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The B**** Manager from Hell

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  1. The B**** Manager from Hell - Parts 1-23
  2.  
  3. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  4.  
  5. Obviously, fake name. Anyways, a while ago, I was working a contract for a rather significant pharmaceutical company. It was your standard run-of-the-mill 1st line maybe 2nd line type role, with a clear difference!
  6.  
  7. Our manager was great. Attentive, offered good career advice when you needed it, always had your back when the proverbial hit the fan, guided us through some difficult times with lunch on the company card or the odd tin of Quality Street. The guy was excellent - one of the few times I could hand-on-heart say it!
  8.  
  9. However, good things don't last and as higher ups decided that Support was way too happy, decided to dispose of our erstwhile leader, much to the cue of "Oh Captain My Captain" upon his departure.
  10. Enter Angie... there are few words to describe Angie. We'd heard tell of her actions and personality through her previous subjects during our morning coffees around the campfire. Apparently she would snipe and shout at you for merely existing and applied the logic of a 3 year old suffering major attention deficit disorder at a lecture on string theory.
  11.  
  12. Angie had been in charge of drug safety for about a decade. To put it into perspective, if you took this company's product and turned into a blue Octapus that shot fire, the authorities would contact her department for advice. Now, from what I could tell, these guys seemed to be very well versed in everything from chemistry, biology and some were even former doctors. None of this sheer brilliance washed with Angie; she merely treated them like tools that she had no idea how to use and would bang with a hammer when they worked her way - even if her way was clearly stupid.
  13. Still - judge no book by their cover and all that!
  14.  
  15. Angie arrived in Support a day early mere moments after our former hero had walked the long mile. She immediately proceeded to command facilities to join her at her desk, where she chewed out a 17 year old girl mercifully due to there being dust on her desk and grit in her drawers. This relentless torture went on for a good 20 minutes while Angie inspected every inch of the girl's effort to appease her whims, even re-cleaning several spots more than once. Afterwards, she walked away red faced, eyes to the ground and with a lump in her throat after just about getting the words to indicate she will have her drawer pack replaced with a brand new unit.
  16.  
  17. We all knew it was to be a new world order with Angie's arrival; we would have thought her showing up a day early was to meet and greet the troops... it was very apparent to me that she was just a vicious troll marking her territory, showing everyone who was boss!
  18.  
  19. Suffice it to say, we finished up the day typing up CVs and comparing layouts.
  20.  
  21. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  22.  
  23. Angie arrives in tech support and starts work. A few tech support underlings had moved her machine down the previous evening but, from what I had heard, she had had another chewing out session as she preferred her monitor on the left hand side as opposed to the right. OK, a simple mistake to make and one which is easily rectifiable - not without a lot of noise and assurance of stupidity. I did wonder why I found our resident work experience kid close to tears in the mensroom.
  24.  
  25. I sat down and began my day. At 10:00, my first interaction with this hellhound was imminent. I was busy tapping out a response email to a remote worker about an Excel problem and she beckoned me over. Well - I say beckoned, she clicked her fingers and with an impertinent commanding tone, she scowled "You! Come here!"
  26.  
  27. Thinking I couldn't possibly have had enough time to annoy the woman yet, I assumed this was just another vulgar display of power (sorry, been listening to Pantera this morning). However, she then demanded I showed her how to access her email.
  28. Now, I'm used to running IT inductions and showing new users the jig, but someone who's been here for 10 years? Hmmm.
  29.  
  30. So, I managed to show her where Outlook was amidst the utter blur of icons on her desktop, adorned with a background of her several pitbull terriers - figures! As Outlook ungraciously churned into gear, she immediately snapped "Why does it take so long?"
  31.  
  32. OK, in fairness, this was taking ages! Her disapproving sighs as I attempted to determine the cause was all the signal I needed to know that I really hadn't impressed the boss from hell. Task manager showed Outlook knocking on 97% CPU and the hard disk was going nuts. Until I noticed that network packets had also rammed up.
  33.  
  34. Musting up the voice to break through the blackened icy air, I politely enquired "When is the last time you opened Outlook?" This was met with a sharp stare and "Don't be stupid. Why would I ask you how to use it if I had been using it already?"
  35.  
  36. After waiting several minutes, the cause eventually became clear. Angie was presented with approximately 5 years worth of completely unread communiques - an unsettling amount of them marked urgent, or with subjects implicating fatal consequences had occured totally without her knowledge.
  37. As I said, Angie had headed drug safety for a decade. In that time, she had never seen a single email, nor did it seem had she ever any cause to question why.
  38.  
  39. And now she was in our realm - infecting our happy little team with a blackness mired with incompetence and only a tongue sharpened with the stones of hell to act as her only contribution.
  40.  
  41. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  42.  
  43. It's Monday morning. I am in early to set up a bunch of noobies with their fancy corporate gear. I'm usually very prepared and have kit ready to go by Thursday evening/Friday morning at latest. However, thanks to BMFH, our long-standing policy known to all department heads of IT requiring 2 weeks notice of any new starter so we can obtaining and set up new gear is summarily binned. Of course, I find this out Friday evening and need to scrounge up four new laptops and get Vodafone to live up some SIM cards double quick for delivery Monday morning.
  44.  
  45. I'm literally imaging the final machine when my induction group enters the room. I've had no time for tea or coffee, yet I'm expecting salvation from a sympathetic co-worker at any minute.
  46.  
  47. Still, best foot forward, I meet my delegates with my usual optimistic smile and my "welcome aboard" handshake. Only, the air is about to darken. The familiar stench of putrid an old woman with too much perfume enters the room. She walks straight to the back of the training room and takes her seat next to a young woman. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the young woman attempt small talk to no avail.
  48.  
  49. I get started and I'm giving a brief introduction to the Company IT. I can't help be but distracted by the icy stare of BMFH piercing me like a lazer. As I duly hand out prescribed equipment to my delegates, she watches my every move as I dart around the room ensuring everyone gets a new toy. Laptops in bags, phones and chargers in the pocket, it's a little like Christmas morning.
  50.  
  51. In my haste to get my late-attendees set up, it seems I've inadvertantly packed the wrong chargers in by mistake. After bringing it to my attention, before I could get a word out, BMFH hops to her feet to investigate the situation. Holding the end of the offending charger and staring at me, she silences the room with an authorative "Well?" Before even being able to offer either explination or promises to make amends, she takes phone and charger from noobie and walks for the door, with "Come with me!"
  52.  
  53. After a solid dressing down, I walk BMFH down to the stock room where she watches me hunt around in a spares box for any combination of phone and charger that would fit. After rejecting my first three finds as unsuitable due to being slightly scuffed, she demands I instead use my company blackberry as suitable replacement. Rather than enduring her wrath any further, I oblige, kitted with charger and wave goodbye to my lovingly customised toy of awesome.
  54.  
  55. We re-enter the room; like a freshly scolded schoolby, I duly hand over the blackberry to noobie who feels mixed between "Oooh awesome, this is better than that rubbish Nokia you tried to give me" and instant pity as she totally knew what just happened.
  56.  
  57. Endeavouring to continue the induction, my noobie starters felt compelled to keep any and all kit-related questions to bare minumum. Not the most ideal situation I'm sure you'll wager. By the way, where is that coffee?
  58.  
  59. We make it to 12, BMFH's face looking like she's gnawing her teeth more and more throughout the session. Salvation; the facilities lady arrives with delegates' lunch and coffee. Blimey, I need a coffee.
  60.  
  61. Yeah... BMFH has other ideas. We break for lunch. I'm making pleasant small talk with some of the noobies - a standard tactic in making them feel "comfortable" with support. The queue for the coffee jug disipates and I walk with one of the noobies to go get myself some salvation in a cup. Just as I pick the cup up, BMFH appears by my side. She again orders me outside.
  62.  
  63. She starts with stating how lunch is for the delegates only; though no it's not! It's been SOP for god knows how long to have a working lunch with the new delegates to chinwag, talk shop, correct any misunderstandings, whatever. However, new policy as of right now, I need to return to my desk where BMFH will watch me complete some meandering tasks she has for me. My co-workers are initially confused by my presence when I should be in induction, but on seeing the red-faced snaggletoothed hellhound, quickly understand.
  64.  
  65. She insists we look at the queues... well, I'll look at the queues, she'll randomly point to various call tickets and demand why they haven't already been dealt with. This carries on for the next 30 minutes after which I mention I need to get back to the induction.
  66.  
  67. For one glorious moment, I thought I may have been off the hook, as BMFH began wagging her finger at another lowly employee who had dropped a mouse on the floor.
  68.  
  69. Back upstairs, half the delegates have gone missing. It seems that our departure to some had signified the conclusion of the induction. A frantic run-around the various departments and 20 minutes later, we were a full team again.
  70.  
  71. Still no coffee.
  72.  
  73. Maintaining my professional demeanour against all odds, I politely carry on with CRM and best practices. The CRM training goes down like a slow slaughter. Every step requires clarification courtesy of BMFH, like she's picking out every little thing and re-explaining it to the group. A one hour segment turns into a two hour bloodbath and everyone has just run out of happy. Best practises I cover in 20 seconds with "There's a laminated card in your laptop bag about best practices, password lengths, etc. Read it good luck".
  74.  
  75. After the delegates have left, BMFH decides to reel off at me what a terrible job I've just done and how "if this is how inductions are performed, it's no wonder IT Support are a joke!". OK I've had enough. Three days of this b****, Monday morning, no coffee, she's on her fourth cup, I react! I just said "Firstly, it would have gone a lot easier if you hadn't had landed me with four delegates I wasn't expecting needing me to run around and scour kit up from somewhere. Secondly, this is not indicative of how inductions are usually run at all! And I resent your opinion that the support department is a joke".
  76.  
  77. Oh... no... you... dit'int....
  78.  
  79. She exits with a calm and collected look... yea OK... I know it... I'm fkd now.
  80.  
  81. And where is my damned coffee!?!?
  82.  
  83. The Coffee I ran into Mr. SureI'llBringYouACoffee no good lying git co-worker who I thought had my back. I just said, "Dude... you said you were going to... "
  84.  
  85. My sentence was cut short when he gave me a complete insight into the morning's proceedings. After helping me haul ass scrambling some extra kit together, he had taken my cup from my drawer, filled it with some lovely hot brown coffee and was on his way upstairs.
  86.  
  87. BUT... unbeknownst to him, he was being hunted! As he turned for the stairs, the BMFH had towered in front like a black-clad SS officer standing in front of a little girl in a pink dress. Demanding to know where this coffee was headed, this was where she had learned of the IT Induction. In between dressing down my colleague for God-knows what and observed him as he duly tipped away my lovely coffee and placed my mug directly into the dishwasher, she had decided that she had to be a part of this induction.
  88.  
  89. As I left for work that evening, I knew I had incurred the wrath. I knew something was coming. What, I don't know... more of the same? My job? Us IT'ers are very dispensible. My thoughts only revolved around one thing... I need to get my CV in shape!
  90.  
  91. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  92.  
  93. I arrived for work the next day, this time fulfilling my morning's requirement for coffee before leaving the house. I was on the late shift, so I could afford the luxury of adding breakfast. For some reason I was unpreterbed by the events yesterday offered.
  94.  
  95. I arrived to find a deathly quiet IT department. Sadly, I had begun to expect this when Angie had imparted her usual words of wisdom on some poor unsuspecting fool. I duly logged into my PC, fired up TouchPaper and began the arduous task of setting up some appointments for the day.
  96.  
  97. I was surprised to hear a new type of noise from Angie's direction. Rather than the snarling voice of Satan demolishing yet another soul or the heavy bleak silence that accompanied her stare, there was banter and the sound of humans talking. I looked over to see Angie discussing in depth the virtues of a nearby starbucks with some Finance Hag. On the one hand we were all pretty shocked that Angie seemed to be demonstrating a more human side to her character. Though given her affiliation with Finance hag...
  98.  
  99. See, IT Support and Finance were situated directly next to each other. Some time ago, we had all been segregated into offices beautifully adorned with departmental monikers which happily contained our respective messes and existances. At some point, some middle manager in a fit of synergetic genius decided to implement an entirely open-office strategy and had all walls removed. As far as I can see, it served to merely underpin the adage of "good fences make good neighbours" and that destroying the efficiency of Aircon in the height of summer only adds to tensions.
  100.  
  101. Finance had repeatedly become irritated with ITS occasionally "walking through their area" as they would usually have varying currencies hanging around for traveling business reps - it seemed walking even near their area was suddenly deemed a security risk - and were constantly angered by the fact we had a lot of foot traffic and a lot of equipment which invariably made its way to us. Really - IT Support does not suit open office, especially next to Finance hags.
  102.  
  103. Suffice it to say, there had previously been a blowout and IT Support were mandated by up on high to keep a three desk distance from any Finance team members (a problem as they were forever encroaching on our space, with temps, filing systems and new layouts meaning we had to constantly move and shrink). Simiarly, they had enforced a three-piece rule, whereby you could only have three pieces of equipment on your desk at any time. As the average monitor and system unit accounted for two of these, you can imagine what a struggle this was should anyone show up with a non functioning laptop and accompanying projector/home router/printer.
  104.  
  105. Our constant commandering of any post-room space and the need to create a PC-den in the stock cupboard was a testament to what a poor relation IT Support really was in the company. Though our jobs were now more difficult, in that we had to maintain a presence outside whilst actually getting to work in a cupboard was a constant struggle, we all remained cooperative and chipper in our existances.
  106.  
  107. Nevertheless, Angie was evidently on first name terms with Finance wench. With pleasantries exchanged, off they set to the local coffee emporium to embark on their self-made challenge of attempting every single combination of coffee type they could think of - not forgetting the ominous stare at support personnel as she passed.
  108.  
  109. Finally. The coast was clear - we could take a breath. Being the last one in, my colleagues were quick to ask "Jon6... have you read your email yet!?"... Well, no actually... and there it was. Retribution, the storm of the BMFH's reign was upon us!
  110.  
  111. Angie had decided that during the course of the day, she would be performing ticket reviews on an individual basis.
  112.  
  113. Middle-Aged Family Guy (MAFG) was on the early shift. He had obviously already been the meat grinder, Angie's special treatment. Of course, we were now fixated on his response to find out what went down. It soon became clear when he relented and maximised his IE window to reveal several Jobserve results. Wow, it went that well then?
  114.  
  115. MAFG wasn't a slacker, not by a long shot. In fairness, there were slackers, but he wasn't one. And it looked like the wind had been knocked well and truly out of his sales.
  116.  
  117. He began to tell us how Angie had spun her web. She had a printed list of his open tickets and several examples of his closed tickets. She had initially allowed him to dig his grave so it seems with a few innocent cases, until launching into an all-out pincer move to demonstrate terrible goings on within his daily work. This invariably was forcing him to reopen old tickets she was dissatisfied with, despite no suggestion from the customer of that being the case.
  118.  
  119. That's when it hit me. As he talked about the meeting, the fact that things were printed (Angie has no idea where the printers even are), the fact that she was able to search the ticketing system for tickets at all... it's obvious.
  120.  
  121. There is a mole... that's all there is to it... someone here is working against us all. Someone had to have provided Angie with a method of retrieving closed tickets. Someone has to have shown her how to use the printer. The cloud of suspicion was very much there. I knew it... and I could sense, maybe some others knew as well. Is there a traitor in our midst?
  122.  
  123. After our team post-mortem of Angie's impact to date, we were left deflated and totally unmotivated. We returned to stare into the bleakness of the computer monitor, hoping that salvation lay within. I duly opened my Outlook calendar. Sure enough... Jon6, tickets review at 13:30..... right at the start of my designated rota'd lunch break...
  124.  
  125. OK Angie... you foul smelling b****... it's on...
  126.  
  127. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  128.  
  129. 1330 rolls around. Angie is already sat in the stale meeting room waiting for me. Obviously, given the events of the day before, I knew I had essentially caused this impromptu ticket review. To me there remained two choices.
  130.  
  131. I could head in there, a subservient professional, plead for my sins and be managed. Yep, be managed by Angie. As she had already minced three of my colleagues into vegetative states, I realised this tactic was doomed. However, my heavy metal spirit prevailed; I took a cue from Dee Snider and instead presented myself as just me. The guy who will still smile and offer professionalism with a light hearted stance even in the face of a total bully.
  132.  
  133. I walked into the meeting room brandishing a pint glass of red fruitjuice which I happily placed on the desk. I honestly don't think Angie was expecting this one. I jovially sat down and acted like I was eager to go through any concerns she had with my tickets.
  134.  
  135. She came straight out with it, "I want to know why you close the lowest amount of tickets out of everyone in the group? This isn't good enough, you are consistently the lowest score in every single stat I have!"
  136.  
