back to article From Maidenhead to Morocco: In a change to the scheduled programming, we bring you The On Call of Dreams

It's Friday! Pour yourself a beverage, break out the end-of-week treats, and enjoy a reader's tale of international intrigue and derring-do that began with an innocent stint On Call. Our story takes us to the fine British market town of Maidenhead, where our hero, who for reasons that will become clear we will call "Humphrey …

  1. Shadow Systems

    I wanna visit the Regomiser!

    Yes I'm insane & easily amused, why do you ask? =-D

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

      How does one visit a bit of perl and a list of names? (Or was that four brain cells and dim memories of one's fourth form roll call?)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

        Are you saying it's NOT a big impressive bit of kit with blinkenlights and spinning tape units?

        You BASTARD! You killed (my dreams) of The Regonimizer!!!

        I bet you delight in telling kids there's no Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy or Easter bunny too!!

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

          > You BASTARD! You killed (my dreams) of The Regonimizer!!!

          No, no. Pay attention. A "Regonimizer" randomizes names. A "Regomiser" means they are too cheapskate to pay for the fine journalistic opportunities offered by the readership. :-)

        2. TDog

          Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

          Here - have one on me.

          https://www.ecwrpg.co.uk/Pages/NameMaker.aspx

        3. Paul Cooper

          Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

          I've always thought of it being like the Thagomizer (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thagomizer)

          1. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: I wanna visit the Regomiser!

            A colleague of mine wrote a small prog that generated a name, postcode and if required an address for that postcode. He intended it to be used for testing and was soon filling out dummy orders. Sadly he left it where everybody could find it. So people were using it left right and centre for filling in: online surveys in return for access to site content, voting for awards etc. Anything that needed those details but didn't require delivery of anything was fair game.

  2. tip pc Silver badge
    Pint

    On call Legend

    What a great on call tale.

    One job in a telco we where so short of staff I was on call while I went to Ibiza on a stag do for 4 days. I earn’t more in on call than the trip cost. It sure what help I could have been if they needed me. I guess it made the paper work look complete, on call engineer assigned ✅

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: On call Legend

      I retired a couple of years ago after living in Ibiza for 16 years, your on call rates must have been pretty good if they outweighed an Ibiza stag do.

      Average club rates for a beer in the clubs like Pacha started at around €15 a bottle, though water was more expensive. The serious celebrationists were called 'Gambas' (prawns) by the locals, on account of the colour they acquired during a hung over sleep/collapse on the beach after a night out.

      Luckily for me I only ever entered a club as security fo visitors or DJs so got paid to be there.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        I remember being in Ibiza the same year as that documentary about Manumission aired.

        Clubs then (mid-late 90's) were charging the equivalent of £15 for a bottle of pils, let alone anything else.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: On call Legend

          Places like that can sure see suckers a mile away, can't they?

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: On call Legend

            They don't need to, they know the suckers will filter themselves out - by coming through the door.

        2. AlexGreyhead

          Re: On call Legend

          > bottle of pils

          I mis-read that as something a lot-less salubrious (but more-common) and wondered why the prices were so low... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        i vaguely remember my first trip to Ibiza in ~ 2000 in clubs like Pacha it was £10 a bottle of water, £15 for a beer. far far cheaper when not in a club.

        The oncall rate was bonkers on that job, plus extra if i actually got called out. A month of on call was far in excess of my normal salary.

      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        Clubs are stupidly expensive. I've been on a couple of stag does in Spain and one on Ibiza but with locals who dont bother with clubs - apart from one in Bilboa which was serving pints of Gin and Tonic at 5 in the morning for about £7 a go. Never go where the English crowds go and you wont go far wrong.

        1. Rabbit80

          Re: On call Legend

          Ah.. Ibiza :) Fun times.

          I once bought my friend a double whisky. It was served in one of those large cocktail glasses and was at least a third of a bottle, possibly more. For about €6. I took at least 4 or 5 shots out of it with my shot glass (as did my other mate) - which had a free regular shot with our beer!

          That was an especially drunken night!

      4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        €1 for the beer, €14 wanker tax. Seems about right.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On call Legend

      I got a round trip ticket, a couple nights on a five star hotel and some expenses money and went all the way from Argentina to Paris and back to recover a Red Hat cluster for Big Blue once, many moons ago. I still cannot fathom what went into the manglement's heads to justify flying me 16.000 km back and forth instead of picking up an Euro-based resource, but I happily enjoyed my weekend wandering at the city of love after fixing a corrupt /boot partition in a couple of hours' work.

