Friday, April 19, 2013

The Data Center Always Rings Twice

One of the very, very few good things I got out of my time at Borders was a profound appreciation of the luxury of a full, uninterrupted night's sleep.

Within a couple of weeks of my joining Borders, I was handed a pager and given on-call responsibility, 24x7, without rotation. I remained on-call more or less non-stop from that point on. I actually managed to get myself into an on-call rotation for the last couple of years, but all this meant was that I wouldn't be the first person called in case of trouble.

So, on any given night, I might be awakened by the phone ringing at 2 A.M. to notify me of some critical issue that had to be resolved right away. Sometimes it was an issue that had never occurred before and had no obvious cause; sometimes it was an issue that required me to get dressed and drive down to the offices; sometimes it was an issue connected with a system that I no longer had any formal responsibility for.

I don't know how other folks deal with that kind of responsibility, but after ten years, I got to the point where I went to bed every night dreading the ring of the phone. Sometimes I would lie awake, imploring the local benevolent spirits for the blessing of a night without a phone call. If I had stayed there much longer, I would have been rubbing lamb's blood on the door every night so that the Angel of On Call would pass me by.

I have not been on-call since October of 2009. And even now, when I go to bed, I get a twinge of horror when I look over and see the telephone. But then I remind myself that those days are passed, and that my slumber is no longer threatened by the possible failure of a computer program somewhere else on the planet. I assure myself that my life without on-call for the past four years has not been a dream that will shortly be interrupted by the ring of a cell phone.

And then I sleep.