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Rats, mice (the furry kind), and more – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 22

When I last wrote, I was grateful that my kneecaps remained intact, having extracted myself from a dodgy situation and, having accepted a position back in the City of London, went back into the real world of commerce. The merchant bank I was working in was one of the most respected institutions in the City, and my position was in the End User Computing (EUC) department, dealing with IT support throughout the London branch, but also liaising with the overseas groups so that our efforts were coordinated, worldwide.

The EUC department was a (generally) talented group of individuals ranging from networking experts to coding and database experts, plus other facets. Bearing in mind that this was 1990, the use of PCs was still a relatively new environment and so the team grew fairly rapidly.

We oversaw the installation of cabling to the trading desks and user desks. I recall one particular weekend when we were scheduled to do some work on one of the trading floors: I opened the doors to the trading offices, which were in darkness, and noticed that the floor itself seemed to be moving, which I put down to a trick of the lack of light. However, when I switched on the lighting, the whole floor moved again – and this time I saw hundreds of rats running for cover, proving that I hadn’t been seeing things. Rats were a common problem in buildings in the City, especially where false floors had been installed to channel the data and voice cabling and the power, so it didn’t really have much effect on me, but a few weeks later there was an interesting related incident up on the 6th Floor where the department was based.

As I said, the team was growing rapidly in every area and we had recruited one chap, let’s call him George, who was one of those brilliant idiots.  You know, absolutely wonderful in his own sphere but hopeless when it came to existing in the real world. He had never been outside of his home town in Gloucestershire and was, I’m sure everyone who worked him would agree, wet behind the ears, and extremely easy to wind up…

To give an example of his frame of mind, when he cam in for his interview it was the same day that the IRA decided to bomb Victoria Station. He actually asked the question ”was this sort of thing a regular occurrence?”. Seriously. He was totally oblivious of anything outside of his own little world. Lovely guy but talk about naïve.

For example, a week or so after George joined the company, the team was required to work over a weekend for installation work. Dress code in the City was to be suited and booted during the week but, at weekends, anything was fine. However, the day before we were due to be in the building, George asked what was acceptable attire, so we said it wasn’t necessary to wear a suit but, as it was a prestigious bank, we wore business casual. Next day, we all turned up in jeans, T-shirts, trainers etc. George turned up in smart slacks, brogues, and a tweed sport jacket with leather elbow patches.  Like I said, naïve.

George’s desk was at the front of the department (open plan) right by the walkway through to the programmers and other departments on the floor. He had a morbid fear of mice. One day, he was working at his desk, with his jacket on the back of his chair, when a mouse (the furry kind) appeared on his desk and peered at him from between some books that had been stacked by George’s PC monitor. Given his fear of the creature, George leapt off his chair and screamed like a little girl. The mouse retreated: George opened his top desk drawer, took out a stapler and then started chasing the tiny mouse around the department, crouching down to see if he could spot the mouse under the desks. He made the mistake of crawling past my desk and I just couldn’t resist it: as he was just past the front of my position, I leaned over the desk return and lightly ran my fingers over George’s back, to simulate the mouse. Another scream from George, and he then proceeded to start whacking the stapler over his should and onto his own back, shouting and screaming expletives all the while, providing all in the department with some genuine entertainment.  By the way, when I say “expletives,” I must state that George never swore and the expletives were his version, not the accepted vernacular of the cruder among us.

After he’d calmed down, we asked George to check that he didn’t leave any food around and, when he checked his top drawer, there was an opened bag of peanuts and several mouse turds, so we suggested he call the janitorial team and ask them to deal with the mouse and to clean out the drawer. He, apparently, hadn’t taken on board that open bags of peanuts are magnets for mice, though. We noticed, when he opened his drawer a few days later, that there was another bag of peanuts and, again I couldn’t resist, I decided to wind him up again. That evening, I raided my kitchen cupboard (at home) and liberated a tub of chocolate sugar strands and took them into the office, arriving early before anyone else. I opened his drawer and sprinkled a few of the strands into the drawer by the bag, and then opened the bag as if chewed open by the mouse and waited for the fun. I was disappointed, at first, when George opened the drawer: he just moaned that the mouse must have been back as there were a load of mouse turds in his drawer, again. Thinking on my feet, I suggested to George that there was a way of telling whether the mouse was a male or female, licked my index finger and then pressed the wet digit into some of the sugar strands so they stuck, and then put the finger into my mouth.  He nearly passed out,

George was not the luckiest person. For example, he was stung on the eye by a bee, and was given some time off to recover.  While at home (he recounted this to us when he came out of hospital, a couple of days later), he decided to take a hot bath, next to which was his toilet. While the bath was filling up, he opened a toilet cleaning block and put it into the cistern. His mistake was that he had taken off the packaging to the block instead of allowing it to dissolve in the water in the cistern, and he’d placed this wrapping on the windowsill, in front of an open window. He went out of the bathroom and got ready for his bath, not noticing that the wrapper had blown into the hot water. He wouldn’t have noticed it, as it had already dissolved by the time he got in. He certainly noticed the effect, though – he had a violent allergic reaction to the chemicals and had to get detoxed in hospital as a result.

Enough of rinsing George.

One of the areas within the department was our own on-site hardware engineering team. One of the guys was looking around for a job to progress his career (everyone, including his direct boss, knew about it) and he asked me to check over his CV. I was scanning down the document when I came to his qualifications, which included the abbreviation for a Higher National Certificate, otherwise known as an HNC. I was surprised at this as I was under the impression that he had none, so I had a chat with his boss. Turns out, HNC stood for “Hopes Nobody Checks”.  They obviously didn’t as he got the job!

I’ll leave it there, but next episode contains some explosive stories. And I mean explosive…