The season of goodwill is upon us once again, and the endless round of Christmas festivities is just about to start. Gerry, the ex-boss from beancounter control was pulled out of the manhole with only minor injuries to the SNMP servo set attached to the wheelchair. Unfortunately, the casing was slightly damaged by the soapy water from the carwash, but nothing too serious.
I sit back in my armchair, and think about informing all users that they must log-out for vital maintenance work, so Systems can settle down to a serious game of network DOOM II.
I think again, and just finish rebooting the server and changing the log-in script when the phone rings. No caller id shows up. Bad news. I have all the office, mobile and home numbers logged on call-line identification. I pick up the phone.
"Simon, Gerry here."
"Hi Gerry," I say, matter of fact.
"You won't get away with this you know. I know you remote-controlled my wheelchair. You really are a complete and utter bastard."
Now what's the point of calling THE Bastard Operator From Hell a bastard. I mean, what does he expect? This conversation is going nowhere. "Stop talking," I say, and place the telephone back gently on the desk. Short but sweet. I like that.
I record the number Gerry rang from on the database. It's the pay phone at the company's BUPA hospital. Some people just never, ever learn ... I get to work. Christmas is such a good time for dabbling in office politics.
I dig out the automatic phone log on the boss's mobile, and do a quick search for 'I'm sorry darling, but that's the day of the office party'. It's amazing what CTI technology can do nowadays.
I dive into the e-mail and write a simple little rules-based filter. I divert the 'to everyone' memo from office services about the Christmas party straight to me.
Back to Doom II and happiness. Later in the afternoon, I get the e-mail. Office services are sending out a request for Christmas party suggestions. How good of them. The venues are a boat trip or a barn dance on the 14th. What are these people on?
I check Sharon's (the boss's secretary) personal organiser. So far so good. I send the e-mail on, and all the punters have their vote for their venue of choice. How democratic.
The e-mails come back to me. It appears the majority want the boat trip on the 14th. I add up my version of the totals for office services automatically - I'm helpful like that.
Before forwarding to office services, I also add a little note to say that I'd had a call from Gerry, and thought it would be a seasonal gesture to club together and buy him some flowers, champagne, chocolates, and maybe even arrange for him to get a chauffeur driven limo to take him back to the party - presuming the doctors had finished operating.
I add that I'd prefer it if office services could do the running on this one for me. It's so vulgar to display your charity. Charity suffereth long and is kind, and all that ... Office services duly receives my helpful e-mail and announces the decision on the Christmas party. They've raised a great deal of money for Gerry, and the venue is to be the barn dance - but as many people unexpectedly can't make the 14th, the date is now the 13th. Unlucky for some.
I wait 10 minutes. Right on call, the boss comes in very pale and tongue-tied. I help him out.
"Sort of ..."
He pretends to hide the serious nature of the situation. I'd seen how much he'd had to put on his Amex card so that poor Sharon could stay in a luxury hotel in the Mambo King suite on the 14th instead of braving a taxi home. I also knew just how difficult it was to arrange the office party for the same night as his wife's night out with the girls. I almost feel sorry for him, but recover immediately.
"I heard the news. I couldn't believe it either. A barn dance. Still, at least Gerry will be happy."
"Gerry ...?" growls the boss.
"Yes. It was his idea. He didn't want to miss out on the party, so he's ordered a chauffeur-driven limo to take him there on the 13th. And of course, he can join in on the barn dancing from his wheelchair, unlike a traditional disco."
"Chauffeur-driven limo?" exclaims the boss, now back on fine form with the blood running to his cheeks. "I'll kill him."
"No need to do that. The doctors are already on the case."
I hand him the BUPA bill, along with other assorted receipts for champagne, chocolates, flowers and one very, very large telephone bill, which helpfully lists all the 0898 numbers Gerry has called from his hospital bed, as well as the police report citing him for careless use of a wheelchair.
The boss goes through the receipts and says the fateful words. "He's fired."
"But you can't fire a hospitalised man," pushing him that little bit further.
"Just bloody well watch me," says the boss resuming command. "And another thing, can you say there has been a systems error and that we are going back to the boat trip on the 14th. You'll know how to fix it won't you."
No problems. I think I can sort it.