Episode 4 I’m on high alert in Mission Control. It’s 11:30am, I’ve not seen the PFY all morning and there’s a cold, half eaten chicken kebab sitting on the PFY’s keyboard.
There’s a faint beeping noise from his desktop machine as the password field of his login is overflowing with H characters, courtesy of the kebab.
I whip over to his desk to confirm my suspicions – the kebab is very, very cold. Sometime in the past two hours the PFY has come and gone from this office while I was away attending to an urgent problem – or as some people call it, having a couple of coffees and doing the crossword in the café across the road.
The presence of a kebab is worrying enough in and of itself as an indicator of a drunk person on site, but a glacially cold kebab with solidified fat can only mean one thing – bender. A bender where you spend the last hour or two wandering round deserted streets with half of the kebab you bought three hours ago, that you’re saving for later.
This is bad.
The Boss strolls in with a slight measure of triumph on his face, braced by an HR droid, Security and someone in an impeccably cut suit sporting a sharp tie and a razor thin plain face wristwatch. Legal.
Oh, this is bad.
“Is Stephen in?” he asks, feigning innocence.
“Stephen, no, he’s on holiday today,” I respond quickly – pointing to the PFY’s empty wheelie chair.
“I don’t think he is.”
“Sure he is; I remember seeing him filling in the leave form yesterday.”
“No, I didn’t get any leave form.”
“Are you sure?” I ask.
“Perhaps you should check your Inbox again?” I suggest.
So the Boss is stuffed. He KNOWS that in the time it takes him to get back to his office and wait for his desktop to boot (after some mysterious reset) I will have faked a leave form, backdated it in the database and then updated the reason field on the PFY’s leave request with something like “Attending a church presentation on the dangers of VIAGRA” which will trip the Boss’ junk mail filter giving a perfectly sound reason why the PFY’s leave request wasn’t seen.
I think I even have a script for that.
As a matter of fact, while the Boss is deciding what to do I fire up the script and type in the reason text.
“We would like to have a serious misconduct meeting tomorrow morning at 9am. SHARP,” the Boss snaps angrily.
“A support person is permitted to attend,” The HR guy says to me. “I assume that would be you?”
“As a member of the brotherhood of practising IT professionals it would be remiss of me not to. So I hope someone’s going to fill me in on what supposed misconduct has occurred?”
“I’ll send you an email documenting the last few hours,” the Legal bloke says, nodding to the Boss, Security and the HR guy as he leaves, followed shortly thereafter by everyone else except Security, who has been instructed to wait for the PFY and escort him from the property.
“Ah well, I’ll just have to finish soldering the transistors onto the flux capacitor,” I tell Security as I wander off into the server room, before starting a building-wide search for the PFY.
I know he’s still in the building because he’d never abandon a kebab whilst under the influence. After checking all the toilets, the lunchroom, stores and any other location that would possibly appeal to a sleepy drunk, I am at a loose end.
It’s just chance that I happen to see him approaching the building from the very café I was in earlier, no doubt having several double espressos. I intercept him and EVENTUALLY convince him that home is a far better location than work…
…The next day, 9am…
“Morning Gents!” I snap, striding into the meeting room, full of the joy of life. “Shall we get started?
I’ve read the list of issues which you believe indicate misconduct and feel sure that it’s all a misunderstanding which we can clear up in no time.”
“We can’t start the meeting until Stephen is here,” the Boss says coldly.
“Really? No one told me that! All you said was a support person could attend. I am a support person with full authority to act on Stephen’s behalf.”
Which is completely true. The PFY, however, could probably not act on his own behalf unless the acting concerned included interaction with a sizable porcelain bowl – having not heeded my suggestion to go straight home and not stop off for elevenses. Or twelveses, oneses, twoses, etc.
Withdrawal is probably the stage he’s in just at the moment.
“Very well, if you have permission to act on his behalf, we would like to address what happened yesterday morning,” Legal says. “I’ll be auditing this meeting.”
“Fine by me - and I’ve read the emailed list. Perhaps we can address these issues one at a time?”
“He arrived at work drunk,” HR says. “He arrived – but not to work. AND we have no policy indicating the required sobriety of people in the building.”
“We have a reasonable expectation of sobriety,” HR counters.
“Ah – has this been communicated to the members of the board? Only I did happen to notice about six weeks ago after a lengthy ‘Board Meeting’ two of them poured out of the lift at our floor, believing they were in the basement Car Park.”
“Yes, well, moving right along,” HR says quickly.
“He then went up to your floor, urinated into the pot plant outside your manager’s office,” Legal says...
“So we’ve tested that it was urine?” I ask.
“Oh, so someone SAW him urinating in the pot plant?” I ask, knowing full well from camera footage that he was alone.
“No, but we know he stopped there for quite some time.”
“Time enough to water the plant with this?” I ask, pulling a small watering can out of my bag.
“You can’t be suggesting that he…”
“Stopped into work – on his day off, no less – to ensure his favourite Ficus was watered?” I counter.
“And watered the floor and wall while he was at it?” the Boss asks sarcastically.
“Ficus are very temperamental when it comes to overwatering – which you’d know if you spent as much time caring for them as Stephen does.”
“He was extremely offensive to your manager here,” Legal indicates.
And now we get to a bit of trickier ground.
“A simple misheard phrase.” I say. “The Boss suggested he’d had a particularly good night to which the PFY replied in the affirmative.”
“He used several more graphic words than that,” HR counters.
“Maybe the Boss just thought he did – remember that time he didn’t even know the PFY had filled out a leave form?”
“He threw a printer across the room at me.”
“Our room, if I’m not mistaken?” I ask.
“And you were standing in the doorway?”
“Beside the rubbish bin? Honestly, if the poor bloke can’t come in, water a plant and get some recycling done I have no idea what the world is coming to. If it wasn’t for has-beens like you interfering he’d have been in and out doing his good deeds.”
“Has-Beens?!” the HR bloke says.
“Oh, not you,” I gasp. “No, you’re more of a never-was than a has-been.”
Our meeting is interrupted by a quiet but feverish tapping. The Boss answers, there’s some whispering and the door closes. The Boss has turned a couple of shades redder than his usual pasty.
“I think we should probably need to stop this meeting now and afford Simon the opportunity to get some legal advice,” he seethes.
“Really?” I ask, “Why’s that?”
“I’ve just been told what happened immediately before this meeting.”
“Oh, you mean the Pot Plant. The PFY noticed that while it was OK for water it might need a little fertiliser – so I sorted that out on the way here. Paper’s biodegradable isn’t it?”
“I think we need to call security,” The Boss says.
“What, for me?” I ask. “Why? I’m on holiday!”
“You’re bloody not!” the Boss says.
And we’re back at that same place again, only the Boss’ office is much closer than my desktop.
He made a mad dash for the door before I could react (which is not that quickly after a six-pint breakfast) and leapt outside just as the PFY’s Chekhovian wheely chair whizzed by.
There’s a scream, a crash, a quick clicky-clicky and everything is back to normal.
“Oh, did I mention that Stephen was auditing this meeting as well?” I ask, pointing to my phone.
* With apologies to the late, great Mad Magazine artist Don Martin – the master of the written sound effect.