BOFH: Headcase

A law unto himself

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Episode 13

So the Boss wants to know what's been happening with the 'Foolproof Wireless Security' project that the auditors decided should be implemented - a project that's as deliverable as wireless UPS units.

"Oh, we gave that to Steve," the PFY says when the Boss asks.

"Steve?"

"Yeah Steve, down the end of the corridor on the left."

"Is someone IN that office? I thought it was just used for storage!"

"I suppose you could call it that. But no, it's Steve's office."

"What his position?"

"uhhhhhmmmm...Special...Project Coordinator. I think."

"And so why did you pass this job to him?"

"Mainly because of his experience. He read the book on computer security."

"You mean wrote the book."

"No, no, read. Well, when I say read, I really mean looked at the pictures."

"So you're saying this guy isn't much of a technical person?"

"Not really - but he has worked for us for years."

"But you're saying he's not technical?"

"Well, he used to be. Only problem was that back in the old days he used to drink the isopropyl alcohol. Then when we switched to clear methylated spirits - to cut costs - without telling him..."

"What?"

"The wheels fell off a bit..."

"So he's useless?"

"Well, technically it's classed as a workplace accident and so as long as he manages to turn up to work the Union won't let us fire him. And besides, he's showing massive signs of improvement."

"And by massive you mean?"

"Well, he can see now."

"But apart from that he's all there mentally?"

"Wellllll...if you were to compare him to a deck of cards..."

"Yes?"

"He might have enough for a game of Go Fish."

"Against himself," the PFY adds.

"And so he just sits in an office all day doing nothing?"

"In his office or out in the garden," the PFY says.

"The garden?"

"With the other vegetables," the PFY adds unkindly.

"So why the hell did you give him the wireless security project?"

"Easy. There's always going to be wireless security problems because you can't control physical access to the medium. If it's not 'hackerz' it'll be some denial-of-service thing that you just can't fix. And, of course, you have to ramp up the risk factor of either scenario by being in the middle of a ginormous city full of geeks with nothing better to do with their time than cruise around with laptops and directional antennas."

"So what are you saying?"

"Everyone involved in this project is doomed to failure. The only way to mitigate the risk is to hand it to someone else to get blamed. We hand it to Steve, it turns to custard, he gets blamed."

"Isn't that a little...cowardly?"

"Yes," I reply without hesitation.

"And you're not concerned about that? You don't feel a little twinge of responsibility?"

"Not at all. Were it you, I or the PFY and something went catastrophically wrong, we'd be gone faster than a supermodel's lunch in a public toilet - but Steve's as safe as houses. They'll never fire him - not so long as he keeps turning up."

"So all we need to do is just write some documentation and get him to sign it off?"

"A crayoned X usually suffices, but yes."

"And you're sure this will work?"

"As sure as I am about who was responsible for the Smart-ID card fiasco."

"And don't forget the Paperless Office project," the PFY adds.

"Didn't people...complain?"

"About Steve? Never! He's like a company mascot. Besides, the term 'Special Projects' is a corporate dumping ground."

"What do you mean?"

"Who do you think signed off on the new company logo which ended up being a little too near to a certain competitors, causing an expensive legal action?" I ask.

"Steve?" the Boss gasps.

"Yes," the PFY replies. "And every time Manchester bids for a sporting event who do you think it is that submits a memo on company letterhead to the selection committee to show how they're all a bunch of inbred, lard eating hermaphrodites?"

"What, he writes that?"

"Well, he colours in the borders and puts an X at the bottom."

"So someone else writes the memo?" the Boss says, shocked. "Does someone not like Manchester?"

"No one likes Manchester," the PFY says.

"Why not?"

"I think it's probably the lard eating mostly."

"And he's still working here?"

"They're more likely to put Lassie down on live TV!"

"So how do I get a progress report on this?"

"Just write a quick blurb saying everything's going along well and that you need another couple of thousand for.. >flip< >flip< Reflected Infrastructure Impedance...Measurement"

"But the project will go over budget!"

"Of course it'll go over budget! All projects go over budget, so if this one doesn't it'll ring alarm bells!"

"I see...And the budget gets allocated..."

"To us. For incidental expenses," the PFY says, shutting his new Plasma TV catalogue.

"I...don't think that's a good use of comp..."

"Or you could just fess up and say that this is the first occasion you've bothered checking on the project in months and it's not even started..."

"So I just get Steve to sign down the bottom in crayon then?" the Boss says, slinking out to write his memo.

"You realise he's going to go back through the paperwork and find that we spent the cash on a new tape stacker?" the PFY asks.

"Well, he could - but bear in mind we lost all those documents in the fire which started in the tape safe room because Steve was looking after the fire suppression extension project."

"Really, when was that?"

"About 10 minutes after he signs the memo I'm about to write..."

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