The Bastard puts his newest protege through a rather nasty baptism... and sees him blossom...

Year 1997 - Episode 13


So I'm in the enviable position of being management material. The extra income as a contracted manager is more than enough to brighten my day.

The opportunities for channelling funds from less worthy areas (the helpdesk upgrade) to more deserving ones (the network operations upgrade) abound. And having my former boss as an employee is the icing on the cake...

Still, mustn't bear a grudge. I decide to share my recent good fortune with others. The PFY has always wanted a junket to New Orleans. I browse the Web and find a plausible conference and enrol him in it.

He's overjoyed because he's never been to New Orleans before. The ex-boss expects a similar favour and I can't bear to disappoint him. I show him where the vacuum cleaner is and point out the map of every comms room in the building...

A week later they're both back, the ex-boss looking a little peaky, possibly from spending all that time in the dark. I blame myself for not reminding him that some of the comms cupboards don't have door handles on the inside. Whoops.

Still, at least he had the presence of mind to pull the power cable to the comms rack so someone would come to investigate. Although it probably would have been better if it had occurred to him before the Bank Holiday weekend. But, like they say, it's all a learning experience. It's terrible what dehydration drives you to, though.

Once everyone's back at Network Central, I allocate the jobs. The PFY, because of experience, is placed into my old role of installation, monitoring and maintenance. The ex-boss, because of his greenness in operations, is placed on the phones. I even plug it into the wall socket for him.

It does not disappoint, ringing within the first half hour. As he's in training, the ex-boss is required to answer all calls on hands-free so that he can receive instruction from me or the PFY should it become necessary.

"Hello, Networks," the ex-boss answers.

"Hello, is that Networks?" A quick glance at the caller-ID confirms her familiar voice. The PFY flees the room in fear.

"Yes, how can I help?"

"My network's stopped going again."

"I see. When did it stop working?"

"Just now. I tried to print and it just didn't work."

"OK, I'll just look at our network monitor and see if there's anything wrong with your machine. What room are you in?"

She gives her room and he trawls through the networking database looking for port information. Unsuccessfully. Not wanting to ask for help so early in his new career, he decides to perform the old 'hands-on' approach and go and see her.

Once he's gone, the PFY returns.

"He didn't go to see her did he?"

"Yep."

"The poor bastard!"

"Yep."

Every company has at least one computer-phobic paranoid. The ones who think that computers secretly change their settings as soon as they turn their backs. The ones who always ring to complain that their passwords have been changed by someone. (Every time they leave the shift key down). The ones who haven't changed anything, yet now their networks don't work. (This happens twice a year, when they change the position of their PCs in relation to the sun and pull the network cables out...).

Except in this case it's worse. The 'network' she's talking about is an RS232 cable between her genuine XT PC and its dot matrix printer.

She's never trusted the newer technology (which doesn't work and secretly conspires against her) and prefers to remain disconnected from the real world. Except to call twice a year when she pulls the cable out of her printer.

An hour later the boss is back, a changed man. Having been subjected to an hour of conspiracy theories and general X-file type mindlessness, he now realises what is lurking out there at the other end of the phone lines.

Gone is the air of helpfulness. Gone the feelings of goodwill to the using-classes. The PFY and I exchange knowing glances - we've seen it before and we'll see it again.

He's been bastardised.

The phone soon rings.

"Networks," he snaps.

"Hello, is that Networks?" the familiar voice asks. The phone makes the slightest of sounds as it's yanked from the socket and thrown into the bin.

"So I suppose I'm fired for ripping that out then?" he asks, resigned to his fate.

"Well, impromptu de-installations are usually something we teach you later on in your training, but it appears that experience is the best teacher after all..."

I wander off and leave the PFY to show him the rest of the ropes...

And the cattle prods...

And the 'video surveillance' consoles...

Who would have thought he'd be such promising material?