The problem with being away on a jolly, sorry fact-finding tour of the States, is that there's a hell of a lot of paperwork to catch up on. Normally, I shove this to one side and if any of the paper pushers upstairs complain they get shown the door swiftly when the CEO receives insulting e-mail from their PCs. It's amazing the rude words the chair warmers can come up with sometimes.
But this time it's different. It's yearly budget time again, which means once more it's time to print the 'Basic Computing' OHPs so I can explain to the technical management committee why we should look at upgrading our network.
I briefly consider not printing the 'This is a BIT, This is a BYTE' slides, but reconsider when I remember that one of the committee avoids lace-up shoes because it takes him an hour longer to get ready for work...
While I'm planning the phone rings. Caller-ID tells me that it's a nasty specimen from Public Relations who just yesterday, as chance would have it, was lucky enough to slip into a parking space that I myself was about to enter.
Lucky is, of course, a relative term, and subject to revision over time. The time is now. I press the 'record conversation' button.
"Hi, network ops," I say.
"I need a PCMCIA net card for my laptop. By Friday, 9am."
Of course it's Thursday afternoon, 3:45pm.
"Ah, equipment purchases must go through your department," I say.
"Then you'll have to loan me one. The purchase order wouldn't go through in time. Besides, it's my personal machine, I've got a presentation to give to the CEO that I've been working on at home."
"Wouldn't it be preferable to transfer all this via back-up floppies to your work machine?" I ask, praying for the desired response.
"Don't be stupid, it'd take me a year to back this lot up. Just get me a card and I'll do the presentation from my laptop tomorrow."
"Well, I've got a ... doctor's appointment right now so I won't have time to configure your machine for the card," I say, giving him the chance to dig a nice big hole. "Also, I won't be in until about 9:30am tomorrow."
"I'll do the bloody configuration!" he growls. "It's not rocket science, despite what you geeks attempt to imply!"
Hole dug nice and deep. Now to work on the edging details...
"I don't know, if you get something wrong, or the card's incompatible.."
"IT'S A BLOODY PCMCIA CARD. HOW CAN IT BE INCOMPATIBLE!?!"
The hole is perfection, in fact it looks almost grave-like.
"Well, OK, I'll leave one in the equipment room. But take a network card and not a SECURE-network card. Do you know the difference?"
He's in a lather now and there's no way he'd admit ignorance.
"JUST LEAVE THE BLOODY CARD OUT AND I'LL PICK IT UP IN THE MORNING!"
He hangs up.
From the 'documentation' safe I pull out the 'special' PCMCIA card and pop it on the desk in the equipment room.
The next day I roll in at about 9:30 in time to be summoned to the CEO's office.
"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?" he rants.
"About what?" I ask, innocence personified.
"THAT BLOODY EXPLODING NETWORK CARD THAT CARSON IN PR GOT!"
"Exploding network card? What explo.. Oh dear. He didn't try to install a SECURE-network card in his machine did he? I told him yesterday to be careful about installing and configuring it. They're programmed to self-destruct if someone attempts to override their access parameters..."
"By self-destruct you mean..?"
"Well there's a tiny nitrate charge in them which burns out the circuitry.."
"Or perhaps blows a hole the size of a saucer through the laptop in question?"
"They DID have teething problems with the first batch, which is why I had them recalled to the equipment room in preparation to send them back to the manufacturer. But it shouldn't have been used in the first place. I warned Carson yesterday when he asked, it's all on the voice tapes..."
Much later as I'm watching the name 'Carson, MJ' being removed from the floor directory and 'Carson, MJ' in person being removed from the premises, I can't help but wonder what makes people think they can beat the system.
It's a good system. It's MY system.
I like it.
Now, to complete plans for the budget meeting...