      Jet lag was horrible back in my home country, but the memories were completely worthwhile.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        "Jet lag was horrible back in my home country"

        Cure for jet lag: Melatonin.

        Part of my job title was "global network troubleshooter" from the early '80s thru' the late '90s ... at any given hour I could expect to be flying off to anywhere on the planet. 0.25mg melatonin 35 minutes before "local bedtime" on the first night out, and I was fine for the duration of the trip ... until the next timezone. Lather, rinse, repeat ... I experienced no ill effects, could wake up immediately if required, and apparently it's not addictive (all unlike alcohol, sleeping pills, etc.).

        Yes, I know, "studies indicate", yadda yadda yadda. I am not a doctor, this is not a prescription, might be illegal in your jurisdiction, etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On call Legend

        I was once sent from one Oracle support center most of the way across the US to another Oracle support center.... to set up a Linux box and an Oracle database.

        Granted, this was just past the end of last century and Linux was still a mystery to a lot of people, but...

        Oh yeah and they fucked around so long adding the "Linux expert" (me) to the flight that it had to be premium business rate. I walked past my colleagues in ordinary cattle class on the way to the seats behind the drapes.

      3. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: On call Legend

        I got a round trip ticket, a couple nights on a five star hotel and some expenses money and went all the way from Argentina to Paris and back to recover a Red Hat cluster for Big Blue once.

        Whilst waiting in the business class lounge mid September one year I met a bloke going to Bermuda. He worked for an insurance company and was going to fix something with their computers/network etc. He had been to Bermuda earlier in the month but when he landed he'd not had good news. His boss had left voicemails, sent emails and SMS. These said he was booked on the return flight and not to leave the airport. This was bcause there was a nasty hurricane on the way. His boss was unwilling to have him there when it hit. So he'd gone through immigration who were intrigued he wasn't staying long. Got to the check in and found he was booked in business class on the way back. The only available seat apparently.

        The guy was now going back to Bermuda because the hurricane had been and gone. He'd taken grief from his girlfriend because he was getting two trips to Bermuda. She didn't understand that 14hrs on a plane with a couple of hours at each end wasn't fun. All she understood was he'd been to a sunny island with sandy beaches and she hadn't.

      4. CuChulainn

        Re: On call Legend

        I once went on a business job/trip to Pakistan.

        I managed to get a full day on a horse-drawn carriage looking around Karachi, a camel ride on the beach, and a leather jacket - all charged at tourist-not-local rates - through on expenses.

        I didn't put them down as that, though.

  3. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Not on call, but....

    In the mid 90s I was chosen to travel to South Africa to train a reseller on how to install our product. I was booked to be there for 3 weeks. I arrived on a Sunday morning and on the Monday began training the install team (about 12 people). On the Weds night they all went out together for a meal but I cried off as I had a mildly upset stomach (unfamiliar food probably). Turns out to be my best decision ever. The entire install team went down with bacterial food poisoning. None of them died, but it was close with a couple of them. Once we realised how bad it was we tried to find me an early flight home but they were all booked up and nothing was available. So, I got to sightsee South Africa for 2½ weeks at company expense, and better yet, I got to go back 3 months later, in the middle of a particularly cold UK winter, and actually deliver the full 3 weeks of training.

  4. IHateWearingATie

    I remember my wife telling me about the awkward conversation with a client about a "customs charge" for some product they were trying to get in to Turkey (this was way before the advent of the bribery act). Trying to avoid the use of the word bribe in the conversation, the client took ages to realise what she was on about, arguing that that particular class of products should be immune to customs charges under Turkish law. The conversation mostly focused on the wide latitude that customs agents had in Turkey to apply 'additional customs charges' that had to be paid in cash to secure an 'expedited customs release'.

    1. jake Silver badge

      At one largish company I did business for ...

      ... not only were "Customs Charges" and "Additional Customs Charges" and "Expedited Customs Charges" all not only expected, but were questioned if they were not present on the expense report after visiting certain countries.

      The other one that I remember from the early Silly Con Valley was the "CODB" expense report line item, which was quite useful after most third world trips ... "Cost Of Doing Business".

    2. Vometia Munro

      I suppose there's some irony in that I ran into this "out-of-band customs charge" not in Turkey itself but on the way back as I entered Stansted 30-odd years back. The git in customs went through a long and complicated calculation about "duty" owed on something I was wearing (okay, admittedly I had bought it in Turkey) which miraculously came to exactly the tenner I had in my possession otherwise I wasn't getting back into the country. Cash only, no exceptions. Couldn't've been more blatant. Meh.

