The BOFH is given lessons in how to be a shiny happy IT manager. And he can't wait to start...

Year 1997 - Episode 23


It's mid-afternoon, and we're in the middle of our annual 'improve the perception of IT' fortnight. Things are going just great.

The boss has a bee in his bonnet about my liberal interpretation of the promotional slogan 'delivering what the client needs'. Apparently, my helpdesk instruction sheets on how to deliver 'a damn good kicking' weren't within the intended scope of the motto...

He was in an even worse mood after the hand-proximity sensor on the line printer failed to operate while he was attempting to stop said instruction sheets from printing. The fast moving paper gave him a large and deep paper cut that he won't be forgetting in a hurry. And the PFY and I certainly don't know how that heavily salted water got into the first aid antiseptic bottle.

But his irritation began after spotting a publicity photo of one of the members of the company's football team (sponsored by the IT division) walking around with his football jersey untucked. Beautifully crafted, and costing enough to make a beancounter weep, the jerseys have a lovely little IT crest (a couple of crossed keyboards on a burning PC background, emblazoned on the left breast). The words 'IT - giving you more' are in large letters on the back. When untucked however, the words 'of a shafting' become visible. The boss was not impressed.

The PFY and I make no attempts to escape his wrath knowing full well that he has to pass the head of IT's room to get to us. He's not so keen on doing that since some complete bastard uploaded a new ring sound to the head's cellphone - a sound not dissimilar to that made by a lentil casserole after its trip through the digestive tract.

Accordingly, the IT department managers' meeting he attended this morning was a swift affair, and certainly not one that really should have been 'aired' as a live video conference and PR opportunity. Even the cafeteria staff saw it and wouldn't serve him the onion bhajis at lunchtime.

Not that I feel sorry for the boss. The whole 'improve the perception of IT' initiative was all his fault in the first place for mentioning that it 'must be about that time of the year' to the head of IT.

No-one likes these PR weeks because the bosses like to answer all those stupid user questions such as: 'Can I send 1,000 copies of my CV to the printer? Can I talk to one of your network guys for an hour or two?' and 'Do you know who set my car on fire?' with 'yes', 'yes', and 'no' instead of the far more appropriate 'not if you want to see another birthday, not if you want to see another birthday', and, 'us, we thought it was your birthday.'

But the thing that really puts the boss under the gun is that he's invoked a 'response time' clause in our contracts that was meant for call-out duties which says we have to respond within a reasonable amount of time to a user's problems.

In PR week, 'reasonable' means 10 minutes. Now perhaps the boss can have a good game of MDK in 10 minutes, but a networking professional cannot!

Sure enough, I'm just firing up MDK when the phone goes.

"Hello?"

"Yes?" I ask, expecting the worst.

"I've got a problem with my network."

Here we go...

"Hmmm?" Why waste words on these morons? They're much happier with a bit of grunting and a few soothing clucking noises.

"It's a little difficult to explain over the phone - could someone come up?"

Sigh.

I flip the PFY for it and am stunned when I lose. Then I realise that the little bastard has switched my double headed 50 pence for a double tail model.

It really does me proud to see him turning out so well.

Of course, I still won't be telling him that I removed the safety grille from the whirring blades of the cooling fan at the back of his PC, but there you go.

I get to the user's office and it's the same old thing. They moved the PC and the network stopped.

"But it never used to do that."

"No, but now that we don't use thin wire network cabling it does."

"That doesn't sound like a good move."

I manage to extricate myself an hour later (after the story about how technology was much more reliable in the 1950s) and get back to the office.

The PFY chuckles maliciously.

"He rang back - the lead's fallen out of the computer and he's scared to plug it in."

"A separate call," I cry, "that makes it your turn!"

"Toss you for it?" he asks, not understanding where the line should be drawn.

"I'll go for tails for a change."

"Bastard!" Sensibly, the PFY doesn't admit to anything.

"Oh, by the way, make sure to mention how reliable IT is nowadays, especially when compared to the 1950s..."

The PFY grumbles a bit before slouching over to the door.

"Have you seen my access card?"

"Yeah," I reply, "I needed it to get into the comms room this morning. I think it fell down the back of your PC. On the cooling fan side..."