It's a balmy day at Network Central when I roll along to a meeting with the bean counter types about the expense claims that I've put in over the last two months.
It seems the brand, spanking new, state-of-the-art, bells-and-whistles character recognition software (to recognise expenses claims and whack them straight into a spreadsheet to perform mystical analyses of who's spending all the expenses money) has a slight hiccup when it comes to my claims and receipts. Perhaps, and I'm only guessing here, it's because I don't WANT anyone recognising what the hell my expenses really are.
If I wanted the boss to read 'beer and spirits' on my meal allowance form, I could have printed, in bold capitals, 'BEER AND SPIRITS', and not scrawled 'Breek and Sprorts' in a dyslexic manner.
It's a network contractor's prerogative to fork out their own money for a couple of packets of salt and vinegar crisps, then clock up a humungous bar-tab and get it paid for by the firm! In fact, it's a God-given right!
I mentally prepare for the interview with a couple of glasses of lager and a plate of chips at the local. Ten minutes later I'm in legume-reckoning central, talking to one of its many representatives.
"OK, meal allowances...what on earth does that say?" the beancounter challenges. "Breek and sprorts. What the hell's breek and sprorts?
"Let me see..." I answer, feigning contemplation. "Oh! That's beef! I must have had the steak!"
"Sprorts. Hmm...brussels sprouts!"
"You ate ™150 worth of beef and brussels sprouts??"
"I might have. They were out of season.. Quite yummy if you serve them right. Expensive out of season too. And it was a rather large steak..."
Half an hour of creative food visualisation later...
"What's this one?" asks the accountant. "Breek and escrot?"
"Well, the first one's obviously beef again and the second one...hmmmmm... almost looks like ESCORT doesn't it?! HA HA HA! Imagine that - work paying for an escort! No, I don't know what it could be - some form of delicacy that they serve at the Amsterdam Convention Centre?
I saw it coming of course. That new handwriting analysis software could have taken my 'breek and sprorts', my 'ligord and amno' and come up with 'beer and spirits', 'liquor and ammo', spill the beans on where I bought them, how much it was a shot, and what her name was!
I don't think I need to tell you that this is a bad thing.
Luckily I am a firm believer in the ideal that as technology advances, people should regress as a form of self-defence. So I started varying my choice of writing implement and size, filling my forms out half in crayon, half in finger paint (all perfectly acceptable under the current expense claim directives which dictate that claims must be filled out in the claimant's handwriting).
Perhaps it's the writing in letters that varies between 16 point and 1600 point that's throwing the software off...
I'm drawn back to consciousness by the arrival of a new bean counter to replace my one, who by this time has worn out...
"Simon, just a couple more hiccups," my new bean counter starts.
"Mmmm?" I respond, only wanting to help.
"This one. It's a vertical line, in crayon I think?"
"Yes. That would be correct. I believe that was the first line of the V in the word veal."
"Had a hand cramp, couldn't write any smaller. I could hardly hold the crayon in fact. And I didn't want to forget. Surely I'm not going to be penalised for a personal disability?" The words 'personal disability' have him almost wetting his pants with fear. The new huggy-feely fringe in upper management is so politically sound they echo, and even a sniff of insensitivity would be treated with lightening quick dismissal.
"Ah. OK. But 100 quid worth of veal?" he asks nervously.
"There was a side-salad too. Had grapes in it."
"I see. And this? It looks like a paint slur?"
"Finger paint." I reply. "Steak Sandwich. Extremely rare. See, you can see where the tail of the Y was."
"It's a smudge!"
"No, it really says that. I had to squish it up to fit it on the form due to the resolution of my finger."
"Why didn't you use a pen?"
"What? And risk RSI?"
Ten minutes later, another broken beancounter can be added to the tally as he gives in completely and adds up the totals.
"Oh!" I say, suddenly remembering "I've got one more."
"What's that?" he asks. "Breek and clops from today?"
"That would be...beef and chops."
"You had two meat dishes."
"Of course, got to keep my protein up!"
It's a dog's life really...