It's a glorious day in the south of France, especially since my room at L'Hotel Ambassadeur managed to somehow get double-booked and they upgraded to me to a suite with more rooms than I've had bosses. Getting the signatures on my entry form for Network Professional of the Year was no problem - I knew that digi-sig faciliy on the network fax server would be handy for something - and so here I am to pick up my award. Okay, there are half-a-dozen other finalists, but I have this suspicion that there are numerous skeletons due for synchronised cupboard exodus very shortly.
Down at the awards dinner, with the sound of an alleged 'entertainer' rambling on in the background, I get talking to a rather nice PR bimbette, who is fascinated by the modern networking methods we use.
"So you've tuned the ATM backbone to 827Mbps?"
"Only on the test network of course, we couldn't use something that fas ... err ... early in development for the real users"
"Naturally. So how do you measure the throughput?"
"Doom II between half-a-dozen SGI Challenge boxes, of course. Comes out around 45,000pps"
"45,000 packets per second doesn't sound very quick". Hang about, a PR woman who knows how fast a network should go ... scary thought.
"No, it's points per second. You don't get packets for killing things in Doom, you know.
"Oh, I see. You must have a major budget each year, too, if you've got six Challenges on your test network alone".
"Ah, well, you see, they're eventually going to the CEO's pet videoconferencing project; we bought them with the insurance money after the Pentium 75's from the first project met an accident"
"That's some difference in cost"
"Well, yes, but we have a friendly insurance company". And a rather nice home video of their board at a conference in Amsterdam ...
"Nice one. So let me guess, you've had to clock-chip the Challenges and tweak their ATM cards, thus making them 'experimental' and giving them to you for a month or two for 'testing'".
This girl is on the ball ... I'm almost impressed.
"Well, yes, but it's a complex job so testing will take a bit more than a couple of months ... 2004 would be a good year, I reckon".
"You're a bastard, aren't you?"
Catches on quick, this one. As we're chatting, some TV personality (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) is introduced and given a shiny gold envelope to open. This he manages without needing to read the instructions, though only just.
"And the Network Professional of the Year is ..."
Later in the "winners' enclosure" I again find myself chatting to my PR friend; it's terrible, this animal attraction I seem to have. She appears surprised at my victory.
"So how did you manage to pull that off? I must admit, I wasn't exactly expecting you to get it, given your apparently unconventional outlook on network management. Did you hack the entries computer or something?".
Hack? She must be an oldie - nobody with any self-respect would ever call themselves a hacker these days, unless they owned a seriously bad anorak. I call for more drinks (the expensive stuff, naturally - I already have the root password to the hotel's systems, not to mention the room number of the old goat from the telly who bored us so much over dinner), take a deep breath, and explain.
"No, I didn't _hack_ ..." (it takes all my effort to say the word) "... anything". Anyways, the shortlists and stuff were all done in hardware and weren't possible to access over the hotel LAN.
"With a biro and a piece of paper. These judge types have trouble with technology"
"Ah, _that_ hardware"
"Yup. Anyway, I didn't have to hack anything; all but one of my competitors pulled out at the last moment. Well, actually some of them didn't, if the polaroids they received in yesterday's mail are anything to go by".
"What, they were _ALL_ having a bit on the side?"
"Two of the six were - it's a side-effect of having to spend so much time in hot countries at networking shows and conferences"
"What about the ones that weren't?
"Simple. One of them works for the company that's sponsoring the awards, so the small print got to him before I could. Of the others, one now has a photocopy of a vehicle registration form and the other was fired inexplicably after an anonymous, untraceable phone call yesterday afternoon and had his nomination withdrawn by hix now-ex-employer". I must put the PFY in for a raise - he did that phone call business without me even asking.
"I see. What's this about a registration form?"
"Oh, just something about a vanishing company Rolls and a known black-market car trader"
"I see. You really are a bastard, aren't you?"
"Naturally. Though it's taken me a while to perfect, of course."
"So what about the one competitor who didn't withdraw?"
"Oh, I beat him fair and square; the directors' words of recommendation on my entry were far more flattering than those on his". At least they were _after_ the form got switched in the chief judge's briefcase on a train to Doncaster last week.
"So what's next?"
"Back to work, a nice pay rise as thanks for raising the company profile, thank the temp for keeping the users on their toes while I've been away, then the occasional after-dinner speech with a five-figure fee".
"What if someone blows the whistle?"
"Oh, I don't have to worry about that"
"Don't you?". I don't like the look in her eye, or the tone of her voice for that matter. "What would you say if I told you I taped this conversation?"
"I'd point out that the dictating gadget in your top left pocket has no record head, so you've got a blank tape. As we're on the subject, what would you say if I told you that the phone in your your room was bugged? Now what were all their names ...". I pat my pocket, and hear the reassuring rattle of microcassette-in-plastic-case.
Sense of humour failure is instant, and she turns and wanders off to sulk.
My mother was right ... you should never trust someone in PR.