"Wow, that's like the Matrix!" the Director's PA gasps.
"Yes, it's what we call a terminal session," the PFY chips back drily.
"It's so... green."
"Yes," I sagely nod. "It's a monochrome terminal session, green on black."
"I don't know what that means."
"Back in the day - when IT required more skills than it took to use crayons - everything was done in command lines or terminal windows. Or CRT terminals."
"I don't know what CRT terminals are," frowns the PA.
"Okay," I say, taking a deep breath. "When I started, terminals were 13 inch screens, green text on black background. They had the resolution of your smartwatch, gave out a high pitched whistle about 25 per cent of the time and smelt of superheated dust."
"Then, because green text 'gave people headaches' we upgraded everyone to amber on black screens - after that, white on black screens - then eventually back to green on black screens... It was the terminal equivalent of the iPhone upgrade experience."
"When we ran out of text colours we started upgrading the size of the terminals - you know, like the iPhone experience again - culminating in senior management having dual 20 inch monitors - white on black."
"It was only senior managers who could have dual 20 inch monitors because (a) you needed your own furniture budget to pay for the desk to be reinforced to support them and (b) anyone less than a senior manager didn't have an office large enough to fit the depth of the screens without leaving a door open."
"They didn't last all that long, though, because LCD panels were coming in at the time and some of those questionably-sourced monitors had a hell of a power draw and may have had a radiation profile that'd have Kerr-McGee suggesting a quiet drive alone in the Oklahoma countryside."
"Uh... ... yes," says the PA. "Anyway, I just came in because I can't see your calendar."
"Surely you can?"
"Oh, I can see it, but I can't see anything in it."
"You can't see my bookings?" I arch an eyebrow. Bless her.
"I can see your bookings, but I can't see what they are."
"Oh, you mean the detail is invisible to you?"
"Yes, and I need to schedule some meetings between you and the Director."
"Is this that HR thing?"
"I..." she says, hesitating.
It's the same old story. They try to ambush you into an HR intervention by slapping a meeting in your diary with an ambiguous title - only, knowing this was coming, I've booked back-to-back meetings for the next three weeks, made them all private so that no-one but me knows what they are and set my calendar to reject meeting proposals that clash.
"I'm quite busy at the moment - as you can see." I lie. Luckily a php stub to randomly redirect anyone who clicks on the company's "about us" link to a porn site is "like the matrix" to her so I can't be proved wrong.
"Well if you could make a bit of time available - probably only 10 minutes - it'd really help."
If they only need 10 minutes the evidence must be pretty damning...
"Look I'm sure I'll be free the week after next - or sometime around then," I lie, making a mental note to block out my diary for the next five weeks.
"How about now?" she asks
"Oh, I'd love to, but I have a lunchtime meeting!" I say, grabbing my coat.
Quarter of an hour later the Boss, the Director and an HR dweeb interrupt my intake of a balanced diet of lager sandwiches and sit down at the table opposite me.
"If the mountain won't come..." the Boss says.
"Oh come on. You could lose a few kilos, sure, but you're hardly a mountain. Okay, 20kgs, but still..."
"This is exactly what I was talking about," the Boss snaps to the HR dweeb.
"Yes, well, we're sorry to interrupt you, but it looks like you don't have a lunchtime meeting after all." the HR dweeb says
"He didn't turn up," I say.
"BE THAT AS IT MAY," the Director booms. "We may as well sort this out right now."
"Sort what out?"
"You... called him... an arsehole!" the Director says, pacing his words like a stage actor while pointing at the Boss. "At a staff meeting - in front of witnesses!"
"I did not!"
"You did," the Boss simpers back.
"Ridiculous!" I return. "You weren't even there! I was simply asked whether I'd characterise the Boss as an arsehole and I'd said no. As far as character goes, he's less of an arsehole and more of a semicolon."
"RIGHT!" the Boss shouts, once he's had time to process that.
Which meant I had time to get another pint in.
"I have to inform you that this will lead to disciplinary action," the HR dweeb tells me sternly.
"I hardly think there's any need for that," I counter
"No. I mean you may have started a disciplinary process without informing me ahead of time, as required in my contract. You may have denied me the opportunity to have a support person or counsel present when you presented your complaints to me; you may have even made an accusation without obtaining a first-hand report, but I'm not the spiteful type. Live and let live - that's my motto."
And as quick as it was formed, this posse is disbanded.
The next day the Boss is ringing me first thing in the morning with apologetic tones oozing down the line.
"What's happened to my monitors?"
"Oh, there was a recall on your LCDs so we've just temporarily replaced them while we get them sorted. Something about the power leads, apparently. Luckily we had a couple of these down in the basement which are exactly the same size as your old ones."
"So how do I switch them on?"
"Oh, of course - I put them on a separate power point as they take a... fraction... more power than your LCDs. Just flip the switch on the wall."
I could swear all the fluro tubes on the floor flicker as he flips the switch and the sound of static fills my hands-free speaker. It wouldn't surprise me if Wi-Fi for a couple of building radii around us has been overwhelmed with oddball interference. Far off in the distance, I can hear the Boss asking me something but I'm not too sure what it is... and then the answer to his question hits me.