Monday, 14 December 2009


Follow-up to this.

Now. This may take some telling, so please, fetch yourself up a drink (preferably a strong one, unless it's earlier than 11 a.m. at your current location, in which case a beer is better for the constitution) and make yourself comfortable.

The time was 3.50. Everything was in place. I had the system up and running and proudly displaying on my monitor, and the number and access codes for the conference call on hand, ready to join in at 4. I had spent some time earlier today having a look inside this system, and to my pleasant surprise, found it to look quite simple, cleanly laid out and seemingly intuitive. Now. For about twenty minutes The Boss had been telling me "Now make sure you're ready for this! We can't mess this up!". Woman - I have never been more ready. I have two notepads beside me, one for my notes on operating this system, and a second, which I now relate to you from - notes on you, Crazy Boss Woman, on YOU.

I have been, yet again, sorely tried this day, and thus these are my intentions :

1. I am going to emerge from this knowing how to operate this system.
2. If The Boss begins to drown and/or make a fool of herself, I am not going to interfere.
3. To facilitate maximum entry of knowledge to my brain with minimum fuss, and in the interests of being carefully unhelpful to The Boss, I am going to say the absolute bare fucking minimum that I can get away with saying.

OfficeTime : 15:55

The Boss, obviously stressed, shouts over from her desk : "It's went into my deletes!"

Here's me : "What has went into your deletes?"

The Boss : "The container number!"

Here's me, quietly chuckling : "The container number?"

Of course I know what she means. So do you by now, I imagine.

The Boss : "The con... the conference number! The number we have to call Thurston on!"

Here's me : "Stefan. Not Thurston. Stefan. Here's the number."

I call it out to her.

The Boss : "And do we need a password? Or do we have to change the password? But I don't know the password! It's went into my deletes!"

Here's me : "Your del-ee-ted iiii-tems. And things don't just 'go in there' by themselves. Look, just follow my lead, ok? Dial this number - " - I repeat it again - "then, when prompted, enter this code"..

The Boss : "PROMPTED?!?"

Here's me : *sigh* "When it asks you for your code, enter this code."

OfficeTime : 16:00

We dial out to the conference number. We enter our codes. An automated voice instructs me to press the 'pound sign' after entering my code; I consult my inner dictionary and remember that this is what we on stage right of the Atlantic call the 'hash key'.

Brace yourself.

I glance around and see The Boss frantically stabbing at her computer keyboard and looking at me with such an expression of abject terror and misery that I cannot help myself breaking Directive #2 immediately. Honestly, she looks like a battered and hungry puppy and is so utterly forlorn that I feel if I didn't set her straight I think I'd be the biggest bastard in the world. I cover the mouthpiece and direct her accordingly.

Stefan greets us. He is confident, well-spoken and very friendly. 

Stefan : "Hi guys, how are we all doing today?"

Here's me : "Hi Stefan, very well thanks, how are you?"

The Boss : "Hello... Thurston."


Stefan : "So what are your first impressions of the system?"

Here's me : "Well a lot of seems fairly straightforward, I'm..."

The Boss, seizing the reins : "I take it we have to change our password?"

Stefan is easy like Sunday morning : "Not just yet, that'll come later. First of all I'd like to ask one of you to read me out your status code, which will show to the bottom right of your screens."

The Boss : "It goes.. blahdy blahdy blah status."

I need to check myself. I need to be sure that the language-processing centres of my brain have not finally caved in, folded up and died, and that I have actually just heard The Boss read a number off the screen as "Blahdy Blahdy Blah."

Stefan : "Ha ha.. yeah, I will need that code in full."

I look around to The Boss. From the far side of the room, I can actually see that she is shaking. Her knuckles are white upon the phone receiver. I fill in the blanks, quickly; this is just too embarassing.

Here's me : "L I, E X, 299133009, PUBLIC."

Stefan : "OK, the first part of that code means that you're..."

The Boss : "Does public mean that anyone can see this?"

Stefan : "Yes ma'am, any live user in the system can see your input, which is what the first part of that code.."

It's hard to be certain from this range but it looks like she's sweating. My god, she's holding that phone so tightly to her head I'm thinking she might injure herself.

OfficeTime : 16:30

We have moved through into the tutorial on how to actually enter data into this system; in this case, a name and an address. Stefan's easy and confident manner is starting to slip. He's holding up well, still the epitome of polite professionalism, up to a point, but I can sense it; there's a little too much by way of nervous laughter on his part. Due to the way this call is being conducted, with Stefan remotely accessing our network, only of us can be the 'operator' - of course it is The Boss. I wouldn't want it any other way at this stage.

Stefan : "OK, that's good, but we prefer to use proper case."

The Boss looks at me, stricken. I look back, beatifically blank.
I can hear Stefan's nerves twanging in the silence.

The Boss places her hand over the mouthpiece yet again, and hisses at me : "Proper Case? What does he mean?"

Here's me, mostly speaking to the wall : "He means caps lock is not cruise control for cool..."

The boss : "What?"

Here's me, sort of feeling pleased and vindicated that she might finally believe that this is not the done thing : "Stop typing everything in block capitals!"

