Battle vibes pulsate as beancounter central takes vehement action against the network lads...

Year 1996 - Episode 35


I am shocked. Mortified ... In an out-of-the-blue attack from beancounter central - a veritable leguminous dawn-raid - our espresso machine was written off and disposed of overnight.

"I ... I ..." the PFY mutters in disorientation.

Having worked in computing for some time now, I know the importance of back-ups, and bring out my emergency plunger and freeze-dried grounds.

"THAT'S below the belt," the pimply-faced-youth sniffs, as life returns to normal. "I just can't believe they'd do it!"

"Why not?" I reply. "After all, we've been pretty much engaged in an inter-departmental war here, despite what the boss says about us all working towards a common good."

"But the espresso machine!" he cries. "That really hurts. What're we going to do? We have to do something!! Nicad 'RAM' upgrades all round? Another game of blackout fire alarm beancounter pinball?"

I shake my head.

"No, that's just what they'll be expecting. And no dropping out network connections either - they'll be logging it all as an excuse for external service contracts."

"Well, what are we going to do?"

"For now, nothing."

"But ..."

"... but at a later date, we hit them where it really hurts."

Two weeks later the machine is still gone and the PFY is manifesting symptoms of plunger RSI. It's time for action.

"Right. The accounts database!" I cry.

"We can't. I tried yesterday and they've changed the password!" The PFY replies.

Mentally assessing the originality of our beancounters, I try a series of possibilities, hitting paydirt at 'PROFIT'. The database reveals a pristine payments system so well designed that a child could understand it. Which means it's aimed at its correct target audience.

I make a few minor retroactive changes and disconnect. The PFY kills time by leaving an anonymous tip with the company auditors.

The next day dawns and the PFY and I are in bright and early to witness a couple of stony-faced business professionals riding the escalators.

A double click of the escalator PLU control window later, and the escalator performs an impromptu emergency stop, scattering auditors and paraphernalia in all directions. The bleeding nose is sure to add to the impartiality of the impending investigation. Yet another double-click three-seconds later ensures this as recent events are replayed.

Fearing another bank of escalators, the auditors make their second mistake of the day and head for the lifts. Sadly for them, my new lift-control joystick is up and running and they're taken on a G-force adventure, of the sort normally associated with a roller coaster.

The remains of a hearty breakfast down the front of one of the auditor's jackets leaves absolutely no doubt as to the effectiveness of my latest gaming addition. Their mood appears to the casual CCTV viewer as 'aggressive'.

An hour later, the PFY and I wander up to beancounter central to 'fix some networking problems'.

"That's the bastard!" a beancounter shouts, pointing me out to the auditors.

"I'm sorry?" I ask, innocently and humbly.

"Who tampered with the lifts and escalators!"

"I'm sorry?! No-one has touched the lifts or escalators since this department froze the buildings maintenance budget six months ago!"

"We most certainly did not!" the head beancounter cries, emerging from the relative safety of his office.

"Ahhh ... someone did," Auditor one mentions, looking up from the payments database. "The money is now being paid to a ... Clinton Ash."

"C. ASH," I mutter quietly. "Hmmm. Oh, that Panamanian Company! You were just over in Panama six weeks ago weren't you?" I ask the head beancounter.

"Did you post the cheque or deliver it personally?"

Head beancounter is not stupid (surprisingly) and recognises an extremely dodgy situation when he's in it. He dares not discover what else I have up my voluminous electronic sleeves ...

"Ah, Ash and Associates," he ad-libs hurriedly. "Service and Maintenance Contractors."

"Of course!" I gush. "And fitters of expresso machines too, aren't they?"

"...Yes," head beancounter agrees, realising the direction this dialogue is heading.

"Isn't one of their subsidiary companies due to do an installation in our Lunch Room today sometime?"

"...Yyyyess, I'd forgotten about that. I'll check on it this afternoon."

"Why wait?" I ask, passing my cellphone over. "Call now. Hell, they might have even forgotten about the whole thing."

That afternoon the PFY and I are relaxing over a strong brew, contemplating the turn of good fortune that upgraded our old single head espresso machine to the new triple head, auto-grind model.

"I still have a lot to learn," the PFY admits thoughtfully.

"Try to think of it not as learning," I say, "but just as doing your job to the best of your ability..."