The Snowstorm

Categories: Short Stories, Writing

The notifications on his phone had been going off since before he left the apartment that morning. A blizzard was scheduled to hit the city later that evening and alerts had been sent out well in advance to keep people off the roads where all possible. Local schools and the university had closed down, as well as most restaurants and shops. The grocery stores put out social media updates about closing at noon the day before which lead to long lines and a huge swarm of delivery drivers out on the roads that morning. Joe passed many easily recognizable delivery cars as he made his way on the almost empty highway. The morning radio talked about the ice and snow storm as well. Not that it affected them personally, given they probably lived inside the city and could walk home after work or take the insanely expensive subway to their high rise condos. Many public figures and folks who worked for the government qualified to live inside the city like that. Joe even applied for a teaching certification back in college but failed to meet the unknown criteria for acceptance.

Joe soon arrived at the office parking garage, it was nearly half full seeing as most of his office had to come in that morning to ensure backups and security had been set up properly. With storms like this the office could be unreachable for a week as the snow would reach the sixth floor or higher. The city itself was fairly self contained and had tunnels and such to reach the subways but since they were for government employees, active/veteran military, or the extremely wealthy the majority of people would be stuck where they were outside the city center. Joe had asked his boss if he could work remotely since his apartments were so far from town, to which he was given the instruction to come in earlier should he need to leave earlier.

The storm was scheduled to arrive between three and six in the evening. Joe normally got off work at six. He had received several emails from the office building warning folks coming in today that the downstairs cafe and reception would not be coming in so be sure to bring your own lunch and don’t forget any security cards for your floor. There would only be light security on the grounds that day and none of them were the type willing to get you a temporary id card. Joe reached the bottom floor lobby, several paper notes were taped to the glass doors, warning visitors that the doors would be closing at 3pm. Joe walked in with his full backpack, and coffee thermos.

He had once been stuck at the office in a storm at his old job. A storm had hit earlier than expected and he had to stay two nights in a row until they could burrow out the rear doors so they could leave. So this time he came prepared with his camping backpack complete with bed roll, and electric stove. Last time he was stuck eating cereal bars and whatever folks left in the office fridge the day before. Joe came prepared for this disaster knowing his boss could ask him to stay as late as the upper management who could just take the subway home.

The office was in a mad rush at a time of day they would normally be taking their time, having a coffee or breakfast while checking email. Interns were physically running down the halls while on two phones getting things together. IT was making its rounds with home-approved laptops for everyone who needed one. Joe’s boss was pacing the floor by his desk. She needed him to go through the server clusters he was in charge of and make sure all the tickets were finished for them before noon. Most of the lower staff and interns were leaving at lunch so they could make it back home before the storm, as they lived up to two hours away from the office. Any work done after noon was going to be done yourself so they were being run rampant at 8am that morning getting small tasks done for everyone in the office. Joe sat down at his station and plugged in his laptop to the office LAN. The nature of the data they were dealing with meant he couldn’t access his work on the servers outside the office. He could only monitor the servers and move public files around for users. Most of his job this morning was going to be ensuring his current builds were working well enough to be remotely monitored from his apartment for a few days. If he worked quickly enough he could leave early but it had to be approved by his boss first.

The problem was Joe had recently implemented a brand new set of operations for a series of server arrays he maintained only a few days ago and it was giving him trouble. The client was constantly on the phone with him about missing data or data that should have been accessible showing up as read only. It had given him a headache the previous week and now whatever bug that was causing it had to be eliminated in only four hours. He wasn’t the only one in the weeds, most of the office was in a frenzy of clacking keyboards and mad dashes across the building to wrap up any loose ends.

A coffee trolley made the rounds of the building offering free energy drinks and coffee for anyone who needed it. That intern would also be gone after lunch so some people stocked up on their red bull’s for later. Joe grabbed two of the blueberry flavored ones, fearing he would be stuck at work for two days in a cold office. His boss came by to check on his progress.

“You get that kink worked out yet, Joe?”

“Almost, I think.” He said, pulling out one of his earphones to hear her.

“Counting on it.” She said, before no more than three interns rushed her for questions from other departments.

“I’ll be back in an hour Joe, we need that sever working before lunch.” She said, the small crowd following her around with tablets, begging her for answers to questions they didn’t exactly understand how to ask. She spent most of her time going to the office that sent the kid in the first place to see what they really needed.

