A heated exchange with the boss over air-conditioning raises temperatures all round...

Year 1996 - Episode 25


It's a balmy mid-morning when the PFY slips back into the offices with this morning's purchase following my specific instructions.

"One finely crafted plastic electric kettle, with safety cutout to prevent element burnout," I say, smiling at the perfection of my plan.

"But we've got a coffee and tea maker!" he cries.

Filling the jug from the water fountain I shake my head. "What happens every summer?" I ask.

"It gets hot?" he guesses.

"Correct. And our air conditioning system does what?"

"Fails."

"And we have to what?" I ask.

"Sit in the comms room all day."

"Correct. Grab the variable step-down transformer and meet me in the comms room."

He does as I bid and moments later I've set the variac at five volts, plugged the jug into it, and hidden the lot under a sub-floor ventilation grill.

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it - you don't have a choice by the way, it's just an expression - is to keep this jug topped up while increasing the voltage by five volts a day."

I take him over to a wall thermostat and pull the cover off.

"Step 2, turn the set screw on all the thermostats anti-clockwise by five degrees every day, making the air-con think it's getting cooler in here. Now - any questions?"

"Yeah, what happens when the variable transformer gets up to 200 volts?"

"Twenty quid says the jug won't get past 50."

"You're on!" the PFY gasps, seeking easy money.

"And no cheating by not filling the jug!" I add, knowing his nature.

The bet agreed, I busy myself on network load testing for a few days. When I'm sick of networked Doom-II, I ring the boss up and tell him about the air-con problems in the comms room. True to form, he wanders around the comms room tapping the thermostats and sniffing the air for moisture. Exhausting his technical repertoire, he calls in some heating professionals who inform him that our measurements are OK.

"You'll need another unit," the technician tells the boss. "Your current ones look to be overloaded."

"I told the boss last summer that this was going to happen," I add, "but he did nothing about it and now look what's happening."

The slight throwing down of the gauntlet here will set his mood for the entire event. He probably suspects something is up but can't think of what it is and is desperate to thwart me - especially with my recent UPS fan victory.

"Yes, well, we'll have to put another unit in, but where..." he smiles realising the prime location right in front of his eyes. "What about there?" he asks, pointing to the wall between the comms room and the networks room.

"Not a good idea," the heating tech says, "the heat exchanger exhaust would make the room behind there a sweatbox."

"Well it doesn't look like there are any viable alternatives," the boss replies smugly.

"What about over there?" I ask, pointing to a gap between air conditioners in the opposite wall.

"No can do," the boss chimes in "too many units there already which would make the building structurally unsafe."

Something tells me he's done his homework on this one.

"So that wall it is," he smiles, gleefully indicating an area which would be right between my desk and the PFY's.

The PFY's look of horror speaks volumes.

Two weeks later, the control room is getting a tad uncomfortable, especially since someone authorised our windows to be riveted shut.

Visitors are at an all time low, with only the boss stopping behind the double-glazed viewing window to gloat every day or so.

Until D-Day that is.

The PFY and I are in exceptionally early to take my plan through to completion. Completion being removing the air-con from its mounting, turning it, and slipping it back in.

"The boss is bound to notice!" the PFY cries.

"He doesn't come in here any more - no-one does," I reply, soothing his fears.

"But he does go through the back way to the comms room and he'll see the back of the unit."

"Not when you swap the covers he won't."

"That won't fool him!"

"I believe it will - he only found out I swapped the covers of the fax machine and the shredder the other day. Pity the 'shredder' autodialled the newspapers with that expenditure blowout report of the other day. Tabloids can be so irresponsible."

"What did the boss do when he found out?"

"What do you think? Admit he was responsible for making us a laughing stock? Now I've got a quick job for you."

"What is it?"

"Redo your time sheets - they were his last 'fax'."

"You bastard!"

"In the flesh, on the prowl, and waiting for my 20 quid..."