The LAST BOFH... part I
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 96 00:53:27 -0700
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The LAST BOFH... part I
The LAST Bastard Operator from Hell!
I get back from Britain and return to my old stomping grounds to take up a
post as an Analyst/Programmer... As an A/P I'm expected to work weird hours
so I start putting in some 9 to 5 shifts to see what it's like.
It's weird all right. I don't like it.
I go to the computer room to check out my machine, only I'm not the Operator
any more, so I've got no access. I call the Operator. He answers.
"Can I get access to the Computer Room?" I ask, respectfully
"Well..." he pauses ".. what do you want to do?"
Indecisive. It gets worse! He should've come straight out and said that the
day a user gets access to HIS computer room is the day he'll be crated up
and freighted to the big Computer Room in the sky to meet the Chief
"Just look at my machines" I say..
"Um, well, we're not supposed to let programmers in here unless it's an
emergency" he blubs.
Dear oh dear. It's almost as if he's apologising! I can't take any more of
it so I just wander off. He calls after me in apology and it turns my
stomach. Watching something you've carefully built up with neglect and
mindless acts of violence just crumble away in front of your eyes!
I can't let it end this way! There must be something I can do...
I go back to my room and open the sealed envelope that I was saving for my
I shuffle through the signed bits of paper, photographs and dictaphone tapes
till I find what I want. The photo's a bit faded and blurred, but the people
in the picture can still be made out. I get on the phone.
"HELLO?". The Big Boss himself answers
"Hi there, Simon from the Computer Centre. I think I found something of
"A photo. One in a series of 24"
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! I'M A BUSY MAN - DON'T WASTE MY TIME!"
"Well, it's a photo of you, a couple of female friends, and something that
looks like it has some agricultural purpose"
"oh..." ... ___ ... "...yes, I was wondering where that got to. If you could
just drop in in an envelope and send it to me personally..."
"*I* *think* *not*..."
"Well, it's obviously a fake. Where would you get such a thing?"
"Your office. You left the door open one night"
"That's ridiculous, my door's electronically locked every night"
"Oh! .... What do you want?"
"The New Operators"
"Ok, I'll have them fired.."
"NO! Then you'll get some more and they'll be just as bad!"
"Then what do you want?"
"TO TRAIN THEM!"
. . . . . . . .
. . . . .
A couple of days later the training session begins. Unfortunately, I only
get one operator to train as the other one resigned when he heard I wanted
to talk to him. Still one's better than none.
We start from the very beginning..
"Ok, let's just go into this. How do you feel about users?"
"They're ok, I suppose" he answers
"Well, they can be a pain at times"
"Well, a lot of the time?"
"OK, ALL THE TIME! I HATE THEM, I HATE THEM! ALWAYS RINGING ME UP WANTING
TO GET MORE DISK OR CONNECT TIME, WHINING AT ME IN THEIR PATHETIC VOICES,
COMPLAINING ABOUT RESPONSE TIME. I HATE THEM!"
"Right. There. You see, you did know the answer after all. Second question,
What do we do for users?"
"What they want?"
"What we think they want?"
"What WE want?"
"I DON'T KNOW!"
"I see. Well, the answer is, we do nothing *FOR* users. We do things *TO*
users. It's a fine distinction, but an important one all the same. Now, what
do we do TO users?"
"What we want?"
"Exactly. And WHY do we do it?"
"Because they deserve it?"
"To convince users not to call?"
"No again. We do what we do because we ENJOY it. And because we can get away
"Oh! I suppose you're right"
"I KNOW I'm right. And if I'm not, I'm STILL right, because I'm the
*OPERATOR*. It's that simple! If you remember that phrase, there's nothing
you can't do. Now the last question. What exactly do we do to users?"
"Delete their files, scrap their backups, invade their privacy..."
"No no Agent Starling. That is a mere bagatelle. That is simply the method.
We want to know the result. What we do is BREAK them. What's the point of
deleting their files if they never use them? What's the point in reading
someone's private correspondence if you're not going to let the user know
you did it, then tell their friends or parents? Why scrap someone's backups
unless they need them? You have to break the user's will so that they
realise that they're the simple-minded sheep we know they are!"
"Of course. I'll be off now, don't ever let me catch me in the Computer Room
"Thank you sir"
"Oh. Get out of my Computer Room!"
"That's more like it!"
The mantle is passed.
"Oh" my new operator calls as I leave, "I can't remember what your backup
tape looked like. Is this it here on the Bulk Eraser?"
