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Episode 35 There's something indefinable about the Christmas season that makes the whole workplace seem a little brighter. It could be the impending arrival of relatives, the promise of presents or just the knowledge that for a short space of time you're free of the horrors of the workplace. Whatever it is, the workplace becomes a much nicer place to work and people often put aside their petty differences in the spirit of goodwill.

"We can't call it Christmas any more," the HR Droid says, reading from his memo. "From now on it's got to be called the holiday season."

"Why?" the PFY asks.

"Because not everyone celebrates Christmas. It's not PC."

"So the non-Christmas lot will be working through then?"

"Well, obviously not. It's a public holiday!"

"So this is a cake-and-eat-it-too situation then?"

"I... don't want to go into it, that's just the way it is. Now... uh... the next point is that if you're participating the five quid anonymous present thing you must adhere to the five quid maximum."

"Eh?"

"Last year one of our traders donated an overly large present 'because he earns so much more than the normal participant'."

"..which made everyone else feel like fried dogs balls on toast?" the PFY asks.

"Pardon?"

"I think he meant that it probably made the other people feel bad," I say, interpreting.

"It did. And it's not to happen again!"

"Tell you what, why don't you leave that item with us to bring up - as a Christmas treat to you."

"I... Well ok then, thanks!"

. . .

"So which trader was it?" the PFY says, scrolling through the directory.

"Brown," I say, fingering the name on the screen. "He gave an espresso machine."

"I... That is excessive!"

"Yes, but it goes nicely with my toaster - I had to X-ray everything for security reasons."

"So he knew it was going to you?"

"He may have been under the impression that it was going to the young woman in accounts he was having a clandestine relationship with at the time, but I'm sure he felt better about it when she dumped him after getting the five pairs of running socks..."

"And you think it'll happen again?"

"He does appear to be spending a large amount of his time receiving stationary selection lessons from the temp in the supply cupboard..."

"We've got a temp in the supply cupboard!!!!" the PFY sniggers, just before a surge of voltage surges through his frame.

"So," I snap as the PFY recovers his faculties. "We need to get to work. Now how do we stop him buying something excessive?"

"Ask him?" the PFY suggests.

"No."

"Tell him?"

"No."

"Threaten him?"

"No. No we need to remove the urge to splurge".

"Steal his money?"

"He's a trader, they don't have any money."

"Steal his credit card!"

"Getting warmer..."

"Oh..." the PFY says, handing me the phone.

>clickety< >click< ...

"Hi, systems and networks here," I say, speaking to Mr Brown. "We've got a problem with your username and I was wondering if you'd be so kind as to logout and log back in again."

"Sure," he burbles, tapping away quickly. ".... Wait, No, I can't!"

"Yes, as we thought, it's a problem with our network but I'm AFRAID you're going to have to come down here in person for us to change it - rules and all that."

"Okay, well I suppose I can't work without it."

"Always the way," I sympathise. "And if you can bring a couple of forms of ID with you too."

"Sure"...

. . . ten minutes later . . .

"Ok, so here's your drivers license and credit card back," the PFY says, handing back a substitute he crafted earlier, "and if you could just select a four-digit PIN number on the keyboard over there which you can use to automatically verify yourself if you ever need to get support over the phone again."

"Oh, ok, >tap< >tap< >tap< >tap<"

"And once more to lock it in."

>tap< >tap< >tap< >tap<

"And you did make sure not to use the same PIN number as any other service?"

"Oh... uh... yes!" he lies.

. . . two minutes later . . .

"Yes, I'd like to increase my credit limit," I say, once the formalities of the credit card number and expiry date are out of the way.

"Certainly" the professional young woman at the end of the line says "And if you could just type in your PIN number..."

>tap< >tap< >tap< >tap<

"...no, I'm sorry, that's not working."

"Backwards," the PFY mouths silently.

"My mistake, I'll try again," I say tapping away.

"Excellent. And a final verification, your mother's maiden name?"

"!!!!!"

"Uh, Eva Braun."

"Wa... Uhh... that's not what I have here!"

"Course it's not, I usually make one up - what with the connotations and all..."

"I... see. Well, I suppose if you know your PIN... What limit would you like?"

I go for gold and pick an excessive number out of thin air.

"Uh.. I thought you said you wanted to increase your limit?"

*BONANZA*

"Oh of course, I was thinking about the price of the car I was thinking of buying my girlfriend - how about you just double the limit?"

"I'll just see... >clickety< .... Annnnnnd that's been accepted. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Can I update my emergency contact details - you know, the number you call if you notice a drastic change in spending behaviour?"

"Sure..."

... 30 seconds later...

"...and is that all I can do for you today?"

"Can you tell me where the nearest money machine is?"

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur, ending up at a bar so posh the toilet lollies are menthol flavour.

"Just one more 30-quid-a-glass cognac!" I say to the PFY. "I sense we're on the edge."

"I can't. I can't do it," the PFY slurs, sliding off his chair onto the floor.

"Don't do it for me, do it for the company! Do it because it's bloody Christmas!"

. . . Early the next morning . . .

"I'm sorry sir, your card has been declined!" the Posh Barman says.

"Thank goodness," the PFY gasps. "Can you call me a cab?"

"Of course sir - you're a cab."

Drinking all day and most of the night, hearing a good dry joke from a barman then getting the crap kicked out of you because the PFY landed a right hook on a bar stool - now THAT is priceless. ®

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