BOFH: You'll find there's a company asset tag right here, underneath the monstrously heavy arcade machine

Flame purifies all

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 17 It's barely 9am and we're all standing outside while the fire brigade inspects the premises for the source of the fire.

A fire that in all likelihood never happened.

"What was it?" the Boss asks, no doubt fearing a discovery of the charred remains of a Beancounter in a closet somewhere on the third or fourth floor.

"No idea," I say, "but the fire was on our floor apparently."

"It'll be a toaster," the PFY opines.

"More likely a sandwich press," I counter.

"What are you talking about?" the Boss asks.

"What caused the fire. It'll be a toaster or a sandwich press …" the PFY replies.

"OR," I interrupt, "maybe there's a new sort of toasty cooker which only makes organic, vegan, gluten-free bread rolls."

"For CrossFit people," the PFY adds, finishing the virtue-signalling quadfecta.

"I'm not with you," the Boss says. "Surely it's a piece of equipment that caught fire?"

"Nah, that doesn't happen much anymore," I say. "Back in the day you'd see smoke from a paper jam in the fuser unit of a laser printer or maybe some carpet burns from a power cable mashed too many times by a wheelie chair, but kit's fairly robust now. If it's going to catch fire it usually does it early in the morning when it's first turned on or later in the afternoon when it's been running too long – but not mid-morning.

"This is the time of day when those people who like to run to work are having their post-shower grilled bagel with nut butter and ethically produced free-range honey."

"Followed by a stove-top espresso cooked on a camp sto— It's the camp stove!" the PFY exclaims.

In the end we were both wrong, but at least we got the genre correct. A "YouTube Content Creator" from the coloured pencil office was giving his workmates a practical demonstration on how to roast coffee beans in a popcorn maker – a process which gives off roughly the same amount of smoke as a dumpster fire.

And the rest is history.

The Boss isn't pleased because he was in the middle of some conference call and lacked the technical wherewithal to find the link and continue the call on his mobile.

An edict comes from above about unapproved electrical appliances in the building, which is never going to go down well. About one in five desks has a pod coffee maker of some description which the owner treasures more than any family member, and the number of illicit heaters in winter is truly astounding.

In situations like this there's always one steaming turd in the office who's ready and willing to float to the top of the cess pond and volunteer for the position of Appliance-Finder General – given the breathtaking amount of power to search and seize that the role has to offer. In our case it's Steve, a bloke from the coloured pencil office with a solid reputation for work avoidance.

It doesn't take him long to ooze over to Mission Control – no doubt sensing some low-hanging fruit in an office crammed with electrical gear.

"So none of this is personal stuff?" he asks.

"Nope, all company equipment," I respond, hand on heart.

"So that expresso machine?"

"The ESPRESSO machine is company property," I nod.

"So why's it here and not out in the main office?" he asks.

"It's the long hours we work," the PFY lies. "When you're pulling an all-nighter to recover some hysteresis data from the redundant database shadow journal you're not going to want to pause the backwriting of the log buffers just so you can pop down to Soho for a ristretto."

"I … see. But what about that huge home theatre system," he points.

"That's a huge system monitoring interface."

"It's got a … 1500-watt amplifier!" Steve counters.

"So we can hear system alerts without them being drowned out by office noise."

"There's two electric armchairs and a small fridge in front of it!"

"We need to sit somewhere when we're monitoring the systems!" I blurt. "We can't be standing all day!"

"What about THAT?" he asks. "Is that a company appliance?"

He's gesturing at the Defender arcade machine that the PFY bought several years ago, played twice then lost interest after it turned itself off in the middle of a game.

"Yes," the PFY lies. "It's from the cafeteria. It … uh … broke down a few years back and I … offered to fix it. I'm waiting on parts, but you know, with COVID and supply chains and everything …"

"I don't think it is a company appliance. In fact, I don't think anything I've asked about is a company appliance – and I'm willing to bet that if I asked the Finance department about it they'd say none of this stuff is even on the asset register!"

"And that's where you're wrong," the PFY says triumphantly, standing up and pointing to the bottom corner of the arcade machine. "Behold, a genuine company asset tag."

"Where?" Steve asks, stooping to inspect the aforementioned tag.

"Right at the bottom," the PFY points again.

"I can't see …"



"Hey, look at that!" the PFY says, as the machine turns on. "It must have just been the thermal cut-out!"

"Speaking of thermal," I say, "can you smell smoke?"

"As it happens," the PFY says, watching a wisp of grey curl its way from Steve's location under the machine.

"Right – best slap an asset tag on it before the alarms go off then. I'm sure we'll lose the records of it in the fire, though …" ®

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