Herwig smiled at Greta as he entered the glass-walled copy-center. "Excuse me, but do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
Greta smiled back. Over the past week, they'd certainly seen enough of each other. "Of course not."
Calling it a "copy-center" didn't really communicate its true use. After the server room next door ran out of space, the company copy-center started taking the overflow. Behind the printers and copiers, next to the locked cabinet that stored the extra paper and toner, was an awkwardly placed rack half-filled with servers. "You're here until about midnight, right?"
"That's what 'night-shift' means," Greta replied with a smirk. "You were here for the whole thing last night."
Herwig grimaced, if only because a roving HR drone might hear that and draw the wrong conclusion. "And then some- I didn't get out of here until 2AM, when the job finished. Out of curiosity, does your nightly clean-up take you near those servers back there?"
Greta shook her head. "Oh, no. The first day on the job, they train us. I don't go anywhere near those computers."
She had certainly avoided them while he had 'supervised' last night. "You're sure?"
Greta nodded like a bobble-head. "I'm terrified that I'll break something and get in trouble."
Herwig thanked her and left, just as confused as when he entered. This started about a week ago, when someone asked him to look at the FTP program. "Program " was an exaggeration: it was a DOS batch file that ran every night at 10PM; it connected to a vendor's FTP site and MPUT the entire contents of a local directory before disconnecting- at least, that's what it was supposed to do. It never finished, and it hadn't for over a year. Each day, somebody spent an hour or two cleaning up after its inevitable, messy failures.
Herwig had knocked together an absurdly simple program to replace it, which added some basic logging and exception handling and didn't leave a complete and utter mess when it failed. Unfortunately for Herwig, while it failed gracefully, his masterpiece of code failed just as frequently as the old DOS batch script. His boss warned him off the investigation, "You're not the first programmer that's gotten stumped by this- nobody knows why it fails. It just does."
Saying that to Herwig was like telling a cat not to chase a laser pointer. He didn't understand the statement and what little he did get out of it was just confusion. So, he ignored his boss's advice; for a week now, he had gone through everything he could think of, including re-writing the entire program from scratch. He added more logging, more exception handling, and more comments to the code involving words not fit for print. He talked to the vendor to confirm there wasn't an issue on their end, he checked the server logs on his side to see if the machine was going down. One late night, he nearly talked himself into formatting the server and reinstalling the OS. In a fit of caffeine induced rage, he even pulled an all-nighter to watch the copy-center and make sure nothing went wrong- which is when he got to know Greta. Come to think of it, that was the only night the job actually completed successfully.
Herwig kept chewing on that thought like it was an over-cooked steak as he commuted home that night. Something was wrong, and he was determined to get to the bottom of it. By about 9PM, the mental indigestion was setting in, and he decided it was time to go take care of business. Herwig grabbed his keys and went back to the office.
He slipped in through the back door, and stationed himself down the hall from the copy center. With the lights off on his side, Greta couldn't see him, but he could watch her through the glass walls. It was an exercise in mind-numbing boredom, as she spent her shift mostly thumbing through a book of Sudoku puzzles and occasionally helping one of the late-shift call-center guys get a fresh ream of paper. True to her word, she never went anywhere near the servers, and at 12PM, she grabbed her purse, jammed the sudoku puzzles in there, and left. Conscientious as always, she turned the lights off as she left.
Herwig waited for her to leave, and then slipped into the copy-center. The only light-source was the blinkenlights on the server racks. He turned on the lights and looked around. He checked the server and saw that the job had failed. He traced network cables and found the network switch, which was on Greta's desk by the door. It blinked a healthy looking pattern of lights.
Confused and angry, he cursed to himself and turned off the lights on his way out. He cast one glance back, and saw that the only light-source was still the server blinkenlights. He turned the lights back on, and watched Greta's desk. The network switch started blinking merrily. He turned the lights back off, and it went dark.
After Herwig ran out of profanity, he changed the outlet the switch was plugged into, confirmed that it wasn't tied to the light switch. The next night, the FTP job ran without a hitch.On Google+? Stop laughing at the stupid question, and if you are, follow us over there.