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BOFH: A miracle on PFY Street

Secret Santa shamescapades...

Episode 17

Christmas! Who doesn't love Christmas?? Most of the company as it happens!

It's true, many of the staff here have an element of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to Christmas - and not just because of the PFY and myself. The last day is always one full of trepidation, alcohol and a little sprinkle of emotional scarring. It's the alcohol that does it, I think.

I really should stop putting it into the non-alcoholic punch.

A typical last day starts slowly with staff slipping into work seemingly ready to crack on with whatever project they were doing the previous day - but this is all a subterfuge. By the time morning tea comes around, the place is a veritable cornucopia of excess fuelled by the alcohol that people have smuggled in to make the day pass quickly.

Seasoned veterans of the last-day-carnagefest generally have two things on their person - an Oyster Card with a bunch of credit and, as a backup plan, 4 fifty-quid notes in a zip-lock bag along with a note telling the cab driver how to deliver the incomprehensible person home. Carnage.

By the time I've rolled into work people have usually exhausted their smuggled-in booze and have started working their way through all the gift-booze that their managers have been foolish enough to not take home the day before.

The worst - and I mean the worst - is the executive PA group who, year after year, get four large bottles of tequila from an anonymous supplier.

I have asked the PFY to stop doing this several times, if only because George - our almost fossilised cleaner - is tired of the mess that it generally generates.

Still, it's Christmas, and there's a sort of familial feel to the place as all the departments settle in for their huggy-feely moments before trolling the building in search of fun and alcohol. Or vice versa.

The I.T. department's secret Santa goes off like a bomb - i.e. there are hurt people everywhere.

A couple of the presents are not tasteful at all and the "secret" nature of the Santa was undermined somewhat by the accidental emailling of the Santa-Recipient matchup list. Things couldn't have been worse if the PFY and I had actually waited for all the presents to be stashed in the grotto and then snuck in overnight and substituted them with other presents.

Which we did.

See, You take Geoff's present for Mary, carefully peel the tape off, remove the canvas mini-print of "The Lady of Shalott" and instead substitute it for something of pretty much the same dimensions - in this case a videocassette of some grainy '80s borderline legal porn. Now everyone in the office saw Geoff put that exact parcel in the grotto, so there's no point in him trying to deny it. Who knows why he did it?

Who knows why the Boss gave his PA a framed photo of himself in only a G-String? We can only put that down to a misunderstanding.

A misunderstanding like "Perhaps the Systems guys shouldn't get an on-call allowance over the break if they're not planning on being in town.

A misunderstanding like "I don't need to lock my phone or keep it on me at all times".

The key to the present swap is that you only do it to a chosen few.

Once the Secret Santa is over and the place has calmed down a bit, the serious drinking kicks off with the arrival of the P.A.s and the compulsory Golden Slammers.

The PFY and I hide for this bit as the combination of Tequila and bubbly never ends well - although it often ends rather quickly.

The Boss sneaks into Mission Control.

"Okay, shut it down!" he gasps.

"Shut what down - the server room?"

"NO! Everything else - airconditioning, music, lifts. We need to get people out of here before there's an incident!"

A distant crash would tend to indicate that that particular train has sailed.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" he gasps, afraid to show his face at the viewing pane in our door.

"Don't worry" the PFY says calmly. "Nothing major. I think they've knocked over the fridge. There may be someone under it - I'm not sure."

"And that's not major?" the Boss gasps.

"Major's when they're angry," the PFY says. "Like when you turn the aircon and lifts, etc, off and it's hot and they get annoyed because they'll have to climb two flights of stairs."

"Major's when they set things on fire," I add.

"They wouldn't do that!" The Boss says. "Anyway, I do want you to turn everything off. It'll encourage them to leave while they're still in a good mood."

"You realise that if we turn the network off everything stops communicating?" I ask. "All the desktops, the phones, the printers, the fire alarms..."

"What?" the Boss says, getting that hunted look... "Why the fire alarms?" ®

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