      1. FloridaBee

        Very sad lack of imagination on the part of said git.

        1. sev.monster Bronze badge

          Sounds like the turkey needed to go to Turkey himself, maybe get some local training experience.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            I do hope you got a receipt.

            1. Vometia Munro

              That would've been nice of him... I would say that he spotted a naïve teenager and pounced, but even as someone who's older and stroppier I dunno how much of a fight I'd put up, especially if I was feeling knackered and ill and just wanted to get back home.

  5. GlenP Silver badge

    I once happened to be sitting with a Far East sales manager at a talk* on anti-corruption from our American corporate. At the end of the discussion he said he'd be resigning as he'd never make a sale again! He disappeared off with the legal people for an hour or so and came back with satisfactory answers as to how to deal with the situation.

    *Part of a conference in a luxury hotel in Amsterdam. Not a bad few days away!

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Yeah, I'd have let him resign.

      Sorry but no. Corruption leads to bullets in the head, so just stop it right from the outset.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Yep, if you can't sell in a certain country without bribery and corruption, then don't sell there. Maybe things would change and the local authorities might do something about it when they realise their imports are suddenly drying up. At least that's how it would happen in an ideal world. The reality is that if you don't accept the bribery and corruption, someone else will, including entire countries, not just corporates. It depends what you are selling and if there are alternatives available from countries with lower moral standards. It does make life tough for those trying to stamp out bribery and corruption though. Bribery really is just "the way things are done" in some countries.

        If all you are doing is selling tins of beans, it's fairly easy to avoid the corruption by switching to a different market. If you're selling fighter jets, taking the moral high ground just means they'll buy Russian or Chinese aircraft instead.

  6. Dave K Silver badge

    African customs

    I've come across my fair share of issues from corrupt customs officials in Africa, thanks to working in support for a major oil & gas firm for a number of years (we had facilities in Nigeria and Angola amongst others).

    I remember particularly one engineer who returned from a trip with a physically smashed laptop. Apparently a customs guy grabbed it from him and demanded £100 to get the laptop back. Our engineer refused, so the official simply threw the laptop onto the ground, smashing the screen and casing. Unfortunately this wasn't an isolated event for us and I had a few others like this over the years.

    1. OGShakes

      Re: African customs

      My girlfriend tells me to expect her to only use her British passport and speak English when we go through customs in Tanzania, apparently the officers there don't know how to ask for a bribe in English so she pretends she does not speak Swahili until she is out the airport. Apparently having a fat hairy white guy along who really does not speak it will make them less likely they will question her deception!

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: African customs

      A friend went to [Redacted] with a team to set up their first electronic stock market for which his company provided all the software and hardware. When he got there, all servers and assorted networking gear were already waiting to be cleared by customs for several weeks, and for 3 more weeks he was there daily, every day a different problem arising - he and the customs' officials seemed to be unable to reach any king of understanding on how (much) to clear it.

      Until one day an armed party burst into customs and took the crates without filling any paperwork whatsoever. My friend only knew it wasn't a robbery when he got a call from a colleague telling the gear had arrived at the future stock exchange facilities, brought by an army general very close to power... someone eventually got fed up with all the waiting

      1. technos

        Re: African customs

        During Nixon's detente with the Soviet-bloc some engineers from my grandfather's company went to Russia as part of a State Department approved program.

        Upon arrival in Moscow one of the engineer's checked bags was mysteriously pilfered from. Two new suits and an electric razor were missing. He asks one of the Russian guides if there's somewhere he can recommend to buy some new ones. The guide laughs and says not to worry, he'll have them found.

        After a quick meal, the engineer arrives at the hotel to find a package on his bed. It contained the suits, freshly pressed and.. A brand-new East German razor?

        That was the point he realized the State Department's warning that the KGB would be watching them was probably true, and that some airport or customs employee was most certainly in deep shit.

  7. Fursty Ferret

    Not quite a straightforward bribe

    Most North African countries forbid you from taking their currencies out of the country (I can guess why - the weight of some of the coins means they could hold their central bank in scrap value alone) and it's routine for your wallet to be inspected at airport security to ensure you're not trying to smuggle an Algerian doubloon or Tunisian ruble.

