"Hello. Have I got through to the network guys?" the user simpers.
"You sure have. How can I help?" I gush, doing my best for PR.
"All the files on my network disk are gone!"
"Yes. Gone. I had some back-ups of some work stuff on the network disk."
"What was your user name?" I ask.
He tells me, pointlessly, because our caller-id now lists name, room, user name and position in the organisational hierarchy.
In this case: name: Ronald Williams; room: 2.23; user name: prsrw; and position: 'cannon-fodder'.
"Oh yes," I reply, "and your work revolves around executing the various versions of Leisure Suit Larry, Doom, and miscellaneous other games then, does it?"
There's a quick gasp of horror down the line as he realises his fatal mistake of being caught.
"They were there as an evaluation of ..."
"Don't," I sigh. "It's unlikely you could come up with even a mildly convincing excuse that would prevent you being prosecuted for software piracy."
"Unless, of course, you have the original disks, which would seem unlikely as the files were multi-part archive ..."
"Hang on, how do you know? They were encrypted!"
"With your initials as the key. Honestly, if you're not even going to try..."
"I can't believe you'd do ..."
"Did it. Done it before. And will do it again. Bye now," I sigh, easing the receiver back down onto the cradle.
The PFY looks confused.
"It's not like you to give a toss about piracy," he says.
"I don't. I just want some space to upload my games on to, and I can't be bothered cheating the boss out of another disk."
The phone rings. I gaze over at the caller ID. It's 'cannon-fodder' again.
The PFY answers it.
"All the files on my hard disk have also gone!" he bleats excitedly.
"Just being thorough," I whisper, leaving the PFY to adlib.
"Yes, that's right," the PFY replies. "That'll be the ..."
flip< >flip< He takes a quick look for the Excuse Of The Day.
"... Dynamic Transient Magnetic Re-allocation Policy of your hard disk. You should back up your hard disk regularly."
"But I do!" the caller blurts. "It's all backed up, even my files on the server! Can you restore them for me please?"
"Hang on," the PFY replies. "I'll just put you through to Systems Operations to sort the problem out. Extension 8002, in case you get cut off."
He diverts him and hangs up.
"Two minutes, two calls," the PFY says, placing a five-quid note on the table.
"Six minutes, 10 calls," I counter, placing my five quid on top of the PFY's.
We watch cannon-fodder's extension from the Exchange Console and, after five minutes, see him hang up after not getting an answer from Systems Operations, which isn't surprising considering the phone he's connecting to is locked behind a panel in the basement. Seven retries later I pocket 10 quid.
The PFY isn't pleased, expecting more intelligence from the user. His naivety is a constant source of surprise (and income) for me.
We watch on as he calls the real Systems Operations' number.
"Well, there goes your disk space," the PFY says.
"Ten quid it doesn't," I offer.
"You're on," the PFY replies, hoping for the double or nothing approach.
I grab the scummiest tape cartridge from the floor at my feet and we wander into the computer room and wait for one of the systems people. Sure enough, one arrives shortly thereafter with some back-up tapes. Upon seeing me, he clutches the tapes to himself more carefully for some reason ...
"Don't mind me," I say, holding up my tape cartridge, which obliges my true purpose by dropping a bit of its case.
"You read that cartridge on our drive?" the systems guy asks.
"Of course I did!" I reply. "And it worked fine - only a couple of read errors; not bad for a tape this old."
The systems guy rolls his eyes in despair and grabs the cleaning tape from the top of the tape unit. The PFY looks on confused, not knowing what's going on.
His confusion disappears immediately after the cleaning tape is inserted.
"Ah ..." he says, listening carefully to the noise it makes. "Sandpaper .... and ... is it grinding paste?"
He is good.
"Okay - and - for the 10 quid you owe me ..." I ask, nodding in the direction of the systems guy struggling in vain with the drives' eject lever.
"Ummm ... it's not QUICK-SET EXPOXY RESIN, is it?"
"Today's winner is ... THE PFY!" I cry.
We wander off back to the control room.
"When did you ..." the PFY begins.
"'Enhance' the cleaning tape? About six weeks ago - they never use it normally, so I knew it was the perfect remote destruction utility. You could call in from anywhere saying you have read errors ..."
"But you're just buying yourself time."
"Not exactly," I say, removing the labels from some recently abandoned tapes I found in the computer room into the "Scratch Tapes" bin.
"You bastard!" he cries respectfully.
"In the flesh, on the job, and ready for a game of Network Doom."