  137. My case revolved around the fact that we were never ruled by stats. Ever. We maintained a low open-ticket count and concentrated on mentoring junior staff and leading by example. I was hired as a senior simply as a representation of my experience and it was not uncommon for me to accompany junior staff on their calls.
  138.  
  139. As you can guess, as well as a frosty stare, this was met with a single-worded writeoff: "Rubbish!" she sniped. She tyraded for another 10 minutes, scribbling all over her prints in red pen like a crap maths teacher and proceeded to throw me ticket after ticket and reasons why she wasn't happy.
  140. That's OK, I don't stop there. After she finishes her rant, I decide, I can play your game. I turn her stack of redenned paperwork over and begin to go through them in depth, one by one, to answer her concerns.
  141.  
  142. "This ticket here, " I started, "you were unhappy as it took too long to resolve. I admit, three weeks is a little out there. However, this PC is running some bespoke medical software and as it happens will only run on Windows NT. The department is not willing to shell out five figures on a new XP-compatible version so they asked us to source a replacement motherboard instead."
  143.  
  144. Now here's how I knew we had a rat. Angie has no idea what NT is - or even a motherboard. However, her tyrade this time seemed more bitter and twisted. I was really stirring the hornets nest here!
  145. I insisted on moving on after "I can take your comments on board". I started into the next ticket. "This ticket resolved around a new vendor requiring set up of several Oracle databases..." Angie stopped me mid sentence. She reiterated bitterly my low call count; if I didn't shape up, she would have no option but to seek disciplinary steps.
  146.  
  147. OK so I didn't win. But at least the playing field has been set. I don't back down, though I know I won't win. But at least now I know what her prize is. Why, I don't know. She can't be after everyone's job, surely? That makes no sense.
  148.  
  149. Epilogue Angie left for the day. I was alone watching a new HP laptop complete a Windows install, ready to fine tune and install, later to sysprep. The balding Head of IT wandered over to ask what all the meetings were about today. I adopted happy-mode and shared my thoughts in as diplomatic a manner I could. I expressed how I was the lowest ticket closer and Angie isn't happy about that.
  150.  
  151. Initially, Balding Head (BHIT) tried to plecate me, asking how I could do better. Blimey, I'd forgotten higher ups were meant to "help". However, he soon discovered my tickets for what they were; all mine were the complex issues. Internal wifi dropouts, preparing master configs for different models of routers the sales reps had, troubleshooting legacy Windows NT and MSDOS 8.3 systems...
  152. And then I landed everyone in it. Compared to some others, it seems the bulk majority of calls assigned by people to themselves in the mornings were password resets.... I guess that's one way to boost your stats...
  153.  
  154. Ooops... did I just self-rat my team?
  155.  
  156. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  157.  
  158. As I closed the door on my cozy warm house on a bitterly frosty Thursday morning, clutching my car keys in one hand and a small plastic scraper in the other, I immediately regretted my decision of not purchasing gloves the previous night while shopping. My car bellowed smoke as it churned into life as my red cracking knuckles powered the scraper into the solid ice on the car windows. The fact I had purchased a Ford for it's clever quick-clear windscreen technology just seemed to mock me more as the damned thing was had failed to operate at all over the last few days.
  159.  
  160. I made it to work and felt rather disappointed with the turn-out of animal rights protesters - the promise of an impending and very visual protest outside the gates of the center as emailed by HR seemed rather overkill as I spied a single figure waving a poorly legible placard from near the gate, being carefully watched by two security guards. It seemed a rather poor effort!
  161.  
  162. I duly parked my car in the usual spot next to a brand new looking Jaguar. I admired its sleek lines and somewhere in the back of my head, thought that one of these days, all this toil will be worth it!
  163. Exchanging early morning pleasantries with various security guards, I arrived at my desk and removing my jacket, the cold radiating outward. I couldn't help but notice a familiar stern sniff. Jesus... Angie was here before me!? There I was hoping for at least an hour or two of recovery from this morning's voyage before having her in my face.
  164.  
  165. Mere moments had I sat down to get my machine warmed, I reached into my drawer for my coffee cup only to find Angie standing right next to me, her stature akin to that of a Hitchcock serial killer. Armed with her coffee cup, she placed it on my desk, dragged over a nearby chair and sat with notebook in hand.
  166.  
  167. "Can I help?" I politely inquired. "I want to see what you get up to in the morning!". I motioned towards my empty coffee cup, but she meant business! "You can get your tea later! I want to see what you're going to do first; open the paper program!" (She meant TouchPaper...)
  168.  
  169. The next two hours was like being dragged over icy knives naked! I had started the day with eleven open tickets, six of which I knew were long ones and had already made appointments to service that day. The other five I could knock out easily while waiting for builds to finish thus leaving plenty time free to pick up anything new that came in.
  170.  
  171. Angie's plan was for me to pretty much assign myself almost every open ticket - even those not to do with 2nd line Support. My colleagues started to arrive one by one and on seeing this spectacle, shrunk into their seats, trying to root out any ticket which would mean escaping their desks and the vicinity of Angie.
  172.  
  173. By 11 o'clock, my queue looked like a ticket-bomb had gone off. 47 open tickets! Crikey - what was I meant to be doing this morning? Angie had retreated back to her lair as Middle-Aged Family Guy sent me a quick communicator message, "Do you want me to have a look at some of those cases for you?" I duly replied whatever he fancied doing, go for it.
  174.  
  175. After taking a couple of password resets, Angie's snarl came from her desk... "Jon6, I did not tell you to make others do your work for you! MAFG, if you have nothing to do, I am more than happy to GIVE you something to do!" MAFG quickly retreated back to his own call list without saying a word. 5 motionless minutes elapsed, until Angie walked up to MAFG and ordered him to accompany her. They disappeared into the murky depths of the corridor, swallowed by the blackness to some horrible fate.
  176.  
  177. I decided to keep to my plan that day. I retrieved five machines from leavers' desks and made for the IT Cupboard to get them re-imaged for some imminent arrivals and replacements. I sat in the dimly lit room as the unattended scripts did their bit; I had a rep's laptop in several bits to replace a faulty screen before he would leave for a flight.
  178.  
  179. The sound of the security badge failing in the electronic lock, followed by the sincere knock on the door, thrice performed, meant it could only have been one person. Up until now, although she knew it existed, Angie had no idea how to get to this place much less have access to it. Putting on my pro-face, I duly opened the door. Immediately, Angie went for the neck, a starbucks tall firmly clasped in her bony fingers, eyes like a spear!
  180.  
  181. "What are you doing in here? Why aren't you at your desk? What is going on in here?"
  182.  
  183. I politely showed her around the IT Cupboard, though what I really wanted to do was batter her with bits of Dell laptop and bury her somewhere in with the junk P133 Viglens, kept only for laboratories and their outdated gear. The prospect of me attempting to fit her bitter bony body into a fullsize tower also crossed my mind. Not happy with my explanation (there's a surprise), she ordered me back to desk despite my protests that the rep was expecting their laptop back before leaving today for his flight to whereeverthehell, and the fact that the machines I was imaging needed to be on desks by close of business.
  184.  
  185. Planted at my desk, she left me there with a "Now get on with your work and don't let me catch you again!" I felt impotent. Time for a reaction. I figured, if the above work doesn't happen, I'm in it with several department heads. If I go back, I'm in it with Angie. So, I fired an email to Balding IT Head, CC'ing in Angie, asking for direction. It read, "I have work going on in the IT cupboard which requires resolution. Angie has made it clear that I am not to return to the IT cupboard. Can you please provide direction as to how this work should be completed?"
  186.  
  187. Mere seconds after I signed my fate, Angie frog-marched me and some spotty helpdesk kid back to the IT Cupboard. She ordered us complete the work as she watched and verified every step. Of course, spotty helpdesk kid had no idea what any of these 2nd line processes were about and questioned nearly every stage. An hour later we were finished and went our seperate ways to re-deploy our efforts. As I walked away with two machines and a laptop bag slung, she said "I want you back at your desk in ten minutes, don't let me come looking for you!"
  188.  
  189. That afternoon, Angie sent us all an email! We couldn't help but imagine it read aloud by her razor sharp tongue, each paragraph almost lyrical in its context. Her order was that the IT Cupboard is no longer to be used for any sort of maintenance or work; it is for storage of computing equipment only. Having recently learned that her circle of "bitter women in positions of power that drink too much Starbucks coffee" also included some oversized tank of a HR Administrator, the icing to the cake was present and correct citing health and safety violations and that any further activities would be referred to management for disciplinary.
  190.  
  191. A few of us held vigil over our lost IT Cupboard as we watched several burly men from facilities tear down our nest. The glorious ghost server which held all our builds slammed onto a trolley, ready for its trip back to the server room; our beautifully installed network cabling and network switch was unceremoniously ripped from the wall and tossed into a rubbish old box; our carefully ordered and neatly packed away toolkits were also in a box, it seemed that they had been claimed in the name of facilities; our electric kettle, together with a tin containing our hotel and restaurant liberated packs of tea bags, coffee, sugar and dairy creamers were tossed into a black bag headed for the skip.
  192.  
  193. We discussed the predicament in depth. How would we image machines with a three-item limit on our desks? Where would we go to dismantle machines to replace or upgrade hardware? These sentiments were later echoed when one of the server admins asked "I notice the ghost server is on a trolley in one of the network riser rooms; I thought you guys needed that for building machines?" Yeah... we did too!
  194. My shift ended and I made for the sanctuary of my car, again a thick layer of ice and snow serving to only impede my progress. I again noticed the brand new Jaguar which had miraculously seemed immune from the effects of this brutal British summer. You can all predict who was behind the wheel. Angie glanced as she noticed me approach over her black leather steering wheel, no smile or acknowledgement. She reversed out of her space as her shining black Jag powered her away from my presence; her work for the day was done.
  195.  
  196. Thorougly deflated, I clicked my Ford Mondeo's remote key. Strange, the remote wouldn't work. I put the key into the lock and the central locking groaned into life. Sitting into my ice pit, realizing the water that had leaked from the roof onto my seat had now frozen, a quick turn of the key also revealed that it also wouldn't start. A few more tries and there could only be one culprit. My reward from the day's toil was one flat battery and an hour waiting for the RAC Recovery person to arrive and give me a jump start. Bang goes my early leaving time.
  197.  
  198. What a day...
  199.  
  200. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  201.  
  202. My attempts at garnering moral support from my girlfriend had failed. After recounting the day's events, she thought my overreaction was simply the male chauvinist in me speaking out against a woman who was just struggling in a man's world and in her eyes doing it well!
  203.  
  204. Arriving for work, I had three video conferences to get set up planned for exactly the same start times. After working diligently to get them set up, I finally set off for the ground floor, the home of IT Support. This time, having grown smart of Angie's disposition for anyone drinking coffee, I swung by the kitchen first.
  205.  
  206. Oh yes, Angie's still on form today. I sit at my desk and fire up my machine. Angie glares at me, whatever I'm learning to ignore it. "Anything to say?" she sniped? OK, I wasn't quite expecting it to be that open-ended... "No?" came my reply, accompanied with my best "What's going on 'ere then" look.
  207.  
  208. Off we go to her meeting room which appears to have become her favorite place to dress down her troops. Half expecting an array of torture weapons to now adorn the walls, she slammed the door behind us. "Why were you late?" she demanded. Confused, I informed her I wasn't late; I was in fact 15 minutes early! I had arrived at 8:45 to get the video conferences set up for 9:00, despite the fact that my shift wasn't actually due to start till 9:00 anyway. However, due to a slight technical issue whereby sound from the American side of the video conference had failed, I was working with a counterpart to resolve the issue, thus arriving at my desk at 10:20.
  209.  
  210. I'm sure you can imagine how well my explanation was received. I may as well have made up a story about having to perform a few impromptu acts of lion taming after some had escaped from the zoo and found their way into the building, trapping me for 20 minutes. It would have been just as well listened to.
  211.  
  212. She then proceeded to have me calculate with her on the white board that, if I was 20 minutes late every day, how much I would effectively cost the company over the course of a year, which worked out to approximately 12 working days. She then demanded to know why I felt it was OK to cost the company12 days and what was I going to do to make amends? Despite offering to refer her to ticket numbers requesting video conference set up, evidence of my keycard accessing the building 15 minutes before my shift, the end result was I was 20 minutes late for work, it'd be added on at the end of the day and that was the end of it.
  213.  
  214. She then demanded, "I called your work mobile. Why do you not have your work mobile?" Aha - one I can win :) "You had me give it away to a new starter in Monday's IT Induction!". Angie demanded to know why I hadn't ordered another one from Vodafone. Sadly, Vodafone have already distributed our contracted quota of Blackberry smartphones, the Nokias we have are basically junk and don't integrate with email - kinda crucial for our work - and until the new starter feels like swapping back my Blackberry for a rubbish Nokia, I would be without. Not a very likely scenario as you can imagine!
  215.  
  216. Sadly, no... I didn't win. Ordered to retrieve an old Nokia and new SIM card, she demanded to know if other members of 2nd line were also similarly furnished. I knew where this was headed; no more blackberries for anyone! We'd all be on the rubbish parts-bin Nokias by the end of the day!
  217.  
  218. This made me wonder about the subject of the rat. On the one hand, given I had now inadvertently ratted my team twice now, frogmarched into cul-de-sacs of inevitable verbal doom by her spitefully clever wordplay, I just wondered if the rat was indeed all of us who, at various times, had fallen foul of her twisted bent nature. But no. Someone showed her how to use a printer; someone retrieved ticket logs from TouchPaper; someone put her onto the IT Cupboard... the thought bothered me.
  219.  
  220. An urgent call awaited my attention when I got back, coffee now cold and bitter to the taste. It seemed a PA had a non-functioning PC. Rushing up to the scene, it seemed that someone had attempted to help the PA out prior to her calling support. The 18 year old work experience kid they had up there diagnosed a RAM problem and tried to reseat it. However, this had failed to do the job and the PA remained with a beeping machine.
  221.  
  222. After trying a few rudimentary things, it was apparent that there was no quick fix. I unplugged and picked it up, promising to return moments later with one of our spare stock machines by way of a temporary fix. Not ideal, but at least she could get to her profile data (we used roaming profiles) and use standard services.
  223.  
  224. A b-line made for the IT Cupboard, I found my card failed to open the door. I tried again, no luck. Defeated, I made my way back to the desk, PA's machine in hand. I returned with MAFG whose card also failed to unlock the door. The reason became clear upon our return to ITS. One of our number who had hit a similar problem had found out that Angie had also demanded our access be removed from the IT cupboard. From now on, access was to be via facilities and only after her approval!
  225.  
  226. Great! Especially useful as Angie had already left the office with her drinking group to experiment with yet another of Starbucks' many offerings. Running around like a madman trying to find anyone from facilities who wasn't already changing a light bulb or driving a fork-lift and was willing to bend the rules slightly. A few 3rd liners tried their access cards to find that they too were now ostracized from our precious bounty. Our actions were similarly stunted when pleading our case towards Balding IT Head who simply responded that he supported Angie's decision and that undeployed hardware was technically responsibility of facilities! OK, maybe technically, but this is stupid!
  227.  
  228. 30 minutes later, still no Angie, still no facilities. The PA's umpteenth attempt to get news on her machine came through from Helpdesk closely followed by a call from he dept head, demanding to know why we were stopping his PA from working.
  229.  
  230. OK, nothing for it, lets see what we can do with her machine! Already receiving glares from three fat Finance ladies as I begin tearing the side off her machine, we set to work. After various tests, MAFG and I agree that the power supply sounds like the culprit. Kicking my machine off as they're the same model, I can only think to try mine.
  231.  
  232. 15 minutes later, armed only with a knife stained with old jam which had been liberated from the canteen at some point and found in someone's drawer, I managed to remove PSU screws from my machine's PSU and the PAs machine. A quick hodge-podge to exchange the PA's PSU, we hastily hook back up the cables. A quick power on test reveals the glorious Windows XP boot screen, problem solved. We shut it down carefully, reattach the bits and pieces and I make for the elevator leaving my own machine stranded on my desk like a recently-sacrificed chicken, the murder weapon with most of the jam scraped left adjacent.
  233.  
  234. I've reattached PA lady's machine, but it's all too late. Her boss is chewing me out over there now being an hour lost of her time. Despite my best attempts to calm the situation down, citing a problem with security access, he vows to email my manager immediately, going so far as to demand names! PA lady thanks me anyway for my efforts in as an apologetic way as she can.
  235.  
  236. The day plays itself out to conclusion. It takes me until the afternoon to find anyone from facilities to let me into the IT Cupboard. I retrieve a power supply for my own machine and reattach it in the same caveman like style as it had been withdrawn. Angie passes my desk as I finish up, pointed at the knife and demanded "What is that?". I got 1/3rd of the way into the first sentence of explaining its role in reattaching a new power supply when she snapped "Take it back to the canteen right now!"
  237.  
