The Grey Cardigan: 19 January 2007

SO THIS rain-soaked punter wanders into the front office of the Evening Beast, which is a miracle in itself since we’ve long since moved out of the city centre to a soulless trading estate next door to the local abattoir.

He’s got a nice picture on his digital camera – a tree, collapsed through his neighbour’s roof, in the storms last night. Perhaps we’d like it for today’s newspaper?

Well yes, we’d love it for today’s newspaper. Unfortunately the only edition of today’s newspaper issued forth from another anonymous industrial estate many miles away in the wee small hours of the morning. It might only be 8.30am, but as far as the bean-counters are concerned, we’re singing It’s Yesterday Once More.

But still, we’d like the pic, so we drag the old boy into the newsroom. He’s got this wire that’s supposed to connect his camera to a computer but, as ever, grey box won’t talk to grey box.

Now this IT fella appeared down the end of the newsroom about six months ago. He sits there, day in and day out, looking at one of those funny black screens with the green type that no one’s used since the ZX Spectrum went out of style a few years ago. To be honest, I thought he was deaf for the first three months he was here because he always has these white things in his ears. It turns out that they’re some kind of music device that he has on all day. The rude bastard. And his trainers smell.

Anyway, I wander over there, stand in front of him until he registers my existence and removes the headphones, and suggest that he might be able to help us in extracting the picture from the punter’s camera. ‘Sorry,’he says, hi-energy cereal bar spraying across his keyboard. ‘I can’t do anything without authorisation. You’ll have to ring the helpdesk.’And with that, he went back to being GiantCock the Slayer, Warrior Prince of Cyberspace, on some weird online role-playing game populated by nutty South Koreans and greasy Goth teenagers.

Ah, the joys of ‘back of house synergy”. About 18 months ago, our group IT services were centralised. This means that we sacked half of our techies and then moved the rest to another industrial estate 200 miles away (I believe that this unit is two down from the local abattoir.) We also apparently rebranded them the TechnoTeamâ„¢ and made them all wear black T-shirts, except when they’re out on their monthly Star Trek tribute nights.

So now, when you can’t log on or you’ve lost a double-page spread full of cut-outs and flow-arounds, you have to phone them up to be told: ‘Turn it off and turn it on again”. And then they give you a job number. And then they say: ‘Thank you for calling the TechnoTeamâ„¢.’And still it doesn’t work.

So I sigh heavily, brush hi-energy bar crumbs from my trousers, and make the call. I immediately descend into the seventh circle of Call Centre Hell. I press this number, I press that number, while the Milton Keynes mix of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy goes round and round. I finally get to speak to a human being. Well, an IT version of a human being.

I explain my predicament to C-3PO. ‘No unauthorised content is allowed on the system,’says the robot. I then try to explain the concept of us being a newspaper and the punter being a reader and how important the happy collision of the two is to our continued prosperity. There seems to be some confusion at the idea that we’re a newspaper company. I don’t think anyone has ever told them.

In the end, a supervisor is summoned. I am warned once about my language and twice about my attitude, but in the end I am assured that the TechnoTeamâ„¢ will soon contact their local representative and all will be resolved.

Thirty-three minutes later, the phone on our IT geek’s desk starts ringing. Unfortunately he can’t hear it, because he’s got his fucking headphones in.

You can contact me, should you be minded,at thegreycardigan@gmail.com

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