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BOFH: We send a user to visit Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries

He was charged on the spot

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 7 "It's just not working," our user says.

"If I unplug it, it'll ask me to re-enter the time when I plug it back in again. Every time."

"I see," I say, looking at him whilst practising my reflective listening. "So does it lose its settings when you unplug it from your machine – or from a wall adapter?"

"Both – and it's a royal pain to reset the date because you have to use the buttons on the front panel."

"Have you got the device with you?"

"No, but I can go get it," he says, wandering off into the pastel distance of the colored pencil office.

Our user is having issues with some hi-tech tablet gadget that he impulse bought online over the COVID lockdown. Apparently, he bought it because it claimed to double your workflow – which in his case is measured in biscuits per hour and waking nightmares about the evil Pantone colors.

Once he's back in the office I glance at his device – which would appear to be some sort of touchscreen-y digitise-ry HID device that'll be harder to master than a reverse Polish left-handed Dvorak keyboard with the key labels removed. Apparently, our man unearthed it behind his sofa after six months of it being left ON under a pile of books he'd not got round to reading …

If he were the only one …

I still have a pile of reading material that I'll only get around to reading if I'm fortunate enough to have a hideous accident that leaves me with such limited movement that I'll only be able to pee out of – and turn pages with – a straw. Not the same straw obviously. 

Hopefully. I must make sure the PFY isn't on my health notification list.

And I too have a pile of oddball devices, bought with the intention of cobbling them together to make something truly spectacular – or at least more spectacular than a tangled pile of single board computers and peripherals …

"Here it is," our user chimes, handing his device over.

I give the unit a thrice-over to ascertain that it has the build quality and aesthetic appeal of a third world bog roll holder, in the sort of brutal third world where two-ply bog paper has to be nailed to something heavy and immovable.

"Apparently it's going to be the next big thing in computing," the user burbles, focussing his attention on the PFY, presumably planning to on-sell the device to someone unsuspecting. "It simulates mouse, keyboard and screen and can be programmed to respond to events. Maybe you should get one?"

"I think I'd rather have laparoscopic dentistry," the PFY says.

"Okay, I see your problem," I announce, after pulling a CR2032 from the base of the unit and slapping it into a tester. "The backup battery is flat."

I neglect to mention the very conspicuous bulge in the plastic case, under which there's likely a monster LiPo battery, and slip the unit onto our multi-voltage high-current USB charge port.

"You could probably get one from Kelvin."

An icy chill fills the room.

Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries – is not pleasant to deal with.

Over a number of years Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries – has amassed sufficient administrative advantage to make him someone with whom you don't want a run-in. His fiefdom includes the non-contiguous categories of Batteries, Furniture replacement & removals, Office Stationery, Stamps, Prepaid courier labels and Lunchroom supplies – to name but a few. Small stuff, but challenging when backed by a purchasing policy which refuses reimbursements.

Cross him once and you'll be drinking freshly ground super budget coffee (made with more ground than coffee) on a 1950s pedestal chair while your former – perfectly working – chair is sold in a disposal sale. Cross him twice and non-leaky pens will be a thing of cherished memory and your coffee will lurch further down the quality scale to the "Pripyat" "twice-roasted" brand that comes in a lead sachet.

All this would just be considered "staff oddness" were it not for Kelvin's pedantry, which is so bad that his Company nickname is "Autocorrect."

Oh, and Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries – loves his forms. An application for a new set of whiteboard markers reads like an insurance claim – including a short history of the last markers, why we need more, what happened to the last ones, and, in the event that Kelvin doesn't have "Red", "Blue", "Green" and "Black" markers, what colors you'd like to substitute them for, from the list of: "Green." Unless you just want "Green" in which case there's only "Red".

He may operate out of a cramped storage cupboard, and may be universally loathed by everyone who deals with him, but Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries – knows how to stick it to people.

"Would you like me to ring Kelvin for you?" I ask, feeling the warmth radiating from the charging battery.

"Would you?"

I dial the extension of Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries – and he answers after a long – intentional – wait.

"Yes?" Kelvin sneers, seeing my number and recognizing me as the person who wanted several cards of the aforementioned CR2032s several weeks ago.

He'd said they had none.

Later that night – using only the powers of a master key – I found he had been lying to me.

Even later that night I had made sure he really did have none.

And I took all the whiteboard markers too.

"I'm after some CR2032 batteries for a user," I say. "It's for his home device. Well, I say device but it's more of a cute toy really. And he'd like some to take home for his kids' toys."

"Sure," Kelvin replies. "Why don't you bring it down?"

"Want me to take it?" the PFY asks.

"Would you?" our user asks again.

"Sure," the PFY says, grabbing the battery off charge with some barbecue tongs.

"I'm sending my assistant over with the device now," I say. "Would you like me to hold the line?"

"Yyyesss," Kelvin hisses, no doubt savoring the thought of sending the PFY away.

I slip the phone on hands-free as there's a clunk from the other end – the sort of clunk you'd get when you tossed an overheating battery powered device against a sharp shelf rack before it fell down the back of a stack of stationery supplies.

"GET SOME COFFEE!" I yell into the phone to the PFY as the fire alarms start sounding and Kelvin apparently runs off screaming. "THE GOOD STUFF!"

"Now," I say, turning back to our user as we head to the fire escape, "What else did you buy?" 

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