BOFH: In the event of a conference, the ninja clause always applies

Remember to fall to the ground clutching your chest if a salesperson addresses you

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 4 "Uh, I refer you to my decision tree document," I say to the Boss, in response to his suggestion that the PFY and I attend a celebratory event that (and I quote) "no IT person can afford to miss".

"What decision tree document?" the Boss asks.

"There's a laminated A4 sheet in your induction folder, outlining our decision tree for evaluating invitations to conferences, meetings, forums, retreats, tutorials, and training sessions."

"I've not seen that."

"Well, let me give you a brief overview. We won't attend any conference etc. that it is being given by an 'industry expert,' a 'guru' of any description, or a 'key player' in any field. We won't go to anything on AI where a presenter has '20 years of experience' – because 20 years ago 'AI' was a vacuum cleaner with a 'bag-full' light."

"Yes, but this isn't ..."

"We won't attend a conference which involves a two-hour drive trapped in a vehicle with a work colleague whose pastimes involve trains, plants or line/Morris dancing, or whose conversation is limited to how undervalued they are, what illnesses they have, or how good they are at any particular activity. OR how great their children are at any particular activity – or line/Morris dancing etc."

"Yes, but ..."

"If there's not hot, meat-based food at the event, we won't be going; nor will we attend if we feel the 'networking' to hot meat-based food ratio is too high. We will, of course, expect alcoholic beverages as a social anesthetic and vendor merchandise worth at least twice as much as the petrol we expended getting there – the cost of which I will also be claiming."

"I'm not sure ..."

"In addition, we won't add our names to any mailing lists, join any interest group, committee, steering group or working party. We won't pose for publicity photos, enter business cards into any draw where the odds of winning are less than 65 percent – and we reserve the right to put 50 business cards in (with invalid contact information) to improve those odds."

"I ..."

"Our attendance must not be taken to be an approval or validation of the event or any of its underlying assumptions – and should be viewed in the same light as our attendance at, say, a rubbish tip."

"Yes, but this is mostly a party!" the Boss gasps.

"In that case I refer you to the decision tree for attending social events. You will note the alcohol to 'networking' ratio is substantially higher, and that we'll need a door-to-door shuttle service which must include the driver aiding us to insert our house keys into our respective door locks. We can usually take it from there."

"It's a low-key affair," the Boss counters.

"The ninja clauses will still apply."

"Ninja clauses?"

"Yes, we reserve the right to: duck behind large objects when salespeople are looking for someone to talk to; pretend to be remotely solving a critical system outage over the phone; and, if all else fails, pretend to be choking or having a cardiac incident."

"It's just a party," the Boss says.

... A day later, at the party ...

"Stage 5 Klingon, 12 meters, 3 o'clock," the PFY murmurs.

"What?" the Boss asks, as the PFY and I simultaneously hold our phones up to our ears and stride off quickly in different directions using terms like "Immediate Boundary Router Isolation" and "Critical Attack Vector Insertion." Separated from the herd, the Boss is easily picked off by the guy wanting to sell him some cloud-integrated services – though sadly the PFY "accidentally" caught the Boss's index finger in the car door earlier – so he won't be signing anything tonight.

The guy exudes a strange aroma of frenetic technical fervor, and looks to be salivating over the enhanced properties of their cloud offering. Too late, the Boss attempts to edge away slowly but his sales guy just takes up the slack, so it looks like a slow motion pawn-king endgame.

When he sees the inevitable checkmate, the Boss starts looking for a victim to castle with. I duck behind a large sign board and look around for the PFY, but he's gone. A large potted plant in the far corner of the conference center appears to have gained mass, though.

"Well, I think I should probably bring my technical people in on this," the Boss says, making a beeline for the potted plant, while I dash back to the bar.

"This is Stephen, one of our technical guys ..." I hear the Boss saying, from a distance.

There's not a lot of time, so I slip the barman a 20 quid note.

"I ...  My ..." the PFY says, clutching his chest, dropping to a kneeling position.

"GIVE THIS MAN SOME AIR!" I say, striding over – but the Klingon is still orbiting.

"What did you say to him?!" I ask him.

"I ... Nothing," the Klingon says, backing away into the shadows, knowing full well that potential personal liability checkmates sales commissions.

"Get the AED!" I urge him, pointing at a large plastic box with a heart on it that I recently placed on the bar ...

Fifteen minutes later the PFY and I are enjoying a couple of chilled bottles of lager from the "AED" in the peace and quiet of the conference center's medical room, waiting for an ambulance that was never called.   Through a gap in the frosted glass I can see the Klingon has spotted the Boss again.


More about

More about

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like