  238. I spent the rest of the day on desk visits, guiding users around various windows issues, doing a desk move and I finish the day up with mentoring a guy on the virtues of active directory.
  239.  
  240. I knew I had an Angie moan coming. I was expecting it at any minute. But, to my surprise, Angie left for the day... what... no come back? No dragging into the meeting room of doom for another lesson in stupid? That PA's boss was very definite about laying the smackdown? Where is it?
  241.  
  242. Driving home, it bothered me that Angie had said nothing about this complaint. Had she realized she was wrong? No... I dismissed that very quickly! Total bitches like that are never wrong in their eyes! It usually means that people like me failed to understand properly and need a shouting at to get it through my thick skull! But where was the backlash.
  243.  
  244. I was stopped at lights watching a mother scold her child as they crossed the road. This made me realize. It was all just another spiteful orchestration by Angie. She knew that I knew there was a complaint. She knew I'd be expecting her to smack me down over it. But what she knew and what I didn't think of until now, was that there was no sense on doing this on a Friday. It's the weekend after all! She wants this exact situation... she wants me wondering what sort of smackdown awaits me Monday morning - and she wants me to think about this all weekend, just anything to make sure the stress builds up.
  245.  
  246. Oh Angie... clever! VERY clever!
  247.  
  248. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  249.  
  250. Monday morning finally arrived. I slightly congratulated myself that I managed to get through the entire weekend without wasting a single further thought on Angie. With no let-up in the weather, the early shift seemed to be of little comfort with the snow beating down as hard as it could. I was, however, brandishing a new set of gloves and a can of ice dissolving fluid.
  251.  
  252. Surprisingly, the day went off without a hitch. The snowy weather had landed most of the team off with "colds" and, notably, Angie hadn't made it in. Myself and MAFG managed to pile through a bunch of tickets when Balding Head of IT came in. He asked me if I could attend a meeting later which I obliged. Fairly sure this was "the meeting", I began to mentally prepare my defense.
  253.  
  254. I was again pleasantly surprised that this meeting was not one in which my ass would be summarily served, but rather a meeting of several heads brandishing a new project. It seemed that there was to be a conference in the not too distant future and the marketing, sales and product reps had worked hard to secure a vendor for a new medical CRM product to replace the aging creaky FileMaker based system. They also wanted to work in a complete laptop refresher programme, replacing any laptop over 2 years old. BHIT made particular mention of a desktop rollout I performed last year - it was actually my initial 3 months contract, but as I'd proven myself worthy, was taken on full time. My job was to be responsible for managing the physical delivery of the new hardware/software as appropriate.
  255.  
  256. I set to work on the task with glee, querying Active Directory for a list of machines, users and specs. One thing I always made sure of was to carry on my predecessor's good work in maintaining a super-clean active directory: a place for everything and everything in it's place. Every audit we had, although occasionally revealing some discrepancies, everything was up to date and reports were reliable.
  257.  
  258. After collating my results, I determined that 170 odd laptops would require replacement and approximately 250 builds would need to go on across three different hardware types - two already in use in the field and could continue and one for the new laptop specs. As soon as I could get the final signed off software from the vendor, I could go about getting images prepared, QA'd and rope in some of my friendlier reps to pilot the new builds before the big day.
  259.  
  260. My analysis done and sent to BHIT, I wrapped up for the day. All thoughts of that coffee swilling stick insect were thoroughly out of mind.
  261.  
  262. My smile was demolished Tuesday morning. Angie had made it in and was busy setting about the task of undoing anything that looked like progress. The instant I appeared, she demanded my attention in the dungeon. Sure enough, this was it. She now required a full explanation as to my actions the previous Friday.
  263.  
  264. I say explanation, after my defense of our security access to the IT Cupboard had been withdrawn was thrown straight back at me for failing to understand proper protocol, she just ripped into yet another Starbucks latte-fueled tirade about leaving a VIP high and dry for an hour while I blithered about. She then also ripped me a new one, asking what I was doing taking apart a PC in the middle of the office? It seemed that some of the Fat Finance wenches had ratted me out as well and claimed I'd caused such a loud commotion, they were prevented from working! I wonder if it's the same finance hag that is in her coffee group? This dressing down seemed to last forever, and it did... this was a good 20 minuter!
  265.  
  266. Dressing down fully received, I decided to retaliate once more. I mailed our BHIT and CC'd the rest of support, questioning why we were no longer permitted access to the IT Cupboard for equipment, where we should go if Angie is not around to give her approval to retrieve gear from the cupboard and, most importantly, where are we supposed to work on machines or hardware? These were things which worked perfectly fine a few weeks ago were now suddenly were not fine.
  267.  
  268. The reply from BHIT was as usual fairly impotent and full of noncommittal statements. His response that he was unaware the IT Cupboard was being used as a build area for hardware came as a shock to us all particularly as he was the one who got the Ghost Server off the 3rd line team in the first place. He concluded by requesting that we should seek clarification of suitable build areas from our manager, Angie. I could see we were going to get nowhere on this path.
  269.  
  270. The water deepened. I held my breath, cited 15 odd tickets in my queue which would require extensive dismantling and imaging time, none of which could occur at my desk and none of which could even happen as the build server with all our images had been thrown in a riser room, which of course none of us could now access anymore. Added to that, with the conference project looming, exactly where were we meant to image these machines? And how would I be able to access our build server for the task at hand - my nightly WhatsAlive script reporting it as the only machine missing in action?
  271.  
  272. As a demonstration of the extent of his ineptitude, instead of formulating a reply, he simply replied to all and inserted Angie's email at the top with the words "Angie, can you please direct Jon6 appropriately? Thanks."
  273.  
  274. You can guess the next conversation. "What conference is this and what makes you think you have anything to do with it?" Angie demanded. As BHIT had truly dumped me in it, I had to relay all about my task for the conference. She would find out anyway, the train was in motion. Of course, this was now something new she could micromanage to the nth degree, but not without a scolding first. She first demanded to know why she was never informed.
  275.  
  276. I responded, "BHIT had been present in the meeting, too. Given my handling of the XP Rollout and Desktop Replacement project last year, this is why BHIT and several heads asked for me by name! That said, as it's a major project, I find it difficult to believe that you were not in the loop with this one already?" (whoa... saucer of milk, meeting room 7... could it be score 1 to Jon6?)
  277.  
  278. In reality, I already knew that Angie was already plotting. If I was a betting man, I'd have said the plan was already made in her mind; she was too sharp to not have planned all the fine details already. All she needed was the time to put it into effect. What the plan was, I have no idea, only the future will tell. But I did know at that moment that this process won't go well. It will either be mired in micro-managementism... or I just won't do it at all.
  279.  
  280. So, I managed to get my digs in that one time, but I now have a fight on my hands. On the one hand, I've made enough of an impression by some heads to have been asked for by name to drive this forward. On the other hand, I had the bitch manager from hell, bent on thrusting her dagger of incompetence into the beating heart of anything resembling efficiency.
  281.  
  282. And there was still no response about where hardware/builds should be taking place.
  283.  
  284. One thing I was sure of... if we're going to play this game, let the games begin!
  285.  
  286. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  287.  
  288. The week came to its natural conclusion over several bottles of spilt milk and the mandated amount of crying. Several more instances of Angie's managerial style being put into action came and went. However, I still had tickets building up which needed build area time. Realising BHIT was ineffective in offering a solution, I tried and failed to sweet-talk third line into segregating some of their server room space for machine builds. I turned my attention to our so-far more than amenable post-room guys. But it seems I was slightly pushing it at the prospect of wheeling our server in there. The request was met with more displeasure at our storing new laptops and bags in there already.
  289.  
  290. The answer flooded towards me one day when Angie, Fat Finance wench, unnaturally skinny finance wench and the HR Tank took off for their near twice daily trip to Starbucks. I heard them gossiping about their new coffee related discovery on their way out. See, they have to take baby steps otherwise HR Tank will break out in tonnes of sweat. But, so I hear, ginger shots in lattes are simply gorgeous!
  291.  
  292. Angie's seemless change in personality between her dealings with us and her friends still resonated around the team with astonishment. It was just odd to hear this scorpion do nothing but treat us like shit all day, but then with friends actually smile and be human. But, my time came to put my diabolical "fuck you" plan into action!
  293.  
  294. Like batman with a purpose, I ran round the office building like a thing possessed! I had a third liner retrieve our imprisoned Ghost server from the network riser room and patched up some network ports. I finished phase 1 of my mission with an email to Angie requesting several parts from the IT Cupboard just as she returned, stinking of coffee and biscotti. She accepted my request with a disinterested but reassuredly managerial style.
  295.  
  296. Monday morning. Car defrosted, it's time to get the hammers on! I'm at work early for phase 2.
  297.  
  298. Quiet Blonde Girl (QBG) always seemed to fly under Angie's radar. I did initially suspect her to be our rat as she has a tendancy to be popular with higher up types. Though I would say a lot of that would be hormonal. Her arrival in Helpdesk was a little perplexing as nobody - not even the helpdesk manager - had even interviewed her. Similarly, her record quick transfer to 2nd line was equally enigmatic. I think we were just lucky that QBG was actually a decent worker and learned quickly. Underhandedness? Personally, I think more cleavage-related!
  299.  
  300. All suspicions of her being a mole were slightly dispelled one lunch hour when she launched into a seething verbal attack about Angie; the sort of stuff that had it ever been heard by anyone with power would have definitely landed QBG with her P45 (the sack). However, Monday was to be her day. She had done some extraordinarily terrible thing and it was time for her to feel Angie's wrath. And, female to good looking female, Angie was in no way going to let her off lightly!
  301.  
  302. But, I was ready and waiting for Angie.
  303.  
  304. Angie, with QBG in tow, opened door to her dungeon of dispair with an angered and authoritative fling. She stood in the doorway sideways, motioning for QBG to enter.
  305.  
  306. Her attention was soon diverted. There was I, several machines imaging on top of the file cabinets, two further machines lay dissected on the table and a studious and official amount of paperwork lay with my blue ballpoint nestled neatly on top.
  307.  
  308. I said with a slightly officialised and victorious tone, "Can I help you at all?"
  309.  
  310. Angie's face turned red as a small vein on the side of her temple bulged; leaving QBG outside, she closed the door and turned her attention to me. Her sharpness was echoed in the warming meeting room amidst the blur of machines. "Who gave you permission to do this?"
  311.  
  312. My short simple reply amounted to "Nobody; I used my initiative. We have no build areas anymore, customers are waiting on their machines!" Knowing that there was nothing she could do, she left the room with "I'll be checking on you later!".
  313.  
  314. As the door closed, it was obvious QBG had returned to her desk, assuming she had escaped capture. No such luck. Angie's venomous streak played out as she called across to her in a way one would talk to a 5 year old with a simple "Hey you! Here!" as her bony finger pointed downwards. QBG obliged with this demand as Angie simply stated "This one is taken; come with me"
  315.  
  316. The door closed completely, leaving only me and my machines. I felt like some sort of mad professor finally alone in my domain.
  317.  
  318. Angie was usurped. I relaxed in my new man-cave, all manner of industriousness going on. MAFG even swung by minutes later for a victorious high-five, the smiles from other team members shining through the open door like lighthouses.
  319.  
  320. I think I just further angered Angie more when I came out to the team that "The room has been booked all week, but there's plenty space. Feel free to use it, back to business as usual!". I think it was the last part. Angie's hand froze as she amateurishly moved the mouse around the screen in her attempts to find the Outlook icon again.
  321.  
  322. In a way, I did sort of feel sorry for Angie. My girlfriend's hypothesis of a lone female trying to make it in man's world resonated a little. That was until she turned around and demanded we kept the noise down, people are trying to work! Her snap only reaffirmed her brittleness.
  323.  
  324. Though something told me that I hadn't heard the last of this. One thing you will learn too about women in positions of power who aren't cut out for the job. They always win. No matter how much you think you've had the upper hand, they still win.
  325.  
  326. I returned to my desk to reply to some emails, leaving my machines image in my cave, claimed in the name of man! I couldn't help bu wonder if this would eventually be QBG's fate; socially promoted as guys in positions of power like the eye candy until she gets to a stage where she is truly out of her depth, only able to rely on her position of authority to motivate her staff.
  327.  
  328. As it happens, I was dead right. My moment of victory was surprisingly cut short...
  329.  
  330. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  331.  
  332. I walked into the office Tuesday morning, brandishing a Starbucks latte with a ginger shot. It was my little way of celebrating my minor victory of no customers waiting to tear my face off for lack of machines. OK, there was a little part of me happy about getting just a little win over Angie. My mind was already on the task of prepping up some laptops for the next round of inductees due in a few weeks. At this rate, I may even get time to reimage my own machine as it badly needed it.
  333.  
  334. Into the office I go, exchanging light pleasantries with the security guards. Now, I'm not sure why I didn't expect it. I thought the battle was won, this round was done and dusted and, more importantly, the meeting room booked for the week.
  335.  
  336. MAFG looked at me in sympathy as a crowd rallied around Meeting Room 6. BHIT, with two facilities guys and several third line guys were gathered in what seemed to be some sort of epic teardown, akin to one of those American cop shows exercising a search warrant.
  337.  
  338. I walked straight up to own my actions, nonchalantly still brandishing my victory coffee. BHIT seemed to ignore me at first, issuing orders to some of the third liners unplugging my gear. Turning his attentions to me, his usually weak and ineffectual voice had now transformed into an authoritative bark as he demanded, "I don't know what you're playing it, but this is not on! You cannot turn a meeting room into a comms room." Add in more bleating with health and safety concerns, my explanation of complete lack of build space and subsequent apathy by both him and Angie was why I took matters into my own hands, rather than annoy several customers still waiting on machines.
  339.  
  340. I was ordered back to my desk. The thirdline monkeys tore down my man-cave which I had lovingly pieced together in as temporary and easily mobile a fashion I could. The familiar green t-shirt clad facilities guys wheeled away my contraband as I watched, the rest of my now tepid coffee disappearing down my throat as evocatively as my victory.
  341.  
  342. As it would seem, this would eventually serve to complicate matters wholly as the customer machines which had been imaged or were waiting for imaging were taken off to some mystical third-line hole where I was unable to get at them. In fact, as it would later transpire, I would never see those desktops ever again.
  343.  
  344. All the while, Angie sat with her back to me, presumably trying to get to grips with TouchPaper. I knew she was everything to do with it, but at the same time, it was only BHIT and facilities people up there.
  345.  
  346. My answers were provided moments later when BHIT came for another chat, telling me in no uncertain terms that booking a meeting room to perform IT work was totally out of bounds. Right at that moment, Fat Finance Bint appeared by his side. She was aching to get her say in too! Suddenly, this was making sense!
  347.  
  348. In her finely tuned ultra-moralistic vocal tone that could have only been honed over an extensive career of patronizing anyone who crossed her path, she pleaded with me that my actions were selfish and wrong; "You can't just take over meeting rooms, we need those rooms all the time for legal purposes! You can't just take one, they aren't there for you to just "use" as you please!" Her rising inflection that completed every sentence drove through my skull like rusty nails on a blackboard.
  349.  
  350. Amazing! In the time I've been there, I don't think I've ever seen finance use one of the meeting rooms once. In fact, there were eight of them and two were used as archive storage and not locked either! Most of the rooms sat unused day in, day out. But now I see the path of treachery. Angie didn't like the fact she'd lost; Fat Finance Bint complained on her behalf to her manager; he called his people; they called their people; they eventually called BHIT who immediately agreed with his higher ups.
  351.  
  352. I threw down the gauntlet. "We used to build all the time in the IT Cupboard. That was suddenly disallowed. We cannot build at our desks, we cannot use any of the server rooms as there's no space and now when I book a meeting room through the proper channels to get some work done, this is suddenly out of bounds. Exactly how are we supposed to do our jobs". I followed this up by fervently clicking through several open tickets, pointing out several tickets requiring build time.
  353.  
  354. BHIT stood mute, as impotent as ever. He didn't have the answers or the means to get them. He just simply retorted, "Well this is the first I've heard of any problems! You need to communicate with your manager more!"
  355.  
  356. How can it be this difficult to just do your damned job?
  357.  
  358. That day I happened to lunch with one of the third line guys. I relayed to him our tales of woe following Angie's arrival. He was almost stunned. He did mention how he's been unable to access the IT Cupboard for a while but when he was 2nd line, the IT Cupboard was always the build area.
  359.  
  360. Nevertheless, I had to admit defeat. I'd already made so many positive impressions up the ladder, being cited as a troublemaker was not something that would have been useful. I returned to my desk to the first of many emails from a customer, dutifully CC'ing their managers in a typical passive-aggressive style: "Where is my machine? You took it three days ago and I'm still having to use the spare laptop you gave me?"
  361.  