The address is re-entered.

Stefan : "And, uh, because the name field is what we call the matchcode, which everyone else will search by, we, uh, we, we like to make it look as nice as possible."

Silence. I savour it.

Stefan : "By which, uh, I mean to say, without the random spaces in the name."

Towards the bottom of the address boxes we are looking at is a field marked "STATE". At this stage the conversation is unfolding akin to a very complex Mandelbrot-like equation; one tiny little flaw could send it spiralling into the abyss in a most ugly fashion. This "STATE" field is just such a flaw.

The Boss : "There is no states. I.. we don't have states."

Stefan : "That's fine, very few countries outside of the US use this field, so we just..."

The Boss has missile lock : "We don't have states."

Stefan : "That's ok, we just move on to.."

The Boss has missile lock on her own exhaust : "Only the states have states. In... in the U.S."

The woman is breaking down right before my eyes. This is painful.

OfficeTime : 16:45

Stefan has moved through 'confused' and into 'irritable'. There is a slight tremor in his voice when he speaks. He has my sympathy. Apart from interrupting him every time he tries to speak, The Boss is also now randomly jabbing keys and moving the mouse as he tries to remotely control the system. I can sense his nerves fraying like the cables on a badly-made suspension bridge during an earthquake.

Stefan : "Now we need to enter the route..."

The Boss, hand over mouthpiece, frantic, to me : "Route?"

Here's me, I mean do you not own a TV or something? : "Root. Route, Route, Root, Route."

The Boss tries to re-assert some authority : "Raaaut is destination."

Not a question - just a bold and lethally fucking madly incorrect and irrelevant statement, just like that, hey.

Stefan : "Uh...

... I guess."

He is broken. I can sense it.

OfficeTime : 17:10

At this stage, Stefan's mind is almost certainly looking for the easiest raut, root or route out of here and he's probably very close to breaking down and confessing that he is Thurston, or at least would seriously like to be Thurston right now, whoever the fuck Thurston may be. He is audibly upset and is starting to sound quite angry.

At this stage he is explaining some part of the accounting end of things to us, and says : 

"Now, the system has a limitation here where it's only possible to work in a maximum of four different currencies. But not too many people meet this limitation, I mean, do you use more than four different currencies?"

The Boss, instantly, confidently, stunningly incorrectly : "Yes."

Stefan : "Uh, really? How many do you use?"

The Boss : "Three."

A beautiful thing happens. For just a brief moment, Stefan's (surely world-class) professionalism slips, along with his pleasant but neutral accent, and he drops straight into classic New York, which is surely one of the most ruggedly beautiful accents on the planet :

"Say WHAT?!"

I cannot bear this, it is too much suffering for such young eyes as mine. It's not much, but I have to throw him a frikkin' bone here - just the bare bones of a bone, but goddammit could you sit and watch this without running to help? I AM NOT A MONSTER! -

"We use a maximum of three currencies Stefan."

In this moment, I know it, Stefan loves me. His love will pass as the fear subsides, down to a more realistic 'I'd like to buy that guy a drink' kind of feeling , but I can actually hear his relief from here. Probably lots of people can. Probably right this moment a ray of fantastically fucking beautiful sunlight just cut through a despair-laden black cloud somewhere over NYC. Might have happened, you never know. He regained his composure enough to be able to simply and calmly reply "In my experience many Asian people prefer to be identified by their specific country of nationality" some moments later when The Boss referred to the entire Asian continent as 'India', at least - I mean, many people would have just started crying at this stage.

OfficeTime : 17:15

"Thurston, to my mind 'public' means that 'everyone' has full access. I'm not happy with 'everyone'."

Realisation: I'm out of my fucking depth here. In this job. In life. This woman is neither stupid nor crazy, this woman is some sort of Mad Savant of the Beyond, she is Lovecraft's Azathoth; I am not only out of my depth, I am out of my fucking gourd for working here. She entered this bumbling like a lost lamb and is emerging from the far side triumphant, a seething dark mass, having leeched he-who-was-known-as-Stefan's very essence and spat him out, half-digested, a withered husk of a man, she has absorbed him, sucked out his life-force and filled him full of her own special distilled blend of fucking mental and oh for fuck's sake is this nearly over yet, I am, I shit you not, going to chew my own fucking leg off if I don't get a drink VERY fucking soon.

OfficeTime : 17:40

Stefan is done. Stefan has had enough. All understanding has broken down. At one stage The Boss actually threw the mouse away, and then had to meekly retrieve it by pulling the cable back towards her. I imagine Stefan has probably crushed a cup of coffee in his hand by now, an enamel one. He should get the rest of the day off, for sure.

He terminates the call in wonderful fashion. He cuts across The Boss mid-sentence, and raps out the words, all politeness gone, showing his exasperation  - the following, I can tell you, It Made My Day :

"Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd.... and a bunch of other stuff goes down below. That's probably all we can do today, I think we need to end this call."

And signs off in short order.

And that's all. I wish I had some kind of dramatic epilogue, some fantastic closing statement from The Boss, some coup de grĂ¢ce with which to finish. But I don't. Sometimes reality just doesn't deliver the narrative needs, and on this occasion it failed to.

