BOFH and the case of the disappearing teaspoons

The Dark Side … of the Spoon

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 16 There's nothing I like more than a chat with an expert. So many people have vague and uninformed opinions about things, it's good to talk to someone with experience who knows what they're talking about. I can hardly wait.

"And so, when it detects movement, it sends you a text message with the picture."

"Like that picture?" the PFY asks, looking at the proffered phone. "What is it, 720p?"

"Oh I can't remember the model number, but it's a fantastic piece of kit."

"Apparently," the PFY replies. "So what, you think we should put these up all over the building?"

"It's a thought." 

"So I'd get, what, maybe 200 text messages an hour until you located the person who's taking all the teaspoons?"

"I …"

"IF we could recognize them at a distance with such low resolution."

"Yes but …"

"IF they weren't hiding them in their pockets."

"I …"

"And IF the camera wasn't solar powered in the first place."

"Well obviously you could buy a powered one." the Boss snips.

"Or maybe install a sunlamp to power the solar-power camera. OR we could just buy some more teaspoons."

"WE ALREADY BOUGHT MORE TEASPOONS LAST YEAR AND NOW THEY'RE GONE TOO!"

"And you're thinking if we install all these cameras and watch them night and day we'll eventually catch the master criminal who's stealing a teaspoon every … what, couple of months?"

"THAT'S NOT THE POINT!"

"Have you thought about tracking the teaspoons?" I suggest.

"Tracking them?"

"Yeah. Put a GPS tracker on the spoons."

"Can you do that?" he gasps, in clear danger of wetting himself in his excitement.

"Sure. We'd need to get a teaspoon with a fairly large handle to put the tracker in, but I think we could do it."

"That sounds great."

"Oh, but hang on, we won't get any budget to do that," the PFY says.

"Just use the miscellaneous expenses budget," the Boss suggests offhandedly.

"Oh, we spent that all on getting our SSL keys recut at the locksmith and then getting our hard drives hardened," I chip in.

"I guess I could maybe swing some money from my miscellaneous budget," he offers.

"Fine, it'll only cost a couple of hundred quid – in cash – to get the trackers plus whatever it'll cost for the big-handled teaspoons …"

"Cash?"

"Yeah, well, you probably don't want a paper trail if you're buying personal trackers."

"Ah, yes. Good point."

… a week and 200 quids' worth of lagers later …

"That's amazing," the Boss gushes, rolling a teaspoon over. "You can't even see where you opened it. How did you glue it back together?"

"With thermal paste," I say. "The good stuff."

"How do I switch it on?" he asks.

"It's already on." 

"And … how does it work?"

"We installed an app on your phone which will alert you when a spoon leaves the tearoom," I say. "Plus or minus 15 meters."

"So … I could …" he says, leaving the tearoom.

Moments later I hear his phone ping distantly down the corridor.

"This is GREAT!" he enthuses, returning to the room. "But does it work outside the building?"

"Outside the building it should be even better. It'll locate the spoon to within three meters, give or take, because the signal's not impaired by the concrete in the building."

"I'm going to try this!" he says, breaking for the exit.

Half an hour later he's back.

"THIS IS AMAZING!" he cries. "It sent me a message every ten minutes with the location of the spoon. It's only a matter of time – we'll find the spoon thief!"

Or maybe not. It's only a matter of time before the Boss realizes that the find-my-spoon app is really a find-this-phone app and the game's up. And it's a bit dependant on knowing when a spoon leaves the room, which is where the PFY's tearoom camera has been so useful. Streaming the boss's camera and mic feeds back to us is also useful …

The next day the Boss is back in Mission Control.

"This isn't working," he says. "I had Steve take a spoon with him when he went to get pizzas yesterday and nothing happened."

"He can't have been using the right spoon," the PFY says, in a stroke of genius.

"The right spoon?"

"Yeah, only one of them is tracked because of the high cost of the subminiature trackers."

"Can't you track them all?"

"If you've got another thousand quid."

The Boss balks at spending more cash on tech to track spoons, and we're in the clear. Until …

… the next day …

"I sent Steve back to the pizza place last night with ALL the spoons and nothing happened!" he fumes.

"Really?" the PFY responds, looking up from his desk. "That is unusual.  But wait – you didn't put the spoon in the dishwasher did you – it's not dishwasher safe!"

"I …  Wha … OK, I think we should open all these spoons up so I can see that tracker."

"Yes, you're probably right," I say, stalling. "We need to know whether this is an intermittent problem or whether the dishwasher is doing harm – as I thought we used the dishwasher in conjunction with hot beverages to heat the thermocouple to charge the tracker."

"We did," the PFY concurs, still tapping away on his desktop, "as well as a tiny autogyro to convert the stirring movement into electricity. Maybe it's just been idle too long."

"Steve took them ALL with him when he >PING!<"

"What's that?" I ask. "Is spoon back online?"

"It … seems so," the Boss says. "And it's just outside the building."

The boss dashes off while the PFY continues to feed coordinates into the phone.

It was just a matter of time, really.   

Sooner or later if you're focused on your phone screen instead of your surroundings you're bound to forget to look both ways before crossing the street.

"There's been a terrible accident," the PFY says, closing his mapping app.

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