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BOFH: On Wednesdays, we wear gloves
In which Simon meets the new accountant
"Hi there – it's Gary isn't it?" I ask, stepping into the lift. "One of our new breed of beancounters?"
"Who wants to know?" Gary asks, oozing the sort of bravado you only see in action movies – or youth.
"I'm Simon. I just thought I'd catch a few words with you and hopefully clear up a misunderstanding."
The viscosity of Gary's bravado takes a bit of a nose dive as the lift eases to a halt between floors. I nod at the camera on the roof so that Gary can witness the LED turning off.
"What misunderstanding?" Gary asks.
"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. Last week, my assistant Stephen was in the cafeteria and he thought he overheard a snippet of conversation between you and your boss where you referred to us both as, uh, 'Dusty old relics' – I think that was the term he used. I assured him that he must have been mistaken."
"I … uh …"
"Yes, he must have misheard. I mean his hearing's not what it once was – but that's from years of working in close proximity to drum printers in a time where hearing protection was reserved for artillery – and even then it was optional."
"Uh …" Gary repeats, unsure of where I'm going with this.
"And I'm several years older than him, so my hearing's probably worse. When I started working in IT, I had a three-month job of reading in old punch cards in a very small room with no ventilation. The same room they stored the isopropyl alcohol in – in rusty tin containers."
"It was a very warm room and I had to work inside with the door closed – because of the noise."
"I think …"
"But I know that for you words like 'drum printers' and 'punch card readers' may as well be 'horseless carriages' and 'cement ponds', but they were state-of-the art IT at one time," I say.
"I'm sure …"
"And so I can see how easy it might be to look down upon us folk without a YouTube channel pushing the virtues of the latest gaming keyboard – yes, I have visited your channel, Gary – but you know what they say: 'Watch out for the old guys because they know where the bodies were buried'."
"Aaaaah …" Gary mouths uncertainly.
"But to tell you the truth, Gary, I have no idea where the bodies are buried."
Gary relaxes slightly, no doubt recharging his bravado glands.
"No idea at all," I say, shaking my head, taking a small step forward and lowering my voice. "I mean … it's so dark out there, and one forestry road looks much like another. I mean I'll honestly try to help the cold case people when they come knocking, but my memory isn't what it once was and I get confused. Because of the isopropyl. And the noise. The endless noise. Do you know sometimes I wake up at night and I can still hear the drum printers screaming? At least I think it's the drum printers."
"Uh …" Gary mumbles, no doubt wondering what response works best with insane people.
"Though if they ever get a sniffer dog with a nose for carpet …" I pause. "Anyway, I thought I'd just have a quiet word as when it comes to workplace disagreements I like to meet people halfway. Typically, halfway between their tube station and their home. At night. With a van."
"I don't think I know what you're …" Gary starts.
"Anyway I'm sure it's a misunderstanding. Like at your place."
- BOFH: What a beautiful classic car. Shame if anything were to happen to it
- BOFH: So you want to have your computer switched out for something faster? It's time to learn from the master
- BOFH: You. Wouldn't. Put. A. Test. Machine. Into. Production. Without. Telling. Us.
- BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon
"Yeah, your basement flat in Balham. The one barely 50 metres from that storage shed where all those bags of potassium nitrate are hidden."
"That's not my shed!"
"Sure it is! There's a key to it hidden behind one of the pictures in your kitchen. You bought the fertiliser on your credit card on Tuesday. You even signed for the delivery yesterday. Your fingerprints are on the delivery receipt – AND the tape holding that key to the back of your picture."
"Trust me, they ARE on the receipt," I say. "And the tape. And a word to the wise: Suppliers are obliged to alert the authorities to large purchases of fertiliser."
"Anyway, I am a dusty old relic. When I was young the future was shown to us in fanciful 'documentaries' like Beyond 2000.
"We were all going to have three-course meals in pill form and be driving flying cars. Some of us would be living on the Moon in bubble houses powered by cosmic rays, with robot dogs to fetch the electronic newspapers – which would be delivered from Earth in daily mail spaceships."
"Have you heard of chaos theory, Gary?" I ask, rhetorically. "One of the learnings from chaos theory is that the further out you go, the more chaos there is, which makes the future so hard to predict."
"I don't see ho—"
"So whilst I can't tell you what the world will be like in 50 years, I can tell you what your world will be like tomorrow: Pretty bleak. Anyway, perhaps you want to pop home and try and sort this out."
"Unless?" Gary asks, desperately.
"You're a small fish, Gary, one we'd normally throw back – and we're after the marlin that's interested in auditing historical expense claims."
"So how about you pop up to your Boss's office and hand him these sheets of paper and say you think he dropped them. Let him rifle through them for a bit – especially the courier delivery form in the middle. Then happen to notice the key taped to the back of his desk phone and say it's yours and the cleaners must have taped it to his phone instead of yours."
"Wear gloves," the PFY says through the lift speaker. "Because of your 'psoriasis'."
"Chop, chop!" I say, as the lift resumes its journey up to Beancounter Central. "You've got a personal tragedy to avert." ®