So I'm sitting at a presentation by some American bloke who's an expert on Year 2000 problems.
Now, far be it from me to come over all sanctimonious about someone seeing a chance of good old-fashioned graft and seizing it with both hands, but at least he could make the bloody talk entertaining. It's as interesting as watching nail polish dry - which is, in fact, what I'm doing - on the hands of an attractive young systems professional beside me.
Up until morning tea-time, when her common sense takes over and she does a runner. That's the trouble these days, no one has any commitment. Except the boss, of course, who catches me trying to sneak out to the pub we'd agreed to meet up in.
"Hurry up!" he cries "or you'll miss the bit on..." (scrabble scrabble) "...the necessity to re-engineer Cobol-based Database Query Forms."
Now as far as I'm concerned, there are only two ways we'll be re-engineering any of the crap written in Cobol, and they are:
A) With the "rm-rf" command, except that the operating system of the era (before RSI [or the fear of dying of old age before you'd got to the end of a command] was a worry) this translates to: "DELETE/ERASE/NO CONFIRM [...].;*" or, my personal preference:
B) With an axe.
Anyway, seeing as how I've been busted, I figure I'm going to have to no-show at the boozer until the Boss drifts off to sleep.
Quarter of an hour later and I'm in the pub, chatting over the freshly polished nails of a systems safety engineer.
"So what does a systems safety engineer do?" I ask, engaging her immediately in geek-talk.
"Well, it involves all aspects of software and hardware safety. I deal with privacy and security as well as software design and testing with the aim being to ensure that no person of institution comes to harm - physically/mentally/ financially - from the operation of a computer or its software. It's a very interesting role, as you have to be constantly aware of."
My mind clicks off as I attempt to hide my distress from her - and not just because she feels users are worth saving. The worst has just occurred to me. SHE IS THE ANTI-BASTARD!
Immediately I start edging away from her to a point where I know we're not in any danger of accidentally touching. I remember my theoretical physics well enough to know what happens when matter and anti-matter collide...
"So what do you do?" she asks, "Well, I'm a systems and networks administrator."
"And what brought you to the Y2K presentation?" she asks, expecting a response laden with altruism and concern for users.
"Well, I'm just here to ensure that our users aren't affected by any potential problems that might occur before, during and after the turn of the century..." I respond, simultaneously hating myself for being such a brown-noser, while mentally congratulating myself on a first class piece of spadework.
I just can't help myself.
"Really?" she gushes, happy to find a kindred spirit among the masses of computing professionals she's undoubtedly met in the past. "Oh yes," I cry, "You have NO IDEA the lengths my assistant and I have to go to just to ensure that users get what they need." She's thinking systems handholding, and I'm thinking of a swift kick in the unmentionables, but as I said, it's unmentionable, so I let her keep thinking along those lines. What the hell, those physics geeks might be wrong... We chat for a bit, and then wouldn't you know it, like a bad smell on a northerly breeze, in blows the boss.
This can only mean one thing...
"There's no free lunch!" he cries, disheartened. "Yeah, I thought I'd pop down here for one," I answer, placating him with the offer of a lager, thus reinforcing the "bloody good bloke" theme while simultaneously bearing in mind the boss's rating as a "one lager to lift-off man".
I enhance the effect with a vodka top, which means he should be under the table inside 15 minutes. I get back from the bar and the boss is overflowing with bonhomie at my purchase of a beer.
About halfway through his pint I realise my fatal mistake.
"Let's get wassisname down here!" he cries, to no one in particular, rummaging around in his coat for his mobile phone. He dials up the PFY and extracts a promise of his attendance. BUGGER.
Having spoilt my chances of a quiet 57 G&Ts alone with my guest, he continues on his trail of destruction. "Great bastard this," he cries, bursting with affection for me. "Remember the time that user asked for a hot spare disk, so you heated one up in the furnace and dropped it in his lap?" I'm busy making lager-tipping motions in the background when the boss lurches once more down memory lane. "Or that time you told that accountant that his chair was picking up static so he'd have to earth it - AND GOT HIM TO PLUG HIS CHAIR INTO THE LIVE TERMINAL! HA HA HA!"
So it's just me and the boss by the time the PFY gets there. Mind you, the boss is only semi-conscious by now, so it only takes about 10 seconds to fill the PFY in. I buy the boss a parting drink then pour him, glass and all, into a taxi home.
"I have to say, you took that bloody well," the PFY says.
"Forgive and forget," I cry magnanimously. "Besides, just about now he's going to figure out that his drink isn't lager."
"Number ones?" the PFY asks
"Don't be disgusting!" I cry, offended. "It's a warm fish milkshake - just the thing for a queasy stomach..."