Hemhemballs III - On The Road (or There's a Hole In Me Bucket)

by Chris Johnson

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So here I sit, letting the painkillers take effect on my poor knee. How did I end up like this, you ask? Well, welcome back to the wild, wacky world of Hemhem! You see, I don't just work for these idiots, I live in one of their modestly appointed hovels in the wilds of Dougie's Hills (the AntHills, if you will!)

After a hard morning's work, I drive back to my slum via the local shops to pick up a few supplies. Having found somewhere to park (not an easy task since, like many estates of this kind, this estate was built without thought of the way in which the motor car would dominate public transport after the 1970's had blown over) I step into the road.

Straight into a pot hole.

It wasn't a big pot hole. There was no sign of people attaching ropes around it to dive in and explore the wonderful galleries beneath the surface. It did have a little grass in it, but its main claim to fame was that it was what had started life as a join that had subsequently grown.

In I went, foot twisted below me, and goodness knows that when weight like mine is dislodged from a secure, upright position, it will take a lot more than a twisted foot can bear to keep it from following. Down I went. Flailing around in the road in a vain attempt to minimise my injuries, my shopping bag (product of China, thin as tissue, full and ripe with a certain chain's name prominantly stencilled on the side) burst, sending its burden all over the road.

I was furious! I was possessed! It's a good job I didn't have a twelve-bore...

After cooling down a bit, tackling the asthma attack brought on by the incident and returning to my desk, I flick up the internal directory and track down the road services number. The person at the other end seemed somewhat bored as they answered the phone and took the details of the pothole in question, but they promised that they would send someone around to look into the hole.

Who knows? Perhaps they did see it. However this would not explain why, the following week, the council sent a contractor to resurface the road adjacent to this incident! I'd laugh, but my knee hurts too much.

So back to the job, and I got in this morning to find a host of email waiting for me. Talk about back handed compliments! I am included on a list of people that are being thanked for the effort of getting the benefits off my (working) system and onto the new (not-working) system. Oh yeah, the whole thing has gone over, and all the interface bits I have written up to now have worked, but the job drags on as the interface stuff on the new system is proving to be flaky as hell! The arguments it creates are legion, and somewhat predictable too! Oh yes, as I write this, Simple gets in on the act and sends her congratulatory scrapings. Obviously she missed my name at the bottom, unless she is bowing to the inevitable!

The guy from the college folk blames the rent system. The guy balancing the rent system blames the college system. Each claims that his system is more important than the other, and the rest just hang in there, a little like a UN peacekeeping mission!

So what now? Well, as the whole interface bit has dragged its heels, mostly seeing that the specification is as full of holes as a fishing net, the interface from the schoolboys had to be fixed, fixed again, fixed yet again, rewritten, fixed even more before I stepped in and explained how the file was supposed to work! Well, one advantage is that my eight week stay has extended somewhat. My overall stay will, if I stick it out, run to a couple of weeks short of three months!

Mind you, that isn't all being put there for the benefit of the benefits. Facing mass walkouts from the rent folk (of the four that are left, one is retiring, one is leaving and one is going into hospital long term which leaves... well, you do the maths!) the beancounters are panicking for ways to reduce the job pressure. Hence me. The former rent and benefit specialist is back, so why not run a few ideas past him and see if anything sticks? Hey, let's automate the bank transfer! Several years after the bank automated it in the first place, but why not?

But the system's too old, dear Liza, dear Liza, the system's too old...

Heck, the system might be old but it isn't like it is totally incapable! The system is old but data is data, and if you can transport the data from system to system, the decoding is relatively easy. So why did they not ask me for this years ago? Well, the system was old, dear Liza, dear Liza...

But there's a hole in me bucket block...

Lightning hit the building next door yesterday. Perhaps it's a sign. It certainly set all the car alarms off, which one of the encumbants informed me was quite a sound, and I certainly believed him considering that, many years before, my former section was housed in a sixties-built edifice called Quicksilver House, which was surrounded on three sides by multi-storey car parks beneath which was a shopping complex, the Abyss Mall (yeah, I know that a certain Disney cartoon series has a similar joke in it, but these places do actually exist!) One bang of thunder and WHEEWHEEWHEEWHEEWHEEWHEE etc. But then the fate of the Abyss Mall is covered elsewhere. I may even share the wonderful fate of Drofmor with you if I can find the original text!

Anyhow, the lightning bolt in question, the product of several dry weeks and a static build-up that no amount of fabric softener would touch meant that many systems went bye-bye when it hit. The college kit (Anally Retentive Information Store) and the flexitime system both died and were not seen again that day. I told them to use a six-inch nail rather than a bit of wood and some foil. The current flow is that much better...

Well, fix it, dear Henry...

So now we say farewell to my Kaputa buddie (brought in to keep the college kiddies in line) and ta-ta to Hubus. Well, not quite. The thing is that this interface needed to be sorted so that the files ended up in the right place. Guess what? Hubus rides again! OK, it'll never post its own thing again, but some well placed Hubus code is keeping the ARIS firmly in place! If they only knew!

So what next? Well, a few folk around the building were given a hint of my possible future when I let slip about a job in Holland demonstrating for some ex-pat company working in one of these Europlan things. That shook them up a bit, though I doubt I shall get it. I'm not sure I really want it anyway, since that would completely crap over my other activities. But if the money is good, why not? Otherwise I'm stuck here for another month given that the original six to eight weeks was clearly not enough. What the hell - if the brown stuff is being handed out, I'd rather get paid for it!

Meanwhile, if you really want an ironic testimony of the brains (sic) behind the council, as I returned from lunch today, I noticed a sign which pointed the way to the postal vote box (they are trying out some new idea for voting here where you post it rather than go to a polling station). Or at least that is what I suppose was the intent.

It actually points directly towards a bin. Sometimes only the most honest of intentions can show exactly how moronic life can be, and that goes double for this council!

Say it with me;

Shit's happening in Hemhem!

Coming soon: Simple dries at a lecture after being asked to explain the interfaces, Dougie tries to capitalise on his new life of leisure and Derek & Clive record a drunken account of the design of a housing system using relational database terms not normally found in a SQL Plus manual.

"As I was extracting data one day,
I collated a number of tables.
Merge, you f*****s, merge,
Merge into this 'ere new structure and you will be alright.
They collated, corrupted, crashed the database.
There wa-a-s no-o-o structure.
Laughed, we nearly purged!
We haven't laughed so much since ICL died,
Or Auntie Mabel caught her left t*t in the card punch.
We are miserable programmers,
Filthy hackers!"


See how it all started! If this story seems a little confusing, then chances are that you have joined the mayhem part way through! To read the original Hemhemballs, click here and suspend your belief!
©2002 Chris Johnson

PDP-11 and RSTS/E is a trademark of Digital Equipment Co., part of HP/Compaq

All characters in this document have had their names changed in the interest of saving my butt legally and getting a few cheap laughs in places. Anyhow the events within this document actually happened but anyone who knows or can work out for themselves who the actual folk are, keep it to yourselves since I'm not interested in appearing in court to protect myself from this bunch of slimeballs.

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