Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pizza Blog: Why are we still using fax machines?

An inmate at the Southern Regional Jail, in Beaver WV, killed himself in his cell on April 13. According to a report by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he was supposed to be released one day earlier, April 12. Why, then, was he still in jail? Apparently the fax that was to signal his release didn't go through.

The fax to signal his release didn't go through.

One more time, in case the people in the back didn't hear.

The fax to signal his release didn't go through.


The fax didn't go through.

A fax machine.

The year is 2017, by the way. And, we're using fax machines.

For those who don't know, a fax machine is basically an email without a computer. A contraption is set up next to a phone line. You put the paper in there that you want somebody else to see. The phone line sends a signal to space, that signal goes back to the other person and they get their document.

It was very popular in the late 80s and into the 90s, before high-speed internet became a thing over the last decade-plus. Anyway, I'm sure you can do a quick Google search for the rise and fall of the fax machine.

Except... there's still a large majority of people in the business world who still use fax machines. These West Virginia jail people still use it. When I was a reporter in Luray, Virginia, I inquired about a document via email. The response said "We faxed it to you." I didn't even know where the fax machine in the building was. Luckily, somebody had sat it on my desk the next day.

2017 isn't the first time I thought that fax was an outdated technology. Why, that brings me back to my days as a member of Pizza Hut management...

In 2011, there had been a shakeup in Pizza Hut management. The 2010 happy-go-lucky story of friends Bob, Mark, Chris, and Robbie running the Pizza Hut together was in for a rude awakening as Bob was out in early 2011 and we were left with Mark in charge, Chris (me, btw) trying to hold it all together as the longest-tenured employee who wasn't the 15-year server, and Robbie doing his part. All of that is a good story, and fodder for a future #PizzaBlog one day.

So, 2011 was filled with three men doing the job of four. We were all in a constant state of exhaustion. The Pizza Hut corporate management didn't care - they were happy that they didn't have to pay a fourth manager. Profits were good, the "numbers" were being reached, and they didn't have any issues with us. Again, another future #PizzaBlog, as all three of us were gone by the end of the year.

That's the state we were living in. One of our more confusing days was when our fax machine was installed. We had a Pizza Hut computer system and an email program, which really wasn't utilized that much. We had to fax documents to the old men telling us how to do our jobs. We didn't have a fax machine for the longest time, so once a week or so we would have to go to this printing place in town and fax things.

An inefficient and obsolete method made further inefficient by the fact that the manager had to drive down the street and pay 25 cents per page, when he could have sat at the computer in the back and attach a document to an email.

Two Pizza Hut fax machine stories come to mind, one professional and one personal.

We needed to order more uniforms for the employees. Mark delegated the task of filling out the forms to me. It was basically a shopping catalog full of Pizza Hut stuff. You could order from like 10 varieties of uniforms, a couple styles of hats, aprons, those bags the delivery driver puts your pizza in, etc. 

We didn't really have that many options - we were told the cooks wear this specific uniform, and the managers can do this one or that one. I asked Mark if me, him, and Robbie could get this specific one I thought was cool. He said no, that his bosses wouldn't like it. 

What I've learned in life is that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. So, I checked the box for the uniforms that I wanted - that we weren't supposed to have - and the other ones we were supposed to get.

I gave it to Mark the next day to fax, since I didn't know how to use the fax machine, and if we're being honest, he really didn't either. He sent it. We waited for the confirmation. It didn't go through. He got the original sheet and looked at it again, at which point he noticed the improper uniforms and changed the order.

Around the same time, I had a court matter. A minor traffic ticket turned into a big deal and I ultimately do a bunch of stuff before it was ultimately dropped. One thing I had to do to finalize it all was fax a paper to the DMV. I went to Pizza Hut on my day off and used their fax machine to send the document. It took a while, since I wasn't really sure what I was doing. After a few tries, a piece of paper printed out that looked like a confirmation sheet. I went home.

About a month later, I'm driving on Stafford Drive in Princeton, which is sort of the main street in the area. I had just gotten some food from Sheetz and was preparing for a long night. I had an essay to write for a college class.

Not knowing a lot about how these things work, I looked in my rear view mirror and thought "That's odd, that cop is following me really closely." Then he turned his lights on and pulled me over.

"Do you know what the speed limit is on this street?"

At that moment, I realized I had no idea and told him so. I had been speeding and didn't realize it. He was cool and accepted that. He took my license and walked back to his car. He came back a couple minutes later.

"Do you know your license is revoked?"

To make a super long story slightly less long, the fax didn't go through. So, the DMV never got confirmation that my minor issue was fixed, and as such, my license was revoked without my realization.

He was understanding and told me I could call somebody for a ride home. I called my mom. She drove over a couple minutes later, and parked at the opposite end of the parking lot the cop and I were sitting in. My phone rang.

Mom: "Where are you at? I don't see you?"

Me: "Look to your right. Do you see the police lights?"

I still don't know how she missed that. She gave me a ride home and told me that tomorrow she would come get me and we would go get all of that fixed. I waited a couple minutes until she was gone, then I made the 20-minute walk back to my car and discreetly drove it home. Then I sent that fax the next day again and made sure it went through.

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