The Boss looks at me at the end of the call. Her face is unreadable.

Here's me : "Well."


Here's me : "Well. That seems alright then. Have a nice weekend, see ya on Monday."

Folks, with being, as a result of this and the time of year, very busy over the next couple of weeks, I might not be around much; I should probably knuckle down and so on, and, uh, possibly spend some time thinking about my life. Till then.



  1. Fucking brilliant!
    This made my day. I still think she might be an evil genius

  2. Oh man, I couldn't stop laughing. At one point I felt bad for her, but...Jesus. Poor "Thurston". And poor Koala, as ever!

  3. Koala, I have a soft spot for marsupials, especially cute ones. I love you. I'm sure I'm not the only one. You make me happy. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Please remember that when you're in your cups, and when you're out of them again.

  4. well let's hope our loveable Koala is never *too* far away... ;)

  5. Ditto all previous comments tenfold! ~ thank you Koala ~ Happy Holidays!

  6. I have been waiting for this all weekend - and you didn't disappoint. I still feel for you and all that stuff - but this has been all that I expected it to be. Wow - what a release!

    Private life aside, please, please, please keep 'em coming,

    10 bonus points ofr the Lovecraft reference.

    I hope you enjoyed that drink.

  7. Genius. You are a friend to mankind.

  8. I think there's a weird kind of Stockholm Syndrome going on here. Trouble is, I'm not sure which one of you is the prisoner and which is the guard.

    Best of luck.

  9. I love your blog and I'd miss it. That having been said, considering the pity you felt for Stefthurston after one phone call, I think you should have a little pity on yourself after however many months it's been and get the fuck out of dodge. Unless you can get money out of this somehow.

  10. Utterly horrifying yet it's all I can do not to burst out laughing and get myself sacked.

    Hope you make it through the busy period alive and intact...

  11. *standing ovation*

    What a way to end the year. Have a good Christmas.

  12. It must be wonderful to be able to demonstrate how absolutely batshit nuts this woman is, and to have a witness. I don't know how you aren't driven just as insane as her.

  13. Brilliant stuff!
    I had to stop reading a few times because I was laughing too much ( I'm sat here supposed to be working).

  14. That was well worth waiting for. Good luck for the new year.

  15. worth the wait and pre-phone-conference build-up. Thanks.

    What will you buy her for Christmans?

  16. Cheers folks :)

    Fourstar - I think you are probably on to something there. Disturbing, that is.

    Anon : I'll probably stick to the standard-issue bottle of booze for her, I reckon.

  17. You should get her a blog.

  18. Oh Koala. I had every intention of marrying you so that I could have your pipe and slippers ready for you at the end of your madder-than-cheese working day, along with a tumbler brim-full of the finest example of the whisky-distiller's work, and then you go and introduce me to Stefan. And now I want to marry him! It's all right. It's a passing infatuation. My heart will turn marsupial-wards once more. (What a lot of hyphens I use.)

  19. sweet jesus. This woman is clearly so far out of this world its worrying.

  20. Flippin' brilliant!

    btw - I couldn't help but wonder why she keeps calling Stefan "Thurston". I mean, Thurston Moore is a guitarist/singer in the band Sonic Youth (from NYC), but is your boss a fan or something?

    Hope you have some relaxing time off. Can't wait for the next chapter.

  21. The last paragraph broke my heart. Don't be a stranger, Koala dear. I need you :( WE ALL NEED YOU.

  22. The poor American.
    You have been very cruel to him Koala, even if you where just letting the nature of Boss take it's course.

  23. I only came across your blog a few weeks ago and after spending an entire night clicking "older posts" I've been addicted ever since!

    I sneaked a read of this today at work and had to fake a coughing fit to cover up my hysterics.

    I think I love you Mr Koala. Please don't go.

  24. hahahaha...i've been on calls like that. i pity him, and celebrate him. and you. have a good christmas, and if we don't see you before january, a wonderful new year.

  25. Koala, you are awesome. Australia approves.

  26. That was bloody brilliant, I laughed so much I cried all my mascara off! You're a genius mate, many of us work for nutters at some point, but few of us have your alchemical ability to turn their verbal pigshit into solid gold lulz. I thank you!

  27. Koala, I am pretty sure you are some kind of saint ... you are, however, going to get me sacked if I have one more episode of sniggering and/or silent head-ducked shoulder-shaking laughter at my desk! That said, my job is so dull that it brightens my day, and I suppose the added risk of getting sacked adds a little excitement! Have a lovely - and entirely mad-free - christmas x

  28. Ach, you're all very kind, thank you so much :D

    (i promised myself i wouldn't cry)


  29. this... this blog is the single most bloody brilliant excuse for not studying I have EVER come across. EVER!

  30. At the word "Three" I literally sprayed coffee across my desk. I'm still chuckling now.

  31. That was truly epic...

  32. "Sins of a former life"? Dude, you must have been Hitler, Stalin, and Ghengis Khan all rolled into one to deserve this.

    Dec 11th in NYC was cold as a witch's tit...but at least poor Stefan was warm.

  33. raaaut is destination.

    LO MF L