It's a fateful Wednesday when I'm called into the boss's office for some important news. Present are a technical manager and the department's personnel manager.
A collection of three like-minded peers one might say - or five, if we were to count the paperweight and rubbish bin, which do more work and provide far more value for money to the company.
"We've, err ... decided not to renew your contract", the boss blurts out after a couple of seconds of tense silence.
The technical manager and personnel manager have suddenly found interesting things to look at on the roof and floor. Meantime the boss, by the looks of it, is making an attempt at the world mass-sweating award. He's expecting the worst, so I let him have it.
"Okay", I say quietly. "I leave four weeks from tomorrow, I believe".
"Ah, well, we've decided to pay you off for the last four weeks of your contract", the boss fawns.
"In fact, you can leave right now if you like. Actually", he blurts, "we'd prefer it".
"Sure", I say. "I'll just get my things and be off then".
"Ah, we've had security do that just now", the boss says, waiting for the eruption. "There's a box outside".
"Okay then, I'll see you around", I say, step outside and grab my belongings.
In the lift on the way down the pimply-faced-youth is astounded.
"What are you going to do?", he asks, shocked.
"Me? Take a holiday, read some books, no plans really".
"No, I mean about being let go".
"Oh that! Nothing really. I'm sure you'll cope without me".
A grin slips across his face as he contemplates the future.
"I'll see what I can do ..."
Three days later the phone rings. It's the boss.
"Ah, just ringing to see if you could take your contract back", he grovels.
"Why, surely my trainee's doing well?"
"Ah no, not really".
"Strange, I taught him everything I know", I reply, keeping the ball rolling.
"Yes, that's what we were afraid of".
"I don't know. He just keeps making mistakes. At least he says they're mistakes".
"What sort of mistakes?"
"All sorts! The other day he 'repaired' an 'unusual' temperature control setting on a probe in the boardroom and boiled the CEO's tropical fish in their tank; his 'Lift Maintenance' had myself and one of the managers riding between floors three and four over the lunch hour; the share-price monitor only picks up Dutch porn channels; the security doors keep locking people out of the toilets - except on one occasion when it locked a particularly nervous secretary in - and one of the board member's hearing aids fedback so badly when he went near the sixth floor comms room he was clinically deaf for four days afterwards!"
"Well networking is a touchy business and he is still learning I guess".
"Yes, yes, but can you come back and fix things? The network server passwords expire every day and the minimum password length increases with it. By the end of the week it'll be 15 letters, and you know what the big boss will say about typing his initials five times".
"Well, I don't know ...", I say, holding out for the inevitable.
"An extra ™5,000 a year?"
"And I never did like that personal liability clause".
"IT'S NEVER STOPPED YOU BEFORE!"
"True, but it gets to you after a while ..."
"All right, all right, it's a deal. When can you start?"
A day later the status quo is restored. The PFY gives me a quick run-down on what happened in my absence. Apparently the turning point was after an accident on the mezzanine escalator involving the boss's wife, his surprise birthday cake, the CEO's suit and a sudden change of escalator speed. An extraordinary coincidence ...
The phone rings and, as I'm in such a good mood, I pick it up.
"Is that the networks guy?" a voice asks.
"I've got a problem with this new machine and the network".
"A pentium?" I guess randomly.
"Uh-huh. The manufacturer faxed us about an electrostatic build-up problem".
"To fix it, just slide the lid open ..."
"Pull the network card out ..."
"... and put tin foil along the edge connector to ground static charges".
"Now plug the card in and switch her on".
"Okay. I'm switching it".
It's funny how you always miss the good times...