The world is full of great duos focused on a common goal - Hillary and Norgay, Armstrong and Aldrin, Sooty and Sweep - and so is the world of computing.
There's nothing like having a good backup guy, and for me the PFY was that man. My go-to guy, the PFY could be trusted to know what I was looking for almost before I did myself and have it ready and waiting when I got there. I could send him off on a task in the full knowledge that he'll see it through to completion with no hitches or questions.
And so it was a bit of a wrench when PFY forsook the comfort of the home pitch to play for another team - made worse by the two-month reemployment stand-down period which the department apparently has on contractors for some reason. This all means that in the meantime I don't have the ability to delegate those run-of-the-mill everyday functions that plague the life of a systems professional - in turn meaning that I end up having to do them myself...
"What's the spade for?" the Boss asks wandering into Mission Control.
"I...uh...gardening," I reply, scanning the helldesk database for a recent complaint.
"And this...uh...sack of...whatisit, lime?"
"Gardening again," I repeat. "Great for...uh...composting."
"The roll of old carpet?"
"What do you use carpet for?" he asks dubiously.
"Flip it upside down and use it as weed matting," I say, having prepared for this question earlier.
"Ah right, of course. You know I used to be a keen gardener," the Boss burbles, setting himself up for one of those directionless monologues that seems to plague the social interaction of so many members of middle management. "I used to have brassicas, and leeks."
"Speaking of which, I'm busting for one myself," I add, getting out of the room before I get a run down on the basics of fertiliser application in small gardens...
When I get back from the visiting the Gents the situation is even worse. The head of IT and the Boss are engaged in a conversation about the benefits of crop rotation to avoid systemic plant illnesses.
"Riveting as this is, I have work to do, what with my assistant being away and all," I say, pointing at the screen. "So if you'd just move on I could get down to the problem at hand. >clickety< Ah, here we are...the complainant was...M Easton."
"We could lend you a hand to catch up on your work if you need," the Boss suggests, much to the Head's surprise. "And we could chat about gardening at the same time."
I blame the PFY. Had he not left in the pursuit of career advancement none of this would have been happening - M Easton, whoever the hell he is, would be safely wrapped in carpet in the back of a van speeding towards a disused allotment in the middle of nowhere and I'd be deleting a complaint about the speed of our data recoveries from the helldesk system.
"I'm sure we could give you a hand," the Head agrees.
"Could you?" I ask. "I need a bit of help digging a hole."
"What sort of hole?"
"I dunno, six feet by two feet by, uh.. six feet deep." "You mean like a grave?" the boss asks, then pauses anxiously.
"Sort of - I'm using the deep-cache method of liming."
"Deep-cache? I don't think I've heard of that?"
"It's a new-age Biodynamic thing," I say. "Quite new but showing some good results."
"Oh yes," the Boss asks dubiously. "How does it work?"
"Well, you dig a large hole, line it with a large quantity of lime, then a layer of compostable matter, then lime. The groundwater will seep up through the cache and distribute lime through the upper water table of the land as the compostable material breaks down."
"And what compostable matter were you going to use?" the Boss asks, interested now.
"Oh, just anything biodegradable I found laying around the office - foodscraps, newspaper...M Easton."
"You're not going to get US helping you with THAT," the Head of IT snaps.
"Yes well, an alternative I have been considering recently is a deeper hole with several layers of lime and compostable matter. Three maybe, depending."
"On how many old carpets we have in the basement and whether the van's being used tonight - you won't be missed will you?"
"Look what's the real problem?" the Head asks, attempting to defuse the situation.
"The real issue - this moment - is that I'm recovering some data for this M Easton character as fast as I can change tapes and he's complaining about how slack we are."
"So the real issue is the lack of an assistant."
"That's part of it, yes."
"So what if we agreed to waive the stand-down period in this case?"
"That would certainly help yes."
"And you'll abandon this...uh...several layers...option."
"And leave this M Easton person alone?"
"No retaliation at all?"
"Ok then," the Boss sighs, easing towards the door with the Head of IT. "We'll get that sorted straight away."
...three hours later...
"Ahhh," the PFY says, plopping down into his chair. "Back in the saddle."
"What's the spade, lime and carpet for?"
"One of the users, M Easton, called you a tosser."
"Right. I'll book the van!"
See, it's like magic having an assistant!