There’s a process for that

There's a process for that

(Serious note: The following post touches on a topic very much in the news recently. I do not mean to make light of the tragedy in Boston, and my prayers go out to those affected by it. This post is all about mocking my employer.)

Engineering is all about process and procedure.

This is not by choice. Engineers generally hate process and procedure. Engineers love to tinker and discover. Process is what makes engineers valuable to the rest of humanity. Otherwise, we’d all be one bad day from being mad scientist supervillains.

(Disclaimer: About 10% of engineers are so good that formal processes just slow them down. 85% of all engineers believe they are in that 10%.)

Since I work for a technology company rife with engineers, we have processes and procedures for everything, including emergencies. (Without emergency procedures, thousands of engineers would be killed every year trying to squeeze 5% more efficiency out of earthquakes and tornados.)

While packing up my office to move to a new building last week, I stumbled upon the company Emergency Guidelines booklet in the bottom of a desk drawer. As I glanced through the tabs (Earthquakes, Severe Weather, Elevator Emergency, etc.), my eye was drawn to the tab that said “Bomb Threat”.

(Disclaimer: At this point, I would like to welcome the Homeland Security spybot that flagged this post for using the term “Bomb Threat”. Welcome. Please note the humorous nature of this and other blog entries before sending a drone to my house.)

So anyway, I flip to that page, expecting to see a fairly straightforward process:

1) Run.
2) Why are you still reading this? Run!

Boy, was I wrong! If I’m ever in the position of receiving a bomb threat, there is an elaborate interview process I must conduct with the caller, as well as forms to fill out. Apparently, rather than fleeing for my life, my employer expects me to phone screen potential terrorists. This might make sense if I’m trying to keep a kidnapper on the line while we trace the call, but take a look at some of these questions, which only a Batman villain who needs to be caught before next week’s episode would answer.

(Note: these are the actual questions.)

  1. When is the bomb going to explode? (Reasonable, assuming there’s a demand associated with the threat.)
  2. Where is the bomb? (Maybe you’ll get a general location, but don’t expect details.)
  3. What does the bomb look like? (“Ummm, it’s a big black sphere with a stem on top, and the word ‘BOMB’ written across the front.”)
  4. What kind of bomb is it? (The explodey kind? Or the Ishtar/Love Guru/Adventures of Pluto Nash type?)
  5. What will cause the bomb to explode? (“Not acceding to my demands?”)
  6. Did you place the bomb? (Or was it one of your minions? You know, the ones dressed like the Hamburglar, with pun-based names like Leo and Tabby (Catwoman) or Benedict and Foo Yung (Egghead).)
  7. Why? (You’d figure by this point, any bomber with a motive would have blurted it out by this time.)
  8. Where are you calling from? (“The abandoned Acme Joy Buzzer Factory in Gotham City. Why do you ask?”)
  9. What is your address? (Seriously?)
  10. What is your name? (“Edward Nygma. N-Y-G… Crap! Wait! Forget I said that! The name is P. N. Gwynn!”)

If you haven’t been blown to bits by now, remember to note the following:

  • time of call
  • exact works (sic) of caller
  • number shown on your phone

“Oh, one more thing, sir. Are you known for any other bombs I might be familiar with?”

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