  362. It seemed I was now more behind. Work was piling up, inter-team tensions were getting high and all the while, Angie sat and clicked around various tickets not saying a word. Fearing a further reprisal, I took finger to keyboard and again demanded Angie and BHIT work out where our build areas should be.
  363.  
  364. As the afternoon grew darker, I carried on desk visits, refusing to take any more machines away. Angie rose from her desk at 5pm and in an unnatural tone, just said "Night all!".
  365.  
  366. She had managed to win the entire battle without lifting a finger, nearly vindicated in her arrogant yet chanty swansong. Clearly, this beast of hell was more learned than me in the art of war - and it seemed she held all the cards too! Was there to be no retribution for this?
  367.  
  368. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  369.  
  370. The next couple of days seemed more irritating than usual with Angie taking any opportunity to shadow work from almost any ITS engineer. For me, there was a notable visit to the desk occupied by the HR Tank. Angie appeared mere seconds after my arrival as I walked HR Tank how to switch off "those stupid red lines under everything I write" in MS Word. Thinking she was just up there to see HR Tank, I mostly ignored her while I explained what those stupid red lines were. When I got done, Angie corrected my imminent departure by with "Now, ask your customer if there is anything else you can do for her today!"
  371.  
  372. Barely time to react, the HR Tank rolled herself back in front of the monitor almost steamrolling me out of her path. "Actually yes there is! I want to know why I can't change the text on this button here" she bellows, pointing at the Start Menu.
  373.  
  374. After two tedious hours of this sea creature barely able to muster the muscles in her head to stop dribbling as she spoke, it was finally time for their regular Starbucks visit. Never have I been subject to the most inane lines of questioning and constant corrections by Angie.
  375.  
  376. After taking note that HR Tank "really needs a faster computer" I take shelter in the canteen, kept company by the sole remaining cheese and pickle sandwich they had left. Did I ever mention, I really do not like pickle? It was either that or starve!
  377.  
  378. I returned to find BHIT pacing around the room. His ruffled jacket and red face added to his now urgent stance; the few hairs that seemed strapped to the side of his head for once looking windswept despite their nominal length. He immediately pounced. "Margie from legal affairs needs her machine back. Are you done with it?"
  379.  
  380. After racking my brains and my ticket list for several minutes, I found his solution. "That was one of the machines removed by you and the third line guys from the meeting room..."
  381.  
  382. And so begins the epic hunt. We first visit the third line guys who profess innocence. Our next stop is facilities, who again have no idea what we're on about - the Facilities manager takes great pains to point out that they want nothing to do with IT and are getting annoyed with being implicated.
  383.  
  384. A two hour whistle-stop tour of the building with MAFG in tow shows up nothing, even the IT Cupboard is untouched.
  385.  
  386. On returning to BHIT, Angie who is fully tanked on coffee has now just been made aware of the missing machines and is scouring the ticket systems for evidence of my failings. Sometimes it pays to be an astute record keeper; on several of the tickets I noted "Machine in hands of third line/facilities". Angie is her usual helpful self, demanding to know why I informed nobody of these machines' importance or even questioned where they were off to. It's nice to have a policy one moment of Facilities looking after the whereabouts of IT kit, yet when it goes wrong it goes back to the nearest Support Monkey!
  387.  
  388. I took great pleasure on relaying the reaction of the facilities manager and also that each machine had been clearly labelled with a ticket number and name!
  389.  
  390. After growing weary of Angie's bitchy comments, MAFG and I spend the final hour of the day searching out any nook and cranny we come across for either the missing machines or even the facilities guys who did the clear-out. It seemed my inspired plan of doing my job and gaining an ounce of vengeance was quickly backfiring as the day grew dim.
  391.  
  392. On our way to one network riser room, we passed Margie from Legal Affairs. She couldn't help but stop me to ask for progress and relay the updates she'd gotten which amounted to, "Apparently you managed to misplace it and still can't find it?" Nice one Angie, way to pour salt in the wound!
  393.  
  394. We had given up. In a purely flippant move, by pure chance MAFG opened the door to a janitor's cupboard. Sat behind an industrial-sized bottle of Domestos Bleach and providing gravitational support for a mop and bucket was our Ghost Server. It stood almost majestic; it had seen many an ITS engineer through the worst of conferences and the coldest of late nights. We rescued the discolored HP Proliant from this murky cesspit and carried it back to ITS. We relayed our voyage to BHIT, as Angie stood stony-faced, glaring disapprovingly at our failure, the ghost server standing as testament to their managerial apathy.
  395.  
  396. BHIT saw no alternative; he commanded that Margie's machine must be replaced by tomorrow morning, even if we take another one from stock. The other missing machines would have to be queried with the Facilities department to determine their location!
  397.  
  398. After clarifying a bend in the rules was OK "just this one time", I duly began the process of getting the Ghost server back up and running to image a brand new Optiplex from the IT Cupboard at my desk. I set to work.
  399.  
  400. 8pm rolled around as the drone of people leaving and passing me by grew steadily to silence. I sat illuminated by a single monitor, prepping the Optiplex with all manner of legal type software, domain configurations, etc. As I was the only soul left, the auto lights had dimmed most of the office, only to be activated in sequence by the cleaner, almost like a searchlight dancing on the stage, illuminating some actress performing against the backdrop of the hoover motor.
  401.  
  402. After visiting Margie's desk and reconnecting her new PC, I fired an email off to BHIT and Angie. It read: "It's 8:30 and I'm done replacing this machine. Surely this is a testament to how ridiculous it has been for Support lately. We have asked several times for a permanent out-of-sight build and repair area in order to perform our duties after the one we had been using - and had been in use for several years - was summarily decided to be unsatisfactory! This matter needs resolution immediately".
  403.  
  404. Feeling authoritative in myself, I hoped that demonstrating dedication to resolving these matters would help score points with anyone in the chain who mattered. I reached for the monitor switch to sign out for the night. But, as if big brother were watching, Outlook's "new mail" balloon popped up with it's accompanying self-important boink. Angie's name adorned the balloon like a warning label. I opened it, addressed directly to me, were the ominous words, "We will discuss this tomorrow!"
  405.  
  406. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  407.  
  408. The inevitable consequence of heading to bed the second you get home is that the morning tends to come quicker than you expected. I arrived bleary eyed not truly knowing what fresh hell Angie was about to concoct that day. My fate was postponed as Angie was busy providing a critique of every detail as QuietBlondeGirl rearranged her desk to Angie's preference. It became apparent that Angie had taken issue to some typical girlie deskwear and was ordering it be suitably secreted in desk drawers or disposed of.
  409.  
  410. A grim reminder of another of yesterday's ordeals came in the shape of an email from HR Tank demanding to know when her "new faster" computer would be delivered. Not only was HRT's computer perfectly fine, it was only 10 months old and not due for replacement for two years. This, I knew, was an argument I would have to save for later. I logged a ticket and moved on.
  411.  
  412. BHIT arrived in just after me and made a pit-stop at my desk. He must have felt it his duty to appear interested over my late night last night. His pale head seemed to silhouette against the dimly lit office lighting. I grabbed the opportunity like a child with a new toy and demanded that we resolve this build area problem immediately. With Angie trapped in her reprimand of QBG, I knew I was stealing her thunder!
  413.  
  414. "This is getting just stupid now. Customers are complaining about us doing hardware replacements and rebuilds at the desk side, what's more they're taking longer as we've had to use USB Hard disks for builds since the Ghost server went missing; we have six machines now that nobody knows where they are; the networking gear has also gone missing; What annoys me is that all this was working perfectly fine while we had our build area. So the fact remains, you need to sort this out now. We have a major rollout project coming up, sort it out!"
  415.  
  416. My concern echoed with my vocal severity; BHIT was well and truly put in his place. I could feel Angie wincing as I had beaten her to the punch. BHIT's bald head nodded as he claimed he understood. With every nod, a ceiling light just slightly came into view as he stood over my desk, almost cowering behind the green partition. It was about damn time he took this on board! BHIT walked away with the weight of the world on his shoulders. He knew I was right, he knew he had to step in.
  417.  
  418. I sat at my desk uncomfortably, the newly recovered bleach-smelling Ghost Server had found temporary shelter home under my desk where my legs should go; the PSU fan blew hot air, almost providing some relief from the cold - a small yet powerful offering from the inanimate object almost thanking me for its rescue. The prize was doubly exciting as for first time in many weeks, my overnight WhatsAlive script proudly showed Ghost Server as now being rejoined to the network, like a soldier's homecoming. It's location? Switch 303B, port 19, area ITS.
  419.  
  420. I busied myself that morning by staying rooted to my desk, firing out responses to some of my tickets. In part, I wanted to make sure BHIT was doing his job, but I also wanted to see how Angie would react to having the rug pulled out from under her again!
  421.  
  422. An hour rolled by and Angie was still busy reprimanding the team. She had worked out - or been shown - how to properly use TouchPaper and its accompanying stats screens! The evidence of an inter-team rat was all too clear as Angie, who could barely use Outlook, could never have worked out TouchPaper to this degree. Nevertheless, this rat would have to be discovered at a later date!
  423.  
  424. Tea in hand, I rolled up to BHIT's desk for progress. Finally, he had some news. I was to report to facilities so they could show me some rooms. I picked up my Napalm Death fleece to embark on my fantastic voyage. But, the familiar loud rattle of Angie's keys disappearing into her small leather handbag accompanied her bony figure as it stood up to place a black and grey shawl around her veiny neck.
  425.  
  426. "Right, let's go" she proclaimed, as if to usurp leadership of my mission. BHIT cowered behind his computer screen rather than face confrontation. What could I say? I felt the next hour of efficient decision making suddenly hampered as Angie set off to Facilities, as if dragging me by my ear like a scolded schoolboy!
  427.  
  428. After the Facilities Manager had led us to our third room visit, it soon became clear what Angie thought constituted a suitable room. She wanted something near to the main office so she could check up on us regularly, difficult to work in and not much space. Ironically, the meeting room would have fit Angie's specifications exactly!
  429.  
  430. I wanted something near the IT Cupboard for supplies - access was another battle I was soon to wage - plenty space and somewhere away from the freezing cold Aircon vents.
  431.  
  432. We finally came upon Angie's ideal. The only access was a flight of stairs - just short enough in number to appear inconsequential, yet just ever so slightly add enough inconvenience to keep this bitter woman happy. Add to the annoyance of not being able to get a trolley up them, they were just narrow enough to ensure scraped knuckles in the event of anything bulky! This would be enough for Angie to know that this place would be a last resort - no longer a fort of solitude when the outside world became too much!
  433.  
  434. The room itself was just about big enough for a couple of desks and right above the door hummed the icy cold draft of the Aircon vent. "This is totally unsuitable! Any one of the first few rooms would be fine!" I protested. Angie completely ignored me as her bitter face spat out, "This will do!". The Facilities manager looked perplexed at Angie's decision. Rather than argue it, he just agreed and muttered something about arranging access and desks.
  435.  
  436. I knew this would happen. I relayed our adventure to ITS as Angie disappeared off for another Starbucks run with her Menopause group. Their faces looked angry. Calls of "Out of all the rooms you just saw, Angie picked some shithole that's basically gone unused for years?" Rather than offer an explanation, I merely motioned in the direction of BHIT, still cowering behind his monitor.
  437.  
  438. I could see none of my colleagues were going to speak up. It'd have to be me again. Fine. "BHIT..." I started. He almost winced behind his monitor - he knew what was coming. "Can you come and join us for a second?"
  439.  
  440. After regaling yet again what had just transpired, BHIT seemed like he was mustering all the courage that he could. As I continued let loose on what a stupid decision Angie had made, together with her obvious attempts to prevent the team actually working, he dug deep one last time. With a quivering yet determined voice, he said "I thought I told YOU to get a new build room sorted out? Well, which one do YOU want?" I looked back at my crew and just said, "Well, actually, the IT Cupboard was perfect! It's got a window, it's worked fine for years, there's plenty storage; In fact it's only called a cupboard because there's racking and shelving in there! I also have an email you sent to Fat Tony from 3rd line when he was on 2nd authorizing the use of the Cupboard and having facilities convert part of it for workspace..."
  441.  
  442. Sometimes, the odd swift half after work with monkeys in other teams can pay dividends ;)
  443.  
  444. "Leave it with me!" said BHIT as he made for the doorway. ITS smiled at me, but deep down I shat a brick; I've really done it now. If I wind up getting BHIT to relinquish the chains on our beloved cupboard, I can only imagine what sort of games Angie will play with that one. But I was pleased. For once, I was up where she didn't know I was up! She was out with a bunch of menopausal women, blissfully unaware, sipping her insipid Starbucks Coffee, somehow providing life support for her scrawny architecture...
  445.  
  446. I decided I didn't care about Angie's reaction anymore. I'd won a major victory. Now, to just let the day play out. I wonder what Monday Morning will bring?
  447.  
  448. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  449.  
  450. Monday came to see the fruition of my power move. Facilities were present and correct at the IT Cupboard, busy fitting brand new desks and trunking. On completion, MAFG and I replaced the Ghost Server in its rightful setting on top of a 12u comms cabinet, as though a rightful leader was being returned to the throne.
  451.  
  452. There wasn't much time for moonlighting as there was a massive backlog of builds to get through and only a week left until possibly the largest induction session I'd ever run. Our Birmingham satellite office had a recruitment drive and were busing down 40 delegates the following Monday for new gear and IT training.
  453.  
  454. It felt good, like we were back in business. I expected some sort of a backlash from Angie. Obviously I had caught her off-guard and she needed time to regroup and plan her strategy. All I could do was wait for the strike. But for now, we all reveled in our little victory.
  455.  
  456. Several laptops were busy building on the build desk as I clicked away making some new AD accounts for my incoming party of inductees. Having received sign-off previously from BHIT to replace the missing desktops Facilities managed to lose with brand new machines, I had them all loaded on a trolley, ready to roll them out. MAFG was busying himself with an inventory of mini keyboards and mice, taking stock for an urgent purchase order. We chatted casually as he made his way up and down the isles; it was a full-on powerhouse of progress.
  457.  
  458. Our short-lived freedoms stopped dead like a body dropping in the middle of a busy street. The electronic lock trigged and the door opened; Angie's familiar musk of coffee and old woman perfume festooned her appearance in the doorway, her scowling face writing a thousand words of bitterness as she surveyed our veritable cave of tech. She said nothing, averting my eyes as I looked expectantly for a few seconds as I greeted her with a "Good Morning!" expecting some request. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, I ignored her again and placed my tickets sheet on top of the trolley and started to wheel out. "Just a minute!" she said extending a single boney finger in my direction, her tongue whipping against the top of her dry mouth. "What are you up to in here now?"
  459.  
  460. A rather curious question I would wager, one which I would have thought obvious. After explaining the current goings on, little did I know I was jumping head-first into her trap. It had been barely a morning gone when she had already planned her counter-offensive to the letter. This was the scouting mission, this is where she would sew the roots of her plot. She came straight out with it: "Where are the tickets for these 40 laptops you're supposedly building?"
  461.  
  462. Supposedly building? Tickets for induction users? Never heard of such a thing! MAFG appeared from behind the racking as if to leap to my defense. "We generally don't log them for inductions. We usually get a fair number of requests for new machines, so we just use an AD container to build the machine and move them to live when we're rolling them out."
  463.  
  464. Shit... MAFG really knows how to put his foot in it sometimes... "What is AD?" Angie demanded. I could feel the life force draining out of me as Angie realized yet another scope for micromanagement. "Why don't I have access to it?" her stern face looking like we had cheated her out of some mythical prize, the lines on her forehead scrunched together. Realizing his mistake, MAFG kept quiet as I tried to work around it. "We don't generally hand out that sort of access out. If someone didn't know what they were doing, they could cause a lot of damage and the potential mess that can occur. Only MAFG and I have access to it in 2nd line as we're the only ones who administer accounts!"
  465.  
  466. OK, it wasn't the best work-around I could have said, but there, it's been said now!
  467.  
  468. Angie threw around some more micro-managerial criticisms before taking her leave. She also left me in no uncertain terms that she expected to see active tickets for each and every machine I was building for inductees before the end of the day. An hour out of my life for no purpose! Sigh...
  469.  
  470. Angie's final email that day made her feelings on the IT Cupboard clear; no engineer was to be in the cupboard without a ticket evidencing their need to be in there and not without the express permission of Angie first. Another typifying trait of Angie's hardline stance against ingenuity: control a person's ability to conduct themselves and create the illusion of importance by demanding constant permission seeking!
  471.  
  472. The clever bitch had laid the foundations for her new play, there was a new ball to throw out on to the court! Tickets for every machine, permission from Angie to use the IT Cupboard! And what would she do with her new-found knowledge of AD's existence?
  473.  
