Madwoman in the tech attic

What follows is a true tale of tech terror.

Late afternoon I received a call from the manager of The _____ Mansions.

“We are having horrible problems with the guest wifi on the top floors of the building. The guests are complaining continuously. “

“We’re even getting negative reviews on Google about it. One of them claims there’s a ghost who turns the wifi off and on at all hours of the day and night” he exclaimed.

In the many years of my practice I have heard clients and their employees blame gremlins and demons for their computer problems but ghosts were a first.

Their business was new to me. Normally I would have investigated their business more thoroughly but the manager stated they were referred by an excellent client and their need was great.

“Can you come right away?” The manager was clearly desperate.

It was almost dusk when I arrived at The ______ Mansions. The building was clearly very old but well maintained on the outside.

The manager greeted me in the lobby. “Welcome to the Mansions. It was built in 1911 and there are some oddities in the wiring and Internet set up. We’ll use the service elevator to get to the communications room”.

The manager led me down several hallways before we reach the service elevator. It was original to the building. He pressed the button and said it might take a while as room service had just gone up with food for one of the guests.

As we waited, I could hear an odd shuffling walk behind us. Then it sounded like lurching and then there was a bump into the wall. Startled I turned to see a dark clad person face fixed to their phone who nearly walked into us. Their pale face lifted briefly and then turned into another hallway.

The elevator arrived. The manager opened the outer door and the inner elevator door. There was a wooden floor in which there was a hole the size of toonie into which I could look down the shaft.

“You’re the third consultant to work on this system” the manager said as the elevator creaked up. “The original consultant who set up our whole internet and wifi system went blind just before completing the work”.

I murmured my condolences.

“The second consultant left after only a few hours. He had clearly read that ghost review before coming here. He claimed he saw a big red eye in the communications room.”

“I suspect he didn’t know what he was doing and just wanted an excuse to leave” the manager hastened to add.

Slowly we kept rising. I had not watched what floor the manager pressed on the brass panel as I was so mesmerized  and horrified by the hole in the elevator floor. How high up was the communications room?

Finally, the elevator groaned to a stop. The manager opened the inner elevator door and wrestled with the outside door.

We stepped into a long corridor. On one side there were guest room doors. On the other, there was one guest door and then a series of windows with frosted security glass. Under one of the windows there was a step. The manager headed for the window with the step.

The manager unlocked the tall window which swung out into the hall to reveal an open air well with an iron grate staircase. The staircase led up to the roof two storeys above.

“The communications room is on the roof” he said.

I felt my lunch leap into my throat. How do I get up those stairs and manage the roof? Sense of duty struggled with fear of heights. The manager beckoned me onto the staircase.

I followed the manager up the stairs. To avoid looking down, I examined the walls of the air well. There were numerous windows facing into the air well. All the windows contained the frosted security glass. I could see ghostly people walking behind the glass.

Panting, we arrived at the roof. The building possessed a stunning view of the close by Fraser River. A wuthering wind swept up the river from the ocean as the sun set.

The manager led me to a hut on the roof close to the stairwell. He propped open the door with piece of concrete and flipped a light switch. The bulb was over the rack of technical equipment close to the door. The low watt bulb also revealed dim shapes of equipment in the far end of the room.

There was a whirr and vibration from the manager’s coat. The manager retrieved a phone from the front pocked. “I must go downstairs and attend to a guest. You’ll be all right up here”.

He hurried back to the staircase and left me alone in hut on the roof.

I examined the rack. In the background I could hear the manager’s footsteps clang down the metal staircase. In the dim light I located the power bar to connect my laptop. As I plugged in my laptop, I noticed another plug was loose in the bar and pushed it firmly into the socket.

Suddenly there was a bang and cables began to creak and move in the corner. The manager had neglected to say that the communications room was also the elevator generator room. Clearly he had reached the elevator door two storeys below and had summoned the elevator causing the bang from the elevator generator.

I started to breathe again. Then I noticed a blinking red eye in the corner.

Quickly I turned back to my laptop and the rack.  I focused on the commands I needed to execute so I could leave as soon as possible.

The blinking stopped. Now it was a solid yellow eye. The yellow light dimly illuminated the square shape around it.

The eye changed to a solid purple. I turned back again to my laptop screen. I was almost finished.

Now there was a flashing green colour. I unplugged my laptop and put it away.

The eye changed to a solid green and then modulated to teal. I was successful in fixing the wifi access point.

Now I faced the terror of getting down the staircase.