Packet Rat: One good outage deserves another

The Rat

Micheal J. Bechetti

Monday morning, the Rat rolled into the office on his urban assault mountain bike, cranking tunes on his iPod. The cherry blossoms were in bloom, spring was in swing and the whiskered one was determined to start the season with a fresh, positive attitude.

He wasn't going to let Tax Day get him down. He wasn't going to let all the budget nonsense torque his mood. And he wasn't going to let agency users spoil his day.

'Illegitimi non carborundum,' he chanted quietly to himself as he dismounted from the bike and rolled it through the entrance to his command bunker. 'Don't let 'em burn you.'

He smiled and waved to the arriving clusters of cursor-pushers, then ducked into his reinforced cubicle.

Even with a recent rash of draconian network management maneuvers, or perhaps because of them, the Rat still had a higher approval rating among the users than the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. Everything was going according to his master plan'that is, until he noticed a little gift someone had left on his desk over the weekend.

Maybe it was the lyrics of the music he was listening to'the infamous Grey Album, DJ Dangermouse's mix of the old Beatles' White Album and rapper Jay-Z's Black Album. Or maybe it was all that fresh adrenaline from dodging D.C. traffic on his two-wheeler, but the wired one's positive outlook took a full 180-degree turn when he picked up a new book left by some anonymous coward.

The title'Rats: Observation on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan'was dismaying. But what he found within was even more disturbing. The giver had bookmarked and highlighted a passage that really set the cyberrodent off: 'By one estimate, 26 percent of all electrical breaks and 18 percent of all phone-cable disruptions are caused by rats.'

On the bookmark, a scribbled note read, 'I guess this explains our network downtime.'

Such slander against his species could not go unanswered. 'Sullivan spent months in a New York alley wearing night-vision goggles, and this was the best he could do?' the Rat simmered. 'A batch of antirodent propaganda?'

That night at the dinner table, he continued to vent his spleen over the perceived slight against ratdom. 'Did Sullivan ever think to ask who causes the other 82 percent of telecom outages?' he inquired of his spouse. 'It's morons like him, armed with backhoes.'

Mrs. Rat knew better than to attempt casual conversation, so she simply smiled and headed for the kitchen with the dirty dishes. There was no point in trying to reason with the Rat about rodential defamation.

As he fumed over his focaccia, the cyberrodent happened to flip the little love note that had been left in the offending text. And suddenly his mood reversed again.

The note was written on the back of a sales slip, complete with the name of the credit card holder. 'Looks like a rat's going to cause another outage,' he chuckled to himself as he headed out the door.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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