will england :: humor : Day in the life of a PFY

From Ben@xxxxxx
Subject: Some things shouldn't happen to a PFY...

O.K. So it's been a while, perhaps I should actually plug in the phone and
raise the blinds to let people know I'm actually here.

I'm astounded, it's like they're telepathic; the phone rings. Maybe they
have recall or something. Once quick trip to the frame room should solve

Only one more bad guy to kill and I've run out of bullets, so I switch to
one of the disposable LAWs and let him have it in the back of the head from

<as from far away>*boom*

Revelling in the pleasure of a 'clean' kill I make the mistake of picking
up the ringing phone.


"Hello? It'sbrokenagainandyousaidyou'dfixedit!"



"The machine's broken again, and you said you'd fixed it."

Now the building's getting quite full now. It's still new and the shine's
not completely worn off, but we're pretty much up to our 19" rack cooling
fans with machines of all descriptions already. The possibility that I can
tell which person, which machine and what problem this is, is so small as
to be almost able to fit inside the head of the person I'm on the phone

I go with the 'I know what you're on about' approach until I can figure out
why this person is calling me.

"Ahhh right. Can you tell me what went wrong this time?"

"I was trying to write a CD and it took four hours and now I've done it,
lots of the gene sequences have letters other than 'G' 'A' 'T' 'C' and
there's weird characters all over the place."

Now I have her. She's a doctoral researcher on one of the upper levels
(where the oxygen must be slightly thinner, obviously) who poopoo'ed the
idea of using our copious server's SDS (stackable disc system, 2Tb) or
saving her essential DNA strands to. Instead she's gone with an IDE CD
writer. All because she didn't want to pay for the knowledge that we do a
diff. backup every night, a full backup once a week, take
grandfather-father-son precautions and have a whole set of tapes off-site
in case of acts of $DEITY, like when the outgoing[1] sysadmin of another
institution accidently re-RAID5'ed his server.

But I digress. What had happened last time was that this luser had felt
that having such a spiffy machine (Celery 300a, not overclocked) enabled
her to run upwards of seven major memory-hogging applications (Word, Excel,
NT Pinball, PSP5, etc.) whilst burning a CD.

Fearing the worst I mumble something about getting to it as soon as
possible, top of the list, high priority, right away, and then hang up.

After popping back into town to visit a friend who's 'beta-testing' the new
Delta Force extra missions I arrive back mid-afternoon I find I left the
answer-machine in full length record mode (rather than the 5 seconds per
message mode I fiddled it to do) and the display says "15". I write a note
for Martin the BBTFH[2] (someone you want to be on good terms with, lessen
you want to find your floor, ceiling, or miscellaneous fixtures or fittings
missing) saying that every time I close the door the power fails in the
socket running the answerphone and the memory blanks, unplug the
answerphone and decide to see about the CD writer.

I head up via the lift.

"Doorsh closhing" sayeth the lift in its slightly upperclass, and now
slighly blurred voice. Seems they haven't got round to replacing the cone
in the speaker after I had the panel off between floors one and four and
put an IDT tool through it.

It makes her sound more down to earth, and slightly drunk. Definately an
improvement. "Levvvl fourrrr." It's actually still quite irritating so I
whip out a screwdriver, open the panel and trim one of the wires from the
circuitboard. Most of the repair men will search for hours looking for a
broken wire, but not notice if one has been cleanly and completely removed
at both ends.

The lift is spotless by the time it arrives on level seven.

In tribological silence the doors open and I step out with a happy grin on
my face.

Finding her from the central corridor is easy, given that her screechy
voice is sharper than Trinitron definition. When I find her she's staring
into space. I occupy the space and wait for her brain to register hue and
luminosity changes.

"Oh, there you are. I haven't been able to do anything till you arrived,
I've just been sitting here."

I try not to imagine that she's been sitting like that for upwards of four
and a half hours, and have to admit that it's not completely impossible.

"O.K. let's have a look." I say, trying to take a seat in front of the

Instantly she begins spouting confused bogons, I have to stop her for my
own sake.

"Just tell me what were you doing?"

"I was writing the CD and I forgot to include a file, so I pressed eject to
pause it, copied the file into the directory, closed the CD tray again and
clicked on the notification buttons till it started again."


She looks at me hopefully and holds out the maltreated media, like I can
fix it simply by rubbing my fingers over the tracks. Even from here I can
see nasty gaps in the written surface.

To compound the matter I notice that while her desktop is clear, likewise
her taskbar, her system trak has nine different icons in it, including AOL
Instant Crasher, ICQ, mIRC and Winamp.

"How many of these things were running when you were writing your CD?" I
ask almost dreading the answer.

But she confounds even my assumptions.

"Oh none of them, they were in the system tray. Realplayer told me that if
it was in the system tray, they were ready to run, but it wasn't running."

I try to ignore her abysmal use of mismatched pronouns[3] and endevour not
to cram the CD down her throat.

