Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Black Box Lesson

If you have ever watched the cartoon South Park, it is fairly common after all of the hijinks have ensued and the carnage has been wrought, for Stan Marsh to stand up and begin a soliloquy with the words, "You know what, I learned something today ...". So I decided to channel Stan today to tell you about a lesson that I learned that was kind of amusing but also taught an important life lesson.

I work at a facility that carefully checks all people driving on and off the site. In order for me to enter, I must scan my personnel badge in front of a black box on a guard house. When I do this, my photograph and job clearance authorizations show up on a computer screen. A guard then verifies that everything is in order and then pushes a button to activate the swing arm that allows me access to drive through.

The black box is about a foot square, with a light in the upper corner that turns from red to green when my badge is scanned. For some reason, I thought that this light was actually the optical scanner. For several years I had trouble getting the scanner to register my badge as I flopped it around in front of the light. This always caused me to grumble and complain and carry on. However, I finally came to understand that the light in the corner of the black box is just an LED. The sensitive scanner is actually in the middle of the black box. So, it turned out that I was having troubles because I was scanning my badge incorrectly.

So, what's the lesson? Well, when things don't go our way and it affects us negatively, it could be because it's our own fault! Huh, imagine that.