The BOFH comes face to face with the ultimate in office bureaucracy. And he just won't wear it...

Year 1997 - Episode 7


Something smells fishy. Very fishy indeed. Positively tuna casserole.

The boss is in a good mood. Almost radiant, in fact. It can only bode bad tidings, especially as his phone log notes that he's been talking to one of the company lawyers.

Sadly, the text of the conversation was lost due to an oversight on the part of the PFY, who forgot to change the tapes on the voice recorder. A mistake he won't be making twice if the power stapler has anything to do with it ...

It's obvious something's up - he's scheduled a meeting with us at 10.30am, a time normally quite unknown to us.

The smug expression on his face leaves me in no doubt that he feels his position is unassailable.

"Gentlemen," he says, with an uncharacteristic show of camaraderie, "Why don't you take an hour's unpaid leave to go and get changed?"

The PFY is in like a shot.

"And why don't you take an hour's paid leave to go and get f..."

"I'M SORRY?!" I interrupt, saving the PFY from the quagmire of disciplinary action, "As you're well aware, we're permitted to wear attire applicable to the nature of our position."

"Unless", the boss says, holding up a heavily highlighted copy of a contract not unlike the ones signed when we joined the company, "your position involves interaction with ..."

He pauses for a moment, giving us time to fill in the blank whilst simultaneously savouring every millisecond ...

"... begins with C ...", he adds, "... ends with S ..."

Neither the PFY nor I are forthcoming, so the boss finishes.

"CLIENTS."

"Oh," says the PFY. "That wasn't the C word I was thinking of. But I think we're talking about the same people though ..."

I cut through the PFY's bolshiness and come straight to the point.

"We don't deal with clients," I explain, as if I'm talking to a simple-minded child.

"AHEM," the Boss replies, priming the bombshell he has hidden. "As of the initiation of our ISO and Advanced Helpdesk Initiatives, the helpdesk and support staff are now officially your clients." His smug expression says it all. He's been doing his homework on this one.

"And you suggest?" I ask

"Standard client representative dress. Suit..."

The PFY gasps.

"...business shirt, tie..."

I suppress the gag reflex in my throat.

"...and of course hard-soled shoes, preferably leather."

"Well," I rally, "it's not often we agree on things, but I'd have to admit you do have a point. I'll be ready by the morning."

The PFY's widened eyes lead me to believe he doubts my sanity. But the boss is not a complete idiot. Well, actually he is, but I cut him some slack for the moment, as he can smell the rat but just can't figure where it is. We leave him to ponder...

The next day heads turn as the PFY and I stroll into work in the required apparel, and present the receipt for our new attire to the boss, who promptly has some dramatic form of seizure.

An hour later he's revived by the company nurse, but not before the PFY and I have a couple of cracks at the task with a impromptu defibrillator made from pieces of his desktop machine.

"Where am I?" the boss asks.

"In your office," I reply. "You had some sort of fit!"

"That's right. What the BLOODY HELL IS THAT?!" he asks, pointing at the receipt.

"It's the invoice for our clothes. Remember in our contract it specifically states that any specially-made safety apparel is to be provided by the company. Do you know how hard it is to get Italian-made steel-cap shoes with that professional look with only six hours notice? They had to fly them in specially!"

"You won't get away with it!" he snarls, noticing again the large collection of figures at the bottom of the page.

"Now don't you worry," I respond soothingly. "You've had a nasty turn, but we've taken care of everything. One of the nice accountants with a predilection for viewing Internet strip-shows was only too happy to supply the blank cheque to us yesterday afternoon ..."

"Then I'll have it STOPPED!" the boss says smugly, victory in sight.

So much in sight in fact, it obscures the still live remains of his PC from his vision...

I give him a good 10 minutes of heart boosting electricity before I call the nurse back again, during which time the PFY calls our clothing supplier to advise a quick clearance time ...

And they say a blue pinstripe is dressing for success ...