BOFH: 7 jars of Marmite, a laptop and a good time

Or 'How PFY and I do Access Control'

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 2 "I just need to pop in and get some important documents," the Boss pleads.

"Welllllll…," I say. "No can do - no one's to enter the building until the Board has revised its policy about staff crucial to the Company's ongoing enterprise."

"I am crucial," he says.

"It doesn't say that on the list," I reply.

"LOOK, I don't care what the list says, just activate my card."

"I'd like to help you – but you're not on the list."

"Who IS on the list?" he snaps.

"Uhhhhmmm, Let's see. The board, all the security staff, a couple of the younger cleaners, the PFY, some external contractors, the milk delivery people, that bloke that cleans the windows and uh...... me!"

View from office roof garden

BOFH: Will the last one out switch off the printer?


"I should be on that list too. I'm your manager," the Boss shoots back.

"That's not what the list says," I say, "but I suppose you could do an ISR test to prove you're OK and maybe security would let you in."

"A ISR test? What's an ISR test?"

"Infrared, Saliva, Resistance."


"Infrared to check for antibodies in the blood; saliva for virus presence; and finally Resistance to the coronavirus itself."

"OK, where do I go for that?"

"You don't need to go anywhere; you can do it from your home."


"The infrared one we do with your mouse - just browse to the company website and click on the logo 14 times in a row and it'll send you to the testing website. You'll need headphones."

"I've got headphones – that's how I'm skyping you! OK. >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap<. Right, so on the screen there's a spiral that's slowly turning.... counter-clockwise," the Boss says.

"Yep. That's the one. Now you want to turn your mouse upside down and with your thumb over the LED try and move the mouse pointer around the spiral to the centre and then back out from the centre to the edge while keeping inside the lines of the spiral. I think you have to do it 10 or 20 times, but you'll get verbal instructions through your headphones once you click on the start icon."

"Why am I doing this?"

"The infrared LED in the mouse is tracking the blood flow in your finger in the same way an oximeter does, and the spiral movement makes sure the infrared gets a holistic measurement of the blood supply in your thumb."

"I see. And how long do I do it for?"

"10 or 20 times – I can't remember – but the instructions will tell you. You'll need to end this call though. "

"OK! >click<," the Boss says.

I wait patiently and about 15 minutes while the Boss is no doubt listening to the "instructions" that are telling him how sleepy he is and how restful the spiral is and that he's feeling totally relaxed…

Shortly after the 15 minutes are up, the Boss is on our daily departmental videoconference call. There's a bit of silence as people wait for him to start the meeting - or maybe they're just wondering why he's completely naked and smeared in Marmite.

The call ends abruptly when the Boss's laptop is shut abruptly when he's only halfway through a rousing rendition of "I’m a little teapot."

Half an hour later the Boss is back on the videoconference to the department feeling a little sheepish. He makes some fairly transparent excuse about having a bad reaction to the vaccine and then proceeds to run through the daily task lists.

"… and Simon – how's my access to the building going?" he asks, having no recollection of our earlier conversation – as instructed. "Unfortunately you're not on the list of people crucial to the operation of the company."

"Not bloody crucial! I'm a key member of the IT team!"

"Yes, but we're using other heavy objects to stop papers blowing away during the lockdown."

"And apparently the couches out by reception don't need warming for two hours at a time," the PFY adds.

"What," the Boss snaps, "are you implying…"

"No, no!" I say. "Nothing d I s I n g e n u o u s here."

At the word "disingenuous" the tone of the call takes a bit a dive and most people have ended the call long before the Boss reaches for the Marmite jar again.

Once more someone in the background ends the call and it's just me, the PFY and the IT Director left in the meeting.

"What the hell was that about?" the Director asks.

"He's been under a lot of pressure," I say. "Maybe he's gone a bit stir crazy, or perhaps he's been abusing his prescription?"

"Anyway," the Director says. "I would like to get into the building just to collect a few personal items."

"No can do," I say. "The board has mandated that no one gets access to the building unless they're on the list."

"Well it so happens I'm having a videoconference with the board in about half an hour so maybe I'll bring it up with them directly," he shoots back.

"That's a great plan, but you know what might swing it in your favour – having a clean bill of health from an ISR test."

"An ISR test? What's an ISR test?"

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