Episode 8 Well, that whole return-to-work thing has turned to custard.
A YEAR ago, half the staff would have claimed that their workplace presence was the only thing keeping the company afloat – and that was why they needed a very expensive laptop. Pointing out the waste of a portable device for someone who HAS to be in the office didn't seem to make much difference...
A MONTH ago, when faced with the prospect of returning to work, those same staff were of the opinion that their presence was not completely necessary and in hindsight they would probably be just as productive using their child's five-year-old Chromebook and postal mail.
TODAY, we're back to supercritical presence again – but only from home.
There's a flurry of activity as people loot the office for stuff they can build a technical blanket-fort with – and that's on top of all the stuff that didn't make it back from the first lockdown.
"I need a proper chair for home," a user bleats at me.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand."
BOFH: Rome, I have been thy soldier 40 years... give me a staff of honour for mine ageREAD MORE
"A chair. I need a chair that I can work from at home, like the one at the office, which I was using from home, but I've now brought back in. I need one for home now," he whines.
"Why don't you use the one you brought back in?"
"One of the wheels is broken."
"Right. Though the bit I don't understand is why you're telling me?"
"Because it's a computer chair, and you have to authorise it."
"(a) It's an office chair, not a computer chair; (b) even if it were – by some stretch of the imagination – a computer chair, it's still furniture which your manager would approve. There's probably another reason too."
"If there's another reason I'd like to hear it," he simpers.
"I think once you've leapt the hurdles of '(a) not a computer chair' and '(b) not my problem' we'll be ready to fully address that third reason. By that stage option (c) might involve what will later be described in the media as 'a frenzied attack'."
I take a hammer out of my drawer and place it gently on the table.
It's only a short time later that the Boss comes in.
"What was that about?" he asks, pointing at the door.
"Sorry" I say, "I just need you to put a mask on."
"What?!" he snaps.
"A mask. You need a mask to enter this room. I'm immune compromised. My liver might be shot from years of... uh... exercise."
"I'm only asking what went on with that guy that just left."
"I'm sorry but if you're not going to follow the correct procedure I'll have to socially distance you."
"You mean socially distance yourself," he corrects me.
"If you like," I say, pulling out the broom handle I'd taped a cattle prod to early this morning.
The Boss steps back warily.
"He says you threatened him," the Boss says, again gesturing towards the door where a nervous shadow can be seen lurking behind the one way glass.
"That wasn't a threat," I say. "A threat's more like 'IS THAT YOUR LATE MODEL WHITE BMW 3 SERIES ON FIRE OUTSIDE?'"
The shadow behind the door disappears rapidly, while the Boss pulls a disposable mask from the box on a chair by the door.
"Anyway, so you said he couldn't have a chair?"
"I said I wasn't going to pay for a computer chair – because it's not a computer chair, it's a chair. To be a computer chair it would need to have a computer in it."
"And I'd totally have one of them if we were ordering them," the PFY says coming in and looking at the Boss strangely.
"What?" the Boss says.
"I was just wondering why you're wearing a second-hand mask."
"It's not second-hand, it's from that box by the door."
"Oh, the box with 'contaminated – for secure disposal' written in very, very small letters on the top?" I ask. "They're used masks."
"Who used them?!" the Boss gasps.
"No idea, I picked them up off the street on the way to work. But don't worry, I was wearing gloves at the time."
The Boss dashes off to organise a disinfectant IV on a tanning bed while the PFY fills me in on his office survey. It looks like around 20 per cent of people's office kit has disappeared to home offices and I'd guess – based on the last lockdown stats – that only half of it will ever be returned.
Being strategic thinkers we immediately move all the crappiest gear and furniture from our office into the most empty offices in the building then take a snapshot of mission control and fire off an email to the department director saying we've been ransacked – and that we're going to need the kit replaced immediately just to keep the company afloat.
The director is on a Zoom call to us within 20 minutes, examining the background of our image intently.
"Who the hell would do that?" he asks, surveying the emptiness of mission control.
"I don't know," the PFY says, "but it's likely they took our gear because it was high-grade stuff."
"They even took our computer chairs," I say.
"You mean office chairs," the Director says.
"No, they were computer chairs. They had computers in them. Special computers. Which is probably why they were taken."
"I see. Well, I suppose we'll just have to submit it as a COVID-19 expense."
"I guess so," I sigh, shaking my head in fake sadness.
"Did... someone take your bookshelf?" he asks.
"Apparently," I say, shaking my head again.
"Why would anyone take a bloody bookshelf?" he asks.
"Well, it was a COMPUTER bookshelf," I say. ®