There's stocktaking to be done and awkward questions to be answered. But the BOFH stays cool as things get hot...

Year 1998 - Episode 7


I hate inventory time. Every bloody year it's the same: traipse around and record the ser-ial number attached to each device in a half-witted attempt to ensure that we don't steal any kit. Then the inevitable spot checks to make sure that we weren't lying.

It would almost be inconvenient if we didn't have a complete list of the serial numbers and control of the program that randomly selects the equipment that's going to be spot-checked.

And let me tell you, if someone ever steals the full-height 5MB hard drive, the 600 BPI nine-track tape drive, or the ZX81 expansion memory card, there's going to be questions asked in accounts.

Our spot-check kit's all in perfect nick of course - only in service for a couple of hours every year - besides, should we require to change the inventory's selection, there's a huge space in one of our deserted warehouses in Peckham that's jam-packed with equipment that no-one's going to steal.

Not that it's necessary, given that with the frightening turnover of bean-counters the chances of running into the same inventory auditor two years in a row is about the same as someone discovering the boss has stashed three motor vehicles behind packing cases in the aforementioned warehouse.

That's the beauty of a good alarm system - it doesn't ring bells to scare intruders - it just dials up your Linux box and chucks a real-time movie onto your X-terminal.

And so it was that the PFY and I noticed the arrival of three spanking-new top-of-the-line vehicles in the long-term storage area of the warehouse.

The boss, only recently returned to us by the police, is of course to blame. Trying to brown-nose away his sins with the CEO by reorganising this year's executive vehicle replacement into a bulk purchase deal, he made one error.

It seems that somehow, unbeknownst to him, Mercedes got mixed up with Lada on the order form, and instead of it being faxed to the reputable luxury car dealer a SIMM's throw from our office doorstep, it somehow made it to a less-reputable economy car dealer quite some distance away. An economy car dealer who, by some quirk of fate had three, brand spanking new Ladas sitting at the back of his showroom � for the last six years.

The boss took the delivery well though. Better than he took the playing of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire on the cafeteria juke box over and over again after recovering from the unorthodox medication he received at the recent team-building weekend.

And so it was that I felt a modicum of animosity in the air when the boss deigned to join the inventory auditors on their rounds.

"A 600BPI, nine-track tape unit?" the auditor asks.

"Ah, that would be just over here," I respond, pointing.

"That wasn't there yesterday," the boss cries, smelling rodent.

"No, we had a reshuffle to make way for new cabling," I respond in a manner that would have got me the Baden-Powell award for preparedness.

"I see. A Seagate five-megabyte hard drive?"

"That will be on the e-mail list server."

"We don't use five-meg hard drives any more," the boss cries.

"Afraid so," I reply. "As the list server software runs on an old XT which only supports MFM hard drives."

"This is ridiculous," he cries, grabbing the auditor's sheaf of papers and fumbling into non spot-check territory.

"What about this 29-inch Sony TV?"

"Nicam Stereo, with text option?" I ask. "In the boardroom, not here"

"OK, well what about the Sega video game?"

"It's with personnel, they were going to use it for a creche for workers returning from maternity leave," I ad-lib, and far faster than the soundcard does.

"Right," he says, in a determined manner. "The brand-new heating and cooling system, supposed to be in this room - where is it?"

"In the delivery room downstairs isn't it?"

"No, I checked this morning. They said they delivered it here."

"Well perhaps it's outside the service elevator."

"No, but I have a fair idea of where it is. Warm at home is it?" he asks, flashing a photograph of the outside of my flat featuring a new air-conditioner.

"I just installed a new unit at home because I was so impressed with the spec of the system we bought."

"Bought and put where?" the boss asks nastily. "It was in the Peckham warehouse wasn't it?" the PFY chimes to the rescue. "Because of all the new heat-generating kit that was recently dumped there," he mentions, pointedly.

"Ah, yes," the boss responds, at 1,400 backpedals per second. "Of course, I should have known. Well, no problems here."

Quicker than you can say diminished responsibility he and the auditor are gone.

"He's got it in for us you know," the PFY murmurs.

"Yes, I know. And it's just not fair, and highly unjustified. Now, how do you spell Trabant again?"