"You know what your probblim is?" one of the Beancounters slurs, using the ISO certified phrase to indicate that the speaker's had too much to drink "...you're out of touch!"
"Really?" the PFY says, tipping back his drink with one hand while setting his modified cattle prod to 'stir-fry' with the other. "How's that then?"
Sometimes I can really get to hate end of year office drinks. Sure, it's a chance to overindulge in company supplied beverages, witness burgeoning office romances (that both parties will be deeply ashamed of in the new year – worse still when the webpage comes out..) and help some jilted office assistant sort through her pocket book for her ex's fax number - but you also have to put up with the crap as well...
Crap like a beancounter telling you exactly what the current market rate of service-level-guaranteed internet is - based on the cost of his ADSL connection at home - and how we're simply paying too much for our connectivity.
"...I mean for that money you could put in dozens of ADSL lines - surely that would be cheaper. You could aggregate them like phone lines," the beancounter burbles.
"Oh look!" the PFY gasps. "It's a laminated photo of the locomotive LNER 4468 Mallard!"
But a lot of conversations can't be ended as happily. In fact, an hour later it's far worse. Now that the alcohol has had time to affect people's mental processes their darker natures are starting to emerge...
"...which is why you can't trust software people!" a cretin from the HR department drools emphatically at me. "The information the software gathers is passed from one place to another and then a profile of you is built up in places that you've never been to and never heard of."
"You mean like Leeds?" I ask.
"Oh, you mean it's like ECHELON?"
"Echelon - you know, the NSA thing which intercepts phone calls, electronic data, etc, scans them with fuzzy logic for key words or phrases then assigns some weighting as to whether you qualify for an all-expenses-paid holiday of abuse with absolutely no legal recourse in Guantanamo. Codename Democratic Freedom?"
"Huh? I was talking about software vendors!"
"Oh right, sorry. Please, continue..." I sigh.
"They collect information about you with their software then they feed it back to their company."
"Uh-huh," I mumble, looking to see what drinks remain.
"But not just that, they send people to your company to gather information on you."
"Oh you mean Helene and Mike?" I say, pointing across the room.
"Helene and Mike - over there. Helene's the one by the fax/copier looking through her address book and Mike's the one drinking the alcohol based cleaning products. Apparently last month was a good vintage for window cleaner. Now they work for one of our software vendors."
"Have you told them anything?"
"Only where you live, how much you earn, your bank account numbers – nothing important"
"You what?! Don't you know they us.. >KZERT<"
"Don't mention it," the PFY says as he steps over the cretin on his way to freshen up his drink.
I take it back – a lot of conversations can be ended happily after all. Things might be looking up.
An hour later I find they are when I happen upon the PFY helping his half-cut half zapped beancounter victim make a couple of last minute eBay purchases.
"A Beta video recorder!" he gasps over the beancounter's shoulder. "Give it a couple of years and it'll be worth a fortune on antiques roadshow. Click Buy-it-now - you don't want to be outbid and £100 is a small price to pay! Oooh, and look, the same person is selling an eight track player and some Newtons – collectables if I ever saw them..."
You know, I'd almost feel bad if I hadn't seen the PFY scouring the basement for items to list on eBay this morning...
Wondering what the Boss' idle hands are up to and where the Christmas bonuses are, I make for his office and step past our two vendors as they rifling through drawers for a good vintage of tippex...
"Ah, there you are," the Boss burbles."Just handing out the bonuses. Last minute thing so you'll have to make do with cash. Apparently someone tried to break into the cheque safe and broke the lock mechanism. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?"
"Me?" I say. "No, no. But thanks for the cash all the same."
"Can you pass on this to your assistant."
"Sure. And if you have a bottle of tippex with a 733 in the serial number, Mike outside would like it."
Striking while the iron is hot, I shoot straight back to where the PFY is, helping his beancounter make some internet banking transactions to secure his eBay purchases.
"Christmas bonus?" the PFY asks.
"None this year, the bastards," I lie. "Apparently they have to buy a new cheque safe..."
"Ah," the PFY says guiltily.
"Still, not to worry. In any case, I thought I'd toddle off, last minute presents to buy and all that..."
"Okay, have a good one," the PFY says.
So now I have to leave the building and calculate the chances of the PFY running into the Boss. Well, the PFY running into the Boss before I get out of the building... hen feed that into equation about how long it takes to get down three flights of stairs versus three flights in the superfast lifts... Hmmm…
Somewhere between 1 and Ground the lift stops and the lights go out..
"Dark in there isn't it?" the PFY's clipped voice comes through the lift speaker. "Do you want to play a game?"