The boss has become a liability. Sad, but true. Still, it's all part of the Pimply-Faced-Youth's training, so it has to be done.
He knows something is up, and is trying to ingratiate himself with me by asking for technical advice all the time and thanking me profusely for it. In other words, sucking up.
On the ingratiation scales, it's right up there with hitting an alligator's snout with a stick to make it friendlier. If I'd wanted work, I'd have left the phone on the hook in the first place.
The final snout-rap came when he brought his home stereo in for some installation advice. I don't know why, but he seems to believe that simply because I do some work at the nuts and bolts end of the computing spectrum, I'm bound to know about everything from the rating of the third fuse to how to program a Beta video to get Coronation Street in the least amount of tape.
I give it a quick once-over to see what's wrong with it, noticing almost immediately that the tape IN and OUT leads were the wrong way round.
"So what's the problem?" I ask.
"It's the tape," he whines. "It stopped working after we moved the stereo into the drawing room. If you turn the volume all the way up, you can just hear the sound of the tape".
"Hmm", I murmur thoughtfully. "We'll probably need the speakers to get the complete picture".
"I'll get them at lunchtime", he enthuses.
Three hours later we have the little beauties on the desk. I jam the overload cutouts closed while the PFY puts the bags of isopropyl alcohol and ignition circuits into them. Half an hour later we have a masterpiece and sneak off into hiding, priming the halon system before we go.
Fifteen minutes after that we're playing poker in the storeroom when we hear the first strains of a Neil Diamond number thumping. I look to the PFY.
"The loudness switch should do it", he murmurs, taking his electrical apprenticeship quite seriously.
Scant seconds later there is a >Crump!< from the control room as Neil fires up not only a guitar solo, but also a very expensive pair of speakers.
The PFY and I can hear the beeping of the Halon warning, which means that the boss has to make a decision - save the speakers and be suffocated, or watch them burn and live.
The silencing on the warning tells us that the boss has subscribed to the motto "Choose Life".
We give him a couple of minutes of respectful silence then grab some equipment and wander back, pausing only to knock over a huge box of thinwire terminator.
"Woopsy," the PFY mutters. "We'd better pick those up ... later".
By the time we locate him, the boss is sobbing into an oxygen mask in the sick bay as he recounts the horror of it all.
"It just caught fire", he bleats, "and then those job sheets caught light, then those folders, then the wooden door wedges stacked on top of them like kindling, then ..."
A thought crosses his mind, watches for traffic, and seeing none, crosses back. He stares at us both.
"You bastard!" he utters in a state of shock.
The PFY and I exchange shocked glances.
"We were in the store!" I cry, lamb-like innocence.
Tossing the mask aside, he makes a break to verify this.
And that's not the only break of the day. An arm and a clavicle follow in short order as he rockets across the floor on terminator rollers into the poorly loaded paper shelves, which promptly fall on him.
Nasty. We tell the officer that when he comes to investigate. (The boss's new corporate policy requires all incidents to be reported to the police.) Fitting that he should be a test (and basket) case. The officer sadly takes down the details, then goes to get a statement from the boss. Two hours later he discards the pages of notes in favour of a "Workplace Accident" verdict and leaves with an expensive speakerless stereo that we had no need for. On the way out he pauses.
"You're a computing guy?" the Cop asks me.
"Yep", I reply, nodding.
"You know anything about Beta videos? My wife likes ..."
Hanging's too good for 'em ...