  474. I contemplated these things as I drove home, sat in the traffic jam from hell. As I drew up on the accident, the gaggle of other motorists gawping at the overturned 4x4 which littered the inside lane of the motorway seemed to exemplify the futility of each day's passing as firefighters scuttled around the wreckage, feverishly confronting the mass of metal as if finally overpowering a once vastly-stronger enemy.
  475.  
  476. As I passed the scene, sure enough, the traffic started moving at it's prescribed 10mph over the speed limit. It was as if we had all just escaped some fatal consequence and were now running away for dear life.
  477.  
  478. For me, tomorrow was another day; another opportunity to dance in this fascicle struggle, conceived and birthed through the actions of this shriveled character whose aroma seemed to besmirch even the most jovial memory.
  479.  
  480. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  481.  
  482. It was a typical Spring day in Britain: unnaturally cold yet the sun shone with retina-piercing rays. It was the kind of weather where you need a few layers of clothing but with sunglasses as well. In fact, it was on this day I pondered, "When people are cold, they wear shirts, jumpers, cardigans, jackets... why never anything on the legs? Why has nobody invented jumpers for legs!?" This eureka moment kept me company all the way to the office that morning, pondering this conundrum!
  483.  
  484. A week had elapsed since the Jon6 vs Angie showdown. We were playing Angie's bluff, abiding her new court rules to the letter and sought permission for every single visit to the IT Cupboard. Sometimes it was a stern and sharp no! Other times it was a reluctant yes but only after waving a ticket number in front of her face.
  485.  
  486. Such a cupboard-bound session would always be followed up with her dropping in at intervals which appeared to be so very desperately random. The mindset was obvious: we were obviously skiving, shirking responsibilities and up to no good! Her grand entrances into the cupboard where the handle was turned even before her security card had finished triggering was as if to catch us in some red act that she could grow fat on!
  487.  
  488. For me, given my near permanent residence there, I devised a rather fun game, trying to estimate when these visits would occur. If I could time it right, I would make a visit to user's desk-side, machine-on-trolley, just in time to pass her in the corridor on her way to the IT Cupboard so I could nonchalantly whistle a happy tune, just going about my business! I managed to pull this off a few times. She would have her stinking coffee in one hand, handbag poised for another session of studying me as I worked, reprimanding anything she felt like, only to be caught out because I was on my way out! Those few times I'd pass her in the corridor like this, her soulless grey eyes would stare straight ahead, shrouded by her forehead wrinkled after many years of just abjectly hating everything, just as if I just didn't exist.
  489.  
  490. This eventually stopped being fun as I would often find she would just sit and wait for my return to the IT Cupboard, her presence just a grim spectral shadow in the background like a precariously balanced rock perched on a cliff-side as in those cartoons. She would come and go as she pleased, seemingly annoyed in my indifference, occasionally bursting into fits of sharp conceit where I couldn't do right for doing wrong!
  491.  
  492. The sad reality is, it wasn't all fun and games. Angie's frequent verbal attacks, accusatory questioning tactics and consistent throwing of spanners in the works made for a very stressful working environment for everyone in the team. There were many occasions where her actions and whims would cause a ticket to go wrong in some fashion, leaving the team to try to pick up the pieces.
  493.  
  494. In one incident, QBG had a traveling sales rep due to see her about a USB hard disk he was having trouble with. She had correctly diagnosed most likely a failure of the actual hard disk and had requested a new USB disk to await his arrival where she would transfer any data he needed. However, one of my tickets was a simple request for a new USB Hard Disk which I had duly placed on the purchase order list. Angie, knowing that QBG had the last USB drive in stock, had MAFG complete my ticket using the same USB drive QBG had waiting in her desk drawer! MAFG was unaware of QBG's ticket, I was aware of QBG's ticket but not that MAFG had been told to go and action mine using QBG's hard disk. When QBG found out, the rep was already at her desk waiting to pick up his new drive.
  495.  
  496. Little things like that seemed all too commonplace now. Even though Angie had caused it, it would just look like our own incompetence, orchestrated by this total bitch! I was particularly reminded of the Omen soundbyte, "...turning man against his brother, until man exists no more!" I think what irritated Angie was that in the face of this deviousness, I always stood up and appeased customers. In the above case, QBG was close to tears with an angry rep on her hands - this had been agreed between them for at least a week. Angie sat happily clicking around TouchPaper while the rep blew up. I waded straight in and simply took liability, claiming an administrative oversight. QBG and several others on the team were juniors, they looked to me for mentoring, advice... who was I to leave them in the lurch? I managed to appease this rep by offering to run out to the local PC World and grab one up for him. Just one of the many incidents Angie seemed to orchestrate!
  497.  
  498. Added to that, my held-together-with-tape Nokia was suffering frequent call drops. I missed my Blackberry.
  499.  
  500. Tuesday came - our 40-string epic induction session arrived fresh from Birmingham. MAFG and I stood by the training room windows as hoards of lads and lasses from "oop north" stepped off the coach. We knew full well that they would be in no mood for sitting straight down for a stuffy IT session. It appears that my inspiration to order fresh tea, coffee and bacon rolls for their arrival was a good one!
  501.  
  502. As the delegates stormed the sanctity of the training rooms, armed with smiles and northern accents galore, all lunged hungrily at our offering of breakfast! There was much joy to be had. I couldn't help but notice Angie's indomitable presence at the back of the room as she sat, piercing-eyed and miserable, waiting for us to start. One of the new ladies quipped at me in her Birmingham accent, "Who's that sour-puss at the back?" After explaining she was my manager, she instantly empathized with a cheerful laugh and "Blimey, ya poor sod!"
  503.  
  504. MAFG and I split the groups into two manageable pieces. I thought that this may throw Angie the dilemma of having to balance her disapproving looks between two rooms, closely monitoring and judging our every moves. It seemed, however, she was perfectly happy to sit motionless at the back of my session, at every moment fixating her eyes on me. She would ensure her comments were delivered at every coffee break, which seemed like orders and reprimands over every minor detail. Her opportunity for managerial admonishment was stolen from her again; one of the delegate's new laptop had suddenly failed at the start of the session. Angie motioned, about to take control and give me a solid dressing down until she was stopped in her tracks when I produced one of the three spare laptops, always prepared in advance just in case such a circumstance ever happened. I swapped the machine over, had the delegate log in and noted the new asset number for changing on AD later. Angie's fingers were red as they clutched her coffee cup. She was almost pissed that I hadn't slipped up!
  505.  
  506. Yet again, there was no hope of lunch as Angie ordered me to go and see HR Tank with her "slow" PC. Again it turned out HRT had simply decided waiting 10 seconds for a newly inserted CD-Rom to spin up was far too slow and was causing her severe heartache - nothing to do with all that cholesterol then?
  507.  
  508. After pulling several late nights the week previous to get laptops finished, phone contracts organised and hardware charged, the whole session went off without a hitch. Of course, there were the usual attacks of Angie's bitter comments. Through it all, I did my best to ignore her and instead maintained a flirtatious joviality with my inductees.
  509.  
  510. About 2pm, Angie skulked out of the room. She looked past me as she walked out, as if she had gathered everything she needed to know and was off to put some other part of her devious plan into operation. Her departure sparked a brief conversation about what a sour old woman she was and how they could never work for such a wench. I resisted the temptation to spill my guts, break down and tell this group of happy individuals what hell we were going through. I simply chose to leave it as, "Yes, she is very difficult!"
  511.  
  512. The afternoon ticked by to its conclusion. Eventually the last delegate left the training room, armed with laptop off to make their way in the world. MAFG and I sat drinking the last few drops of weak tepid coffee from the cafetiere looking out of the same window where we first saw the delegates arrive. We could see their coach driver perched on one of the front seats, reading a newspaper and drinking from a thermos flask, looking totally relaxed in the world. We sat quietly comparing observations on the delegates we had just met, congratulating ourselves on a job well done.
  513.  
  514. I had left the door open; neither MAFG or I noticed Angie's skeletal figure appear in the doorway. Our discreet musings of the day were cut short with her vociferous shriek, "Exactly what is the meaning of this? Who gave you permission to sit around, what is this a playground!?"
  515.  
  516. We both startled upright, her voice almost shattered the glass. As we began clearing up equipment, powering down projectors and clearing desks of discarded wrappers, Angie unleashed a full force critique of the day. "I don't see why this whole process had to take so long. Maybe if you'd had stopped chinwagging, talking rubbish and making jokes, this whole thing could have been a lot quicker!"
  517.  
  518. We knew that no comebacks would have worked with Angie. She continued to berate us for another 20 minutes as we cleared the room down. Just as we were ready to close up, we couldn't help but notice that another figure had appeared in the room. She was about 20, outfitted in a dress-to-impress suit and couldn't help but exude the fact that she was new to the company. She stood with trepidation and meekly knocked on the door. "Excuse me," she said. "Is MAFG in here?"
  519.  
  520. After acknowledging his presence, she gingerly pirouetted up to MAFG and handed him an official looking envelope, his name and address on the front. She left the room just as abruptly as she had arrived, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone, not even to the near-approving look from Angie. MAFG and I, with a box of bits and projectors in hand, looked perplexed at what had just happened. Angie left with the snipe, "I want you both back downstairs in 20 minutes after you've put that stuff away! And I want all your tickets reviewed by the end of the day!"
  521.  
  522. We made our way to the sanctuary of the IT Cupboard and returned the gear to its rightful shelving space. MAFG opened the letter, reading it aloud as his eyes sunk into his cheekbones. There it was. The letter was from HR, garbed with every official looking signature and stamp that you could possibly throw onto such a document. It stated he was to attend a meeting tomorrow with HR, Angie and BHIT. It also stated "you may choose to have a representative accompany you..." This was it... Angie had made her first move in her new game. And it certainly seemed that the first casualty would be one of my closest allies: MAFG.
  523.  
  524. This terrible moment was mocked at the sight of the delegates re-boarding their homeward-bound bus. They were escaping the brutality of this situation, off to their lives of freedom and futures to look forward to. A clear contrast to ours, mired in the darkness of some hateful hag who it seemed had only just started!
  525.  
  526. MAFG didn't return to ITS that day; I agreed to do his late shift for him allowing his escape at 4pm to go collect his thoughts. Angie had just upped the game. And we felt powerless to do anything about it!
  527.  
  528. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  529.  
  530. ITS had a full compliment of staff the following morning. There was work to do - but nothing seemed important enough to leave desks for. We were all were gathered for one purpose. One of our soldiers was in trouble. Though we were powerless to do anything other than offer moral support, we felt glued to our desks. Angie was palpably absent, her familiar black and grey shawl being the only spectral reminder of her presence somewhere in the building. MAFG was quiet; assurances of help to find other work and amending CVs came and went like splashes of water.
  531.  
  532. Soon, Angie and HR Tank arrived at MAFG's deskside. The scene, brief as it was, seemed as if they had taken him into custody short of only handcuffs. They led him to Angie's special place of solitude, situated somewhere far beyond the familiar dimly corridor just barely visible from ITS. A bulb had gone in that corridor some time ago, it just seemed that nobody had ever replaced it.
  533.  
  534. I had seen Angie lead a few people down this corridor when they had hit the height of her displeasure. Today though, they moved artificially slowly. MAFGs limbs moved uncomfortably as if to not let on their progress was impeded by HR Tank's inability to keep up with normal walking pace - a walk that Angie had seemed to perfect. As the figures shuffled around the corner at the end of the corridor, the dim lighting served as a poignant landscape of some mysterious doom, the shadow of Angie's tall thin figure casting on the yellowing walls like some fairytale ghost.
  535.  
  536. A few minutes of disbelief followed in ITS. The team stared at various spots on the floor of our square work area, trying to explain things in our own minds; not even a breath was audible. This two minutes silence was terminated only as MAFG's monitor emblematically entered their sleep modes and faded to black. As quickly as the images faded, so did any sense of hope or morale we barely clung onto, and so did our moment of stillness. We promptly turned to our own desks to work.
  537.  
  538. Angie and MAFG returned two quick hours later. Accompanied by two security guards, they stood sentinel to Angie's familiar sharp tongued leadership of the situation. HR Tank was nowhere around, I could only presume that her weight disallowed her making the return journey.
  539.  
  540. MAFG added personal items from his desk to a small cardboard box, his lips dry from lack of saliva, his throat obviously lumpy. Angie's stern face stood expressionless. The silence in ITS was broken only with Angie's snipes. "Where is your USB disk, you can't take that" she barked; MAFG coiled the USB cable around his impeccably well taken care of Freecom drive. She snatched it as he offered it to her, her eyes still now showing even a grain of benevolence.
  541.  
  542. "We need your phone too!" Her growl seemed to antagonize MAFG, but he couldn't react. His slow purposeful movements were fighting every urge to succumb to the lump in his throat. MAFG duly handed her his trusty BlackBerry refusing to make eye contact. It instantly brought back memories to me of when we had first been issued these phones. MAFG and I had spent a good week exploring their potential, loading on useful utilities and configuring them for maximum IT Support effectiveness. They had been the formation of a good work-based friendship. It just seemed this memory was torn now, trampled on by this monster.
  543.  
  544. Angie took MAFG's BlackBerry and extended her arm in my direction, clad in a heavy black cardigan sleeve as if to contrast so heavily with her pale skin. Her emaciated hand ushered it in my direction. As I took it from her, it felt like I was taking a gift from some devil. She said with a bitter tongue, "There, now you have one". I sat stunned as MAFG looked at both me and Angie.
  545.  
  546. The ordeal was nearly over - but not quite! MAFG picked up his cardboard box of meager possessions, old pay slips and desk candies. He motioned his completion, but Angie again extended her hand to block his passage. Springing into life, one of the security guards broke from his uncomfortably official-looking stance and took the box from MAFG. He placed it back on his desk.
  547.  
  548. The guard started digging around in the box, almost neanderthal in his movements. His grey security shirt stretched over his fattened arms as he bent over for his task. He removed several company branded pens and an unopened pack of MAFG's business cards. On their discovery, each piece of contraband were cast onto the desk surface, their respective rattles and thumps a soundtrack to whatever wrong-doing MAFG had done to earn this punishment. After nodding towards Angie and refolding his arms, the security guard took his rightful place next to his colleague, both mustering as much energy as they could to maintain their stern postures. Beads of sweat ran down the guard's face; he was not used to standing this much.
  549.  
  550. The funeral march shuffled away towards the main staircase. The procession led by Angie, MAFG carrying his own cardboard coffin and the duo of security guard pallbearers seemed to have the attention of the entire floor. The only evidence of MAFGs existence was now reduced to four pens, a pack of business cards and the wireless mouse whose flashing red battery symbol echoed the loss of its user. The only noise was from Finance, callously ignorant of the situation as they loudly discussed their day-to-day.
  551.  
  552. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  553.  
  554. A month had passed since MAFG's passing. Morale was at a low point and apart from Angie's bipolar temper, things seemed to slog along as they were, each day proving to be more and more difficult to get through. The IT Cupboard slowly relinquished its isolation as Angie seemed to track our movements with animal-like instinct, imposing ridiculous policy after policy. The battery indicator on MAFG's mouse had at some point faded to nothingness having spent its remaining energies fruitlessly lamenting its master’s disappearance.
  555.  
  556. MAFG sacrifice was guarded in its reasoning. Many theorized the lost machines from the meeting room had made it to his car; some theorized he’d wronged some director in a drunken moment of sincerity; there was even a rumour he had put Angie in her place in some magnificent fit of comeuppance, bathed in the flabbergasted stares of twenty faceless onlookers. The reality was far more boring and told to me over a weekend pint of fine ale.
  557.  
  558. MAFG’s wife had previously worked with the company in their research division. She had left under explosive circumstances for a competing pharmaceutical company. Management felt that MAFG’s continued employment was incongruous and had compelled him to take a PILON agreement to end his tenure. It seemed odd that MAFG’s wife had left the company over six months ago; we felt that this discrepancy stank of Angie’s involvement.
  559.  
  560. For a while though, a specific date had shone brightly in my Outlook calendar. It had acted as a target, representing a reprieve from the mundane trivialities support had to offer. I had prepared for it arrival with jubilation. It finally arrived and my audience with several heads of sales/marketing, BHIT and the software vendor was mine to shine in. The purpose was to set into motion the plans for their large-scale laptop rollout. Armed with my carefully crafted number-work dutifully outlined on several handouts, I set off for the meeting, three floors up in the swankier part of the building. In my mind, I was Alexander the Great, sword raised in hand, off to conquer in what seemed to be an inevitable foregone conclusion. OK, I don’t know much about history, but all I knew was my sword was huge and I was about to go kick some ass!
  561.  
  562. My arrival at the meeting was met with the usual pleasantries and shaking of hands. The meeting room was perfectly air conditioned with several pieces of foliage standing elegantly in large ceramic plant pots. The large window welcomed the sun in vast quantities into the fragrant room. Underneath the heated rays of light was the ominous shape of Angie, sat at the far end of the room, away from all human contact. The sunlight seemed to darken and blur Angie's outline, like some satanic aura, but her bent, bitter frame was just too familiar and imposing to ignore.
