“Take Your Kid to Work Day: Water Sprinklers in the Data Center” by Renee Hughes

When our son was in grade school, he accompanied me to my company’s annual “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” He attended because the day gave him a reprieve from school and he got as much pizza as he could shove in his mouth. Mothers know these things.

My work load on this special day one year was heavier than expected, so I could not accompany him on the tours. Since he was only six, he required a chaperone. My assistant Mary had volunteered that day anyway to travel with packs of children because she brought her own kiddos, so she said she would keep him with her. Problem solved.

I squeezed in time at lunch to eat pizza with him. While pizza sauce dribbled from his chin, he regaled me with stories about wire in bundles fatter than arm and that he got a free ball that bounced over his head. The assistant reported he’d behaved. All was well. After the meal they departed for the afternoon sessions.

When they returned back to my office later that afternoon, I asked how the other presentations went. Mary, sucking air through her gritted teeth, said, “Oh, we almost had an incident.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Well, at the data center, your fella here asked what the glass cover was for that covered a control panel on the wall. The tour guide explained it prevented anybody from touching the buttons unless they had the key, because the buttons triggered the sprinklers overhead.”

He always was a curious sort, so I nodded back at Mary, “What’s the problem, then?”

“Genius here retorted back to the lady guiding us around, ‘Oh, my hand will fit up through this hole.’ Sure enough, he stuck his hand up through the tiny opening in the bottom of the glass case which allowed the air to come in for smoke detection. His fingers were an inch from the buttons before I could pull his arm back.”

Cold sweat broke out on my forehead. My kid nearly set off the sprinklers in the data center housing millions of dollars of computer equipment containing vital data. I wondered if my 16 years at this job had come that close to being marred by one inch. The “Take Your Kid to Work Day” program ended the data center tours henceforth.

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