    I suppose in theory confiscated currency should go back to the government but in my experience it goes into the security guard's pocket. Bribery is a weird thing. I needed to bribe a policeman at a stop in Algeria and he was initially highly offended that I'd even think of bribing him, but that didn't actually stop him taking the money and letting us through.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      I visited Zimbabwe and you had to declare what currency you were bringing into the country, I'd been doing a lot of travel and had about 6 different currencies in my wallet. You weren't meant to take any Zimbabwe currency out but I did manage to keep a couple of notes, very pretty.

      1. CAPS LOCK

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        I bought a Zimbabwe note on Ebay for a couple of quid. It's value was 10^14 Zimbabwe Dollars.

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      When renting a car in Brazil I was told that I should always offer some bank notes if stopped by city police (not too obviously, better to put the money among the documents when handing the to the office), but never to federal police.

      I was only stopped by federal police once and all went well (even if they didn't knew the international driving permit I specifically took to be legally able to drive in Brazil and instead asked for my national, and not valid there, driving permit)

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        The International Driving Permit is quite hilariously dodgy anyway. I don't think there's anywhere in the world that requires or desires them in preference to your actual licence. If you 'need' one you are free to print your own.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

          It's very badly named, since it doesn't actually permit anything. You are still legally driving using your national license, under the rules of one of the Vienna Conventions on Road Traffic. The IDP is really just a document declaring in various languages that you have a valid license number xxxx from country yyyy, and you have to present both together. The main use of an IDP is when the person asking for your national license can't read whatever language it's written in.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

            "The main use of an IDP is when the person asking for your national license can't read whatever language it's written in."

            For example, Irelands most prolific driving offender, Prawo Jazdy

        2. Manolo
          Headmaster

          Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

          You are quite wrong there.

          A quick visit to my national automobile association shows dozens of countries that require it.

          In practice it is noy always asked for I have found, but I'd rather prefer not having to pay a fine (or a bribe).

          If you read Dutch or wish to try Google Translate:

          https://www.anwb.nl/auto/rijbewijs/het-rijbewijs/internationaal-rijbewijs

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

            The IDP is a dodge by the automobile associations. there are 140 odd countries that 'recognise' the IDP, that doesn't mean they 'require' it.

    3. juice Silver badge

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      > Most North African countries forbid you from taking their currencies out of the country [...] it's routine for your wallet to be inspected at airport security

      A friend occasionally tells the tale of his visit (as a very young lad, with his family, so several decades ago) to one such country.

      Apparently, the recommendation was to put most of your cash in your shoe, prior to entering customs. That way, the guard got to "find" something in your wallet - and could then keep it as a reward for due diligence - and you got to leave with your monies intact.

      Everyone's a winner, especially since having found something, the guard was then less likely to decide a more invasive search was required.

      > Bribery is a weird thing

      Never had to deal with it yet - or at least, I've never yet knowingly been in a situation where bringing out a wodge of cash would ease things. I've got a feeling I'd end up doing some sort of Hugh Grant parody. So, um, ah, is there anything which would, um, you know, help to resolve this? Such as, um, you know, money?

      Worst I've ever had at customs was in Korea, when I got summoned back to the bag-checking area. Turned out my friend had bought something metal which had flared up in the x-ray machine, and for some reason, they thought it was my bag. Never have I been so happy to pass the buck ;)

      (To be fair, he opened his bag, they saw what it was, shrugged and let us go on our way. But there was definitely a bit of mildly panicked clenching in those few seconds after they called me back, not least because I couldn't think of any reason for them to do so...)

      There was also a near-escape in one Eastern European country, when I was about to pass through the metal detector; on doing one last pat-down, I discovered that I had an empty bullet cartridge sat in one pocket!

      The day before, I'd spent a bit of time plinking at a target in a local shooting range with an automatic, and in one of those ever-popular one-in-a-million chances (which occur nine times out of ten, according to pterry), one of the ejected cartridges had managed to bounce into said pocket.

      Thankfully, there was a bin nearby, so I very carefully kept a straight face as I sauntered towards it and dropped said cartridge into the bin. I don't even know if they'd be particularly fussed about the presence of an empty cartridge, but better safe than sorry...

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        Nothing to do with tech; but a few years back I came back from Bulgaria with a small souvenir purchased in a little shop: an old, 1930s ?, leather cartridge case or somewhat. The Customs out freaked out and eventually called over a very large gentleman who in no way reminded me of an Eric Ambler type 'Civil Servant', who examined it cursorily and just boredly handed it back with no concern at all.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        I'd have been more worried about the chemical detection equipment picking up gunshot residue on your clothing.

        1. juice Silver badge

          Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

          > I'd have been more worried about the chemical detection equipment picking up gunshot residue on your clothing.

