R. Fink | Real red-phone moments

With the Democrats still letting each other's blood on the campaign trail, the Rat's mind has turned once again to thoughts of higher office.

No, he's not planning a bid for the presidency ' he just wants to get out of the basement bunker and have some windows.

'It would be good to have some natural lighting,' the cyber rodent said, sighing, and envisioning himself in a corner office overlooking the agency parking lot.

As someone who has fought in the infotech trenches for a long time and knows where all the bodies are buried ' or, at least, the dead servers that never got recycled ' the whiskered one occasionally gets the urge to make a bid for a senior management position.

Usually, it's after another patch gets deployed untested and he spends his whole day handling the overflow from the help-desk queue.

But ever since Sen. Hillary Clinton began the 'who do you want answering that phone?' advertising campaign, the Rat has been asking that question about his helpdesk line. And his answer consistently is, 'Not me.'

Given the kind of information technology leadership this country needs, the Rat has devised the perfect test for selecting the next chief executive: a shift on his agency's help desk.

'After all, what better way to learn who can perform well under pressure than to let them deal with screaming users for eight hours?' he mused to his co-workers. 'After that, dealing with any of that red-phone stuff would be a walk in the park!' Just like the presidency, working on the help desk is a thankless job. You don't get credit for the problems you solve, you get blamed for things other people did, and you're dependent on people and equipment that you really have little control over to make things work for people who, in the end, will still curse you for being ineffectual.

'What better test of leadership and communications skills is there than convincing someone that it's in their best interest to reboot their computer seven times to uninstall something they downloaded?' the Rat asked, as he outlined his plan to the crew in the network operations center.

'I mean, if you can convince someone that they don't need to view YouTube during the workday, you've got my vote.'

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