  563.  
  564. The meeting began with the usual round of round-table identification. Angie’s snarled introduction was only suffixed by the words "I am in charge of Support!" Her declaration made an instant impression on everyone as they hastily moved on. The software vendor rep was a techy through and through. He stood for his presentation, draped in what was obviously a brand new suit purchased for the occasion. It seemed to contrive him as he awkwardly passed around his company endorsed paraphernalia; pens, cards, product sheets… there were logos on everything as if he was clearly instructed to embark on this endeavour but try to hide his obvious geekiness.
  565.  
  566. My segment came. I eagerly handed out my carefully crafted mission statement, adorned with pie charts, Gantt charts and technical jargon made just basic enough to empower even the most IT-illiterate of sales managers. I explained my intentions with a well-rehearsed speech which lasted several minutes: 212 new laptops and 57 to remain in the field. Across three hardware types; several primary targets were to be used for pilot testing; each user would receive an extra 100MB on Home drives and be responsible for their own backups; each rep's laptop would be first imaged for any later data retrieval and each rep would be re-furnished by the end of the day.
  567.  
  568. Angie's eyes remained focused on me throughout the session. I felt odd as she hadn't interjected once. Our vendor's rep nodded in anticipation as rep after rep smiled in anticipation. They liked what they heard: new toys for everyone and all they had to do was give the all OK!
  569.  
  570. My moment of triumph at an end, Angie finally spoke up. "What sort of manpower do we need for this?" Her voice was rather different; she spoke as if I were part of her Menopause club, all harshness had dissipated into a normalized vocal tone. I retorted, putting aside my stunned silence, that I expected to prepare the images myself and builds would be used to train up some more junior members of staff in the absence of MAFG. She nodded in approval as she made notes. Her lack of typical Angie-style anger perturbed me. Nevertheless, the meeting ended in what appeared to be a climactic sense of collaboration as the Balding Head of IT smiled proudly, sharing all manner of manager-speak with his congregation
  571.  
  572. As the vendor techie and I exchanged pleasantries, Angie left anonymous in her wake without saying another word. I knew this move by now! Her silent departure was signatory of her underhandedness; she was up to something. It distracted me momentarily as I asked the vendor guy to repeat what he had just said… what was this devious cow up to?
  573.  
  574. I was not left in suspense for long. That afternoon, ITS were summoned to a meeting room where Angie wanted to discuss the rollout. I knew Angie was cooking something and I knew it was a clear move to usurp my finely laid plans. My only consolation was that I had the backing of BHIT and several higher-ups, what could she possibly do?
  575.  
  576. Our entrance into Angie’s meeting was made strange by the unexpected presence of a spotty urchin who had previously been chained to Helpdesk. His sharp eyes and pointed, thin facial features seemed disturbingly familiar, his unbranded shirt and pale jeans seemed to be a desperate attempt to look normal. Angie began the meeting by introducing the urchin, returning to her familiar intense vocal tone. “This is Roland. He is joining 2nd line today” she hissed as her eyes danced around the room as if to highlight her claim.
  577.  
  578. The meeting continued with Angie’s voice droning my exact words, complete with inaccuracies one could only attribute to someone whose obvious depth had long-since been surpassed. I think at some point, the only thing keeping us awake was Angie’s voice, shrill and bent in character. She had finally finished when I decided to speak. I knew my interjection would further madden the beast, mainly as it would actually be of technical relevance and accuracy which Angie could never possibly dream of. But I had to stake my role in this project.
  579.  
  580. “We’ll have the majority of the machines built prior to the event, so most will only need booting up and profiles loading. There will also be a ghost server, file server and we’ll have a connection back to the office. All out-of-field laptops will be backed up later back at the office, any laptops that are staying out will have to be backed up and loaded at the event in one hit. We’ll also keep ten spare new laptops just in case anything happens.”
  581.  
  582. The ITS crew hung on every word, as if I were mandating a life or death situation. Angie fired corrections in as much as she could, though mired in technical incompetence. “You will have to back up EVERYTHING you get!” her accusatory vocal sneer hinted that we may do anything different.
  583.  
  584. We had a mission, we had our tasks, I had a rollout to deliver.
  585.  
  586. It was getting towards the end of the day. Roland had picked his spot next to me, taking MAFG’s spot. He was not talkative, he barely acknowledged anybody’s presence. A few banter-like quips intended to embroil him into our team didn’t get so much as a raised eyebrow. His body language was eerie in its familiarity.
  587.  
  588. Brandishing my purchase order, signed by BHIT and bearing Sales & Marketing’s stamp approving the project with every endorsement that one could ever hope to see on such a document, I headed to the elevators to scale the heights to the Procurement department. I was joined in the elevator by QBG who seemed eager to have a word. It seemed QBG had some sort of big secret she would have burst if she hadn’t let out.
  589.  
  590. “Roland! You know who he is, don’t you?” QBG spoke softly, as if the lift were rigged with some manner of bugging equipment. “That’s Angie’s son!” Her words were difficult to believe… but Roland’s mannerisms, posture, familiar sharpness… it all rang out clear as a bell. The thought of this woman propagating seemed unnatural! It conjured images of some monstrous carnal act between a musty stick-insect and some hapless male donor entangled in her web, held prisoner for his seed.
  591.  
  592. But, it all seemed too obvious now. Like a slow head-on car accident, everything started to make sense. There had to be someone who had shown Angie how to access TouchPaper; she was clearly still struggling with it a month on! Someone had to show Angie how to use the printers! Someone had to have fed back to Angie anything and everything we’d complained about her! Someone had to have kept Angie informed of our whereabouts – how else could she track us with such animal-like accuracy?
  593.  
  594. There he was - in the background the whole time, as enigmatic and as slimey as the bitch that spawned him. That same spotty 1st liner who Angie demanded I cleared down the IT Cupboard with so long ago, the insignificant shadow which seemed to appear every so often, as if every photographic memory which flashed into view had his image super-imposed somewhere on it… standing by a printer, walking through the ITS area, sitting nearby in the canteen… her spy, invisible to the naked eye!
  595.  
  596. As incredible as it seemed, there it was… our rat… Exposed far too late to be in any way wary, he was now closer than we could have ever imagined. We had allowed him to creep up on us like a ninja - Angie’s inside man!
  597.  
  598. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  599.  
  600. Roland’s amalgamation to 2nd line was arduous. His physique, just as pious and wretched as Angie’s, slithered over MAFG’s old desk space in exultance, his mannerisms and movements unnervingly similar to his Mother’s. His keyboard and mouse glistened as though he would secrete some sort of mucus as he worked, as if to chemically claim permanent ownership. Roland’s voice, though weedy and undeveloped, bore all the same neurosis and vile overtones which Angie would spit out on a daily basis. His eyes almost serpent like, as if they would pierce the skin if he stared long enough.
  601.  
  602. I had just spent a glorious week on annual leave, putting finishing touches to my band’s album. The ugly situation at work had been far from my mind as I enjoyed every minute of my creative freedoms.
  603.  
  604. Sunday marked the penultimate day of my freedom by bringing with it the feeling of impending doom. By Monday morning, my commute to work seemed ghostly as my attention was constantly attracted to the clock in my car. It ticked by the minutes towards 9:30am and my arrival back in this gloomy pit where Angie stood Lord and Master. My foot barely wanted to touch the accelerator pedal; these thoughts did something to my subconscious which I felt forced to fight.
  605.  
  606. My entrance into ITS was barely noted by the inhabitants whose faces seemed fixated on their own screens, as if to break for a moment would feel the wrath of some frosty dominator. Roland’s bleak personality radiated throughout the small department like a bad smell, only amplified by Angie who sat mere meters away. Fighting through this black air, I sat at my desk. As Outlook churned into life, the email traffic of the previous week waterfalled down my unread pane, the main view providing snippets of what had transpired my absence. The hard disk ticked and tocked, the LED flashing in sympathy in its race to return to life after a week starved of power.
  607.  
  608. The unmistakable apprehensive walk of the Balding Head of IT came into view as he arrived at my desk, desperately maintaining as dominant a pose as he could muster despite his triviality. He voiced his usual brand of pleasantries as our exchange turned to the important business of the rollout project. All appeared to be well in BHIT’s world. The machines from Dell were on order, to be delivered in batches, the pilot group had been well informed, the software vendor was communicative and the relevant sales managers seemed to enthusiastically thumbs-up all round his every action.
  609.  
  610. I started discussing finer details, “I want to get at least one of the builds done today as a first draft. It’s better to get it done early so there’s more time to rectify issues and build machines.” BHITs expression altered as if to purposely show confusion. “Oh,” he mused. “I was under the impression the first draft build was done?”
  611.  
  612. I hadn’t heard the shrill of Angie’s voice in a while, but its tone was just as familiar as if I had endured it all my life. Without even turning around in her chair to face us, her words showered us with all the same bitterness, “The first build is done! Someone else did it while you weren’t here!” Angie’s tone was mired in the suggestion that my well-earned week off had proven me negligent, another spit in the face from this diseased rat. Roland took his cue as if they were both reading from some psychic score, “Yes, I did it. It wasn’t that hard really, just install everything and domain register It.” His simplistic insight into my carefully honed art was if to mock all that I had worked for and write it off as if he had found it unchallenging and inconsequential.
  613.  
  614. “There’s far more than that!” I disputed. “You need to add the office wi-fi, VPN, antivirus, etc…”
  615.  
  616. Angie’s retort was sudden and venomous. “It’s been dealt with. Roland is doing the builds. You would know that if you had read the revised project plan in your email! You said yourself that junior members need to have training as part of the project! He will consult you as needed!”
  617.  
  618. It seemed Roland had been furtively promoted again, this time within the echelons of his own team. I was now Roland’s bitch! BHIT seemed as if he would have done anything at that moment to disappear into a cloud of smoke as the rest of ITS still sat motionless with their eyes cemented into their PC screens, pretending not to hear this firework going off around them.
  619.  
  620. My hint at checking Roland’s work was again sharply rebutted; Angie this time turned her chair to face me, her eyes like stilettos garnished with her down-turned, drawn-on eyebrows. Her skeletal pointy chin moved in harmony with her bark as she added finality to this conversation. “You have other things to be getting on with. Read the project plan and get back to work. Roland will consult you when he needs you!”
  621.  
  622. Knowing there was no win here, I returned to my screen, Outlook waiting like an obedient dog with 173 unread emails. I looked at BHIT with a silent sigh, expecting him to interject in some way. Instead he just shuffled away, obviously completely ill-equipped to properly deal with what had just happened. He uttered some empty promise of catching up with me later, but this was drowned out by the sifting sound his suit made as it transported him away.
  623.  
  624. Angie had been busy in my absence. An email forwarded to all the major players in this assignment was emblazoned with a send date of 10pm Sunday evening – two days after I was last in the office - as if to prove Angie’s so-called dedication to the cause. It was a carbon-copy of my well-thought-out and scrupulous project plan, except my involvement in almost every developmental stage had been written out, like a poorly written character in some novelist’s prose. Roland’s new found sole-command of the technicalities seemed all too purposeful. Angie had painstakingly placed me in the back-end of the entire rollout, promoting our newest arrival, her son, into the most delicate of tasks. The rat had risen to a position of power!
  625.  
  626. I hated what had become of the project. My considerable and enumerated planning had been cast aside like a cheap newspaper as Angie lay claim to its proficiencies in her bid to establish herself at the top of the food chain, ensuring that any credit traveling up would end with her. In a last ditch attempt to fight back, I emailed my concerns to BHIT. The time scales of the project and Angie’s apparent and purposeful transference of my responsibilities meant that the rollout was now very susceptible to failure. I fine-tuned my words for nearly an hour, striking a fine balance of concern without appearing confrontational.
  627.  
  628. Finally, after much deliberation, I took an all or nothing stance. I added a personal addendum in which I vented about Angie’s disruptive nature within support, her constant criticisms and micromanagement, her fork tongue and angry, terminal attitude; BHIT needed to get involved now and reign this beast back in.
  629.  
  630. I couldn’t help but notice Roland fawning over one of the new Dell laptops, his prize that accompanied his birth right. No expense had been spared on these machines, attested to by the fresh, sleek black appearance. It was now being painted with Roland’s clammy, greasy hands, the slimy fingerprints unnaturally obvious underneath the incandescent office lighting. I felt a sense of jealousy, like my obvious experience had been made irrelevant against this vassal creature’s ignorance.
  631.  
  632. Silence followed as the email disappeared from my outbox. The feeling I had was that this had either sealed my fate or marked a major turning point for the better. Ten minutes went by, still no response from BHIT. I sat, eagerly awaiting the Outlook balloon which would at least acknowledge BHIT’s reading of my plea. Instead came the unmistakable sound of BHIT timidly rising from his chair, the rustle of his suit seemed signatory as it served to fanfare his escape out of the office towards the main stairs. I was alone, in hell, with Angie, her spawn, and several demoralized, broken and burned out ITS engineers.
  633.  
  634. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  635.  
  636. I graciously admitted defeat in the face of managerial apathy. I accepted my diminishing responsibility as I set about my regular duties, visiting desk sides and dealing with the various whims and fancies of the user base. In one way it was a relief to detach myself from any view of the perpetually turning cogs of the rollout. I engrossed myself in some other issues which had come to plague the user base, most notably a problem visiting reps had experienced with their laptops and smartphones failing to maintain a stable WiFi connection in the office. I made my way past some familiar faces as I strolled around intrepidly, laptop in hand, waiting to catch the moment when the Wi-Fi would drop.
  637.  
  638. Just as the signal dropped, my investigation was put on hold as one of the Sales managers caught my attention. His artificially whitened teeth seemed to surrender every line of imperfection under the light as he smiled his well-practised salesman smile. As he casually enquired about the rollout, I deflected his attention towards Angie as the new go-to person. I was only in a consultant capacity as needed. His smile took on a slightly apprehensive expression; I knew full well that BHIT had sung my praises right from the start. To hear this dramatic change in events appeared disturbing. Maintaining a professional demeanour, I simply assured him of my belief that the project was in capable hands… the first time I’ve ever flat out lied on the job. He disappeared back into the hustle and bustle of the office, leaving me to my WiFi investigation.
  639.  
  640. An oddly airy Wednesday afternoon surged into view. ITS felt clean and clear. We could at long last breathe a hearty sigh of relief. Angie and Roland had disappeared off for what seemed like ages. The absence of their black auras had left a dramatically spacey vibe, like we had all just surfaced from some colossal ocean depth, finally able to drink in some of the bountiful fresh air. Its taste was like a cool breeze amidst some arid summer heat wave. It was a relief to actually hear our own voices again! The drone of insipid chatter from the Finance wenches had been the only aural accompaniment of recent days. Their meandering discussions on male pop sensations 20 years their junior, various coffee recipes and deeply particular insights of certain male employees that these aging, portly women found attractive made for a percussive din, the only moments of reprieve as Angie’s led her Menopause group for their twice-daily Starbucks fix. Of course, she would leave Roland on guard-dog duty!
  641.  
  642. Still, we now had an opportunity to let our guards down. With a secretive half vocal whisper, QBG was eager to catch up on the latest rollout-gossip. Her face contorted in disbelief as I confided Angie’s actions. I was just barely loud enough to be heard outside our conversation, but just loud enough so to ensure BHIT was in earshot. He barely flinched while I concluded my full update to QBG. In one way, I didn’t care who heard me anymore, so long as BHIT did. But it felt good to get listened to, as if my account needed to be heard by someone. “There’s only a month to go… shouldn’t something more be happening by now?”
  643.  
  644. As the week trundled towards its closure, Angie and Roland made frequent trips to the higher floors for rollout meetings as ITS beavered away in their duties. I waited for consultation requests from Roland, sometimes even publically inviting him to check anything he wanted with me, through as an agreeable manner as I could muster. Roland refused to ask for help, but in reality, I think I was happier without having to endure this pair’s attitude and negative manner. My working life seemed basic and simple again, just the way I like it. Well, of course with the regular admonishments of Angie! Morale was long gone, but there were our own little private worlds to disappear of to.
  645.  
  646. The biggest casualty was the Ghost server that MAFG and I had acquired, built, loved and later valiantly rescued from its janitorial doom. It stood poignantly next to Roland’s desk – the three-item to a desk rule apparently mute given Roland’s status. It was now clearly being held prisoner, like a hostage whose captivity had broken them down, sympathising with their kidnapper and taking on a new persona to mirror the evil twisted nature of its jailer. The beige box was coated in the alienesque slime and goo that oozed from Roland’s skin, like Spiderman’s evil doppelganger shooting acidic goo from his palms. The Dymo label which had so proudly identified the Ghost Server by its hostname, “ITSGHO01” had been forcibly removed as if to eviscerate some evidence of its history. It left a white rectangle, obvious against its discoloured skin, with scratches and scrapes surrounding it akin to an animal’s claws.
