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BOFH: The Explosive Christmas Evacuation

HR roasting on an open fire...

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Episode 20

Everyone loves the last day. The prospect of holidays ahead always puts people in a good mood which in turn leads to generosity, indulgence and poorly-thought-through dalliances in front of recording devices.

But more than that, in the season of goodwill those in the service side of the company get some recognition for the hours of devotion they put in behind the scenes.

It's our time.

And so in the spirit of goodwill I send a couple of bottles of whisky to George, our faithful and ancient cleaner - our Alfred, if you will - with a card from the PFY and myself before despatching the PFY get a carton of Christmas puddings for security with so much brandy in them they're probably liable for excise duty...

Yes, on cheery days like today the internal mail typically comes in a trolley or sack barrow as people remember the good service they've had over the past year - not being locked in a toilet over a bank holiday weekend with only paper to eat; not having the lift power cut when they're on their way home; not finding a picture of themselves worrying a sheep in the middle of their PowerPoint presentation to the board, and not slipping on a greased stair in a darkened stairwell..

I can't wait.

I mean I can take the thankless nature of IT - the hours spent in designing an infrastructure that is reliable, redundant and resilient - all things which the punters remain completely oblivious to so long as their Facebook page loads and they're able to tweet their friends about the texture and consistency of their latest grogan, but it IS nice to know that at least one day a year we get something back. It's reassuring to know that if nothing else, browbeating the Boss and board to get dual redundant generators, UPS and switchboards, redundant network core and multiple network feeds has paid off with a bit of Christmas cheer...

I'm busying myself by clearing a space on a desk to put the incoming contraband on when the Boss interrupts my work with a few last minute concerns.

"So what happens if there's a power issue over the break?" he asks.

"The UPS kicks in, the generator starts, the UPS kicks out. Later, the power comes back on the UPS smoothes the transition between supplies and the generators stops."

"So the power doesn't go off?"

"It does, but not to the server room. Or Mission Control.

"The espresso machine?" the Boss gasps.

"Oh yes. If we're called in to work to resolve a problem we can't be expected to work without refreshment!"

"I.... and so we've done a UPS test?"

Or the espresso machine." I add.

"Yes."

"And the generator has been serviced?"

"Check!"

"And we have sufficient diesel?"

"Uh-huh. I ordered a couple of drums just in case."

A white lie. Every year I 'order a couple of drums' around Christmas time to pay for the drinks that the PFY consume on the last day. That's the beauty of the purchasing anonymiser service the PFY recently discovered. You select what you want to buy, select what you want it to be billed as, and make your orders. "2 x 20 gallon drums of diesel" is ordered and a day later four cases of lager arrive.

"So we're all sorted then?"

"Indeed we are. And rest assured that once the internal mail's been here, I'll be checking the breakers on the UPS and generators to make sure they're all ready to go!"

"Uh, the internal mail's already been..." the Boss says

"No it can't have."

"Yes it did. I got rather a nice bottle of red from security and a box of chocolates from HR."

"Really? Well, I'd better go and collect our booty!" I say.

"Oh, I've got it here" the Boss says, handing over a couple of cards.

>scratchy< >rip< >fumble<

A couple of empty cards...

I... am disappointed.

Yes, that's the word, disappointed.

I mean it's not that I'm completely unprepared for this eventuality - because there might be a later delivery.

"Oh, and there's no second internal mail today." the Boss says.

But people will probably stop by in person...

"Are you going to drinks in the cafeteria at 11?"

"Drinks?"

"Oh, did you not get..." the Boss mumbles, tailing off.

So that's how it is then. Slaving away over weekends, offline defragging a mail store so as not to interrupt our users, performing overnight recoveries to get the place back up and running in as short a time as possible...

>sigh<

The Boss leaves and I slowly type in the PFY's cellphone number.

"Yep," he answers, moment later.

"Plan B," I say

"Really?" he gasps "Nothing?"

"A couple of cards."

"I see. Well I'll be dropping the puddings off in a minute or two."

"Righty ho."

True to his word the PFY drops the puddings off a few minutes later. Plan A called for them to be wrapped in Christmas paper and handed to grateful recipients. Plan B was much the same, the only difference being they were tossed, flaming into the offices concerned.

The resulting evacuation provides more than enough time for the PFY and me to rifle through company offices for the Christmas cheer we so sadly missed out on.

And list a couple of generators on eBay...

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