Credit: sonrisa electrica @ flickr Gary's company has an "enterprise" application, and like any enterprise application, it was built to be all things for all people, by people that didn't have a clear picture of which things it was supposed to be to whom. While a customer could, in theory, install and configure it on their own, pretty much everyone paid for a consultant to handle the setup for them. Gary was one of those consultants.

Gary was scheduled to be at the client site for a week, which was plenty of time for the basic install and configuration. But before he could even get three steps through the door, the company "Security Czar", Norman, tackled him and then locked him in a dingy, windowless room with a two foot tall stack of forms. Of course, Gary was used to signing NDAs and the like, but Gary's management usually handled the negotiations, and the documents were usually a few pages of legalese, not a Neal Stephenson book.

"You couldn't fax these over ahead of time?" Gary asked during one of the breaks he needed to shake out the writing-induced cramp in his hand. "It would have saved a lot of time."

"These forms are confidential," Norman explained. "They're not allowed off-site."

The two spent the first half of the day signing forms. Gary half-expected Norman to give him a pat-down, just to ensure that he hadn't pocketed one of those super-secret NDA pages. Then again, he didn't need to; Norman's eyes had been locked on Gary during the entire morning.

Norman escorted Gary from security's dingy, windowless room to IT's dingy, windowless rooms. Gary met the IT supervisor, briefly, and was shown to a computer. He sat down, grabbed the keyboard, and asked, "How do I log on?"

"Get away from that!" Norman swatted the keyboard and mouse out from under Gary. "Did you even read those forms? You're not allowed to touch those."


"It's against company policy for a non-employee to touch a keyboard connected to our network," Norman growled. "We'll be giving you a typist. He should be here any moment."

The typist arrived and introduced himself as Louis. "Just type rm -rf / to get started," Gary joked. Louis dutifly started tapping away at his instruction, but Gary quickly stopped him before anything bad happened. "Um, have you ever done any IT work?"

"Nope," Louis said. "I'm in the management training program."

"Hunh," Gary murmured under his breath, "first lesson: don't institute stupid policies like this."

The remainder of the week made transcribing James Joyce's Ulysses — by hand — seem like fun.

"Ok… scroll down. No, too far. Up. Up. That line there. No, below that. Next one down. Put the cursor there. No, there. Type an opening angle bracket. No, that key. Right, the 'less than' sign. Now type 'configuration'. Little 'c'. Capitalization matters. No, you mispelled it. No, there isn't a spellchecker."

The week would have gone faster if Gary had been typing with boxing gloves on. The entire setup process should have taken one or two days, leaving the remainder of the week for configuration and burn-in. Gary did his best through gritted teeth, and privately swore that, if this company ever sent anyone to his office, he'd expect them not to use any oxygen while in the building. Security, after all.

Near the end of the week, Gary went back to the IT supervisor to explain that things wouldn't be finished, and that his company would need to send out another consultant to finish the job. "I understand," the supervisor said. "But it doesn't really make sense to fly more people back and forth. Why don't I get you set up to remote in, and you can finish the configuration from your office. We have a secure VPN, after all."

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