Jim’s mail client dinged and announced a new message with the subject, “Assigned to you: TICKET #8271”. “Not this again,” he muttered.

Ticket #8271 was ancient. For over a year now, Initech’s employees had tossed the ticket around like kids playing hot potato. Due to general incompetence and rigid management policies, it never got fixed.

Jim was the GUI developer for their desktop application, InitechWORKS. The app used a web browser widget to display content from the company’s web page within the application, mostly for marketing fluff. The bug itself was a tracking pixel which occasionally failed to load, and when it did the browser widget replaced the pixel with a large, unsightly error icon. Both the web page and the tracking pixel came from Marketing’s web server.

Time after time, ticket #8271 landed in some luckless developer’s hands. They each tacked on a note, saying there was nothing wrong with InitechWORKS, and forwarded the ticket to marketing. And time after time, Marketing punted the ticket with a note saying, “Can’t reproduce, must be an issue with InitechWORKS, re-assigning.”

And so, once again, Jim decided to talk to the project manager, a middle-aged man named Greg with the memory retention of a dying goldfish and a management style with all the flexibility of a beryllium rod three feet in diameter.

“Greg, I was looking at ticket #8271. I know Marketing won’t fix this bug, but I have a quick fix to suggest-”

Greg had no idea what ticket Jim was talking about, but he didn’t need to. His flexible management policy came into play. “Per company policy and the org chart, the InitechWORKS team cannot talk to Marketing.”

“But they need to fix something on their end!” Jim nearly shouted, hoping to get the full sentence out before Greg interrupted him.

With a sigh, Greg pulled up the ticket. His mouth moved as he read it to himself. “See here, Marketing says the issue is with InitechWORKS, not Marketing.”

“But they’re wrong. It’s definitely not-”

“Marketing is never wrong,” Greg said with a cold stare. “Now, go fix this bug.”

Jim walked away, dejected. He knew Greg wouldn’t remember this conversation the next time ticket #8271 came up.

Jim couldn’t assign the ticket to Marketing, but he added his suggested quick-fix along with the note, “Problem is with the web page, not InitechWORKS,” and moved the ticket to Greg.

Later that day, Greg approached Jim at his desk. “Jim, about ticket number…”. He paused to glance down at his notepad. “… number 8271. I passed it over to Marketing, but there’s a problem.” Greg lowered his voice and became indignant. “I had to delete your comments and ‘fixes’. We can’t presume to tell Marketing how to do their job.”

Jim mentally facepalmed. His plan had failed. “But it’s a si-”

“They’re smart guys, and I’m sure they’ll fix it,” Greg interrupted. “You do your job, and let Marketing do theirs, and we won’t have to get HR involved with a formal reprimand.”

Two weeks later, Jim’s mail client dinged. “Assigned to you: TICKET #8271” was on the subject line. He groaned, and started planning how he was going to approach the issue this time. When he went to Greg’s office, the project manager was nowhere to be seen.

“Have you seen Greg?” he asked the PM in the neighboring office.

“Oh, didn’t you hear? He quit this morning. HR refused to discipline one of his employees, so he quit on the spot. Said something about the company refusing to follow their own policies. And now I’m inheriting a lot of his projects, so if you don’t mind…” The PM went back to work, silently ignoring Jim.

Jim glanced back into Greg’s office and noticed that Greg’s PC was unlocked and logged in. On a whim, he sat down at the computer. As a PM, Greg had special privileges, like the ability to disable the automatic computer locking, and access to pretty much any system in the company. That included Marketing’s production web server.

With a little poking around, Jim found the problematic web page and its tracking pixel. He quickly implemented the quick fix he’d suggested earlier, simply styling the image to be zero pixels and located 10,000 pixels off the edge of the screen. That wouldn’t fix the loading issues, but when it misbehaved, the ugly error would stay off-screen and not hurt the page.

He slipped out of Greg’s office. Greg’s neighbor didn’t even notice him as he walked by. When Jim returned to his desk, he could no longer reproduce the issue. After a painfully long eighteen months, he marked ticket #8271 as closed.

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