Wednesday, January 30, 2008

System Failure

Since my daily life revolves around the inner workings of computers and networks and other technical gizmos, I have an intense distrust of any new technologies. Not that they are useless, I'm just wary. It could be the greatest technological innovation ever, but I'll still think of ways it could destroy the world or, at the very least, inconvenience everyone when it craps out. And, believe me, it will crap out eventually.

Let's take the iPhone as an example. Granted it's cool and sleek and trendy, but you ever think what that touch screen is going to look like after a month's worth of use? Let's just say Windex probably isn't going to be of much use. Now let's consider that the iPhone will most likely have all your contacts, music, email, etc on it. You might want to keep things backed up just in case. And, let's face it, how many of us do that on a regular basis? I do, but I'm a professional and have learned the harsh lessons of others.

It is with this skeptical mind set that I rolled my eyes when my wife informed me our town had setup a 'reverse 911' calling system. If you aren't familiar, it's an automated system that calls parents and teachers to tell them of school closings, snow emergencies, water main breaks, and takes your coffee orders. That last one was made up, but would be much more useful.

When wifey asked - and I quote - 'what's your problem?', I informed her that this all sounds great in theory, but just wait until it 'forgets' to call you and you show up with everyone else when school has been called off or someone figures out how to hack it and manages to send out fake no school announcements. 'You are so negative' was the gist of her answer, although I'm fairly sure there was a curse involved.

With this in mind, allow me to pass along a little story that will probably make the news tonight. It involves my seven year old, who was dropped off at school this morning by my mother in law. My mother in law is what you would call 'anal retentive'. She will stand in line with my eldest and watch until he walks in the door of the school; whereas I barely come to a stop as he jumps out of the car and runs to the line.

Around 11:45 this morning I get a call from wifey saying that the school's reverse 911 system just called our house saying my son was absent from school. My mother in law, who was watching my youngest at our house, was in a full fledged panic and was heading to the school. I tell her I will call the school and see what's going on, but to keep calm.

I attempt calling the school and instantly get a busy signal. I hit redial and same thing. Suspicions are arousing. I have to hang up and hit redial ten times before I get through and when I do, only get someone's voice mail. I leave a message asking someone to confirm that my son is actually in class and to call my cell when they figure out what's going on.

I call wifey back to tell her what I think is going on and before I even get words out of my mouth she says, 'The fucking automated system screwed up! It called all the parents telling them their kids were absent'.

Normally, you could shrug and bitch about ghosts in the machine, but this was preying on every parent's worst nightmare. I confess to getting that nauseating knot in my stomach when my wife told me the school couldn't find our son. Being in Boston, there wouldn't be much I could do even if this was a worst case scenario. I had my coat half on - ready to bolt - while I attempted to call the school; standing at my desk, shoving what I needed in my pockets, repeatedly hitting redial.

But as bad as this situation seems, it was even worse. See, the automated system called every parent of EVERY CHILD in the school system saying they were not in school. That's a whole, hellavalot of parents. You can imagine the rest. Every school in my town had parents flocking to the school in the middle of the day in a panic, wondering and imagining what had happened to their child.

My mother in law drove down with my youngest and was met with traffic gridlock, parents leaving their idling cars in the middle of the street and running down the street to the school, police arriving with screaming sirens. It was insanity on a major scale. Parents dropped what they were doing at home, left work early, took cabs or had friends drive them from Boston all convinced someone had kidnapped their child. And it happened at every school in town.

In two words: Holy shit!

Oh, look, it's in the news already. Let the good times roll!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go get a shot of Jack Daniels to calm my nerves.

Today's distraction: A fantastically addicting game. Just collect the green balls, hit the blues to save what you have and avoid the reds. Simple, yet relentless.


Jim Hammen said...

That is alternately the funniest and scariest story ever.

BeachBum said...

Wifey and I were watching the Ten O'Clock Fox News (after Moment of Truth, of course!) and, not only was this story they teased during commercial breaks, but it was the main story following the Super Bowl coverage.

Since we were relieved everything was fine, both of us were laughing hysterically at the story. One school had to go into lockdown because parents were trying to storm their way in. It must have been like Dawn of the Dead, only with parents instead of zombies.