Running of Three-Oh-Three (humorous poem)

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Tomorrow was to be cut-over-day.  That meant that tonight was going to be a long night of last minute testing and final debugging before the big software release tomorrow.  Pete and I decided to go the local bar for a beer, pizza, and a few games from Grande Vegas online casino USA.  We walked in the door, and that is when we saw Dave looking very depressed.  I pointed out Dave to Pete.

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Pete: Who’s Dave?

Me: Dave is a legend in the Quality Assurance world, man vs. machine, a John Henry type of legend.  Rumor has it, that Dave was on the original team that developed the internet.  It is people like him that made it possible for you to play your Vegas Online Casio USA games.  Let’s go try to cheer him up.

We walked over to the bar, and sat down next to Dave.  I placed a penny onto the bar, and said to Dave, “Penny for you thoughts!”  Dave looked at both us, sighed, and started to tell us his tale.

There are bugs adrift on the midnight shift
    That cannot be foretold
The audit trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold.
Debugging nights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest that ever did see
Was that time on the way to cutover day
    I ran test three-oh-three

Now three-oh-three in its infancy
    Was simple and sublime;
A bit set here or a patch put there;
    All done in record time.
“A trivial test is always best,”
    Consultants love to state;
But a test gone sour at the midnight hour,
    Is a test you’ll learn to hate.

All through that day, we slugged away
    At data errors in memory
Talk about dumps! They lay in lumps
    Between and on the machinery.
The printer’s hammer beat like a hammer
    In sonic tyranny.
It wasn’t much fun and we hadn’t yet run
    The infamous three-oh-three.

That very night by the dismal light
    Of an empty Coke machine.
The problems solved, we all resolved
    To start the next day clean.
“Another test,” the boss suggests,
    “Before we end this session.
You’re doing well, I’m proud to tell,
    But humor this last obsession.”

We really were beat; we’d been on our feet
    For eighteen hours or more.
Our eyes were glazed and through the haze,
    We couldn’t tell “NEITHER” from “NOR.”
But he smiled and said, “Before you bed —
    Just one little test to run;
And if you do, I tell you true,
    Next payday you’ll have fun.”

Now talk about pay was an eloquent way
    To make our adrenalin rise;
And one little pest of a simple test
    Was trivial enterprise.
We fell for this tact and swore to a pact
    That before the hour was done
Our victory over three-oh-three
    Would be absolutely won.

We said, “What the heck,” and loaded the deck,
    Then toggled the bootstrap switch;
But the ROM was burned and a bit had turned —
    ‘Twas the ever present hitch.
We keyed in the code as in days of old.
    With nary an audible murmur;
But ‘neath our breath, we snarled of death,
    Misery, mayhem, and murder.

I loaded the patch; the floppy was scratched,
    Its backup locked in a drawer.
I cursed the slob who did that job,
    A damnable disc destroyer.
We reversed ten yards, picked up the shards
    Of a version, he’d discarded.
It rankled like hell — it was sad to tell,
    Of the bugs he’d disregarded.

I shouted “Nix! I refuse to fix
    Bugs that have been glossed over!”
I flung my pencil, listing, stencil
    In disgust and went for the door.
But the bos asked to chat, gave me a pat
    and said it’s a night he’d remember.
He promised booze and great reviews,
    And a bonus in December.

Another hour, with tempers sour,
    ‘Til we could try again.
That code was mangled, tortured, tangled,
    Unstructured, dumb, and inane.
But after a while we began to smile;   
    We’d corrected every blunder.
Just one little test and we could rest
    In sweet repose and slumber.

I hit the key for three-oh-three,
    But the system wouldn’t have it.
I tried once more from the monitor,
    On the verge of throwing a fit.
The more I tried, the more I cried
    As the output mocked by silence.
It wasn’t fair — I tore my hair;
    The time had come for violence.

I kicked the frame and kicked again;
    The printer burped the beginning,
Ignoring the risk, I stomped the disc,
    Sure now that I was winning.
I relished my hate as I beat the tape,
    Enjoying its rewinding.
That proc knew fear! The fact was clear
    From its internal grinding.

With every bit, I advanced one bit;
    Approaching the conclusion.
My fists were sore, replete with gore,
    Abrasions, and contusions.
The tapes were rocking, no more mocking:
    I drove that system, beaming!
And by morning’s light, the end in sight;
    I knew I’d soon be dreaming.

But then its bowels began to howl —
    My guts turned into jelly.
The metal shrieked, disc patters streaked
    Across the room pell-melly.
About the hall, from wall to wall,
    They dove at us; we cowered.
One did a flip and in a nip
    The boss was disemboweled.

It didn’t wait but threw a tape
    Which bounded and entangled.
The loops unwound, around, and round;
    My partner died — enstrangled,
The printer dumped, gallumped and thumped,
    The platen leapt and zoomed.
As in a dream, there was a scream;
    The analyst was doomed.

There wasn’t much fuss for the rest of us —
    Just fracture and concussion,
An eye gouged out, a busted snout,
    From which the red was gushin’
As for the fire, you shouldn’t inquire;
    Nor the flood that followed.
Those with skin called next of kin;
    Their memory forever hallowed.

There are bugs adrift on the midnight shift
    That cannot be foretold.
The audit trails have their secret tails
    That would make your blood run cold.
Debugging nights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
Was that time on the way to cutover day
    I ran test three-oh-three.

When Dave finished his tale, the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  I don’t remember how much time passed, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, who knew.  The silence was only interrupted by the chimes of Pete’s cell phone.  Pete looked at his cell phone, and become white as a ghost. 

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