          Funny you should say that...

          The first ever time I did some plinking at a shooting range was in another eastern european country, the day before flying back home. And since my clothing choices were limited (thanks to the size restrictions on budget-airline luggage), I ended up wearing the same trousers for the return journey.

          And I did indeed get a positive swab result at the security gate.

          Thankfully, the second swab didn't turn anything up, and I made it through without further incident.

          But since then, I've made a point of leaving my "shooting" clothes out to air after visiting a range - and making sure that I'm wearing a completely different set of clothes at the airport!

          1. GrumpyKiwi

            Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

            For a long time because I was a tight bastard, my range bag was also my cabin bag for travel.

            I'd regularly get stopped and swabbed while travelling with it (usually between NZ and Aus), often within 24 hours of it being used to store magazines, ammo and so forth.

            Never once asked any questions or any other consequences. Makes me wonder just how much of the process is psychosomatic.

            That said I also have anecdotal evidence of an Australian Army engineering team coming back from Iraq having spent their time there doing BDA and other demolition work being stopped by a particularly unimaginative Australian Border Patrol officer who could not understand why a group of soldiers (in uniform no less) kept dinging the machine, even after they showed him their various paperwork on their role.

        2. Black Betty

          Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

          My brother transports explosives for the mines. After the first couple of times he got pulled aside, he now just puts his hand up in advance and the operators use him for an impromptu calibration run.

      3. Vincent Ballard
        Headmaster

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        When my Dad was a teacher in East Africa, one of his additional duties was to visit the bank in the nearby city and collect the wages for the entire school. He used to carry the money in his shoe, not to avoid bribes but to avoid pickpockets. All was well until the time he got on the bus back and discovered that he had no money in his pockets, so he had to pull off his shoe there and then.

    4. ICPurvis47
      WTF?

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      The old Yugoslavian republic used to have an embargo on taking money out of the country, not just Yugo Dinars, but _any_ currency. We were on holiday in Zadar, and when we tried to leave through the northern border into Austria, we had to hand over all our money, including the Sterling Traveller's Cheques, so we had nothing to buy food or petrol with for the journey home across Europe. We had to go to the British Embassy in Zagreb and get them to wire us some more Traveller's Cheques to a bank in Graz, Austria, so we could change some of them into Schillings for the journey across Austria, and so on across Germany, Belgium, and France to get to the ferry terminal. If we had not had enough petrol in the tank to drive from the border back to Zagreb, we would have been marooned in a foreign country with no means of escape.

      1. IJD

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        I think this may indeed have been a bribe in disguise...

        I travelled to Yugoslavia with my parents by car many times in the 70s and 80s and I don't remember this ever happening to us. Maybe because my dad came from a little village near Bihac... ;-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

        I remember getting the train from Varna in Bulgaria to Bucharest in Romania a few years ago and having a real fucking hassle with the border guards trying to extort some 'fee' of around 25euros for each of our family of four. At the time I was literally sick as a dog after picking up a serious dose of food poisoning at the hostel in Varna. I was in no fucking mood to deal with their bullshit because I had to deal with my own shit and vomit that was wanting to be expelled every few minutes for several hours before, during and after so just told them to piss off, in between visits to the bog. In the end they gave up and let us go. I got to Bucharest and could barely walk, only just making it to to Mickey D's in the station to have several cups of tea with lots of sugar just to try and get functional.

        Had some prick of a cop bag us for 1m rupia in Bali, Indonesia once as well for not wearing a seatbelt, which no one else did and the hire car company never warned us about. Tried everything but had to pay up in the end as we were moving on the next day and didn't want to be stuck for a few days to go through the court system. Of course no receipt was given. He got pretty upset when we photo'd him and his bike number plate and made sure it was deleted. Later on Lombok island we weren't affected directly, but the place we were staying was hosting a bunch of Chinese 'businessmen' and local police, and there was a big event where substantial 'presents' were being passed from the businessmen to the local police. I hate to think what the deals being sealed were that night.

    5. Sam not the Viking

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      Many years ago, a colleague was sent abroad to commission some new plant. After landing and reaching the crowded, customs station and feeling a little overwhelmed, our man met the local agent who promised to help him through.

      Expecting to pay a small fee, it was some time later that he found he was still in customs with no wallet, no passport and no baggage.

      In retrospect, our reaction was probably unkind, but gosh we laughed. The guy left the company to work on canal boats.

      I still shudder with the thought that it could have been me.

