"I believe that's another 500 quid down the toilet and another two points for me," the pimply-faced-youth gloats, adding another tick to the lengthening line in his favour.
True, a competition to see who can destroy the most equipment in a week was a little childish, but it's been slow recently and experimentation is good on-the-job training. We play for the usual stakes, a pint at the pub across town.
"What was it?" I asked, effecting a slight interest.
"I told a user that his problem was power leakage in getting electricity to the sixth floor. The excuse calendar gave me the idea and I worked back from there. Told him the voltage was much lower when it got to his room, so he should ..."
"Switch his PC to 115 Volts," I finish tiredly.
"Was there something wrong with that?" he asks.
"Not per se. But remember our job isn't really to destroy equipment or frighten the daylights out of our users. That's an added bonus in our selflessly devoted lives as technical support persons. Our job is to ensure the smooth running of our networking subsystem."
"By eliminating users on it."
"Show me an Ethernet collision and I'll show you a network that could do with one user fewer," I reply.
"But you're always going to have collisions!"
"And I'm always going to be devoted to network performance enhancement."
"Whilst making a truckload of dosh on the side," the PFY chips in.
"Not necessarily. The truckload of dosh is also an incidental bonus. I encourage 'daily bonuses' because a happy worker is a safe worker, and a safe worker is a good worker."
"For instance, last week when I mailed the video tape of what occurred in the lift at 11.17pm the previous Friday to one of the parties concerned. Upon receipt of a large envelope of unmarked bills from that person, I, as a happy worker, then configured a router in record time. If I'd had things on my mind that displeased me, I may not have completed the job quite so well ..."
"So why did you play the tape on the lunch room share price monitor the next day?"
"Strictly for the good of the company. You saw how much people enjoyed it. They were cheerful and happy, and therefore more productive later that day."
"And the three people concerned?"
"They, being not so cheery, resigned shortly thereafter, proving once again that this is a workplace for happy and productive persons."
"Well, you're still miles behind," he gloats again, flashing the score sheet.
"So what's the score then?"
He counts feverishly and comes back with "40 to nine - to me".
"So, I'm chasing a 26 point lead."
"No, 31!" he corrects.
"Ah, no, 26," I repeat, pushing the boss's laptop off the desk onto the floor and jumping on it.
"That's hardly fair!" he cries.
"Life's not fair," I reply. "But the root password helps."
All this does not disguise the fact that I'm waay behind, which concerns me. In fact, there's only 32 minutes between me and having to say the words "Lager shandy", which the PFY doesn't normally drink, but would, just this once, to make me look bad in front of the bar staff and regulars.
With all this at stake, I crash a router and answer the next call.
"Hello?" the voice on the phone asks nervously.
"What seems to be the problem?" I ask.
"It's our machines, they've all hung."
"Yes, it'll be Power Leakage from Heat Displaced Breaker Elements."
>DUMMY MODE ON<
"Ah-huh ... What do I do?"
"Well, you'll have to call the service electrician to replace the service circuit breaker for the power points along your side of the office."
"But we've got urgent work on!"
"Well, I shouldn't really tell you this ..." I whisper.
"What?" the user asks, hooked.
"Well, you can manually reset the displaced elements."
"How?" he gushes, envisaging fame, fortune and promotion opportunities.
"Just go to the powerbox by the stairwell and flick the switch with the same number as your floor box on and off about 20 times, as quick as you can."
The PFY looks on loathingly. Sure enough, 10 minutes later the full ramifications of my advice have been revealed; I'm only 2 points behind ... which is where I remain until 5pm when the PFY accompanies me to the tube station.
"Some people just haven't got it," he chirps smugly.
His good humour is unbearable, but luckily only lasts until our tube train whistles in and I nudge his laptop bag onto the rails.
"Woopsy!", I say, as I reveal the real time and my part in the clock tampering: "One minute too ... I guess that's a beer you owe me ..."
"You BASTARD!" he says, as the sweet smell of victory fades.
"Chalk it up to the cost of education," I say. "And I hope you'll enjoy that lager shandy ..."