The problem with this new office was that Joe was still relatively new to the job. It was nearly the same work he had done before but the admins over in the server floor weren’t friends with him the way the others were at his old place. He used to be able to just wander downstairs to ask his buddy the best way to go about bypassing something and they’d tell him or give him tips on the way they had set up everything to make his job more efficient. Not here, not yet anyway. He had only been downstairs to the server admins offices a handful of times and most of them were to ask basic questions like, login keys and other sensitive information he couldn’t ask through a ticket or on the phone. These server admins were hardcore. His boss told him one of the guys helped write part of some open source operating system, and another went to MIT after bypassing the demographics laws. Joe figured those were all stories told to his boss by someone else to scare everyone. Why else would guys like that be working in a mid range data storage company? But when he finally got down to meet them, he thought perhaps there was some truth to it. His old job had a team of server admins with their own peons to assist them. Ten of them total, he remembered. This new place had only these two guys and it was a bigger company. If you wanted any information from as server they were the only ones with clearance or the ability to get it to you. After three hours of getting nowhere with his code throwing him authentication errors right and left, he finally gave in and wandered downstairs to ask them what to do. Perhaps it was something as simple as a wrong port setting or a number out of place.

Joe cracked the tab on his blueberry redbull and made his way to the elevator. His watch constantly vibrating with weather alerts and news notifications. Apparently the storm was moving in faster than expected. “I’m gonna be stuck here for a week.” He thought to himself. The elevator doors opened and he walked into the security station. The attendant looked as thought he was asleep in his chair, but perked up at the sight of someone who he could scan into the area.

“Hey there, got your card?”

Joe held out his ID card and the man photographed it, a light turned green above the doorway and several locks could be heard disengaging.

“Reason for visit?” He asked.

“I need to ask the admins a few questions.” Joe said.

“Good enough for me.” The security guard said, and opened the door for him.

The inside of the server room was incredibly cold, rows and rows of servers were stacked within inches of each other all humming away. Heat was piped out through metal lines that ran to the roof of the building, an incredibly expensive endeavor. Joe walked through the claustrophobic hallway of computers to a rear office where the admins held up shop. He peered through the safety glass window and pressed what appeared to be a handmade button wired from the inside.

“Yeah what do you need Joe?” A voice asked from the other side of the door.

“Hey guys, I’m getting those authentication errors on the 723 array again.”

A loud buzzing sound went off and the door to the office opened up. The two admins were sitting on either side of a long illuminated desk. The lights were off in the room, which was lit mostly by computer screens, a couple of lamps and diode arrays under the table. On the left end of the table was a rail thin man wearing a full over ear vintage style headset, his face glued to the screen as Joe assumed he was working on something important. The admin on the right end of the table was only slightly thicker, as to the point his cheekbones didn’t stick out as far. He had longer hair pulled back in a thin ponytail and a ragged t-shirt that sported an incredibly old Haskell logo. This one actually looked over at Joe and asked to see his laptop. Joe handed it to him, and watched as the guy placed it carefully in his lap, scrawled a handful of lines into the text editor and handed it back to him.

“There that should do it.” he said, and got back to what was apparently a videogame he and the other admin were playing.

Joe couldn’t believe that the guy had fixed it that quickly, given he hadn’t even told him what the problem exactly was. Joe cleared a spot on their long desk and placed his laptop down, pushing aside various project boxes, broken computer parts, cables, and energy drink cans. He looked over what the admin had typed in and attempted to compile it. The admin smiled, “Don’t worry, it works.” Joe shook his head in amazement as he watched the troublesome code come back with a perfect wall of green and white text.

“But I didn’t tell you what was wrong.”

The admin pointed to another screen along the back wall, one that was scrolling through hundreds of lines of grey text. “Your ID has been pinging the 723 array for three days, if it weren’t one of our ID’s id have thought someone was wrong.”

Joe looked at the screen carefully, “So you can see whenever I do anything to it?”

“Nothing goes in or out of here that we aren’t logging. So don’t even try to mess with it from home, you hear?

He nodded and thanked the two of them before turning to the door to leave. The admin on the other end of the table chimed in, “You should go home now man, you won’t make it in time if you don’t.” Joe nodded and left the room, assuming the admins had also logged where he lived, where he parked, and what time he went to the bathroom every day. When he got back to the elevator he looked out the window to see chunks of snow falling from the sky. His phone went off before the doors opened to his office floor. It was his boss, “Go home Joe, whatever it is can wait.” That was all the confirmation he needed to grab his bag and turn his laptop over to IT before cramming into the elevators again with everyone else trying to leave. The parking garage was a mess of people trying to get out as quickly as possible.

Trucks had spent the night salting the roads and plows were already going through the streets but the snow fell at an alarming rate. Caravans of cars were being set up to follow a plow car down the highway in sets of about twenty. Joe finally wormed his way into one of the caravans via a series of flags and signs set up just for this weather. As the caravan of cars slowly made their way down the roads into the more open areas further from the town Joe could see the sidewalks filling with snow, bicycle handlebars popping up from the tops of the tiny white mountains. People outside had long gone home before it got to this point and only the last minute workers like him were stuck trying to evacuate. Not long outside the city’s outermost ring the snow had not quite caught up and the roads were more clear. The plows pulled off to the sides of the road and let the cars race out into the open highway. Joe made it back to his apartment in record time, managing to get his car parked and almost up the stairs before the same snow he saw from the office window started to fall outside his door.


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