Life imitating The Brady Bunch

Recent experiences 'in the trenches' have renewed my appreciation for the everyday struggles and occasional follies that are part of your lives.

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When I was a pre-adolescent, a local UHF television station aired "The Brady Bunch Hour" weeknights from 5:00 to 6:00 PM. I was one of those kids who could tell you the plot, primary conflict, and resolution within the episode's first five seconds, because I had seen every one of them at least 20 times.

One of those old episodes came to mind recently. It was one of the early shows, probably from the first season. Carol and Mike had the typical discussion: "Your household responsibilities are easy. Try mine for a weekend." So, they swapped. The next day, Carol couldn't move because she was so sore after playing baseball with the boys. And Mike barely survived a cake-baking experience with the girls. As they always did, the Bradys solved their problems within 30 minutes, and everybody found a new appreciation for each other.

Why did this particular episode come to mind? I got a little feisty after too many days sitting at my desk, and took the opportunity to go "into the trenches" with some cabling and networking professionals in the field. Some of what I saw was typical of the industry. Some of what I saw can be considered exemplary; wouldn't it be nice if everything worked that way? And not so much what I saw, but some of what I heard, reinforced that the industry as a whole can still make strides from a professionalism and workmanship standpoint.

In the "typical" category, I was helping certify a cabling plant inside a vacant office building. I was going from workstation to workstation, with the remote unit of a LAN cabling tester while my colleague was in the telecom room, plugging the tester's main unit into one patch-panel outlet after another. In walks an interior decorator hired by the company that was about to move into the office space. When looking for a place to drop her props, do you think she selected one of the two dozen or so cubicles that had already been certified? Of course not. She put all her stuff right in the next (and last) cubicle that we had to test that day.

Who could have scripted such a scene? "Murphy, that's who," was the response I got when I told a friend about the incident. "Of all the standards and codes that apply to cabling, Murphy's Law is the one that will always be followed." I asked the decorator if she wanted me to try to hurdle her belongings to get to the workstation outlet, or if she would prefer to move them. She moved them, but not before my colleague in the telecom room wondered out loud (more than a few times) what was taking me so long to get to the next station.

From the "exemplary" file, an IT director told me that while planning a recent move to a new facility, his organization's space committee gave him carte blanche when it came to his data center and telecom rooms. I was refreshed to hear that this organization recognizes the significance of the physical space in which networking and cabling equipment resides.

And finally, from the realm of "we still have work to do," the owner of an installation company that completed a high-profile sports-arena project told me he doesn't take people into that building to show off his handiwork anymore, because of the poor maintenance practices in place there. Particularly at the patch panels in the telecom rooms, the once-pristine cabling system has become the proverbial rat's nest. It's a shame that the project, which could be the marquis example of this company's work, is essentially off-limits because of a few years' worth of neglect.

So, while my experiences "in the trenches" may not have been as dramatic or humorous as those of Carol and Mike Brady way back when, they did renew in me an appreciation for the everyday struggles and occasional follies that are part of your lives. They also made me once again appreciate the quiet confines of my desk and keyboard.

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Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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