I decide to take a couple of weeks off to get a well-deserved break from the stresses of work (ie alcohol poisoning) with a trip to the seaside.
Being the cautious type I leave instructions with the PFY to e-mail me daily on the events that have occurred. Sadly, my laptop is currently pending upgrade replacement (signed by the Boss in one of his more lax moments) so my only form of contact with the civilised world is via an Internet Cafe.
Like 90 per cent of the cultured e-mailing world, I prefer to read personal communications in the privacy of my office or home without the distraction of Quake playing in the background. There's plenty of time for that during chargeable hours. I'm also not a big fan of waiting for a condescending ponytail-type to log me into the slowest PC on the face of the earth, with so little memory that it has to page just to let you enter your password.
I mention that I'd like to use my favourite e-mail package, only to get a smarmy response.
"First time is it?" ponytail chuckles smugly. "No-one uses that program any more."
I could beg to differ, but what the hell.
"Well, yes it is," I answer, anxiously. "What do you recommend?"
He burbles on about some Alpha release of GeekySoftwareCorp's latest bugpack, and types in the password ('connect', I happen to notice) to enable the desktop machine. He then begins a well-practised 'there's nothing to be nervous about when you've been using computers as long as me' monologue. I restrain my impatience. Eventually he finishes, turns back to the machine and discovers that all is not as it should be, perhaps because I pushed most of his applications into the recycle bin while his attention was diverted.
Couldn't help myself - old habits die hard.
"That's funny," he comments.
"Oh, it's not working is it?" I whine in a manner so familiar to me from my helldesk days. "Computers never work for me."
Convinced that I'm a first time loser, he, as expected, logs into the file server with his own user ID, depending on his 'lightning-fast' typing speed for password security ('girlbait' - tasteless and wildly inaccurate).
While he's performing the reinstall, I shell out £20 and get myself a debit account for access time from another greasy ponytail at the watered-down espresso counter. This one logs me into a desktop and advises me to 'browse a bit' to get the hang of the system. When he's gone and no-one is looking I change out of loser-mode and download my e-mail from work.
Yet another ponytail comes by and chuckles as he monitors my incoming e-mail over my shoulder as it surges in at about 2,400 baud, thanks to a school party watching some real-time video behind me.
A quick scan of my e-mail tells me the Boss is still causing trouble by appointing a temporary senior network analyst in my absence. Definitely something I'll have to get him to keep an eye on.
In the meantime I have smaller fish to fry as one of the ponytails spills an espresso down my back as he waddles past to some unsuspecting customer.
I login to the fileserver as ponytail1 and peruse its contents. To pass the time I find the desktop login script and make a couple of modifications.
While I'm at it I decide the cafe's homepage could do with a bit of jazzing up.
A shocked gasp from behind me moments later informs me that someone's got the new improved version complete with recently uploaded non-real-time video clip.
A little taste of Sweden never hurt anyone - especially not when a quick glance tells me the gasp comes from the teacher of the school group who's trying to drag her students from the display. Methinks that the page was a far cry from the Dangermouse TV homepage they expected.
I tickle the keyboard a moment longer, adjusting my account information then wander over to catch the tail-end of the educational experience that the youngsters have been exposed to.
"That's disgusting," I cry, horrified.
By now a generic ponytail is in situ making profuse apologies. "It's true what they say about the Internet," I mention to the young tutor. "Full of perverts."
"It's just a tool," ponytail responds defensively to the teacher.
"Yes, I saw that," she responds.
It's funny how you can warm to people you hardly know.
A quick cellphone call to the local media later and I'm helping the alluring young teacher and her charges through a bunch of cameramen and reporters. My only stops are to collect a refund of the £200 account balance, and to make an appointment for dinner later that night with the young educator.
Holidays? They're nothing but work, work, work...