Too Quiet?

Year 1999 - Episode 1


It's quiet. Possibly too quiet - The kind of quiet you get when you shove a thick chunk of copper wire in a circuit breaker, a nail in the phase circuit breaker and a bolt in the floor circuit breaker... then drop a screwdriver down one of the ventilation holes of the mainframe's power supply.

I make my way carefully through the emergency-lit computer room to my office, my only detour being a quick circuit breaker replacement tour and a stop at the bin to drop off a badly scarred screwdriver.

I always prefer to start the year off with a bang - or, to be more precise, a series of loud hums, a crackle or two, and a muffled BOOM from the sub-basement.

After all, it's just good manners to let the great unwashed know just who's still at the helm of this operation.

The PFY, meantime, is on holiday, exercising his Christmas bonus to its maximum potential. After all, it's only a matter of time before the Boss realises that there's a duplicate of his credit card out there (again) and calls up the card company.

I did my bit for the PFY's R&R by pushing the Boss's latest credit card statement, envelope and all, into the shredder. Apparently he was under the misguided impression that receiving mail at work is far safer than getting it at his dockside apartment drop box... a mistake that's likely to cost him.

Speaking of the Boss's mail, it's about time to distribute all his waylaid Christmas vendor freebies among the IT troops in a manner not altogether unlike a modern day IT Robin Hood.

"What? Is that it?" a particularly ungrateful antipodean contractor (who couldn't find his bum with a mirror and a torch without a 1:1 scale map) asks after I hand him a bottle of red wine that has better disinfectant than drinking properties.

"Sorry?"

"It's a little, er, cheap, isn't it?" he sniffles.

The things you hear when the PFY isn't around with a nailgun.

"Gee, sorry Mike!" I cry. "I guess it's not like home where you get your pick of the flock for the night as a Christmas bonus."

He lets the slur pass, and grudgingly accepts the bottle, not realising just how well I remember the time, after an agency knees-up, when he dropped me off at the farthest tube station from my destination...three minutes AFTER the Tube stopped running.

Trusting no one, he stashes the bottle in his desk-side footlocker, giving me the chance to stuff a large piece of foam packing over the cooling inlet at the back of his desktop machine.

Thermal overheating time bomb set, I wander off to distribute more New Year cheer.

And not a moment too soon, as the power is restored and the building springs back into life.

When I've run out of blocks of foam and cheap bottles of wine, I grab some of the good stuff and go on my REAL goodwill rounds, dropping off gifts to the telephone operators, the cleaning staff, and, lastly, the building maintenance guy. Know what palms to grease and when - that's my motto.

Having ensured that no one's going to investigate my long-distance phone bill, find the Boss's shredded credit card statements or wonder what's protected by the Armageddon-proof lock on the door marked 'Plant Room No3' in the basement, I return to my office.

As luck would have it, the Boss is waiting for me there with an annoyed expression on his face. It's only a 'generally-annoyed' expression, which means that he's probably not found out about his credit card yet, let alone me calling up his credit company and cranking his limit up so far he'd get nose bleeds just thinking about it.

"What's this about you blocking up the cooling vent of Mike's machine?" he asks.

Bastard!

"Oh, that - it's not sponge, it's...noise damping material."

"?..."

"Noise damping - the material has a gaseous porosity which allows air flow but reduces sound output by a factor of around 10 decibels per megalitre of vacuum-rated European Standard air."

"Err, really? So it's just to cut down noise?"

"Of course!"

"Hang on a minute!..."

I suppose it was a little too good to be true...

"Yes?"

"Why haven't you installed any on my machine?"

I don't believe it...

"Oh, I was just getting round to it - your one is in that old monitor box over there."

He ferrets around in the aforementioned box before pulling out a bit of packing.

"This? It's a bit of machine packing."

"No, it's a sound-reducing, air-cleaning filter."

"Then why has it got 'recycle this packing carefully' printed on the side of it?"

"Because... it was packed in old newspaper and they couldn't print over the top of it."

"Oh... so how do I use it?"

"Well, you make sure that it's hard up against the fan inlet so that no, er, 'unfiltered' air can get through."

"Right, well, I'll let Mike know then," he burbles as he wanders out to destroy his machine.

"No, no!" I cry. "Leave that to me - I'll sort him out."

And sort him out I will.