Franz, our senior accountant, retired yesterday. There was supposed to be a party for him last night, but it was cancelled at the last minute amongst some frantic running around by senior management. They never explained what was going on, and I figured as long as they didn’t tell me I couldn’t reasonably be expected to do anything, which suited me just fine.
In any case, this morning the crisis seems to have ended. I even was able to enjoy a morning coffee without harassment (other than by the coffee machine itself, which was trying to interest me in a bit of its ongoing drama with the copier, a subject in which I have little interest).
It was at this moment of serenity, halfway through the morning cup, that I noticed an email from Franz sitting unread in my inbox. I figured it was likely some weepy going away email, but opened it anyway on the off chance that he’d decided to burn a few bridges on the way out. Franz was a stout, stoic German type, but sometimes the quiet ones were really good at throwing grenades as they sprint for the gates.
Unfortunately, I saw immediately that the email was addressed only to me. It read:
Though I’m sure the CEO will find a competent replacement for my services as CFO, one of my duties, perhaps my most important, now falls directly to you.
There is a server that has been my responsibility for some time now. It isn’t on the network. You can find it behind cabinet D in the server room, behind the box of cat 4 cables and under the box labeled ‘Brown Recluse Study Sample #4’.
You can get to the terminal through the KVM switch marked ‘Do not touch, electrical hazard.’
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER.
I cannot emphasize this enough.
The server runs only one program, an old version of Lotus123. This program is vital to the company, and to many other things.
DO NOT MAKE MODIFICATIONS TO THE SPREADSHEETS.
I would advise, strongly advise, that you do not add new entries. But if you do, make sure that you really, really understand what you are doing.
Thanks, Charlie. I am counting on you. The company is counting on you.
I found the computer, finally, after fighting my way through decaying cardboard and swarms of silverfish. An old grey market box by the look of it. No identifying logos anywhere, just stickers in more than one hand both threatening and pleading with the reader to not, under any circumstances, turn it off.
I was very close to just pulling the plug. I hate silverfish. They both frighten and repulse me. And though I was pretty sure the ‘Brown Recluse’ bit was a joke, I had seen more than one big hairy spider fighting its way through the throngs of silverfish, and had a nice red welt on my hand where one had gotten me.
Like I said. I was about one more silverfish away from pulling the plug entirely, Franz be damned, when I hit the KVM switch and saw the server’s screen come to life.
Sure enough, there was one program running on what looked like an old, old copy of OS2. IBMs last stab at relevance. A museum piece in every respect.
The spreadsheet was enormous. Hundreds of thousands of rows across many, many sheets. I was vaguely surprised that a twenty year old spreadsheet could handle this much data without falling over, but even watching it I could see the total row count growing. The machine was completely off the network, so I’m not sure what data it was ingesting, but there it was, calculating and growing.
Most of it didn’t make a lot of sense, and seemed to be in code, like a gangster’s ledger.
Some of it I could understand easily enough, like employee records and location and status of office equipment. This had been updated recently. Had Franz been sneaking in here at night, keeping the records of the location and ownership of staplers up to date?
They even had that stand-up desk I’d wanted, and had gone to Wes instead listed. In a fit of pique I changed the owner of the standup desk to me and gave Wes one of those crappy pressboard ones. Fuck him anyway.
Not that changing a spreadsheet mattered anyway.
The last entry by date in the employee record was Franz, who’s status was now ‘retired’ and location was ‘on a tropical beach frolicking with 25 year old strippers.’
I changed location to ‘rotting in hell’ and hit the KVM switch, turning off the monitor. I again considered just turning the computer off, but didn’t want to fight with the bugs and dust again to find the power switch.
Fuck Franz anyway, I thought, leaving the server room and brushing off dust and stray silverfish. Like I needed one more thing to do around here. Especially one more thing that didn’t make any damn sense.
Walking back to my cube I walked by Wes sitting at a small, crappy IKEA desk, and sat behind my high tech standing desk. I hit the switch and the entire desk slowly rose to standing level. I started to settle into my keyboard before I realized that something was different.
Had I always had this desk?
I was both sure I had, and yet remembered changing the spreadsheet to move it to my cube.
But why would I do that? Why would I do that if it had always been mine?
I was happy about having it. Truly. I hit the switch again and watched it slowly lower to sitting. The motor was almost silent. Hit the switch again and my desk came to meet me.
What else had I changed?
I ran back to the server room and hit the KVM switch. The row I’d changed, Franz’s record, was there but grayed out. Un-editable. And his status changed to ‘lost’.