A computer outage and an epiphany

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katie Gar Ward
  • 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
I sat down at my desk last Monday expecting to start my week just like any other -- checking my calendar, sorting through emails and making a list of upcoming tasks. It was going to be another busy week, so I was eager to get a head start.

As I inserted my common access card into my keyboard and logged in, my hopes of beginning an efficient week ended abruptly.

"Your account has been locked," the error message read. "Please see system administrator for assistance."

It must be a glitch, I thought. I restarted my computer and tried again.

Much to my chagrin, I was greeted with the same aggravating message.

I wracked my brain trying to figure out what could have caused this. I had just completed my annual information assurance training, so I knew that couldn't be the culprit. Frustrated, I asked a coworker if she was able to log in -- she had received the same message.

Our entire unit was locked out due to an administrative oversight. Unable to get started on any of my network-dependent tasks, I sat back down at my desk, feeling defeated.

Another coworker walked in, expressing the same frustrations. We realized there really wasn't much we could do until we were back up and running, so he and I sat down and talked about our weekends, which led to a surprising conversation of our mutual love of photography and home remodeling. I thought to myself that I had no idea we had so much in common.

After a few minutes of talking, we both decided to try logging in again, but to no avail.

Seeing as how we were all in this same predicament, I thought I'd mosey around the office and see what everyone else was up to. I made my rounds to the offices downstairs, stopping in and spending a few minutes conversing.

I made my way back upstairs and decided to see if maybe fate was in my favor; maybe I wouldn't be locked out anymore. I went through the motions: insert CAC, enter PIN, and hope for the best.

Once again I found myself staring at those condescending words. Now it was almost personal, as if that message knew all the things on my to-do list, and was just toying with me.

I looked down at the floor in despair. I could already feel my inbox overflowing. How was I going to get through this week when already I was starting behind?

I heard a group of Airmen talking and laughing a few desks down, so I decided to join them for a few minutes.

We sat and talked about everything under the sun, from first cars to music to dogs. Who would have thought they shared my passion for animals and early-90s rock music? I was enjoying the topics so much that I forgot about all the tasks that were awaiting me at my computer.

A short while later, we got the announcement: our computers were back up and running.

I sighed in relief. Now my day could truly begin. I rushed back to my desk, almost skipping with joy. I attempted to log in, holding my breath.

Success! While talking with everyone was great, I was ready to get my workday underway.

What I didn't realize until later in the week was what a real blessing in disguise our computer outage actually was.

Though on the surface it appeared to be menial small-talk, those few hours of forced downtime were actually a way for me stop focusing on the tasks I had looming over me, and to instead focus on the people around me. It made me realize that sometimes I am so determined to check one more box off of my to-do list that I spend almost the entire day chained to my computer.

While executing the mission is critical in all of our jobs, so often we become wrapped up in the daily grind that we forget to stop for a few moments and really get to know the people around us. For most of us, we spend more time at the office with co-workers than at home with our families, yet we know hardly anything about the person who sits across the hall from us.

So the next time you experience a computer issue or network outage, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction about how much the time will set you back, think of it as an opportunity to step away from your desk and get to know the people around you. You may be surprised about how much you learn about someone else, or as in my case, what you may learn about yourself.