  647.  
  648. Two weeks passed by, all news of the rollout went untold. Roland appeared to be busily toiling in another part of the building – we were quite happy to be relieved of Angie’s underling. Monday morning, I was training QBT in the fine art of replacing an old ATX Pentium 133 motherboard in an desktop that she had retrieved from a research department. A donor Packard Bell from the rear of the IT Cupboard had already been looted for some other parts previously, its casing battered and bent. However, luckily, an entire motherboard and CPU remained. It was this we were transplanting to the distressed research machine, its rare and irreplaceable exclusivity commanding the utmost care and attention. The anti-static wrist bands seemed to complicate the procedure as its plastic-coated coil snagged on various parts of the metal chassis. We were happily bonding in our moment of isolation, catching up on each other’s hearsay; it had been the first time I had been able to relax with someone at work for a while, QBG it seemed could make a suitable replacement for MAFG!
  649.  
  650. Our mother’s meeting was almost at a close when our a stony faced Facilities monkey, clad in dirty green jumper which seemed to evidence hard toil, appeared in the doorway with an aged disapproving look. “Jon6?” he mumbled. “There’s a truck turned up with loads of laptops. Where are we meant to put ‘em?” His Manchester accent echoed from the hallway through the opened IT Cupboard door, his frame slightly obscuring the overhead lighting. His accent clearly demonstrated the fact that he was far from home, like a lone warrior holding his own in some foreign land. “Right here I guess, there’s some space at the back!” I said, motioning to an isle MAFG had previously emptied towards the end of his tenure. His told-you-so smile accompanied the shake of his head, “What, all of em? You know there’s about 250 of the things?”
  651.  
  652. Convoyed to the scene of the crime, the Facilities monkey purposely shuffled me towards the articulated lorry that had arrived in the yard, standing like a bruised battle tank just returned from war. Its rear doors were flung open to reveal box after box after box, adorned with the familiar Dell logos, as a team of Facilities workers scrambled to unload them. “You better figure out where we’re going to put these double quick” he commanded, thrusting a manifest into my hands. I could see my name planted firmly at the top of the document’s recipient list. I knew right then that my evening had just been squandered by whoever’s administrative oversight had caused this turn of events. Of course, I knew full well it had to be only one person’s doing!
  653.  
  654. The lobby of the building was decorated with an oversized clock face which hung above the main security desk. Its appearance had a stealthy corporate double-meaning. On the one hand, visitors would be impressed with such a bold artistic statement. On the other, it reinforced to any tardy employee that they had been caught red-handed, their arrival time electronically indelibly stamped on their permanent record as they would swipe their access cards. To add to this crafty corporate purpose, this oversized clock always seemed to be a few indistinct minutes faster than almost any other clock that existed.
  655.  
  656. Tonight, it took on a new role. It sarcastically emphasised my rapidly vanishing evening as I walked pump-truck after pump-truck of Dell branded boxes to their temporary homes. Neither Angie or BHIT were anywhere in sight to mediate the situation. Repeated appeals to helpdesk to locate their whereabouts went unanswered. In the end, some sympathetic Facilities manager had yielded to my plight and offered three temporary rooms to hold the laptops. These were now crammed floor to ceiling with Dell boxes. My clothes smelled old from my efforts; prickled with box-dust and the stale smelling air of the rooms I had been afforded which had sat unused for some time. I packed away the last box, finally leaving the building at 9pm.
  657.  
  658. My disentanglement from the project, as prescribed by Angie, seemed to have been suddenly and majorly rehabilitated in this single dramatic move. I had clearly stated in my project plan that these deliveries should be conducted in batches of 50 at a time; we didn’t have the space to deal with 250 machines – as this very evening would attest. This detail, I’m sure, had made it into Angie’s rewrite of my project plan in verbatim. I know I had even seen it. What’s more, with only two weeks to go, building 250 machines in that time was no mean feat! What had Roland even been doing this whole time? This blunder, which felt a little too obvious, seemed to signify stage two of Angie’s sabotage.
  659.  
  660. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  661.  
  662. The following morning, I waited at my desk, primed for a showdown with Angie. Roland sneered and snorted loudly as he worked on some inscrutable task. Angie, fresh Starbucks cup in hand, barely made eye contact as she approached the ITS area. My opportunity to loudly demand satisfaction was at hand. As she placed her cup on the desk, I armed myself with a copy of her project plan. I stood up to metaphorically remove my glove to slap Angie’s face with it. Just as I began talking, I was stopped in my tracks as Angie barked into gear. Her scoff trampled my incursion with a strident whine, “Why hasn’t HR Tank’s machine been replaced?” she demanded.
  663.  
  664. I defended with “there’s nothing wrong with her machine at all, it’s barely a year old and is one of the highest spec machines we have deployed! Anyway, I…” Angie dismissed my petition with a stony faced ultimatum. “I want that machine replaced before you go to lunch today! Reopen that ticket and get it done!”
  665.  
  666. Still brandishing Angie’s project document, she retrieved her cup and stormed towards the lair located somewhere beyond the dimly lit corridor which had seen many an engineer walk to their deaths. I was left immobile, the duel won before I had even drawn my weapon. The emptiness of BHIT’s desk offered no sanctuary in this moment. I left the project plan on my desk, skulking away towards the IT Cupboard to furnish HR Tank with a new OptiPlex.
  667.  
  668. After enduring yet another hour-long session of unintelligent questions, garbled, half chewed up and spat back out by the HR Tank, I escaped her deskside with her old machine and yet another list of demands she felt inhibited her capacity to perform as she otherwise would. At the top of the list, she required a colour printer placed near her desk. I guess having to walk half way across the floor to the communal printer may have burned vital calories necessary to plug the real-estate offered by her 80-inch wide trousers. In reality, I was aware through the rumour mill that an apprentice she had appointed in the guise of being mentored in all manner of HR and Legal duties had left some weeks prior citing the need for an actual career. HR Tank had instead used her as a dogsbody to fetch printer output, deliver files to various unsuspecting recipients and, on the way back from such voyages, procure various canteen supplies for her.
  669.  
  670. This morning’s diversion of Angie’s insistence became all too clear. BHIT had finally gotten word of what had happened last night – most likely the tip off was my email sent to him just prior to my leaving which complained vehemently about Angie’s actions. It seemed he had grown an impromptu pair of balls and demanded Angie’s explanation via email – which of course Angie was all too eager to give! Remember, this power woman had a lifetime’s experience of deviously plotting her rise to the top! Attached to Angie’s response was yet a new project plan, now detailing my newfound responsibilities as technical delivery engineer. What’s more, the handover of machines would no-longer be carried out at the conference; instead all machines would ship next week directly to their recipients. This lunacy has been given the eager thumbs up by all middle management who welcomed the fact that Angie would deliver the project apparently ahead of time.
  671.  
  672. Opening the PDF, I scaled down to the procurement section only to validate what I fully expected to see anyway. Against the parchment-coloured background of the branded company document, my 50-at-a-time proposal had been replaced by a single line, “252 machines to be ordered from Dell”. The statement, rubber stamped by all and necessary, seemed to vindicate Angie completely. The ball, it seemed, had bounced clandestinely into my back yard.
  673.  
  674. BHIT rushed to my desk. I knew what he was going to ask before he’d even asked it. Even though Roland, Angie’s eyes and ears, sat in close proximity, I let my true feelings known to BHIT. “So, you’re telling me there is one week to image 250 odd machines? So, in reality, that’s 50 machines per day?” BHIT nodded, hoping I would concede and provide some magical way out of this new found emergency. “This is stupid! Whoever planned this needs their ass handed to them!”
  675.  
  676. My claim had now garnered the attention of the rest of ITS; no longer were their eyes transfixed on their screens, scared to move. They were intently watching the spectacle as it unfolded in front of them. I turned to Roland, demanding “Are the images even ready?” Roland’s familiar ratty vocal snare simply retorted with a shrug, “The images are ready whenever you want them!”
  677.  
  678. Angie returned to ITS and immediately interjected my exchange with Roland, as if something deep inside her had fired up and manifested into some sort of primal trait of a mother defending its young. She started, “You told me it would take a week for the laptops to be imaged!” Her obviously incorrect statement seemed a purposeful twist of words on my initial claim. “No! I said that each batch of 50 would take a week to build and QA!” Refuting my claims, Angie’s stern voice still sought to overshadow any offering of reality.
  679.  
  680. Delving deep into her PDF, I demanded “Why are we now couriering the laptops out? Why aren’t we delivering at the conference as planned? What about the 50 or so that are staying in the field that only need reimaging?” I felt confident - for once I felt that BHIT had my back, albeit ever so slightly blunted by how easy he had historically caved in. Angie’s abrupt answer seemed to be the line she had used to sell her project amendment with, “I will not disrupt an entire conference just to give out laptops! It is better to present the face of IT by offering a support drop-in service as people need it instead of disrupting an entire event!”
  681.  
  682. There was no way we could now argue this round now. Angie had landed us in it. She had played her cards, now it was an all-or-nothing game of seeing where the chips would fall. BHIT was powerless to do anything other than hope for a magic-wand solution. Angie was golden in the eyes of the upper management who had rubber stamped her new proposals all the way. There was only one card left to play. I hadn’t expected things to go off to this magnitude – I was inexperienced in this sort of corporate espionage. If I failed to deliver 250 built laptops, Angie could easily pass the buck down, my name made synonymous with total disaster! If I delivered 250 built laptops, Angie would get the glory and I would remain a nameless entity. For me, neutrality or bust! For Angie, glory or neutrality!
  683.  
  684. “I dunno how we’re going to do this…” I said rising from my chair. Leading the procession, QBG followed closely behind me as Roland wheeled the Ghost server towards the IT Cupboard. BHIT watched us disappear; hoping we would indeed find this desperately needed magic wand!
  685.  
  686. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  687.  
  688. The IT Cupboard had transformed into a veritable hive of activity. Boxes of laptops littered every available crevice in the IT Cupboard. Some boxes contained freshly built machines, signified by their address labels, destined for their new homes. Others lay brand new, yet to be called to command. Our efforts were meticulously presided over by a flickery Samsung monitor which recorded our every move in a single excel spreadsheet. Names, addresses, serial numbers, asset tags - all required recording.
  689.  
  690. Despite the obvious pressure QBG and I were under, Roland seemed content with doing the bare minimum. He took his position in the only seat left in the room. Our demands for action seemed to go unnoticed as he idly fiddled with his phone, occasionally breaking his concentration to scroll up and down the excel sheet, his arm outstretched to reach an old mouse and keyboard we had rescued from a junk box for our purpose.
  691.  
  692. Roland indolently looked up his phone, "What one are you doing now?" QBG's response was evidently irate in tone as she read out the serial and asset numbers. Roland duly tapped in QBG's response, barely even taking the effort to capitalize his text. The keyboard, old, yellowed and not even built with the Windows keys, clacked loudly as he typed.
  693.  
  694. Roland's attempt to permanently affix himself to his throne and rule the roost had grown weary. After this exchange, while unwrapping a fresh laptop, I decided enough was enough. "Roland!" I started. "If you're not going to help, could you kindly go back to support?"
  695.  
  696. "I'm busy!" His snide response grated on me. As if to exemplify his uselessness, QBG dragged the keyboard away from towards her as she entered another row of data into the spreadsheet. Her body language exuded bitterness towards Roland's unyielding lethargy in a stereotypical way that only the female of the species can perfect. I knew how she felt, though!
  697.  
  698. Roland sat without a single reaction. He seemed to silently shrug off this display of discontent, as if it were of pure meaninglessness. For the next hour, we worked around Roland uncomfortably, as if he were a cold and jagged heavy rock, inconveniently situated in the center of the room.
  699.  
  700. We had expected Angie's inevitable visit. Her arrival intensified the high feeling in the cramped environment as we shuffled around box after box of Dell laptops. She discussed our progress with Roland loudly, taking great purpose to exclude mine or QBG's input. Roland dutifully furnished Angie with our present number; we had imaged, repacked and addressed just under 40 laptops.
  701.  
  702. The fact is, Angie could not bear to leave any situation without imposing her sense of authority; it just wasn't even in her vocabulary. Angie especially liked imposing her authority onto QBG more than almost any other engineer. It was though QBG represented everything that Angie was not to the letter. True to form, Angie directed her attention towards QBG where she was loading a trolley of outbound boxes.
  703.  
  704. Angie's voice drowned out the whir of the imaging laptops and the groaning ghost server. "Are these laptops supposed to be finished?" Angie's loaded interrogation was not intended to garner any real information. QBG duly provided her response, knowing that Angie had simply just opened her line of questioning to find fault.
  705.  
  706. "These postage labels are entirely too small. You need to redo them all in a larger print!" This condescending request lashed QBG like a whip as she winced at the proposition. QBG declined Angie's proposition, instead offering "We'll do the next ones bigger, these are fine as they are!" Angie's insistence was delivered over a lambaste which seemed almost infinite as she constantly picked up more and more trivial matters of discontent. Not enough tape; this box is slightly damaged; there are too many boxes on that trolley.
  707.  
  708. Angie, satisfied with her instruction, retreated back into the ether of the office. Roland remained motionless on his pedestal, smugly smiling as he reclined back into the chair where he stayed for the next hour.
  709.  
  710. 4pm slothed into view. Roland donned his dark grey duffle coat, each popper irked us more and more as their echos disturbed our frustrated silence. He left for the day without saying a word, leaving QBG and me to continue our work. His departure was suffixed with our in depth symposium of the situation. As we offered one another further anecdote of why Roland and Angie both should be buried in shallow graves, we seemed to further agitate each other.
  711.  
  712. "Right, you know what..." I started, "this isn't happening another day. Let's go see BHIT!"
  713.  
  714. Our mercenary strut through the hallowed halls towards ITS seemed to gain in speed the closer we got; it was tantamount to a race to reach BHIT. As he sat, blissfully unaware of the onslaught we were about to deliver, his balding reflected the ceiling light with a dull shine.
  715.  
  716. QBG and I tag-teamed our way through our complaint as BHIT listened. Our frustrated accounts grew louder as we described in depth what the first day of builds had brought. We spilled the beans on Roland, Angie's micro-management and how the duo were jeopardizing our attempted rescue with their banality.
  717.  
  718. BHIT pondered our predicament as he noisily scratched the side of his unshaven head. He finally leaned forward and said, "OK, leave it with me. Get back to work!"
  719.  
  720. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  721.  
  722. QBG and I worked long and worked hard. Machines were building while machines were unwrapped while machines were repacked - this time with larger address labels as per Angie’s demands. The previously arid air infected by Roland seemed more pleasant now that Angie had declared he had "far more pressing duties to attend to". That didn't stop Angie's persistence in micromanagement. Each visit brought a new list of vices which had to be adhered to; her elephant-like memory seemed to retain every minor piece of misdirection she spluttered, her leathery face and tongue breathing fire at the slightest transgression.
  723.  
  724. QBG and I pulled overtime on Wednesday/Thursday. Our thanks came with a company-sanctioned pizza on one night, followed by an impromptu trip to the local Chinese takeout the next. We both worked diligently for our cause until sometime on Friday afternoon when the last batch of laptops sat imaging. The IT cupboard looked like a bomb site. Discarded baggies, hastily recorded CD-Rs with various drivers on them, several cardboard cups which once contained cheap, cost effective canteen coffee and shreds of ill-cut tape and inners littered the floor. I sat on the trolley, gently rocked myself back and forth, thoroughly shattered as QBG lounged on the chair. Our hands were grubby from the manual lifting, but we were finally done.
  725.  
  726. We still had no idea if our plea for clemency from BHIT was the real reason for Roland’s absence, but were glad of the break. The last laptop completed its imaging process as I struggled to my feet. After loading the correct user profiles, we loaded the last box onto the trolley. We turned the lights out on the IT cupboard as we rolled out the door which clanged loudly, echoing through the lifeless corridor as the electronic lock whizzed, sealing the cupboard with a tomb-like finality.
  727.  
  728. As I pushed the trolley towards the mail room, again filled top to bottom with our efforts, the conversation turned to the conference next week. Angie's plan of having a support presence seemed unnaturally forward-thinking, yet seemed to be yet another construct of some great demonstration of incompetence. We had no real idea of what we were expected to do there and we still had another 50 machines to image as reps waited. QBG and I had also realized that our unanticipated team-building time had come to an end; a valuable insight we would have never gotten had Angie not interfered in the way that she did. But mired with her constant micromanagement, we were glad it was all over - for now.
  729.  
