BOFH: Follow the paper trail
What are you doing in our stockroom, buddy?
I notice a salivating consultant in the background and immediately recognise this for what it is - a land grab. Every now and then someone thinks that because computers are getting smaller there must be a stack of room available for them in our area that they can repurpose.
"We use it for storing stuff," I say.
"Well perhaps we could take a quick look. Maybe just measure out the area. See if it's being used properly..." the consultant suggests, decreasing his life expectancy by an order of magnitude in the process.
"See, packed!" I say to the Boss after a bit of discussion about the merits of inspecting the room.
"What's all this paper?" he gasps.
"What do you mean? Do you have any idea of how much paper this place goes through in a month?" I ask. Defeated, the consultant wanders off, but the Boss has something on his mind.
"Doesn't every department order their own paper?" he asks, after a reasonable amount of thought.
"Yes, they often do," I admit.
"Tell him," the PFY murmurs in the background.
"So... if they're ordering it... why do you have so much?"
"Tell him," the PFY repeats.
"We have specialty paper. The paper that people don't use often, but need occasionally. And when they do, we have it."
"US Legal?" the Boss asks, looking at one of the boxes. "Do we even use US Legal?"
"We CAN", I say, "By simply adjusting a tray in a printer. So if someone needed to send a document - say to the US - in US legal format, we would have the paper."
"TELL him," the PFY insists.
"A3 Wide. What's A3 Wide?" the Boss asks, fingering a large box on a mini-pallet.
"TELL HIM!" the PFY snaps.
But I'm not going to.
"He can't help himself," the PFY blurts to the Boss. "Whenever the paper supplier has an end run, they mis-cut some paper or they just have crap that no-one is buying, they sell it to us. Or rather, Giselle sells it to him."
"Giselle?" the Boss asks.
"It's true. I'm powerless against her," I admit after some prompting from the Boss.
"What is it that she has on you?" the Boss asks.
"Is she attractive?"
"A bit, but not overly."
"So she manipulates you into buying?"
"Apparently," I admit.
"Is it some sort of hypnosis thing?"
"Not that I know of."
"Then why do you buy?"
"I don't know. But it's a joy to watch."
"So you're being manipulated?"
"I guess so."
"You know what your problem is?" the Boss says.
"No, but I'm sure you'll tell me."
"Your mind has been programmed. Like an obsessive compulsive, every time you give in you reinforce the idea that you can't NOT give in. You need help," he says.
"On so many levels," the PFY adds unkindly.
"And there's a course you can go on - called Unlocking the Power of Me."
"Can't I just jump out of a sixth floor window?" I ask.
"Look, I went on it and it did wonders for me. It's really good. They empower you to work for yourself and not for others."
"Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhh, Nah." I say.
"Would you rather I took this through some formal process on deliberately wasting company money?"
So I'm at this course, and it's everything you'd expect from a presenter with O-levels in Psychology and Hugging, a did-not-complete in Reality and an A-level in talking bollocks.
"..and I sense that you need to be aware of the precursors to you being exploited" he says to me, in the second hour of a seemingly endless 'Group-Thought' session. "You could be right - but how am I to achieve this?" I ask, noting that I have 25 minutes remaining until I can nip across the road to the pub for lunch without raising concern about my self-medication habit.
"I think the root of your problem may be that your acceptance of manipulation might be a result of a suppressed sense of achievement."
"I suppose there are some things I have yet to do - a bucket list if you will."
"And THERE YOU ARE! So what we want to do is Empower the You to follow your dreams - because as we know, dreams are simply the upwelling of repressed desires."
"Fair enough. Though one of my recurring dreams is that I take an axe to people who annoy me with pseudo science and huggy-feely mumbo-jumbo in a course that I've been made to attend against my will. Does anyone else have those dreams?"
There's a show of hands in the room and I know I am not alone. "But when I say axe, I mean hatchet, because I couldn't fit an axe in my bag this morning..."
And this is the bit where my dream could turn into someone else's nightmare... Luckily though, it all turned out OK once I'd managed to tell one of my fellow attendees that his dreams of retribution were perhaps better repressed and that maybe he'd like to put the box of matches away, let the petrol fumes subside and let the presenter out of the cupboard - so that he could sign our Power Plus Achievement certificates and we could have an early pub lunch before graduating early.
And rubbish though it was, I think I got something out of the exercise, which I put to use almost immediately.
"Okay Giselle, so that's a pallet of black A4 photocopy paper, 10 cartons of 'almost A4', but only
a pallet of 'double-sided' A2 - even if we don't actually have a printer that can fit it."
I'm feeling empowered.
We had this sales rep who worked for a large three letter minicomputer company back in the day - and she would on occasion take our top people out for lunch. Around 50 per cent of the time this would result in an expensive platform upgrade - and which on one occasion actually involved the subsequent purchase of a 20K 'supervisor machine' on top of the original kit because - as we found halfway to delivery - the machine would not boot without it. Good times.