The New Yorker recently published a profile of mass transit-veteran Andy Byford, president of New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The piece gives a behind-the-scenes peek at how New York’s subway system functions—SPOILER ALERT: It’s not the most well-oiled machine.
One of the best anecdotes of the bunch revolves around ticket vending machines that suddenly stopped taking debit and credit cards, a helpless MTA control center, and an unreachable IT guy named Miguel.
When the NYC subway vending machines go down, there's apparently only one guy who knows how to fix them.
His name is Miguel, he lives in Port Jarvis (3 hrs from NYC), & apparently he likes to turn his cell phone off on the way home.
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) July 9, 2018
According to the piece, it was a Friday evening and our wayward hero, Miguel had clocked out to head home (a 3-hour drive upstate) when the MTA ticket vending machines ground to a halt, refusing to accept debit and credit card transactions.
Twitter began to erupt with complaints, folks were jumping the turnstiles, and the peeps back at the MTA control center could only sit and watch as the crisis fanned out to include New Jersey transit —and all because the one man with the keys to the kingdom, an IT guy named Miguel, had turned off his cell phone.
According to the New Yorker:
It seemed that only Miguel knew how to log in to the relevant subprocessor and do the reboot…He was in a car, apparently, on his way home. He wasn’t answering his cell. He lived in Port Jervis.
In what seems like a heavily dramatized piece, Byford vexed by the “unbelievable” circumstances vows:
I want a dozen Miguels trained and up and running by Monday.
And later on in the piece murmurs:
There shall be a dozen Miguels.
Miguel is, of course, finally reached and all is well that ends well—at least for the moment…
According to the New Yorker:
Miguel was found. Fists were pumped. ‘We probably shouldn’t reboot the whole system all at once, because it might double-charge customers, like last time.’
It’s a funny anecdote that showcases the plight of those in upper management when they don’t really know how things get done and who is responsible for fixing them.
Poor Miguel probably languished for years, needing back-up and never getting anyone to listen to him—that is, until the day he turned his phone off after-hours, highlighting the MTAs need for cross-training.
Miguel was not only the hero MTA needed that day, he was the hero we all need, showing rather than telling upper management what needs to be fixed:
Miguel deserves the chance to turn off his cell when he leaves work. As do we all. Also a commentary on the extended transit system that a guy whom lives on an MTA train line finds it's more convenient to drive to work.
— Ben Helmer (@Atomox) July 10, 2018
I applaud Miguel’s job-preserving skills but as someone who has to ride the MTA daily I kinda wish he’d take on an apprentice or five.
— Doctor Memory (@Dr_Memory) July 9, 2018
job security for REAL. MIGUEL, NEVER TELL!
— Randi Hernandez (@RandiMHernandez) July 9, 2018
— Natasia Rose (@natasiarose) July 9, 2018
It’s that fine line between training a backup, and maintaining job security.
— Parker Benchley (@ParkeBench) July 10, 2018