Saturday, August 13, 2016

Adventure In Futility

     If it had been a serious problem, I would have heaved a rock through a window and worried about making it right later; as it was, I had a pleasant drive in the muggy early-morning air, fought several locks and returned home having neither spun nor toiled, as unworked as a lily in the field.

     It started an hour earlier, when my phone rang at 0415 -- that's "way too damn early" in the common parlance -- with a call from a Master Control operator.  It looked to him like a minor-but-important widget up at the North Campus had shut down, plus, "There seems to be something wrong with the remote control."

     After several iterations and much back-and-forth (tell me what you see, please, and not what you think about what you see: I can't see it at all and I'm better equipped to make guesses than you are, if I only knew what was on that screen in front of you!), it developed that the remote control was perfectly fine, the minor-ish widget was trying to reboot itself -- and something was seriously wrong with the incoming power.

     There's a genset at the (entirely crewless) North Campus and a number of automatic transfer switches that will not only put the backup power online, but also bypass various vulnerable parts of the system.  The main one is set to be cautious; you can't have it slambanging back and forth on every little glitch, only actual outages.  This was an actual outage, only it had started "dirty," with the loss of one or two phases of the three-phase power, bit of a brownout, etc. etc while the switch was counting to fifteen before shouting, "Ready or not, here I come!" The generator had spooled up, gone online...and the minor widget had made a poor job of returning to service.  The Major Widget up there, through which about 60% or more of my paycheck flows, appeared to have weathered the storm.

     I got some clothes on and gather up my purse anyway.  It had been a nasty enough hit that the North Campus rated a visit.  As I was leaving, Master Control called back.  They'd been looking at the security cameras and the lights had blinked, Major Widget had blinked, and minor-ish widget was off and rebooting again.
     "Let me guess," I inquired, "the P&L POWER GOOD indicator on the remote control went from red to green, didn't it?"
     My heavens, the Master Control operator had been too shocked to look, but yes, it was green now, and how did I know?
     "That was the retransfer.  You're on commercial power again.  I still need to go take a look."

     Driving up to the the North Campus, I called my boss, got voicemail, left the Reader's Digest Condensed version, and received an "Okay, thanks" text back, which I first started to read at a stoplight where the road I was on intersected highway 31 -- except there was no light, red, yellow or green.  At all.  It was out.  That was my turn onto the highway, so I stopped, looked and proceeded, and at the next (working) stoplight, managed to arrive as it went red, did my reading, waited out the light and drove on.

     At the North Campus, the main gate, with card-reader and motorized opener, is still not working, just as it has been for the last six weeks.  I checked to be sure, then drove to the obscure back gate, undid the lock, threaded the too-short, too-fat chain back enough to open the gate, drove through and reversed the procedure afterward, only without benefit of headlights.  Down the gravel lane, up to the front door, hold up keycard, the LED flips from red to green, accompanied by an insistent "BEEEP!" and the solenoid lock...utterly fails to open.  I try again, red-to-green, BEEEP, nothin'.

     Okayfine.  I'm special, I carry an Engineering Submaster key, which I use on the old steam-technology lock.  The cylinder engages, turns...and does not withdraw the bolt.  Not nothing nohow.

     So I called the Security Chief, who is every bit as happy to wake up early on a Saturday as I was.  (Share the joy!).  Told him I'm going in through the North door, full length of the building away from the alarm keypad, and will he please put the monitoring company on the qui vive about it, since we have changed monitoring outfits and the new guys do not issue Secret Decoder codewords, but just call the po-lice toot de sweet whenever the alarm is tripped.  As it will be while I dash over to the keypad to shut it off.  "Sure," says he, and I'm off.