The electronic rights of BOFH are owned by DATAMATION magazine.
All other rights are retained by Simon Travaglia <email@example.com>.
It's a stinking hot day in my non-air conditioned office and I'm annoyed.
The sort of annoyed that's described, mistakenly, as red hot. The correct
colour choice, is, of course white.
I login to my account and there's three helpdesk mail requests, all ticking
away to expiration, then escalation, then further escalation, then followup
mail message, then even further escalation, then 2nd followup mail message
and casual phone call, then still further escalation, then non-casual phone
call, then threats, then, ultimately, and sadly, violence. But not so sadly
that I won't resort to it. And they know I will too...
Because I used to be...
T H E B A S T A R D O P E R A T O R F R O M H E L L ! ! !
...and sometimes, late at night I get these twitches. Like dead people get.
(Or, as I prefer to call them, perfect computer users)
In the mornings I get them too. Like when the phone rings. And when I get
email. And when people talk to me. AND when people are hogging the espresso
machine to make fluffy milk. But apart from that I'm cured. A new man.
I smile at the thought and look, in reminiscence, at some reminders of my
past. A couple of backup 8mm tapes with cartoons on them. The thank-you
cards for my attendance at 23 separate funerals of computer center staff.
The mains plug with the thinwire ethernet plug at the end. I didn't ever
get round to trying that one either, so I don't even know what it would've
That's it alright. I am *absolutely*, *stinking*, *UNCONTROLLABLY* bored.
I get up and slip a fingerprint free magnet on top of the reed switch that
the Boss had installed in my display cabinet while I was on holiday, then
pry the glass door open with a screwdriver. As far as I can figure, the
switch is supposed to ring an alarm if the door is opened.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times - "Inexpensive means
I open the door to the clamour of... silence. Well, silence and John Lee
Hooker's "Mr Lucky" from my CD. I grab my aforementioned etherkiller and
wander down the hallway to the switchboard, applying another magnet and
opening that to silence as well.
That's what's missing in society today - trust.
I pull the 15 amp breaker for the meeting room, then wander on round and
plug the etherkiller into a cheap 24hour timer set to 5 minutes from now.
On the way back to the the switchboard I hear the first few murmurs about
excessive collisions. I plug in my unpatented nail "fuse" (estimated fault
current 200-300 amps) with a set of heavily insulated pliers and wander off
to the tea-room to start my espresso brew. Halfway through the make, the
machine stops. Now *THAT'S* what I call a collision.
I look around in a bewildered manner as panic erupts on all sides, half-made
espresso in my hand. I step out into the hallway and behold pandemonium.
Two programmers are fighting over a CO2 fire extinguisher in an effort to
put their terminals out. I wander down to my room just as my X terminal,
the unreliable piece of excreta it is, flames it's last and lapses into a
"My cabinet!" I cry in 'horror' and hear the extinguisher struggle end
abruptly. In a flash the two programmers concerned are behind me staring
into my room. Shortly thereafter the boss runs up as well.
"What's this magnet for?" I ask, picking it up and hearing a bell start
chiming in the distance.
"You bastard!" one of the programmers utters
"I'm sorry?" I ask, turning.
"YOU did it didn't you?"
"What? Break into my own cabinet? But I've got a key.."
That's the terrible burden of proof really - in this day and age, you need
some to make an accusation.
The late-breaking news comes in that one of the consultants had a set of
head- phones plugged into a CDROM drive hanging off their networked PC. But
not anymore. Now there's an unexpected vacancy in the department. I blame
the Ethernet Isolation specs. 3KV my backside!
Quicker than you can say "Help us with our enquiries" I'm "helping the
police with their enquiries".
"What is this, can you tell me?" a burly officer asks, right up in my face.
He holds up a magnet.
"It's a magnet. There was one on my cabinet!" I cry
"Yes. And where did you get them?" he asks, seizing control..
..and losing it. "On my cabinet! I just said!"
"No not this one. The others. Where did you get them?"
"Others? What others? You mean there were more on my cabinet! Why?!?" (I
can play the "stupid game" forever, having had years of education at the
hands of computer lusers.) He tries a different tack.
"What would you say this was off?" he asks
"My cabinet! It was on my cabinet, I told you! I pulled it off... and I
think I heard a bell ringing"...
.... .. .
A couple of hours later I'm back at my desk with Mr Lucky, no charges
pressed. I close my cabinet, satisfaction mine for the first time in a long
Then the phone rings...
© 1996 Peter Langston