  730. Another Monday morning! The rain and sleet smacked my windscreen as I could only think of the same old mantra, “I hate Mondays!” ITS had arrived early at the conference centre to set up. Our Support booth spanned four tables which had been strewn with all manner of Support-related paraphernalia. It looked like someone had raided some long-forgotten box of promotional material which now served to entice passers by. A sizable gazebo stood behind the dubiously supported makeshift tables housing the secondary support area.
  731.  
  732. When I arrived, I found Angie mid-lecture as some helpdesk underling, borrowed for the purposes of the day, had met her disapproval in some way. Her shrill, demanding voice was evident even over the noise of the waiters and waitresses igniting several water heaters in anticipation for the impending delegates. Angie’s constant barking continued up until our official open time of 10:00am at which time she scarpered to make-nice with some apparent acquaintances. It always amazed me to see her personality and body language shift so seamlessly when interacting with anyone who wasn’t, well, us!
  733.  
  734. Almost as soon as the hall opened, our first delegate arrived at the Helpdesk brandishing a very familiar laptop bag. The delegate bore all the hallmarks of a vintage salesman; his suit was worn, distended around his stomach which showed obvious patronage to many miles behind his rep-mobile on motorways. Placing the bag on the table, he stressed with a clear but jovial tenor voice that he had received it the previous week but was having problems with it.
  735.  
  736. I ushered him into the back of our support area. Our IT setup seemed to impress him. The Ghost Server hummed proudly atop a stack of plastic boxes while stations demarked with chairs and table space offered spare network cables and power supplies already connected and waiting for their prospective tenants. “It’s like mission control in here!” the delegate quipped. With a confirmatory laugh, he added, “We have lift off!”
  737.  
  738. The delegate presented his laptop. As I hooked it up, he withdrew a shabby blue-covered notebook, filled with scribbling, bits of paper and bound by a rubber band from the depths of his suit. Peering through the frames of his rounded spectacles, he declared that he had a number of problems. He reeled off each entry on his list, as though sermonising from his blue notebook. The software, though it could open, was unable to load profiles or remember preferences which, though meant nothing to me, meant the world to a marketing guru such as this man. It also seemed to failed to synchronise in any way with the central database. While scanning through the laptop, I had also noticed McAfee was failing to update and the image distinctly lacked any installation of MS Office.
  739.  
  740. The realization that Roland had indeed fudged the image was all too real. This was polarized by the sight near the helpdesk tables at 10:15. The queue seemed to extend to the far corner of the hall, all said the same thing. The rickety tables seemed the final barricade on the front lines as reps, brandishing the same laptop bags, came to voice their ails.
  741.  
  742. Tensions ran high as the word spread among the queuing reps. IT had blown it; they’d screwed the pooch and messed up big-time! Dissent spread quickly into the queue. Our borrowed Helpdesk guy was buckling. He was ill-equipped to deal with demand of this magnitude without the simple escape route of simply logging a call for escalation. I relieved him with the instruction to find Angie. In the meantime, all we could think to do was accept laptops back en-masse and deal with the fallout later.
  743.  
  744. The rear support area filled as some 200 machines lay piled as portrait of the enormous blunder. Angie’s eventual reappearance was complemented with another bout of her ranting and raving; despite her inability to offer another solution, she stormed off in anger leaving us to somehow organise transportation of 200 laptops back to head office. Two sales and marketing managers also appeared, demanding explanations and reasons for this mother of all fuck-ups.
  745.  
  746. Our borrowed helpdesk guy and I loaded the laptops into a hire van for their voyage back to the office. Our drive back to the office through the rain seemed dark and depressing. The rain reverberated off the large metal hulk of the van only dampened by the cloth of the soft laptop bags. The only thing to look forward to now was another drenching skirmish through the office yard to return the laptops to their holding cells.
  747.  
  748. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  749.  
  750. Journeying to work that day, I knew there was to be plenty bad noise. Despite this feeling of ensuing doom, it was an oddly upbeat kind of day. The morning sun was subdued as it accompanied the first warm day of the year and seemed to fill the office with naturally warming UV light. News of our remarkable failure flurried around the office as eyes stalked my path from the lobby to my desk.
  751.  
  752. As my Outlook churned into gear, it presented several new emails to look at; I was only waiting for one. The ominous calendar entry from our eminent Sales Director was present as expected, decorated with the high-importance flag. I spent the morning glancing through my tickets, though I really had no intention of doing any of them.
  753.  
  754. Angie appeared around her usual 10am. Her pace was rushed and the lack of her signatory Starbucks cup distinguished Angie’s obvious apprehension. “Care to explain what happened yesterday?” Her condescending vocal tone was different this time. Before, harsh and snappy like a loathsome strict teacher, a faint quiver existed somewhere in the background. “I don’t know!” I responded. For once I seemed to be in the power position. “I don't feel I was involved in this project!” She pressed for further information, her voice taking on her signatory snarl and gripe.
  755.  
  756. HR Tank, accompanied by an anonymous administrative orderly, unexpectedly appeared to relieve me of this interrogation. She demanded the immediate presence of the entire ITS department in the nearest meeting room. Again, our walking pace to the meeting room seemed exaggeratedly slow, a homage to HR Tank’s slow purposeful walk. I stood in the corner of the room only finally noticing the distinct lack of BHIT.
  757.  
  758. HR Tank began to speak through her reddened face, fatigued from her trip. Her drained voice read her palpably pre-prepared and rubber-stamped statement from a sheet which seemed to also serve as a barrier of defence. “It has been decided,” she began “that due to incongruences that have arisen in the department of late that BHIT is no longer able to fulfil his duty as Head of IT; He will therefore not be returning to the business!” Her statement droned on with all the officialdom you would expect from such a legally exacting statement. Her statement ended with “I am authorized to answer any questions at this point”.
  759.  
  760. The ITS team shuffled out, dazed and wounded. For his spinelessness, BHIT had evidently had all our backs somewhere along the line. We took our seats, like a pack of wounded animals returning from some failed hunt. Angie remained with HR Tank discussing an imminent Starbucks trip as Roland stood guard in her absence. We all sat still and silent, in one way to mark the demise of BHIT and, in the other, we felt that the slightest motion would be recorded and later used against us as evidence. The fact that BHIT had evidently taken the fall for the whole thing just seemed unreal. Angie’s consistent belittling and hateful nature just seemed to be the only outlook, we were shellshocked that she had apparently won!
  761.  
  762. The post-rollout meeting time came up. As Angie, Roland and I made our way to the top floor in the elevator, the air grew thick with scorn. The silence bellowed like a thousand years of social indifference, as if the slightest word could ignite the situation like a megaton bomb. It seemed like ages until the lift doors finally opened. Angie and Roland obnoxiously barged out of the lift, though I had yielded to them anyway.
  763.  
  764. This was my first time in front of an official board. The room layout had changed. The Sales and Marketing managers sat in a row along the centre line of the arranged desk, flanked by the conspicuous presence of HR Tank and another woman who it seemed was there to take notes. Cantering the congregation was a man whose obverse mannerism exuded the confidence and exterior meant he was someone of importance.
  765.  
  766. Angie, Roland and I took up position in front of this jury of VIPs. Our plastic chairs clanged and noisily bent into form to exemplify their cheapness, an extreme contrast to the leather-bound pews claimed by the panel. The central character, who it soon became apparent was the division manager, opened with a speech akin to that of some great dictator. His appraisal of the utter failure intensified as his voice raised in volume, yet remained controlled and collected. It was like he needed to say everything he needed to say like some pre-interrogation tactic.
  767.  
  768. The panel would interview us one at a time. I remained sat outside the office with Roland as Angie pleaded her case as ITS manager. Memories of sitting outside the school principal’s office at school seemed came flooding back. Though I had never really been a bad kid, I found myself winding up outside the head’s office a few times - a Catholic warden clad in black whose manifestation was intended solely to scare straight. Roland sat with a smirk, apparently unconcerned with these on-going. His motionless gaze made me think that this guy had far more experience explaining himself to school principals than me.
  769.  
  770. Roland was up next. Angie sat in the seat Roland vacated. Her arrogant indifference mirrored Roland’s posture with eerie exactness. I began to grow worried; Angie was always one step ahead of any game currently in progress. Thoughts of explaining my job loss to my other half, thoughts of having to job-hunt made me nervous.
  771.  
  772. After an hour of waiting patiently, my time was finally up. I sat central to the panel trying to remember every interview technique that had ever been drilled into me by any chance I’d previously had to take such advice on board. I made sure to look at the person who was addressing me, back straight, shoulders back. Here we go!
  773.  
  774. The panel had their tactics down. It seemed no one person would ask more than one question at a time. The questions came slow, strategically calm and collected. The lady on the end of the panel appeared to note everything I said as the panel would wait for her silent OK to continue. At this moment, I was ready to hang Angie and her bastard youth out to dry! I just waited for my chance.
  775.  
  776. After the initial questions, largely surrounding who planned what, the director placed his pen in front of him. He placed his elbows on the table as he leaned his hardened chin on his first and second fingers, mirrored and extended to provide support. As he leaned in, he said, “Tell us, in your own words, you account of what happened”.
  777.  
  778. I relayed my entire saga, from Angie’s commandeering of the project plan, Roland’s inauguration to being responsible for the images, our flawed and hapless manner of couriering laptops instead delivering at the conference – all of it. I finished, almost spitting out my words, exercising this demon called Angie. One of the sales managers enquired, “Why didn’t you check anything before you built them?” I defended “There was no time to do that. They had been built and QA’d by Roland who apparently knew what he was doing. We had 200 machines to build and no means to verify anything!”
  779.  
  780. I couldn’t tell if I had impressed with my answer or not. The thick silence felt like a poorly performing job interview. “Why did you believe Roland fully equipped to manage this implementation?” The weightiness of their questioning became stronger. “I didn’t!” responding inadvertently with a tone similar to Angie’s impertinent and self-aggrandizing sneer. “I followed the direction of my management. I was told to leave him alone, I did!” The MD passed me a copy of my rollout plan. “Was this the rollout plan you followed?” I picked it up, glancing through the already familiar pages I had spent several days perfecting, re-enumerating before my final presentation.
  781.  
  782. I looked up and said, “No! Angie altered the specification several times. The final version was signed off, I believe, by everyone here!” I felt like I had delivered a blow to everyone in the room who could even slightly have been rooting for me, as if I’d had twisted the knife in the very same way Angie had done to claw her way to the top!
  783.  
  784. After 30 minutes of grilling, I left the room. Angie and Roland had long vacated leaving the empty seats, their emptiness like some satirical congratulatory prize. HR Tank had concluded the meeting, thanking me for my time, ordering me back to my duties.
  785.  
  786. ITS was silent for the remainer of the day, juxtaposed against the now brilliant developing sun, obviously out of place in Britain’s Spring but seemed to invite action and good times contrasting against our office-prisoner mood. Angie and Roland were stealthy silent against the humanistic blur and shuffle of the ITS inhabitants as they adjusted their postures to comfort. The only reprieve came from Angie’s regular group ushering her to their second of their Starbucks trips, this time joined by Roland. The escape of my 4pm leaving time couldn’t have come quickly enough; I made for home, wondering if I would ever set foot in ITS again.
  787.  
  788. The crystal clear night sky gave birth to another sunny day. The grime and dirt that incrusted my car seemed to beg for a good washing and detailing session. It was relieving to have at least one thing on my list to occupy my time on the end of a dole queue. As I approached the car park gates of the pharmaceutical giant, I wondered if security would deny access to their fortress. I envisaged ramming the gate in some movie-like attempt to exact my revenge to dance on Angie’s decrepit corpse. 15 months of this woman was too much for anyone to deal with.
  789.  
  790. As I uneventfully descended the giant lobby stairs towards ITS, I expected to be bundled to the floor at any moment by all manner of burly security guards to the approving look of Angie. I was convinced this woman was far too street-smart to be outdone by anything! Almost disappointedly, ITS remained unmolested in its usual ground-floor spot. My Windows login worked, as I began to prepare for the day’s work.
  791.  
  792. I arrived back from lunch with several members of third line and our previously borrowed helpdesk guy, still licking his wounds from the onslaught of sales reps. QBG met us on our way down. She smiled wryly, excitedly yet softly declaring "Angie’s packing her desk! She’s history!”
  793.  
  794. I didn’t believe her. I had to see this with my own eyes!
  795.  
  796. I sat down, maintaining as detached an outlook as I could, pretending not to notice as Angie wrapped her scaly neck in the familiar black and grey shawl. Roland’s desk, surprisingly, also lay vacated. Angie disregarded the looks from ITS as she picked up her leather clutch bag and made for the exit.
  797.  
  798. “Is she gone? Was she fired?” A fervour of questions engulfed our modest team. As we excitedly theorized and conjectured, we eventually realized that there were only questions - no answers. This tumultuous turn of events did nothing to allay my own fears. I tied myself to my desk, waiting for someone – anyone – to order me into a closed doors meeting.
  799.  
  800. But, nobody came that day… nor the next…
  801.  
  802. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  803.  
  804. Weeks came and went; another month slipped by unnoticed. A new support manager had appeared. Young, new and inexperienced, his often rash decision making seemed reminiscent of Angie’s vicious and brutal idea of management, though it seemed driven by immaturity rather than vindictiveness. We continued to exist in the knowledge that there was nobody who would be like our first ITS manager. But, thankfully, nobody like Angie either.
  805.  
  806. I had two major projects after Angie’s departure. I was in the midst of successfully redeploying the laptops complete with fully working software. However, it became apparent in the days subsequent to her finding out that Angie had opened administrative access to AD to the entire Helpdesk. As you can well expect, our sparkling and carefully maintained AD structure now had contradictory group policies, login scripts which went nowhere and more phantom accounts and objects than I think we would ever finally sort out. It was if Angie had left me a parting gift, a final “fuck you” from the Queen of Aggression. It’s two-pronged effect seemed unintentional given her ineptitude. But it had encroached on every single user in the company as their login times grew exponentially, together with seemingly random permission sets which denied sometimes even the most basic of privileges.
  807.  
  808. It was getting to be the hottest summer I’ve ever known in Britain. I still hadn’t taken time out to wash my Mondeo; it’s recent costly repair bill had left a bitter taste in my mouth. The grime that lay affixed to the bonnet and wings seemed an apt punishment for depriving me of yet another wage check.
  809.  
  810. Arriving back to the office from a well-earned summer pub lunch, I walked towards the building across the car park. As I passed, a familiar Jaguar graced a VIP spot in the car park. Sleek and shiny, its black finish shone in the midday sun, freshly polished and lovingly detailed. Its congeniality seemed marred by the fact that Angie had once owned a car like this, her angry face refusing to even make eye contact as she stared over the leather steering wheel.
  811.  
  812. I had finished replacing a dead hard disk in an OptiPlex and was delivering it to a damsel in distress. Particularly, this was one of the sales guys damsels in distress. As I connected the machine back up, he came out of his glass-clad office for a chat. “Did you see, your ex manager is back” he grimaced. I knew what he meant; this man had been trained to smile and lie for a living. The news that Angie was back seemed unpalatable.
  813.  
  814. “Who, Angie?” I questioned. “She got sacked, didn’t she?”
  815.  
  816. The Sales Manager shook his head with a learned look. “People like that don’t get sacked!” he explained. I hung on his every word, as if this was the most important lesson I would ever receiving in my life. “When someone like that is put into a particular position, it’s usually because someone recommended her for it. Someone put her there, Jon6! If she had done well, the person who recommended her would have gotten a nice pat on the back. But, if she cocks it up, there’s no way they’re going to turf her out. Whoever recommended her would have their nuts in a sling for recommending such a dud; nobody would ever take them seriously ever again”
  817.  
  818. He continued “When people like that in such positions of power make a fantastic fuck up like that, they get paid off. They get promoted with a golden handshake just so someone above her can save face with the board! Admitting failure isn’t even on the menu!”
  819.  
  820. Despising the obvious truth to his words, I had to probe deeper “Then, who got the blame for all that then?”
  821.  
  822. “Well, BHIT of course. He was so close to retirement and he didn’t really make much noise anyway. People forgot he was there. It was either him or you guys, really!”
  823.  
  824. I looked up from over the desk partition. Across the cavernous office, I could just about see the familiar twisted frame of Angie as she stormed with intent around a small section of desks, her shrill and piercing tone somehow breaking through the human noise, over the sound of printers, phones and chatter. Another hapless team of underlings were getting it from her, both barrels.
  825.  
  826. I turned, eager to continue this discourse; however the Sales Manager had already retreated to his office. He held his phone to his head as he clicked the door closed.
  827.  
  828. As the OptiPlex spun into life, the Windows XP splash screen floated as if to stand testament to the spoils. Who had really won here? Well, nobody it seems. As I struggled to think for a moral to the story, I was interrupted by the returning damsel. She thanked me for my time turning back to her work, our brief moment of temporary friendship now at an end, politically and autocratically ceased with the completion of my task, the only remaining duty being the closing of the support ticket.
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