    6. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      I needed to bribe a policeman at a stop in Algeria and he was initially highly offended that I'd even think of bribing him

      That's just him opening negotiations.

    7. CountCadaver

      Re: Not quite a straightforward bribe

      I was on a training course with a Saudi, he told he'd been pulled over for speeding on a highway in the desert, asked the cops how much it would cost him "no no no we are going to take you to court" His reply "wtf no one ever gets taken to court" seemingly as bribery is endemic

      Then again he was married and due to the course being quite long, decided to get himself a girlfriend as "I have needs and I do not want to go to the dirty places", when I asked him if that was a bright idea given his country's reputation and him being married already, his reply "if my wife finds out she WILL kill me, if she doesn't kill me, then her family will kill me and if they don't MY family WILL kill me, I am not kidding, they will literally kill me"

      When I told that tale to my wife, she dryly quipped "was his hand broken?"

  8. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    Our friend from the bank...

    Mr. Franklin... Classic line from Midnight Express!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I did get a late call to baby-sit some workstations at a trade show in Switzerland, good job they didn't need to be re-installed as I managed to take tapes 1 & 2 of one release and tapes 3 & 4 of a different release (QIC tape cassettes). Still a nice few days in Zurich (I think), no overtime but a nice meal out afterwards paid by the company. It was the time of the big storm so an interesting flight back and had to retrieve the shed roof from a neighbours garden when I got back.

    1. PM from Hell

      Never trust Software distribution

      When I consulted for ICL many years ago I always carried a full set of install tapes for the VME operating system in the boot of the car. This was 13 open reel tapes. I also carried a briefcase sized microfiche reader and a copy of the fiched known error log. ) I had one site I looked after with 2 mainframes who would always get 2 copies)

      I had just got sick of having to abandon installations because one of the tapes sent tot he client site was corrupt, empty or missing.

      Thankfully I had a company car as the boot was literally full of install media documentation and anything else Thought might come in handy on site at 3:00 AM.

  10. trevorde Silver badge

    Site Installation

    In one company I worked for, one of the guys had to do a 'site installation' of our software - in Monaco! Turned out he was stuck in a small, airless, windowless room; trying to hack the code to get it to work; whilst some gorilla with a jackhammer was demolishing one of the walls; and the boss was getting boozed at a five star reception downstairs! The only bits of Monaco he saw were out of the taxi window to and from the airport.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: Site Installation

      I did a day trip to Paris once, largely to deliver a laptop (in the days when they were £1,000s each). People said, "How nice!" The reality, apart from a rather nice lunch was several hours sat in airports, on planes and in terrifying taxis (I had to close my eyes), all compounded by getting to CDG a few minutes too late to transfer to an earlier flight and then the last two flights of the day being amalgamated* into one so a very long wait.

      *Of course BA didn't say that's what was happening as they wanted to keep everyone in one place so we were stuck in a concrete box in the Eurohub terminal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Site Installation

        > and in terrifying taxis (I had to close my eyes)

        Oh, not my experience at all. Salt of the earth, Parisian taxi drivers.

        On one occasion, I was running late, and phoned home or the office to say I'd probably not make the flight and would sort things out at the airport. The next thing I was aware of an increased noise level in the ancient Mercedes, and noticed we were barrelling along at 180km/h. When we arrived, I thanked the driver in a way that made it clear I appreciated the extra service, and indeed, his Alain Prost emulation meant I made the flight.

        On another occasion, I climbed in to the taxi, and tried my single phrase of French to get to the office, and the driver turned around. "You English-speaking?" "Yes." "Great! We can discuss Shakespeare!" And we did.

        1. Martin Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Site Installation

          Many years ago (when it was still something people did) I was hitch-hiking around Switzerland. I could speak basic French, which was enough most of the time. But one guy picked me up, and we started talking in French, and I got the strong impression that he was struggling as much as I was. So I said to him "Do you speak English?" and he said with a sigh of relief "Better than I do French!" Turned out he was from Finland. He said his English was so good because he went abroad a lot and no-one in the world apart from Finns speak Finnish.

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Site Installation

            Two Englishmen are on a hiking holiday through Switzerland. As they're walking along a narrow, remote valley road they come to a T-junction, where they find a man standing beside a BMW looking at a map. He smiles and calls out to them, "Excusez-moi, messieurs. Connaissez-vous la route de Zurich?" They look blank, and shrug their shoulders. The man shrugs too, and says "Entschuldigen Sie, meine Herren. Kennen Sie den Weg nach Zürich?" The Englishmen don't understand a word. The man in the car looks a little frustrated, but tries again. "Mi scusi, signori. Conosci la strada per Zurigo?" Blank looks. Finally, with visible annoyance, the man tries the one other language he knows. "Anteeksi, herrat. Tiedätkö tien Zürichiin?" Absolutely no response from the Englishmen. The driver scowls at them, jumps in the BMW and drives off just picking a direction at random.

