Monday, 26 March 2012

How I nearly missed the flight, but saved the day

Years ago I worked on computer systems for casinos, our company was in Perth, and we supported casinos here and in Adelaide and elsewhere. As opening day for Adelaide approached, I was more interested in being with my girlfriend in Perth than hanging around for the opening day. So 2 days before Adelaide casino opened, I caught a flight back to Perth - "she'll be right" I thought - what could possibly go wrong with a complex computer system involving hundreds of networked parts in the 80s? Even if I had made a software change to the system 30 minutes before I left!

On my return to Perth my girlfriend met me at the airport - fully dressed up in a beautiful pink dress slit to the thigh, magnificent beehive hairdo with pink feather, shiny leather boots, and even elbow length pink gloves to match. Wow.

We spent the day in various debaucheries and dissoluteness and were at one of my friends place when oddly, a phone call came through - for me. For me? Here? Turns out I had left a bug in the code and they desperately needed me back to fix it, with only 1 day to spare, and my boss had spent the day ringing all over Perth trying to track me down. They had managed to get me a midnight flight to Adelaide connecting through Melbourne which would get there a few hours before opening time.

Naturally, I spent the rest of the day in various excesses - which, as I recall, involved a whole bottle of baby oil and two ruined sheets and a ruined matress. But somehow time seemed to slip away, and later, checking my watch, I found it was 11:30pm! Oh my God! it was 30 minutes to the airport and the flight left in 30 minutes! I have never moved so fast in my life! My heart was thumping 120BPM as I threw everything into my suitcase, ran to the car and drove at break-neck speed, not even stopping for red lights. Fate was with me and I drove into the airport at 11:58 pm.

I ran full pelt into the departure lounge - it was completely empty. Except for one staff member behind the counter - he looked up as I ran pell-mell towards him, and he realised instantly who I was - the missing passenger. As I ran towards the counter, he furiously started writing and stamping on a bit of paper - my boarding pass. When I reached him, I threw my suitcase onto the conveyor and he shoved the pass into my hand and said "gate6 - Go!". I sprinted off towards gate 6, and behind me I heard him call out "your luggage won't make it though."

I ran through gate 6, out onto the tarmac, and saw the boarding ramp vehicle was literally just pulling away from the airplane. I bounded up the ramp 3 steps at a time, and the thumping of my footsteps clued the driver to stop - I arrived at the top to find a gap of 3-4 feet between the ramp and the plane. I swear to God - I jumped full sprint across the gap into the plane, colliding into a very surprised looking stewardess. I had made it!

So I settled into my seat, very relieved indeed, until I recalled that my luggage had the EPROM programmer in it - the device needed to change the bug in my code inside the EPROM computer chips in the Keno terminals. Oh dear.

I arrived in Melbourne just before a threatening storm, but made it onto my flight to Adelaide - the last flight before Melbourne airport was closed. Fate smiled on me again. Finally, I arrived in Adelaide early morning, no luggage, no EPROM programmer.

So I rang around a few tech stores enquiring about an EPROM programmer, and actually found a place which was prepared to loan me one to see if it 'suited our needs'. With 2 hours to spare, I had the programmer in my hands, and the code on my screen, with the obvious bug staring me in the face. I fixed the bug, programmed all the EPROMS and then walked around the madhosue of a casino about to open in one hour and replaced all the EPROMS in all the Keno terminals. (We then sent the EPROM programmer back - "sorry, it wasn't quite what we wanted".)

One hour later, the casino opened and the very first Keno game began (a game which involves drawing a selection of numbered balls from a big spinning cage - not unlike Lotto.) As all the casino big-wigs stood and watched, the announcer started to call out the numbers as they popped out of the machine one by one : "number 15", "number 6", "number 28" ... etc. Suddenly the announcer stopped in confusion, and then said with some embarassment "Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, we have a slight problem, we'll be stopping this game". For one panicky moment I thought I had really ballsed something up, even though ball-drawing was nothing to do with my area.

It turned out that the ball mechanism had a small place where a ball could get stuck inside the machine without being noticed, and a ball number 6 had become caught there from the previous practice run. The announcer was about to call out a SECOND "number 6", but realised he had already just called a number 6 and  so had to stop that very first game. Phew - this one was not my fault after all. Lucky he spotted it, otherwise any bets with number 6 would have won twice the odds till they sorted it out.

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