Oh I get it…!

Oh, I get it, ...!

In 1989, IBM moved John to a Dallas office as part of a promotion from a level 55, Senior Associate Programmer to a level 57 Advisory Operational Support Specialist (OSS). The new job was just that, a new concept for the IBM support division then known as the National Service Division (NSD). The mission would be to provide consulting services to aid the customers in assuring that their systems were properly balanced and that all known problems were addressed by fixes or modifications to configuration. The people selected for this new role came from development support, field support offices, and software development groups (such as where I came from). I had worked at one time or another in all three types, so I was able to get the promotion along with the new job.

Of course, this meant moving from Raleigh, NC, a place we all liked, to the suburbs of Dallas, which we we not sure about. It also meant that I would be assigned to a branch office once again (as I had been in Cherry Hill, NJ at the beginning of my career) with direct customer interaction. Most branch offices had only one OSS assigned to it unless it was a large office. SInce my new office was indeed large, there would be two of us.

The other guy (Dick VanMeter) had been a hardware support specialist and had also been trained on the software, so he was a good fit for the job.  He was also already assigned to the office as a trouble shooter and well respected for his ability to solve problems.

Dick wasn't sure that a guy from a development group who had only a software background would be able to fulfill the requirements of the job, but he was the type to decide based on observation. He was also a curmudgeon by his own admission, though most of his grumbling was really just a front for a generally good nature. He and I became really good friends and complemented each other on the job, neither was afraid to accept help from the other.

Of course, since our backgrounds were different, we would never admit one to the other who had the best skill or who actually solved a given problem. We often bickered with each other much like the Bickerson's on the old radio program. There was no rancor or animosity in any of it, we just liked to give each other a hard time, often in a sarcastic way.

DIck had been assigned to teach a recovery class to any customers we could sell it to and Sprint data services had purchased the class for their mainframe operations staff. The course was taught both in the classroom and with hands on with the majority of the training in the actual computer room of the customer on a live system. Since this could be dangerous (see the story, "Thou shalt not IPL, ever"), we installed a program that would emulate live conditions and ran as a shell outside the operating system. The operators could interrogated the system with real commands, etc., but any repair commands had to be entered through the program running in a Time Sharing Option (TSO) session. It was my job to install the shell program and test that it worked before Dick came to teach the class.

I had installed it in three sites previous to installing it at Sprint. This meant I had to travel to the location spend a day installing and then travel home the next day. Then Dick travelled to the location and spent five days teaching the class. We had decided that since it was not that difficult to install, we could save at least one airfare, it Dick did the installation. Sprint was a good choice for me to show him how it was installed and tested since it was my customer and located in the Dallas area.

So it was, that on a Saturday morning, we arrived at the site and began the installation and test of the program. It was on a reel tape and there was a small program that was entered into a TSO session and executed that asked for the tape to be mounted. Once that was done, a few prompts needed to be replied to and viola, it was done. Installation and testing took about 2 hours (another good reason, not to waste an airfare and two lost days of my productivity - it indeed I was productive!!) 

Dick and I were in rare form that morning, dissing each other with snide, sarcastic remarks, such as "That's just what I would have expected from a software guy" and "Now this is the command line for software commands, you can't use the on-off button".

We had been bantering at each other for about an hour and hadn't noticed that the mainframe operator, a middle eastern guy who I had worked with on problems before, seemed to be worried. Suddenly, as if a light bulb had come on, he turned to us and said, "Oh, I get it, you two really like each other!" Dick and I tried to dissuade him, but we had been found out!

Davdan @ 2008-2018