"Look at this," the Boss says, handing me a well-fingered computer rag.
"What, the magazine?"
"No, the survey they mention on the front cover."
"The Top 500 IT-savvy companies in the UK for 2005?"
"And what should I be looking for?"
"Our company, of course."
"In there?" I ask dubiously.
"EXACTLY!" the Boss says.
"We're NOT in there!"
"I know," I counter.
"But we should be - we've got a lot of machines!"
"More than large internet cafe companies?"
"No, not more than them, obviously."
"Or larger than the huge multi-national beancounters?"
"No, I suppose not."
"The large insurance companies?"
"What about large universities?"
"I DON'T KNOW - But we should be listed there!"
"Because we're a large company!"
"That's hardly a compelling reason is it?"
"But we should be listed! Investors rate companies by their technical ability."
"So you're saying that an investor would be happier if they knew we spend a lot of money buying large numbers of machines?"
"No, but they'd feel happier knowing that we have a lot of computing power behind us!"
"And why exactly are you talking to us about this?" the PFY asks.
"Because they've sent us a form for this year's survey which we'd like you to fill out so that we make the top 500," the head of IT says, entering Mission Control.
"But these surveys are pointless and only used to boost magazine circulation figures!"
"How?" the Boss asks. "They send each of the top 500 companies a free copy!"
"At which time they all buy up a stack of copies to leave strategically in their waiting rooms, send to their investors, etc."
"It's still worth doing," the Boss says.
"So what are you suggesting we do, buy two machines for every person - or I suppose for five grand we could just say we have?"
"Why would that cost five grand" the head of IT asks.
"To shut people up," I say, nodding towards the PFY.
...Two days later...
"Ah Simon," the Boss mumbles nervously over handsfree.
"I've just got an email from the publishing company - saying they'd like to come and verify the data we supplied."
"Of course they do," I say. "And we should applaud them in that. Reply, saying we'd be most happy to take them around our sites at their earliest convenience."
"But surely they'll find out that we've been...uh...economical with the truth?" the Boss asks.
"Not if that five grand in fifties arrives as requested...Besides if they sent someone out to verify every respondent they'd never get the bloody thing published! Just tell them you're looking forward to showing them our sub-sub basement state of the art super-secure computing bunker."
"What bunker?" the Boss asks, ignoring the five grand question yet again.
"If it sounds like we've got stuff that we're gagging to show them they'll be less suspicious," the PFY says over my shoulder.
"Oh I see, righto then, I'll do that."
...Two days later...
"Ah Simon," the Boss mumbles - once again nervously - as he leads a geeky beancounter type into Mission Control. "This is David, from the publishing company, he's here to verify our computer equipment and check out our...bunker."
"Excellent!" I say getting up from my desk. "And might I just say how five grand it is to meet you!"
"Five grand?" David says.
"You just said 'how five grand it is to see me'?"
"Really, how odd," I say, staring pointedly at the Boss till he leaves to make a quick petty cash transaction - returning scant moments later with a cardboard box.
Given the rapid arrival of the cash a less trusting person might think that the Boss had received this money earlier and had simply conspired with himself to remain in possession of it...
"Uh...your current rating is 303rd, but not all the survey numbers are in just at the moment, so that's subject to change."
"So where would you like to start?" I ask.
"With the Bunker," David responds.
"The Bunker it is!" I say as the Boss's eyes widen.
...Two minutes later, in the basement...
"And there you have it," I say, pointing at a section of floor.
"What?" David asks.
"That's not a bunker, it's just a section of concrete!"
"No," I sigh, "That's the door to the bunker."
"Uh.. .can you open it then?"
"Of course not, it's a super secure server room!"
"So I'm supposed to take your word that there's a bunker under there."
"I...You could wait till shift change!" I suggest.
"And when's that?"
"A week from Wednesday - It's a fortnight on a fortnight off thing, two crews."
"You don't seriously expect me to believe that?"
"In that case I'll be wanting to see invoices for the equipment supposedly housed in the bunker," David says.
"Hmmmmm," I say, the game up. "I don't have those, but I do have this box of non-sequentially numbered fifty pound notes..."
"Oh why didn't you tell me it was a 2000 host supercluster grid facility with a million terabytes of storage!" David gasps, grabbing the box.
...Later, at the pub...
"That was a close thing" the PFY says as he finishes his fourth lager.
"You're telling me," I say.
"Yeah, I thought he'd never buy the publishing company auditor story," David adds.