BOFH: Key performance undertakers

Christmas spirits and goodwill to all mains

Episode 17

The PFY and I happened to stay out a little late at a Christmas do and unfortunately ended up in the company of some industry commentators - never a good move. Given that the PFY and myself know the perils of drinking with reporters - people who drink for a living and for whom seven pints of overproof cider counts both as an aperitif and a legitimate work expense - there’s no explanation for our foolhardiness.

There’s a traffic cone and a bicycle wheel on the PFY’s chair. My desk is laden with the remains of a couple of cellphones, a traffic warden’s ticketing machine and a half eaten tin of chilli beans which looks to have been opened with a claw hammer.

I remember nothing.

“Mnhhaaaa,” the PFY mumbles at me quietly as he enters mission control and wanders over to his desk.

“Myaa,” I reply tiredly, pushing a steaming pint mug of espresso towards him.

“What happened last night?” I ask the PFY once he’s settled.

“Well, you remember when we left the Blue Posts?”


“Do you remember going to the Blue Posts?”


“What about before that, the White Hart?”

“Nothing. How the hell did we get there?”

“The reporters took us because there was live music.”

“I don’t remember live music.”

“It was a bloke on a piano accordion.”

”The cruel bastards!” I sniff. “How bad was it?”

“As far as piano accordion solos went, it ended quite well.”

“How does a piano accordion solo end well?”

“With a gunshot.”

“Ah right... I seem to vaguely remember a game of golf?”

“The game of pool, you mean.”

*Ping!* "Ah yes, I do recall thinking the green was rather elevated.”

Our recollections are interrupted by the arrival of a beancounter at Mission Control with his keyboard.

“I need a new keyboard.”

“Sure,” the PFY says. “In that box over there, help yourself.”

“There’s none in there,” he says, moments later.

“Don’t be ridiculous, there’s dozens in there!”

“Yes, but none like this,” he says, indicating the ‘natural’ keyboard - you know, like the ones you find in nature.

“Yeah, we don’t have those” I sigh.

”But I need one. Without them my arms get really achy.”

“I’ve used the UNnatural keyboards for years and it’s not affected my arms,” I say.

“But it affects me,” he whines.

“Tell you what, ask your Boss to sort you out one. We can’t order them as they cost more than the standardised average value of a keyboard. One of your new beancounter policies I believe.”

“My computer chair’s not working properly either,” he adds, changing tack slightly.

“That’s an office supply. You’ll need to get that from your boss as well.”

"But my back problem’s caused by the computer. Human beings weren't made to sit in front of computers all day!" he sniffs.

"Nor were they made to slouch on a sofa eating chips and watching TV all day, but I bet you managed to crack that in the weekends without problems," the PFY says.

"I can't believe you're saying that! This could end up being a workplace injury!"

"No that’s a workplace annoyance,” the PFY replies. “A workplace injury is when you fall down a slippery and poorly lit staircase.”

“... Later this afternoon," I add. “In any case, all this H&S workplace comfort stuff is really about being a Spaz, and there's no compensation for that."

"Spaz, are we even allowed to say that?" the PFY asks. "It sounds a bit non-pc."

"Course we are," I respond. "It's just an acronym for Special Problem Affirmative and something beginning with Z that I’ll have thought of by the time it reaches grievance proceedings. In any case, we don't spend money on SPAZs. If we did, the Beancounters would’ve used all that cash up years ago."

“So you’re not going to do anything about my keyboard or my chair?”

“I’d love to, but we really wouldn’t like to overrule the company’s new purchasing policies. By the book, us, all the way,“ the PFY answers.

“Besides,” I say, pointing to the tangled rubbish on my desk, “I’ve got to get this firewall fixed.”

“That’s not a firewall, that’s some mobile phones and... a... ticketing machine?”

“No it’s a firewall,” the PFY says.

“I can see the City of Westminster logo on the side of it! And hang on - isn’t that the CEO’s new sat phone?!!”

*Ping!* Uh-oh. Vague memories of a crowbar incident on the 6th floor trickle through to my brain.

“I KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO!” the PFY says “I could fix your existing keyboard!”

“Fix it?” the Beancounter says dubiously, thinking of past occasions when the PFY and I have transposed the M and N keys on all the Beancounters’ keyboards for a laugh.

“Yes! Obviously we’d take the opportunity to add some functionality: ipod charger cable, wireless KVM capabilities. Tell you what - leave that one with us and we’ll prototype the new version for you when we finish fixing this FIREWALL. *Wink.*”

“I... OK.”

[30 minutes later]

“Okay, what does it do?” I ask the PFY, when his soldering iron is back in its holster.

“It’s a keyboard,” he replies. “The fault was a little circuit board corrosion, which was quickly fixed with a bit of fuse wire.”

“And all the tinfoil?”

“It’s Christmas - it’s decorative!!!” he cries

“Oh,” I sigh.

“AND it’s conductive!” he adds, cheering me up a little.

“So it’s connected to Phase??!!!!” I blurt, noticing the additional cable.

“No, to Earth,” he replies. “Otherwise it’d be dangerous.”

“Oh,” I sigh

“The tinfoil on the BOTTOM of the keyboard’s connected to the mains - because that’s REALLY dangerous,” the PFY adds.

“I don’t get how it works?”

“When they see the extra cable they’re going to get me to bash in a couple of letters to see if it’s safe - which it is, given the rubber feet. However - they moment they go to move it to a better, more ergonomic position...”


“More like KZEERTTTAAAAAAAAAAA, I’d think.”

. . .

The boredom of the next hour is punctuated only by the arrival and departure of an ambulance as, with a small *scratchy scratchy* sound, another line of the PFY’s long list of retribution is crossed off. Tired, and still a little hung-over I settle back into the office chair - liberally Christmassed up by the PFY with the leftovers from the keyboard. The quality of the job leaves a lot to be desired, as I note that the wheel of the chair is tangled up in a...


*Scratchy scratchy.*


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