Last year, we had two support people. When you started your first week of support, you were on the secondary job. You were supposed to handle on-line incidents, and take calls during off-hours. Sometimes this involved going in to the office and spending four hours testing systems when they were migrating applications, but usually secondary support was not terribly stressful.
The next week, a new person would take over the secondary role and you would move to the primary job. The main task of the primary support person was to monitor the production of our daily operations report. This is a dashboard that the executive team uses for measuring the pulse of our company. The main difference between primary and secondary was that you were only on-call during business hours as the primary person, and your hours were set. You started at 4:00MT and worked until 13:00MT (so my shift ran from 5:00 to 14:00). It could be stressful at times, but it was nice being done by early afternoon - especially during the summer.
When they automated the final publishing of the dashboard, and moved it over to a Unix-based scheduling server, they decided that they did not need two support people any more, so they cut it back to a single person who is on 24/7, on-call support for a week at a time.
In my last round, I was dragged out of bed 6 out of the 7 days I was on call. I got so twitchy that I was having trouble sleeping knowing that the phone was by my bed. I would usually wake up around 4 because I was expecting it to ring. Sometimes I would awaken because I had simply dreamt that I heard it ring, only for it to actually ring about an hour later while I was trying to get back to sleep.
I was encouraged somewhat when I was looking over the call logs last week and noted that we had not had a support call since the 2nd. I was not sure if the guy on the desk just hadn't bothered updating the logs, so I asked one of the other guys in the head office about it and he assured me that the logs were accurate.
When my current shift started on Friday afternoon, I set up the phone next to the bed before I retired, but buoyed by the news that things were running pretty well, I actually slept well. I did not get a single call on Saturday. Maybe things were looking up.
Then I got a wake-up call on Sunday, but I was half expecting it. Sunday is the day when our servers spontaneously catch fire. Sunday, bloody Sunday. I ended up fielding three calls that day and spent nearly 11 hours working various support issues. It pretty much shot the entire day to hell. The phone did not wake me on Monday, but I woke several times during the night in anticipation of it. I did get a call shortly after I got up, for something that I had never handled before. It's always fun to get blind-sided with new stuff.
Last night I woke up around 3 because I thought the phone rang. Either I dreamt it rang, or I heard a phantom ring, or the cat farted really loud - the end result was that I was awake. I managed to doze off and on fitfully until my alarm went off at 6, but I've essentially been on the go since 3.
I think the worst part of it is that when the phone goes off, it is usually waking me out of a deep sleep. I am literally stumbling out of the bedroom, all-but naked muttering a slurred salutation into the phone and trying to wrap my addled brain around incident numbers, what system has broken, and if I would even know how to fix it if I was fully awake. It is the very definition of a rude awakening.
atara mentioned some time back that she has come to loathe the sound of the ring tone on this phone. So have I. I am torn over whether I should change it though. On the one hand, I have an almost Pavlovian wave of panic hit me every time I hear it and wonder what curve ball they are going to groin me with next. On the other hand, I now have a personal nemesis. OK, phone, I don't like you and you don't like me. Let's just get through three more nights without you going off, and maybe I'll even charge you again on the weekend.
Three more days.
Three more days.
I was about to end on this note, when I remembered one other detail that irks me. We used to have 7-8 people on rotation, and with the two-week on-call rotations, that meant that you actually had a nice break between turns. When they re-orged our group last month, they peeled away half of the group and moved them to other teams, leaving four of us to handle the role. The guy who was handling support last week was a contractor, and his contract ran up the moment he handed in his phone at the end of the week, leaving just three of us. One of the other two is also a contractor, who is only going to be around for another month or so. Then there will be two.
Technically, there will be three since we just had somebody return from a year-long maternity leave. She is coming in cold, having worked in a completely different area of IT, so this is all alien to her. It is going to take a lot of patience and work to get her up to speed. Potentially we may have a fourth person again soon too because rumour has it one of our guys who bailed on us and went to India is finally returning back to the office. I don't see how living on another continent for the past six months somehow excused him from taking calls, but if they don't put him back into rotation on his return (he designed half of these systems), then I am going to fly out to Calgary and introduce our director's rectum to this cell phone.