"You know what I hate?" the PFY asks one morning, looking up from a sheaf of bright pink pages.
"Oooh!" I say "I know this! Short people. Short MEN to be more precise. Short men in authority positions. Short men in authority positions and Mac users. Short men in authority, Mac users and the fact that NO programmable remote control is really all that programmable."
"No, I ..."
"Reality TV. People who make reality TV. People who WATCH reality TV. People who talk about what they watched on reality TV. People who complain about how sht reality TV is, then bang on about all the reality TV they watched and how sht it was."
"No, I mean ..."
"People who say 'hard drive' when they mean 'computer'. People who say 'computer' when they mean 'screen'. 'Natural' keyboards. The guy wh..."
"No, I mean at the office!"
"Oh. The Boss. The Director. Beancounters. HR PR ..."
">sigh< Okay, so what’s on your mind today then?"
"It's these bloody forms!" the PFY snips.
"Ah!" I say, thinking back a couple of days through shimmering low-budget Register screen effects ...
"Team Conference!" the Boss mumbles through the plasters covering a face that looks like it caught fire and someone tried to put it out with a rotary hoe. (A hardware problem) "Ten minutes."
A few minutes later ...
"The company thinks it's a good idea to implement a Personal Goal Setting system," the Boss says, handing a form to each of us, "something that you can use to highlight areas that you wish to improve upon in the coming year."
The blank faces of the assembled staff convince the Boss to continue. "Okay say there's something at work you'd like to get into ..."
In the corner of my eye I see the PFY writing something about the Director's PA's underwear.
"... something related to work of course," the Boss adds.
The PFY ticks a checkbox on his form.
"It could be something you've wanted to get into for some time or just something you'd like to try for a bit of variety."
The PFY scribbles something thankfully illegible down.
"What we want to know is how we can help you achieve your goal."
The PFY starts scribbling furiously. The words GIN and PARTY get underlined several times.
"And we want to help you communicate your achievements to the rest of the staff ..."
The PFY scribbles something followed by FACEBOOK.
"..as an example to others. Something so that others can follow in your footsteps."
I snatch the form off the PFY and crumple it up.
"It fitted the criteria!" the PFY sniffs, in non-italicised present tense. "Anyway, it's better than being lumbered with some pathetic 'Dealing with difficult people' training course."
"Well as your supervisor I felt that you needed to focus on that area. Anyway, I did the course a few years back and it wasn't that bad," I say.
"But it's a load of crap! You fill in a questionnaire about the people that annoy you so that some huggy-feely nutbar that HR has contracted to the company can try to make you feel better."
"Yes, I remember that nutbar. And I remember those questions."
"You do?" the PFY asks. "What’d you put down for 'Where are your most difficult people found'?"
"From memory I put '10 metres down, Packington landfill, 20 years from now'."
"And they accepted that?"
"No, they rejected my form at first."
"So how did you get them to accept it?"
"They never got back to me after the first time."
"Because you wore them down?"
"Oh they'd become a 'difficult person' by that stage. Either way I never heard from them again. No one did."
"I have to fill out four pages of questions about my likes and dislikes!" the PFY sniffs. "What did you get for your Professional Development?"
"I've got 'Health and Safety – Identifying dangerous situations'. Apparently the Boss thought that I could pick up some pointers to reduce the number of IT-related workplace accidents. A two-week course!"
"TWO WEEKS Sounds like a nightmare," the PFY says. "Who’s taking it – someone in-house?"
"No, no, it's a compliance thing so it's being taking by some external consultant from the industry. We get a certificate and everything."
"Oooooooooh, a certificate," The PFY says sarcastically. "That'll be one for the glory box. You seem remarkably calm about two weeks of boredom."
"Because I've done the 'dealing with difficult people' course and know that sometimes it's better to embrace a challenge than hide from it. Anyway, I've already met the bloke – he was down in reception so I asked him to pop up and take a look around ..."
"... And that'll be him now!"
"Morning," our H&S facilitator chips abruptly, stepping into Mission Control.
"Good to see you again!" I say. "This is my assistant, Stephen. Gosh, what are you – 5 foot 2, 3?"
"Five four, of course! Ooh look, is that a Macintosh laptop? My assistant loves those. Tell me – what are your feelings on remote con..."