Two Systems, One Mess

Sometimes, two systems, each reasonable in and of themselves, interact to make a mess. This can happen in high-tech as the first two cases show. It can also happen in human systems.

Here is one such case. See if you can figure out the cause of the problem before the end of the story.

I had another such case with a fax machine myself. In one office where I worked, the fax machine did not have a direct line out. The fax machine would dial the number all at once so when faxing, it was necessary to dial 9 first, add a pause, and then enter the number to fax to.

Sometimes, faxes were not getting through. Stung by this a few times myself, I dug into it. What I found was that the one-second pause was occasionally not quite long enough for the phone system to get an external dial tone. When that happened, the fax would not get sent. Putting in two pauses solved the problem.

For a case of two human systems f[l]ailing, there was the system in Canada for government funding of education through the Employment Insurnace (EI) program and the rules of the off-campus housing complex that I live in. Apparently due to previous abuses, the government would not pay out any money sooner than six weeks before the first day of classes. The complex required the semester’s rent be paid at least 60 days before the start of the month the semester started in. Fortunately, a firm commitment that a student was going to be getting funding was accepted.

Rules are not carved in stone. When someone says that the rules are not working, it might be because two sets of rules are interacting badly. Consider adjusting rules in your area so that things work right.