Annals of Employment: Tony the Ax versus The Phone Company

For a short time I worked at an internet service provider. They served medium-sized businesses. These guys really had their act together. All the tech people were smart. The bosses were hardcore ex Sun engineers. And they had a guarantee of reliability or your money back, which was unusual at the time.

That reimbursement didn’t get made, because they were good. Money was made.

Then one day the upstream provider, The Phone Company, failed. Suddenly the company was not providing any service at all to most of its customers. Not only were they looking like idiots, they were also now paying back all these customers. A gigantic taxi meter of money loss was running.

So our CFO called up The Phone Company. They were evasive in the usual phone company way. Probably told him they needed to "provision" something, or that it was "under investigation." The CFO was a nice guy, easy-going, loved his family and his vintage Corvette. He was also Italian-American from New Jersey. This is what he sounded like on the phone.

STOP, SHUT UP NOW. SHUT THE FUCK UP. I’M TAWKIN. I’M TAWKIN ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHICH IS FUCKING FIXING THIS SHIT.  GET YOUR FWUCKING ACT TOGETHER OR I’M GONNA FLY UP THERE AND CUT YOUR FWUCKING BALLS OFF. DON’T EXPLAIN. YOUR EXPLANATIONS ARE FUCKING SHIT, THEY’RE DIARRHEA. SHUT THE FUCK UP AND FIX IT NOW. DID YOU FIX IT YET? DID I HEAR YOU SAY YOU FIXED IT? I DIDN’T HEAR YOU SAY YOU FIXED IT, SO SHUT THE FUCK UP.

I’M SHITTING OUT MY FUCKING BUSINESS HERE AND YOU’RE GOING TO LICK IT UP. DID YOU FIX IT YET? IT’S FIXED, RIGHT? NO? DO YOU WANT TO FUCKING SEE ME IN PERSON? YOU DON’T WANT TO FUCKING SEE ME IN PERSON, EVER.

They fixed it.

I was standing outside his office in fascinated horror. There was spittle on his desk and he was half standing out of the chair, leaning over the desk to scream into the phone. He clicked it off and slumped back in the chair for a few seconds and then looked up at me.

"I really hate doing that."

20 thoughts on “Annals of Employment: Tony the Ax versus The Phone Company

  1. that is a fun story to read on the internet, but east coast people are scary. they are all a hair-trigger away from making you lick up their diarrhea.

  2. I’ve often wished I was more like that guy. But that approach only works if the humans involved have some hope of fixing the problem, and they just haven’t gotten around to fixing it due to inertia or competing priorities. If it’s beyond anyone’s power to fix, as some technical things invariably are, you just get a lot more frustration and no results.
    Some problems are in need of a good kick in the ass. But many are more complicated than that. Unless one can tell the first kind of problem from the second, one ends up like DeNiro in the third reel of Raging Bull, punchin’ stuff because that’s the only trick he knows how to do.

    1. i can guaruntee you, from hearing my uncle on the phone all weekend, this is 100% how the bridge got fixed on time. i heard my uncle yelling shit like YOU DO NOT FUCKING COME DOWN HERE IF YOU ARE NOT DONE WELDING THAT BEAM IN OR I WILL FUCKING CUT OFF YOUR BALLS AND STUFF THEM DOWN THAT HOLE YOU CALL A MOUTH AND I CALL A SHITSTREAM.
      it was lol.

  3. At every company I’ve worked in my career, there has been somebody on the staff specifically chosen because they possessed the ability to do that. At one company, we had a rotating array of people who took turns bitching out telco operations people. None of them enjoyed doing it, but it was why they were hired.
    The reason your Tony the Ax had to threaten to cut off somebody’s balls? Because the guy waiting on hold from the company down the street just threatened to rip off his head and shit down his neck, and the next five guys who will call are going to threaten to rape his wife and cannibalize his children. If you just ask nicely, the Phone Company guys think you can afford to wait.

    1. I have the ability to do “angry scary mentalist” if need be (extremely rarely), and it has generally got results, but I once worked with a bloke who drove to that state for real: at that point I’d had 8 years experience of programming and he’d just been on a 6 month course or something, and yet he kept contradicting me – rather than simply saying he didn’t know how to do what I was asking, he kept insisting it couldn’t be done.
      I got really angry and he made it worse by failing to react other than to continue insisting he was right and I was wrong. I ended up literally jumping up and down on the spot screaming at him. Horrible.

  4. I was the Director of IT for a Cable company and about once every two months I had to get US West, The PBX Vendor, and Our long distance vendor in the office and then Tell every one that no one leaves the office until the GD problem is solved. That normally worked, but I could have used your ex-boss.
    I also sat on a help desk for NASA during project Skylab project and normally telling them that they were single handedly bringing the US Space program to its knees did the trick.
    But in all cases the operative phrase was our “stuff looks good, must be ‘the other guy’.”
    Jake

  5. I love that story. It never gets old. Earlier in my 20’s I had the ability to be that guy, but now that my daughter has literally shit on my hand with streaming diarrhea, it hard to get that upset over work related shit. The benchmark has been set pretty high.

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