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I used to work for a call center and I was doing a political survey and I called this number that was randomly generated for me and the way our system worked was voice-activated so when the other person said hello you’d get connected to them, so I just launch right into my “Harvard University and NPR blah blah blah” thing and then there’s this long pause and I think the person’s hung up even though I didn’t hear a click

And then I hear “you shouldn’t be able to call this number.”

So I apologize and go into the preset spiel about because we aren’t selling anything, etc. etc. and the answer I get is

"No, I know that. What I mean is that it should be impossible for you to call this number, and I need to know how you got it."

I explain that it’s randomly generated and I’m very sorry for bothering him, and go to hang up. And before I can click terminate, I hear:

"Ma’am, this is a matter of national security."

I accidentally called the director of the FBI.

My job got investigated because a computer randomly spit out a number to the Pentagon.

This is my new favourite story.

When I was in college I got a job working for a company that manages major air-travel data. It was a temp gig working their out of date system while they moved over to a new one, since my knowing MS Dos apparently made me qualified.

There was no MS Dos involved. Instead, there was a proprietary type-based OS and an actually-uses-transistors refrigerator-sized computer with switches I had to trip at certain times during the night as I watched the data flow from six pm to six AM on Fridays and weekends. If things got stuck, I reset the server. 

The company handled everything from low-end data (hotel and car reservations) to flight plans and tower information. I was weighed every time I came in to make sure it was me. Areas of the building had retina scanners on doors. 

During training. they took us through all the procedures. Including the procedures for the red phone. There was, literally, a red phone on the shelf above my desk. “This is a holdover from the cold war.” They said. “It isn’t going to come up, but here’s the deal. In case of nuclear war or other nation-wide disaster, the phone will ring. Pick up the phone, state your name and station, and await instructions. Do whatever you are told.”

So my third night there, it’s around 2am and there’s a ringing sound. 

I look up, slowly. The Red phone is ringing.

So I reach out, I pick up the phone. I give my name and station number. And I hear every station head in the building do the exact same. One after another, voices giving names and numbers. Then silence for the space of two breaths. Silence broken by…

"Uh… Is Shantavia there?"

It turns out that every toll free, 1-900 or priority number has a corresponding local number that it routs to at its actual destination. Some poor teenage girl was trying to dial a friend of hers, mixed up the numbers, and got the atomic attack alert line for a major air-travel corporation’s command center in the mid-west United States.

There’s another pause, and the guys over in the main data room are cracking up. The overnight site head is saying “I think you have the wrong number, ma’am.” and I’m standing there having faced the specter of nuclear annihilation before I was old enough to legally drink.

The red phone never rang again while I was there, so the people doing my training were only slightly wrong in their estimation of how often the doomsday phone would ring. 

These are my two favorite stories

Reposted fromsolkats solkats

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