            One Englishman turns to the other and says, "You know, one day I really think I ought to learn a foreign language." His mate replies, "Why? That guy knew four and it didn't do him any good!"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Site Installation

          Back in the early 80s I was in Rome on business with 3 colleagues. We should have returned to the UK on Friday but the French air traffic controllers had gone on strike (again) and our flight was cancelled. We stayed another night in the hotel and the next morning the word came that our flight was due to go in the not too distant future. I got the hotel to call a taxi, a nice Mercede W123, and explained to the driver that we were in a hurry. That was a mistake! I looked around and there were 3 grinning monkeys in the back seat and I was left the front passenger seat, in the position that a driver would be in back home in the UK. We went down lots of side streets overtaking stationery cars by driving with one wheel on the pavement/sidewalk. I was relieved when we got on the autostrada and started getting near 100 mph. Suddenly the driver slowed right down and about a mile ahead the autostrada was coned down to one lane. At the beginning of the cones was a carabiniero with a radar gun. A few hundred yards/metres further on was another with a notebook. About a kilometer further on was a soldier with a sub-machine gun. The driver waited until he passed the latter before speeding up again. We made our flight though!

    2. Muscleguy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Site Installation

      I have technically spent 2 nights in the Netherlands but all I saw were some cows in a field. I was at a science workshop weekend (unpaid of course, just expenses). I got met at Schiphol and driven 15min to an anonymous motor hotel on the outskirts of a small town.

      I walked into it at lunchtime on the Friday and only left at lunchtime on the Sunday to fly home. Apart from beers on the Saturday evening (after the evening session) we were workshopping morning, afternoon and evening.

      Yours truly got to be the person who said the unsayable, that two people who hated each other should collaborate to interbreed their mouse lines so we could learn something from it. Nobody was going to say it, it obviously needed to happen so I said it.

      We were trying to come up with ways to cure Muscular Dystrophy.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Site Installation

        Sounds familiar... except my experience was hotel to Amsterdam Science Park, back to the hotel, back to the airport. No fancy evening entertainment or anything.

      2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Site Installation

        > two people who hated each other should collaborate to interbreed their mouse lines

        On my screen, the end of line wrap came just after 'interbreed'. For a fraction of a second I had to look to make sure there was no full stop. :-)

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Site Installation

          "Don't tell me you fear the experiment?"

          https://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20050318

          A "kissing scene" in the long running comic. Actually... In this setting, Europe has been overrun since prehistory with regular local Mad Scientists, mostly terrorising the populations they rule. Bill and Barry Heterodyne are an exception, long missing good guys who are commemorated in "The Heterodyne Plays", adventures of doubtful credibility in (I think) EVERY ONE of which Bill Heterodyne falls in love with evil genius's daughter Lucrezia Mongfish, whom he married in "real life". Barry falls in love with "The High Priestess", but a different one every time.

          The young man is Lars, a travelling actor. The young lady is Agatha Heterodyne but I think she hasn't told him that.

          1. GrumpyKiwi

            Re: Site Installation

            Have a +1 for the Girl Genius reference. One of the better web comics out there for sure.

    3. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Unhappy

      On Site

      In the late 1980's and early 1990's I wrote lap timing software, the first in-car telemetry link and made various hardware for F1 teams. It was not glamorous for a grunt like me.

      e.g. work all day getting last minute modifications made, drive overnight from the UK Midlands to Monza, 3 days of stupid hours at the track and then drive overnight back. The only good thing was that I had the company long-bore Granada and they didn't time you between the booths on the péage, so I did 130 on the empty roads much of the way (mph not kph!) 14 hours from the track at Monza to Northampton including the ferry!

      Don't remind me of trips to Jerez in southern Spain!

      So, I never got to see the country either.

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: Site Installation

      The first five times I went to Hawai'i, I landed at night, was met on the tarmac by a taxi & taken to the NOC, where I did what was needed in a locationless, windowless space, and then returned to the airport by taxi the following evening. I never saw a beach or any other scenery, not even from the air!

  11. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Foreign travel

    The furthest I was asked to go in response to a call out was Crewe. That doesn't quite count as foreign travel.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Foreign travel

      Are you sure about that?

