Big Mistakes and How I Cope with Them

Screwing up at work.

I fucked up at work today. A bug in my program left 30,000 people without the right kind of access to our web server. It was not as large a problem as it sounds, but it was my fault, with no blame to share.

I have a reflex that kicks when entropy rises--a few stupid platitudes, of the "it could be worse" type rise to replace my confusion. It could be worse: I could be 15 again, kicked out of the house, or it could be only three years ago and I might have a yearly income of $6000. When these personal memories of tougher times don't calm me, I recite the laundry list of atrocities--Nazis, starvation, no education, no mind to educate, physical disability--that never came to rest upon me. Nothing gets better but I stop moping and return to the issue at hand.

So I apologized, got up to how lucky I was not to be homeless, calmed down, and we resolved the error in a few hours. I needed to compare long lists of names to make sure texts matched, much like the time in high school when the student magazine I edited published an article that vaguely insulted Mr. Homele, unloved vice-principal. As penance, I crossed out 6400 occurrences of his name with black marker, two per issue. Because the same English teacher ran the magazine and the cheerleading squad, a dozen cheerleaders helped as censors. We sat around a table and they eyed me suspiciously. Later, the English teacher told me she loved me deeply.

The error today was not near so bad as any of that, mostly because I don't have enough power to screw things up--there are some checks built into the system--and because no one can put me in detention anymore. It was an honest error, on the side of trying to do to much than not enough, and no one criticized. Given the news, one of my supervisors said, "Oh, no, oh God. You didn't." But then they said "don't feel bad," and patted me on the shoulder. I won't need to resign in shame, which I felt a strong urge to do when the problem surfaced, partly from embarrassment, partly from laziness towards dealing with a difficulty I created. But doggedness and dedication win over laziness, and I possess small packets of each, so I'll continue to labor with my wrists, fingers, and darting eyes, rolling in my rolling chair and drawing my paycheck. All remains well.

An eventful week.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


There is a Facebook group.


You will regret following me on Twitter here.


Enter your email address:

A TinyLetter Email Newsletter

About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


Syndicate: RSS1.0, RSS2.0
Links: RSS1.0, RSS2.0


© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

Tables of Contents