Not much surprises me about middle management any more, least of all their inability to prioritise.
I mean the core router could have crapped itself, the HR & Financials databases might be offline a day before pay day and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse could be in the freight elevator pressing "2" yet some "compliance coordinator" from Beancounter central will still want you to stop everything and tell him how to get his background image in the correct aspect ratio so that his wife doesn't look like an extra from Lord of the Rings. (Pointing out that technology can only do so much doesn't help the situation.)
And so it is that the PFY is helping the Boss with his videoconference call – which of course isn't working because the firewall has dropped a smoking fat one.
Admittedly the firewall outage is completely my fault. I foolishly assumed that the latest bugfix firmware from a leading network manufacturer was actually a bugfix and not a bug install – and that the management software which was released with it was actually compatible with the firmware. My mistake!
As it happens the Boss's problem ended up being nothing to do with the firewall outage after all, but a fault with his machine. To the casual observer it might have seemed that he'd simply forgotten to plug his cheapie USB camera into the USB socket, but the PFY assured me that there was definitely a fault with the machine. A fault so bad that it actually damaged the Boss's screen. And his wheelie chair. And stole the cash from his wallet – which was left carelessly on the desk just asking for a hardware error.
Ten minutes of feverish activity on the router serial console later (because if you're going to release some buggy firmware that disables the management software, you may as well go the whole way and stuff the SSH server as well), I'm back in Mission Control in time to catch the Boss attempting to swap his monitor with one of ours.
"Security bolts," I say, pointing to the large hunks of steel drilled through the monitor's plinth.
"But you've got three screens!" the Boss sniffs.
"Because we need three screens," I counter.
"Three screens minimum," the PFY adds, putting the spadework in for when we ask for four in a couple of months' time.
"Why would you possibly need three?" he whines.
"We have one each for network and server monitoring," I say, pointing at the multi-coloured icons on the monitoring screen, "and two for general work."
"Surely you could work with two screens – they're big enough!"
Even I have to admit the Boss has a point. We do have three of the largest, most expensive panels on the market. If they'd been CRT screens I'd probably be suffering from radiation poisoning by now. But they're not – and I'm not, so it's win-win.
"He's not happy," I murmur to the PFY as the Boss leaves. "He'll be annoyed by the time he gets back ..."
"As annoyed as a Beancounter who has had his background picture changed to a still from Planet of the Apes?" the PFY asks.
"Yes, but not quite as annoyed as those Beancounters were when someone pepper-sprayed a sack of rats and tossed them into their Friday afternoon drinkies."
"Oh?" the PFY says. "When was that?"
"I ... You mean Friday ..."
"What, and lose the element of surprise?"
... One squeaky girly-screamfest afternoon tea later ...
"Oooh, now they're really angry!" the PFY coos happily, looking up from his screen as I rock back into Mission control and toss an empty can of pepperspray in the bin.
"Alright who did it?" the Boss snaps a few minutes later.
"Did what now?" the PFY asks casually.
"Threw some rats into the Financials office!"
"Rats? Financials Office?" I ask. "We've been trying to source you a new desktop monitor."
"With an inbuilt camera," the PFY adds.
Quicker than you can say "Look at the Shiney Shiney," the Boss has reprioritised the situation and is helping us look through an online catalogue of PC monitors.
"Shouldn't we be investigating this Beancounter thing?" I ask.
"No, no, I'm sure it'll sort itself out," the Boss counters without looking away from the PFY's screen. "Go back to that page with the one with stereo speakers."
"Isn't that the fire alarm?" the PFY asks, testing the theory a little further.
"No I'm sure it's not. Scroll down a bit."
"Oooh look. Free chips at the pub with every pint ordered."
"Well perhaps we could look at this on Monday," the Boss says, mincing to the door at 1.2 speed.
So it's sorted then. Chips, then new monitor, then possibly death by fire, then angry potentially plague-infested zombie Beancounters.
It's good to know where the priorities lie. ®