A run-in with the company cafeteria leaves the BOFH porcelain bound and the boss regretting an onion bhaji...

Year 1997 - Episode 34


Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. And unfortunately, the company cafeteria served it up to me as lunch. I'm not a well man.

It would appear that the friendly 'jousting' between myself and the fifth floor cafeteria has been brought to a head by my chance remark to the PFY (within their hearing, unfortunately) that their new motto, like the airborne military, was "Death from Above".

Admittedly, the menu du jour is no worse than one would expect on death row, but perhaps I shouldn't have modified their 'Healthy Eating' intranet Web menu page to main courses of Hungarian Gluelash and Chicken Tikka Diarrhoea. Some people have no sense of humour.

The boss is loving it of course, knowing that any self-respecting contractor would be at death's door ringing for service way before they'd ever call in sick. Legitimately, that is.

No, if I'm going to be spending all day on the porcelain peripheral, I'm going to be doing it on company time. His frequent visits leave me in no doubt that he's gagging for a chance to cross a few hours off my time sheet. My attendance, though uncomfortable, continues.

The only thing I don't understand is how they got the lethal dose to me. Normally quite cautious with my food (prime directive - avoid fish, chicken and pork), the method of my dispatch escapes me.

The smug glances and sincere concern for my health by the cafeteria staff confirm my doubts as I head straight for the bread counter for a low-fibre lunch. A battle plan is called for. And hatched.

As soon as the boss has vacated the area after his usual four buckets of everything, I put phase one into action. "Well I don't really know..." I mouth, as one of the cafe staff passes, seemingly unnoticed, "...but apparently the boss reckons it's this place that did it to me. He said there's better hygiene in a Soho alley."

"Really?" the PFY asks, playing Dr Watson to the full.

"Well, I dunno," I reply noticing an attentive ear in the background, "...but the boss hates the place. Reckons the staff would be lucky to get a job cleaning the toilets of a kebab house."

The next day, whilst nature is calling me for the 11th time, the PFY cranks up the CCTV kit, today's source being the 'thermostat sensor' beside the cafeteria servery.

The boss stops by to see if anyone's up for lunch, but the PFY tells him, without a word of a lie, that I'm supervising some emergency downloads.

I get back in time to see the boss in the cafeteria, negotiating his tray around the obstacle course that is the servery area. "All normal so far," the PFY comments.

"Yes, nothing out of the ord..." I mutter, as something catches my eye.

Under the guise of replacing a bucket of wallpaper paste and beef stock (labelled 'gravy') one of the caff staff has palmed an extra onion bhaji onto the boss's plate. Oblivious to it all, the boss powerlifts his tray to a table and straps on the old nosebag.

"Should we tell him?" the PFY asks.

A cynical glance answers his question.

Culprit Identified, Phase One Complete.

The next day is one of the few that makes this job worthwhile. The boss has called in sick. Word on the street has it that he made it to the tube station before bringing up his breakfast.

The cafeteria staff meantime, are busy with an impromptu Health and Safety check (after an apparently anonymous tip-off), which discovered, amongst other violations, that the ratatouille had real rat in it.

A week later I'm almost back to my usual self, though still food-shy, whilst the boss appears to have made a miraculous recovery after his time away. He gloats for a while about the benefits of the company health plan, sick pay, the benefits of not coming to work, etc., etc.

At lunch he gloats some more as he packs his plate, waxing lyrical about the health entitlements of being a salary-earning company man.

His entitlements don't stop there though, as the PFY helps him bag his quota of onion bhajis.

That afternoon, the PFY talks to him some more through the jammed doors of one of the company lifts. In my hurry to release him, I've accidentally snapped the door release lever off in the keyway, so we've had to call out the lift repairman.

"How much longer are they going to be?" the boss whines. "Shouldn't be much longer," I cry, signalling to the PFY to make the service guy another coffee whilst I take the last entry in the lift-violation sweepstakes.

I give him 10 minutes max...