A newcomer names Sharon, a safety retrofit and a GPS transmitter leaves the BOFH on course for sipping tequila in the sun...

Year 1998 - Episode 24


"Yes, we've already met," the newcomer announces, as she enters Mission Control with the boss. "At the Y2K thing last week. Don't you remember? I met you at lunch."

"My memory of events is...a little hazy," the boss burbles.

"Yes," I interrupt, "unfortunately it appears that he was set upon by an angry taxi driver after dropping two pints, a plate of chips and a fish milkshake on to the front seat of a cab after the event. By way of his stomach."

"Be that as it may," the boss cries, seizing back the mantle of the conversation. "Sharon here rang and offered to check out our systems for potential risks - you know, company liability, software and hardware oversights that may lead to injury or other accidents, overall security, and so on."

How bloody thoughtful of her.

"Anyway," the boss continues, "I'm sure you'll give her any help she requires. OK, time we were moving on to the next stop, which is the head of our department."

The boss and our new computing safety consultant wander off in the direction of the head's orifice while the PFY scurries over.

"What does it mean?" he asks, well aware of the part the boss played in alienating me from Sharon's good books at our last meeting. Thanks to him, getting back into Sharon's good books would require spadework of back-hoe proportions.

"I'm not sure," I respond, "but I think it means trouble."

The next day my words are proved true when Sharon's analysis of the site accident logs points one or two bloodstained fingers in the direction of Systems and Networks.

"These things are supposed to be fitted with earth leakage detectors," she cries, investigating the power points of the serviceman's workbench which have sent more than one unfortunate engineer off to the sick bay for some burns cream. (While the PFY and I rifle through his toolkit, of course.)

"Ah, no, we use a different leakage detector for this," I say, pointing at a faceplate on the bench. "Faeces and urine - cuts the power the moment someone loses control of their bodily functions."

"That's ridiculous," Sharon cries "And anyway, you can't test it."

"I test it every month," the PFY cries indignantly.

"He certainly does," I concur. "He downs a jar of pickled onions then tests the desk when his digestion says so."

Having no comeback for this one, Sharon moves on to investigate how the freight elevator came to be on the 6th floor when a trolley full of user equipment was pushed through the doors on the 5th floor by the PFY.

I could say it was standard procedure to stop the boss offering our services as porters, but instead murmur something unconvincing about PLU controllers being affected by spikes.

By the end of the day Sharon has reached the conclusion I desire - our kit needs a safety retrofit. That, combined with the glossy mags on 'Systems Safety' that the Boss discovered in his briefcase (outlining the benefits of the equipment produced by a corporation in the US), is more than enough to hint at junket time.

"I don't think that is at all necessary," Sharon responds, upon hearing the boss's plan. "Everything we need can be sourced locally."

"We should investigate all options," the boss cries, not inclined to miss out on a junket to the States.

According to plan the boss attempts to add credibility to his junket by suggesting that we all go "to cover all technical bases".

And the boss does know best.

The plane lifts off and the PFY and I get into the drinks ASAP while Sharon wanders up to business class to curry some more of the boss's favour.

"I don't get it," says the PFY.

"SOP for a boss," I respond. "If you want something, get it for someone else 'for technical reasons' then it looks that much more legitimate if you get yourself one. Cellphones, laptops, you name it!"

"What are we going to do when we get there?"

"I plan to drink tequila at a beachside bar."

"I don't think there are beaches in Ohio."

"Ohio?" I cry, "We're not going to Ohio. Not after the hijack anyway."

"You're going to hijack the plane?" the PFY hisses. "You're not serious?"

"Deadly."

"But..."

"Oh don't worry, there's no gunplay. Just track one of this CD," I murmur calmly, holding up my portable CD player.

"It's a CD player!"

"Ostensibly yes, but also... a mini GPS transmitter."

"You're screwing with the plane's guidance system?"

"I prefer the term 'having a meaningful encounter'. This little baby will shortly start pumping out some low-wattage GPS information - information the plane will use to get its flight path. And, over the course of the journey, the information will deviate slightly - because if I do it all at once the pilot might notice."

"You'll never get away with it," the PFY whispers discouragingly.

"Of course I will. Have I ever steered you wrong?"

"Uh, last week when you told me the power was off when I was replacing the fuse in that rack. The week before when you told me that all the ducting has door handles on the inside, so it would be all right to shut the door."

"I let you bloody out, didn't I?"

"After you'd drunk all the lager I'd found in the boss's locker."

And so it is that I'm sitting in a South American bar, drinking tequilas while the boss tries to get us a return flight to civilisation. Thanks to the super-spadework I put in when we almost ran out of fuel because of the extra miles, Sharon is my new best mate.