It was a hot, cloudless summer day outside the headquarters of SmallTown SoftCorp. That didn’t matter much to Neil though, as he basked in the frosty air conditioning of the company’s modest, self-owned building. During the building’sconstruction, Neil oversaw the installation of everything from the demarc to the HVAC system. This made him feel like he had a hand in the arctic clime of the office.

Air handling unit

Those nice cool thoughts were torched when the power in the whole office suddenly went out. A chorus of profanity could be heard as all of the developers who hadn’t saved their work in a while lost everything. People began to stumble out of the windowless meeting rooms that had become blackened employee traps. “What the hell is going on?!” Jack, SmallTown SoftCorp’s owner, bellowed from his dim office. Jack slowly felt his way to Neil’s desk. “Neil! You know how this building is wired better than anyone! Get the power back on NOW!” Jack commanded, sweat beginning to form on his brow without the air conditioner combating the heat.

Neil had to bite back an “I told you so!” During the construction, Neil stressed the importance of a backup diesel generator, but Jack shot it down as an “unnecessary luxury”. Thankfully, he was allowed to purchase UPS’s to keep their mission-critical servers alive. Neil got out his cell and phoned the utility company. The automated voice was happy to tell him there were no outages in the area. He deduced the problem must be isolated to their building.

Neil grabbed a flashlight and headed to the pitch-black bowels of the building. He flipped the main breaker on and everything in the office sprung back to life. “Easy enough,” he said to himself. But the real problem would be figuring out why this happened. He looked around, all the wiring seemed to be intact. There were no signs of a cooked mouse that bit down on the wrong cord. He decided to check with everyone around the office to see if they noticed anything strange.

He got several stock “I was working hard and everything went black!” responses. Jack said he was on an important call with a customer, but a check of his internet logs would probably show he was wasting time on Twitter again. As Neil approached Mike, one of their framework developers, he got visibly flustered. “Hey Mike. Did you notice anything happening before the power went out?”

“What? Me? No! Of course not! Why would a lowly programmer as myself know anything about a power outage?” Mike replied with a nervous chuckle. “It sure is cold in here though! My cubicle feels like an igloo.”

Neil looked up and noticed Mike’s desk was directly under an air conditioning vent. “Ouch, looks like you got the cold spot! Try to think warm thoughts.”

Neil went back to Jack’s office to report the bad news that he didn’t have a root cause for the outage. Jack used his electrical knowledge (or lack thereof) to determine the air conditioning must be sucking too much juice on a hot day. “Turn the AC down immediately, Neil! We can’t have this happen again.” Neil obliged by setting it a few degrees higher and went back to his normal business.

Later that afternoon, Neil was working on documentation when the office again went black. “OH COME ON!” a frustrated programmer shouted from across the office. “NEIL! I SAID THIS CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN!” Jack roared out like a lion in the darkness.

“I’m on it, Jack!” Neil replied, frustrated. Luckily he still had the flashlight on his desk and the power was back on in a jiffy. He knew telling Jack he didn’t have an explanation wouldn’t fly this time, so he would not rest until he found the culprit. Of course, there was no obvious cause. Neil searched the building top to bottom, and couldn’t figure out the cause. He swore to figure it out the following day.

The next day was the hottest of the day of the year, and Neil dreaded the load the HVAC system was putting on the electrical system- and sure enough, the power went out again. Jack shouted his anger, and Neil scurried off to the basement to fix the problem. With the lights on, as he came back up to the top of the stairs, Neil spotted Mike trying to sneak out the side door with a large object.

“What you got there, Mike?” Neil asked with suspicion.

“Oh, um, nothing,” Mike stammered, as he turned towards Neil with a large space heater in his hands. “It’s just that it gets so damn cold by my desk, I decided to bring this heater in and, it’s probably just a coincidence, but when I do this…” Mike bent down to plug the heater in a nearby outlet.

“Mike, NO!!!” Neil couldn’t stop him fast enough as the heater fired up for a split second before the eerie quiet of a power outage returned. “You fool! You can go explain to Jack why the power keeps going out while I go back to the stupid basement.”

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