“Okay, so you’re telling me you can’t tell me why this happened, but that it was just a mistake? No, no way: what we have here is a failure to communicate.”
“Yes sir, we apologize for the inconvenience.”
“It sure IS inconvenient! When I ordered my BlackBerry with you people, I wanted a Black-Black-Berry—not a Blue-Berry, not a Red-Rasp-Berry—and certainly not a HOT-PINK with-sparkles BlackBerry!”
“We’ll send over your replacement today.”
“Do whatever you have to do! I need my BLACK BlackBerry for work... Oh, this is embarrassing.”
“Thank you for calling BlackBerry Support.”
“Oh, sir—one more thing: When you get the new device—”
“Oh no, no way, you’re not going to try to up-sell me something else. Goodbye.”
That was how my morning started. Immediately when I clicked off that conversation, I got a call from the field. Let me explain: I work for U.S. Homeland Security (H.S.); and one of the weaknesses we’ve identified in our infrastructure is the cell phone network.
This is how I explained it to my superiors in a conference call:
In today’s world, the cell phone network has become critical in our everyday “real time” communications. Terrorists could easily, immediately knock us all offline causing a catastrophic communication breakdown. Look at the map: we’ve got cell towers scattered everywhere from on top of grain silos on family farms to hills in the country to the top of unsecured buildings in our cities. I’ve dispatched dozens of H.S. Agents into the field to see what can be done to bolster security around these towers.
“Homeland Security, Communications Division. Murphy here.”
“Patrick: I’m coming up on a site out west of the city.”
“Just off the highway?”
“Yes sir, it’s a tower set up next to a church on a hill.”
“And what seems to be the problem?”
“We have a situation, there are Sherriff’s squads everywhere. I’m…”
“You’re breaking up. Please repeat.”
“I’m coming up on a roadblock now.”
“Show them your H.S. credentials. I’m on my way. I’ll track you via HS-GPS.”
“Heinz? …Randy? …Are you there? Arrrgh! I hate this pink thing.”
I drove as fast as I could out to the cell tower site. As I got closer, I saw a plume of smoke rising from the general area of the church. I turned off the highway onto the road to get to the church and came to the road block.
I showed the deputy my badge. “Homeland Security.”
“I’m sorry sir, but we cannot let you through. We’ve already let someone from your office through, and it made the situation worse.”
“What? What do you mean by that? Made it worse? How? My Agent called me—his Superior—and he sounded like he needed assistance, so here I am. Who do I need to talk to get past your petty rules?”
“I’ll check with the chief. Wait here for a minute.”
The deputy stepped away and talked to the Sherriff I via radio. After a couple of minutes, he came back to the car.
“I apologize for all of the confusion. The chief gave us strict orders not to let anyone through. But, he said, in this case, to let you through.”
“Okay, thanks.” I sped down the road and around the curve to where what was left of the church, smoldering. I instantly noticed all the equipment: fire trucks, ambulances, rescue trucks, and Sherriff’s squads. I spotted a deer freshly mangled on the side of the road; and an H.S. car crashed into the ditch. I pulled over and parked the car, and found Agent Randy Heinz on a stretcher being attended to by Emergency Medical personnel.
“Yes sir, this church burnin’ was all staged for the fire department to practice.” The Sherriff reported to me matter-of-factly. “We took the opportunity to also stage a mock terrorist attack on the church, so we could practice our Homeland Security drills. When your Agent sped down here, a deer jumped out, probably afraid of all the lights and the fire.”
A communication breakdown between H.S. and this Sherriff’s department—what else could happen today? I shook my head in disgust and embarrassment as I pulled out my hot-pink-BlackBerry and called the office.
In the middle of my conversation the phone went dead.
I found out later that my new Black-BlackBerry arrived and our secretary opened the box and powered it on. That was when my HOT-PINK-with-sparkles-BlackBerry died.
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