After explaining, at a level she should be able to understand, the
difference between 'SmartStart' and running in the systray, not to mention
the perils of interrupting an IDE CD burner while running memory intensive
applications (sometimes resorting to diagrams), I try to think of some way
to stop my brain from dribbling out of my nose.

Sometime later I escape, having extracted a promise from her not to write a
CD unless it's the first thing she does when she turns her machine on. And
that she should turn her machine on and off every time she wants to access
her data from CD _at_any_time_ (just to clear the buffers).

I wonder how long it will take her to read those small 500K files one at a
time with a reboot in between. I imagine forgetting to shut down
occasionally, each time she power cycles will have repercussions as well.

Back in the office I plug in the answermachine, record an OGM saying that
the building is currently having network "blips" and any problems being
reported are due to this and will be gone by this time next week, put my
feet up and get down to a nice relaxing afternoon.

Suddenly one of the PHBs rushes in, almost causing me to move the mouse in
the window of the VNC viewer I'm running[4] where I'm watching J. Random
Luser downloading something that has far to much use of flesh tones. I
resolve to apply some more stringent policies to the NT Swerver to stop
this kind of thing and put up some signs saying words to the effect that we
are now using the webcache and all downloads are monitored for your
increased web access speeds.

Anyway, the boss looks all of a fluster so I take a note of the lusername
and try to remember to exclude her from the backup list until we have a
server failure.

"What's up?" I say in my best 'trying-to-be-helpful' poise.

"There's a presentation in the level seven seminar theatre and they're
having trouble getting things to work. Can you go and give them a hand
quickly, please."

I like this boss. He knows to say please and I nearly have him trained to
respond to words like 'raise' and 'job security'. It's about time I threw
him a bone. So I saunter up to level seven, taking the stairs because
there's a repairman in the lift on level four looking very confused and
consulting someone on a mobile phone while he pores over some circuit

Arriving at level seven I can see a whole load of people trying to cram
their way in through a double door set, using only one door. It's like
watching a robot trying to follow a path when an obsticle has been placed
in its path. They'd cram up to the door, two or three abreast, jam, back
up, only to try again.

I move to the left, open the other door and pass through, trying not to
touch them (you never know how Cluelessness is contracted).

The place is already packed and I can see many lusers out of the corners of
my eyes watching me with consternation as I walk up to the lectern.

I can see the problem; despite the big garish sign that says "Please
consult the BOFH or PFY before trying to use this hi-tech piece of
equipment on your own." this uber-luser has gone ahead and turned on all
the switches he can (except the right one) in an effort to control the
slide projector from the touch sensitive LCD screen built in to the

As I came up to the front I could see him hammering his finger into 2000K's
worth of flat screen monitor and touchscreen in an effort to turn on some
blatantly powered down slide projectors.

"Have you tried turning them on at the switch?" I ask loudly, knowing all
eyes are on the small area he and I are occupying and knowing the probable
answer already.

"Um. Of course." He doesn't want to appear to be a fool in front of some
extremely attractive researchers. Unfortunately (for him, at least),
before I can point out the small flaw in his answer, he compounds his gaffe
by claiming that it's the focus on the projectors, and why were they so
difficult to reach to focus by hand, he had to find a chair to get to them,
and they were really stiff.


I've frozen.

The people in the front row can see my face, some of the women turn away,
one of the braver men simply turns white.

More time passes, a wave of silence seems to wash to the back of the room
as people notice the tableau; me, the lectern, the luser with one
defamatory hand held in a poise of righteous indignation.

Me, the lectern, the luser.






Without looking I reach down to the white fused switch on the side of the
lectern. There's an electric *thud* as power jumps across to the A/V rack
at the back of the room. One of the younger female researchers screams

On the screen behind the luser is a large and hugely out of focus picture
of a pig. There's a few titters behind me. I look at his notes:
"Protoplasmic Analysis yadda yadda yadda Pig's Livers. - J. Random Luser."

"So, you manually tried to change the focus on a stereo projector setup
which took over an hour to dial in, instead of using the controls here?"

He knows he's lost all hope and simply nods. It's damage limitation time.

I tell him to stand at the front, ostensibly to tell me when the picture is
fully focused while I switch the projectors to manual focus and stand on
the provided steps to dial them back in. After a few minutes both
projectors are back to normal and a large pig is plastered all over the

As I leave there are a few cheers. I scowl and pull the circuit breakers
marked 'lectern microphone' and 'air-con'. Given the 2 hour presentation
he should be nicely out of voice and everyone else should be feeling hot
and suffering from earache.

The lift seems to be fixed.

"Going down."

I ride it down to the ground floor and take the opportunity to put some of
the less noticable chips on the lift's PCB in the wrong way up and close
the panel again...

[1] Up until that point he hadn't been outgoing
[2] Bastard Building Technician From Hell
[3] Or clauses, or just grammar in general
[4] http://www.uk.research.att.com/vnc/


Abbot, Manchester Chapter of the Monks of Cool since MCMXCVI a.d.

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