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It's eight o'clock on the morning of Christmas Day and boy am I pissed.
I'm sitting here in the machine room all on my own, surrounded by a sea of discarded pizza boxes and empty cans of Jolt. The support droids are home on leave, the Boss From Hell has pissed off to the mountains to go skiing, and I'm running the web business all on my own. I hate Christmas, I really do. This happens every year, and I've had enough.
The phone rings. I chew on a stale pizza rind. It rings again. And again. Persistent bastard, huh? I pick up the receiver.
"Hello, Acme Web Services here, howcanIhelpyou?"
"That's a bit slow! Took you three rings to pick up the phone! I've a good mind to talk to your supervisor! Call this service?"
I can't help myself. Some bastards give you no choice; they mark their own cards then look surprised when you show them your hand. I decide to play this one cool:
"Acme Web Services here, howcanIhelpyou?" I slime in my most oleaginous manner.
"That's a bit better! It's about my web site. We paid you guys three thousand gold doubloons and a kilo of china white six days ago and what I want to know is where the fuck is our domain name, you no-name reject from a stir fry kitchen?"
"If you'll bear with me for a minute, sir ..." Time to fire up my toolkit for dealing with obstreperous customers. "What did you say your name was?"
"Carter and Sleazeball, internet advertising consultants and attorneys to the Church of Cretinology. And boy, if you don't sort this out fast we'll sue your pants off for denial of service, inflicting mental cruelty, and violating our copyright on your name. (What did you say you were called?)"
"One second ... please hold, sir." I patch in the compilation of Canto-pop cover versions of Andrew-Lloyd Weber musicals to keep him amused.
I punch up Sleazeball's InterNIC registration records. Name, check. Requested domain: www.pyramid-scam.com. Payment: check. Snail-mail address: check. ICBM coordinates ..."
Hmm. I pick up the red phone and start dialing. Ring ring ...
"Secure Line, 628 squadron launch command. Speak."
"Captain Kent, I presume? You know that QuickCam you hooked into your web server? The one that's pointed at your bedroom window? You might be interested to know that QuickCams are fairly sensitive to infrared light; they can see in the dark. You might also be interested to know that your camera shows a fairly good view of your bed, and you forgot to turn it off last Sunday night. I saved a movie of what you were doing with Major Dreyfuss and the chocolate sauce enema ..."
I've got his attention. "Who is this and what do you WANT?" he gibbers.
"Calm down. I have some coordinates for you." I reel them off the screen. "I'm moving the only copy of that MPEG to a computer which can be found at that location. Feel free to use the nearest wide-area bulk eraser on it. Bye."
Captain Kent works for a rather obscure Air Force unit; something to do with cruise missiles and nuclear-pumped EMP weaponry.
I put the red phone down and go back to Sleazeball's line. "Hello?" I ask.
"You motherfucking asshole, what kind of sick ghoul plays hold muzak like THAT?" he screams at me.
"What kind of tone is that to talk to your service provider?" I say.
At this point he realizes his mistake. "Oh, look, I'm really sorry, got carried away, it's just that I've been up all night trying to debug this really complex HTML program that mere mortals like you wouldn't understand and I need to know how to make it mail the contents of the form back to me ..."
"I'm sorry sir, that's a consultancy question. I'll have to charge you for an answer, and as it's a public holiday there's a 50% surcharge."
"I see." He shuts up for a moment. I check the clock: two minutes to go. "How much do you charge?"
"One hundred dollars per hour, basic rate, plus 50% surcharge. Minimum fee two hours."
"That's daylight robbery! That's more than _I_ charge!"
"Ah, but aren't you a lawyer? There are lots of lawyers. Webmasters, on the other hand, are a rare and underrated breed."
"I don't see why," he fumes. "You don't do anything very complicated, do you? I bet you just got your job by reading one of those BIG DUMMY books. I bet you used to work behind a MacDonald's counter! If you had any brains you'd have gone to law school to learn how to screw people, but you didn't, so you picked the easy --"
The phone goes dead. A moment later, I get a familiar "due to technical failures this line is temporarily unavailable" message. I put the receiver down, feeling that warm blue glow of nuclear satisfaction.
It's been a good start to the day. I wonder who's going to be next?
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