"HE PUNCHED HIM IN THE FACE!" the Director shouts, gesturing both wildly and furiously at the absent PFY's desk.
"Well yes," I say calmly, "but let's be reasonable about this - he WAS asking for it."
"HE WASN'T BLOODY ASKING FOR IT!" the Director shouts again - in serious danger of bursting one or two major cranium-based blood vessels if I'm not mistaken.
"He was," I said. "He was saying inappropriate things."
"What was he saying?"
"He said that we we’d all be using MacBooks in five years."
"I… W… THERE WERE CHILDREN PRESENT!"
"Which is why the PFY felt he had to act - impressionable minds and all that. He has a very strong sense of civic duty."
"I DON'T CARE WHAT SORT OF SENSE YOU HAVE, YOU CAN'T PUNCH SANTA IN THE FACE AT A CHRISTMAS FAMILY DAY AND EXPECT TO GET AWAY WITH IT!"
"He was alright," I say, still speaking in soothing tones. "It was just a couple of cuts and bruises."
"AND A BLOODY NOSE!"
“Yes, well, all water under the bridge now – or rather blood on the carpet. Was that what you came to see us about then?”
"Yes. But I'm not done! HR have asked me to make sure he gets this, which is a letter outlining the serious misconduct event – that this incident is being treated as..." the Director says, handing over an envelope.
"It outlines that he'll be expected to attend a meeting at 11am tomorrow to discuss this issue and that he's entitled to have an employment relations adviser and/or a family member present. I assume that you'll be attending as the employment relations adviser?"
"So you won't be attending?"
"Yes, I'll be attending – but as the family member."
"You're not family!"
"I think you'll find that I am!"
The Director storms out while I have a quick look on the web about adoption procedures.
. . . The next day . . .
"Where's Stephen?" the Director asks, banging into Mission Control at 11:15.
"Oh, he's got the day off."
"He was supposed to be at the meeting! It was in the letter!"
"Oh, I put that in the bin," I say.
"YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO MAKE SURE HE GOT IT."
"I'm pretty sure you said YOU were supposed to make sure he got it. You want to be careful about that sort of thing because non-performance issues like that can really get HR's back up!"
He storms back in half an hour later with ANOTHER LETTER.
"RIGHT, I AM DIRECTING YOU TO ENSURE THAT YOUR ASSISTANT GETS THIS LETTER TOMORROW."
"Oh, okay. You probably should have told me that in the first place. It would've saved us all a bit of time."
That blood vessel thing is really not looking too good at all...
The next day the PFY and I are seated in a meeting room with the Director and a couple of heavyweights (in more ways that one) from the HR department.
"Shall we get started?" the head HR truffle-womble asks.
"In a moment" I respond "We're just waiting for our legal counsel."
"Yes - employment relations person. In our case a solicitor."
"You have a solicitor?" the HR asks, suppressing amusement.
"Yes, Gina Barker, Lightfoot, Barker and Ellice," Gina says, popping through the door and extending her hand, withdrawing it just as the truffle wombles reciprocate.
"You're a lawyer?" the Director asks.
"Yes - women are lawyers sometimes. I do hope that veiled sexism isn't par for the course in this company."
"No, it's just that you were a consultant, and..." the Director blusters.
"...and you didn't know women could do more than one job?" Gina asks.
It's so nice to see someone else on the other end of this for a change...
"I think we may have got off on the wrong foot," TW1 says, trying to calm the stormy waters. "As I understand it, you performed some consultancy work for the company and the IT Director was under the impression that you were an IT specialist, not a lawyer."
"I can be both you know," Gina explains "It's no.."
"Yes, yes, I know - I didn't mean to imply that it wasn't possible, just unusual," TW1 interrupts.
"So," Gina continues, "if we could get to the matter at hand, I believe you have some sort of contrived misconduct issue where my client was trying to protect children from harm."
"Ah, I don't think he was trying to protect anyone," the Director blurts
"As I understand it from my client there were some offensive statements made repeatedly at which point my client felt oblig..."
"HE PUNCHED SANTA IN THE FACE!" TW1 snaps.
"If I might continue. As I understand it he felt a duty of care to protect the children fr..."
"He wasn't protecting anyone," TW1 interjects.
"...PROTECT the children from something which might traumatise them in the futu..."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous," TW1 blurts.
. . .
"SHE PUNCHED HIM IN THE FACE!" the Director shouts, gesturing both wildly and furiously at Gina, once the ambulance has left.
"Well yes," I say calmly. "But let's be reasonable about this – he WAS asking for it."