,” I said, as reassuringly as I could. I could feel my own neck on a slab of cold hard stone, and the office manager wearing a black mask and aggressively wielding an impossibly sized axe for someone of her small frame.
She spun around and took off at a quick jog, trying to hide her tears.
I gulped, and called Bill.
*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..
My knuckles turned white as I fiercely gripped the phone handset. I looked up and saw 2 other people sitting in front of their computers with a confused expression on their face.
*ring ring*…..*ring ring*…..”Hi you’ve reached Bill. I’m unavailable..” I cut off his voicemail message.
I could feel a quiet anger and desperation around the office, as more and more people began discovering their vital files were missing. My heart rate continued increasing, flushing my face red with worry and adrenaline.
There is a special feeling of horror when you’re an IT person experiencing a major, major issue. Only IT people with similar experiences are able to understand. The feeling is intensified when it’s your fault, but when you’re the front line, it still gets pretty bad. It starts in your stomach, like someone just took a sickle and disemboweled you on the spot. Then it spreads up to your throat, and slams into your head. Your head becomes light and dazed and you suddenly realise the consequences of the your actions (or the problem). Fortunately, I am a very careful person, and in years of working in IT, I’ve only felt this 2 or 3 times. But when you feel it, you know it. And every time you feel it, you NEVER want to feel it again.
I pushed the horrific feeling away as best as possible. I glanced at the clock.
This is going to be a long day.
To be finished soon.