While the PFY is busy with his Tunnel-Monkey work, the BOFH is sorting out the e-mail system and diverting complaints to sex lines...

Year 1998 - Episode 11


It's a tedious morning at Network Central so I while away the hours by getting the PFY to do some Tunnel-Monkey work checking the earthing straps on the cable trays in the comms risers.

True, it's a hot, cramped and pointless job, but it does give him a broader view of the world of networking. And helps him remember that when I say "Don't play with my laptop," I mean it.

The calls are coming in thick and fast this morning and without the PFY I have to start screening them myself. The helpdesk has started giving out our number to anyone who seems important, and since the boss fixed them up with an exchange console, our usual ploy of changing numbers every day no longer seems to work.

After a few calls I can see that there's a trend towards one single complaint, so I 'screen' the rest of them by diverting the phone to an outside sex line, then fire off an e-mail memo to the beancounters saying there's been a lot of telephone abuse in that area recently, and perhaps they should investigate.

But unlike Wells Fargo, my mail does not get through. In fact it hardly ever gets through. Not since the Boss, off his own bat, got our Systems predecessors to 'Upgrade' the mail server with some 'fantastic' software which does everything but drop a lipsticked kiss on the bottom of your personal e-mail.

Everything but deliver the bloody message that is.

I corner the Boss once more about this by pointing out the software's many shortcomings. However, he gets evasive.

"Well, it did cost an awful lot of money - and besides, a lot of our Meeting Calendars are plugged into it too!"

So it is that a few days later the Boss is looking through the manual archive in the store for his mailer guide when the PFY interrupts my dedicated labour with a question.

"What're you doing?"

"Ensuring the return of my beloved sendmail," I reply.

"How?"

"Ah, just helping the 'flash mailer' software 'deliver' the boss's e-mail. The 'Visible Queue' screen is actually quite good - it allows me to 'deliver' some messages personally."

"How?"

"Well, you grab certain messages and drag them onto the Trash icon."

"Which messages?"

"Oh, just one part of any multi-part message."

I show him on the screen. "See the Mail-IN queue? The Subject contains the sequence number of the part. So you delete part 23 of 24 and let the other parts go through. It's driving him insane. And, of course, I'm 'delivering' all of his outgoing mail altogether, so he's having to send everything important by internal mail just to make sure it gets there, never really knowing what's getting there and what's not."

"Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him," the PFY mutters.

"That statement has never proved accurate in my experience. For instance, I don't believe at this point in time the Boss knows that the top step of the storeroom stepladder is very loose..."

We both listen intently to the sound of an overweight manager plunging 5 feet into several large boxes of lineflow paper.

An hour later, as I'm reverting our mailserver to my first choice (I think it was the 10 e-mail messages that I'd claimed to have sent to Buildings Maintenance about stepladder problems that swung it), the PFY comes over looking perplexed.

"I don't understand why we installed it..." he says.

Sigh. Just when you think he understands, you realise that he's still out there somewhere, looking for answers.

"As your position in the company increases, your perceived responsibility increases, your actual responsibility decreases and your understanding of the issues decreases as well," I explain.

"So why did we buy it in the first place?"

"We bought it because someone thought it was a good idea, and no-one at managerial level knew it was crap."

"I think that's a little cynical..."

I interrupt with a hands-free phone call.

"Hello?" the boss answers.

"Hi, I was just wondering why you authorised the upgrade to the new Object Orientated Programming package."

"Well, it was your idea - you said we'd run out of objects."

"Of course. Thank you."

I ring off.

"Point made?" I ask.

"I still don't think..."

"Hello?" the Boss answers.

"That graphics accelerator I removed from your machine, why was that again?"

"Because it ... something about the graphics travelling too fast?"

"Of course, I remember now," I reply hanging up.

"But..." the PFY adds.

"No BUTs - it's them or us. You can lead a boss to a decision, but you can't make him think."

Sigh.