     Door.  Key.  Key in lock.  Turn key, feel cylinder move, feel bolt withdraw, I'm almost in!  Grab door handle, tur- turn?  No turn!  Pull?  Nope.  Immovable.  I tried bracing my feet and pulling: nope.  Tried applying main force to turn the handle clockwise, counterclockwise....  Nothing doing.  It might as well be a solid object.  I went back to my car to call the Security Honcho again, stopped, thought This Is Plain Nuts and returned to the door for another try.  Nuh-unh.  It. Will. Not. Move.

     So I called the Security Boss, explained the situation, asked him if he would consider addressing it, and received the reply, "I'm heading up there now."  Good.  It's his problem.

     I left, fought a short, nasty fight with gate lock in the dark, dropped the padlock, found the padlock, and drove a mile down the road to calm down before pulling into a parking lot to text my boss and ask if I could expense a prybar.
     He asked,  "Is everything back on?"
     "Yes, and Security is on the way. I want the prybar for next time." 
     He was okay with that.  I may also add bolt cutters to my Work-Emergency Bag already in the car.

     What a flippin' circus!

10 comments:

Jay Dee said...

Oh, I dunno. quarter pound of C4 would work too.

Guffaw in AZ said...

Wow. A circus, indeed!

Initially, I (mis)read the post title as 'Adventures in Fertility'...
:-P

Guess I needed to clean my eyeglasses and more caffeine.

gfa

james said...

I used to work in the nuke industry, and I was one of those guys that when everyone else was running out, I was running in with a yellow suit and an air tank on my back. Woke up in an ambulance once and decided to change careers. You of course know Murphy's Law. We had O'Toole's Commentary. O'Toole said that Murphy was an optimist.

James Johnson, ex-nuke

c-90 said...

Thank the BATFE, that you can't carry an RPG.

2nd time is pry-bar, and bolt cutters.

3rd is thermite lance.

4th is door breaching charges.

There is the underground command post in South Korea, that has a electrically operated vault door, similar to the doors you see in that old 80's move War Games (1983)"Strange game, the only way to win is, not to play. Would you like a nice game of chess?" (badly misquoted).

Any way, the electrical wiring was on the electronics main frame. There was a fire on the frame, and everyone had to evacuate the facility, and on the way out, to help contain/extinguish the fire, they shut the door. Fires out, wires fried, you can't operate the vault lock.

Solution, blow the door off the hinges, and of course tippity-top secret facility is unuseable til the door gets replaced.

C-90

Anonymous said...


Adding bolt cutters and a pry bar to your toolbag has the potential for a very interesting conversation with the police should they ever peek inside.

"Miss X, what are you doing with burglary tools in your SUV at 0-Dark 30, today? And you have a gun?"

Lergnom said...

"without benefit of headlights" reminded me of a birthday gift I once got from my BIL. Here's a modern version: http://www.niteize.com/product/brimlit.asp
Not as intrusive or geeky as an actual headlamp, and the light goes where you look. At other times, it keeps the sun and rain off your head.

Richard Tengdin said...

Hope you can at least charge mileage for the trip and credit for time spent....

rickn8or said...

"Miss X, what are you doing with burglary tools in your SUV at 0-Dark 30, today? And you have a gun?"

I'd pay a dollar to listen to that conversation. I'm sure "Do I look like I've got time to be a burglar?" or some variant thereof would come up.

c-90 said...

It's *ALWAYS* 04:15 when you get called out.

It's *ALWAYS* something really fscked up, when they call at 04:15.

And it's usually freaking bad weather.

Says the guy who got called out in korea on a support call during a freaking typhoon, at 3 am to drive 45 miles thru rain, flooding, and falling trees to drive up a crushed stone and mud road to a montain top signal sight.

mostly cajun said...

I make a living from automatic transfer switches and UPS that don't...

We had a foot of water in one of my stations from Louisiana's current flooding. It takes a foot and a hlf to get into the REAL electricity.

However, the computer that runs teh display for the station's control was taking up too much space on the desk so it was moved to the floor... Oops... Happily, that's a control problem. I'm the power guy.

MC