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: Foreign travel

        Pretty sure. I only needed a phrase book when I had to go to Wigan.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Foreign travel

          I can follow most accents in the UK but have a complete mental block with Geordie and I met an Ulsterman once who spoke with such a strong accent at warp speed that at first I wasn't even sure he was speaking English.

          Fortunately, my mate was from Belfast so he translated for me.

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Foreign travel

            I've found that the fastest way to understand the weird and wonderful accents of the British Isles is to offer to get the next round in. Amazing how fast my ears learn the lingo after I buy the guy a pint.

          2. ICPurvis47
            Facepalm

            Re: Foreign travel

            Coming back from Yugoslavia in 1965, we camped near Graz in Austria, As the ground had been flooded until a few days before, and the grass was growing on a layer of slimy mud, the site owner suggested that we set up in the old summerhouse, near the lake. Although I spoke reasonably good German, I couldn't understand the old chap, but I could understand his wife, as she was actually German and not Austrian. He, however, could understand me. Thus, our conversations were sort of triangular, I would say something and he would answer, then his wife would repeat what he had just said so I could understand it. My sister also had a smattering of German, but neither of our parents had any idea of what we were talking about.

            Many years later in 2003, when I took my wife on holiday in the Eiffel region of Germany, we visited a bell foundry and were shown round in a group by a very understanding tour guide, he had to keep stopping his talk so that I could translate for my wife, who did not speak German.

            1. FlippingGerman

              Re: Foreign travel

              I was in the Eiffel quite possibly in 2003, and also went to a bell foundry! But I would have been six, so I don't exactly remember the year.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Foreign travel

      I once had a call-out in Crewe ...

      There's gotta be a decent NSFW limerick in there somewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Foreign travel

        I once had a call-out in Crewe

        there to parlay my accent won't do

        but jake said no fear

        if you must train your ear

        just buy the locals some brew.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Foreign travel

          ... and here's your beer (as well as an upvote)

        2. jake Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Foreign travel

          That actually made me laugh loud enough that the Wife wondered what was so funny ... she laughed too. Have a cold one :-)

          Sadly, however, I must regret to inform you that the shipment was rejected at the dock, and the contract remains unfilled. Upon inspection, it would appear that your effort has no NSFW component.

          1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

            Re: Foreign travel

            > it would appear that your effort has no NSFW component.

            I once had a call out in Crewe

            About some co-ax, for a user called Sue.

            I offered her thinner

            But she wanted thicker

            So I made my excuses and withdrew.

    3. CountCadaver

      Re: Foreign travel

      I worked with a guy once from Crewe, "Same as the railway station?" I enquired, "Yes and there's more to Crewe than just the bloody railway station" (seemingly the only thing most people knew about Crewe was its railway station was a common interchange point for trains....

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Foreign travel

      "That doesn't quite count as foreign travel."

      I think Norwich does. Not the place which is fine, it's the long drag across from the A1.

  12. AdamT

    Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

    As a lowly summer student (i.e. the cheapest person to pay w/e rates to) at an engineering company I was asked if I'd take a small suitcase of "special diodes"(*) from the London labs up to Edinburgh so they would have them for production start on Monday morning. So I booked some flights, arrived at a fog-bound Edinburgh airport, handed over the suitcase (at the airport), turned round and went straight back into departures. The buildings were high enough off the ground that, due to the fog, I could genuinely claim to have not seen Scotland at all on the trip.

    Slightly odd thing was that the senior manager who had arranged it all, turned up at my house on Sunday evening to pay all my expenses and overtime (and rounded it all up generously) in cash. Which leads me to suspect that someone, somewhere had massively screwed up and needed it cleared up in as off-the-books way as possible so, although I was merely the cheapest pawn, I had contributed to saving someone's job...

    (*) not a euphemism! Genuinely was a pack of very special, very expensive (probably zener) diodes...

    1. Mast1

      Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

      As a lowly student trainee, working in a north London research lab, we needed some variable capacitors urgently, and RS components did not stock them. Cue a 4-mile each way bicycle ride (on my own bike) to a local component shop (shows how long ago). There was no offer on paying mileage on my tyres......

      1. Rob Daglish

        Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

        One of my early jobs was at the local County Council, and on the day I was suppose to be in the office, I ended up having to go to one of our schools for an urgent technical issue. It was around 9 miles each way, and I got the princely sum of 15p a mile for it. I did think it was a windup when I was being told to put it on my expenses form, but it duly turned up with the rest of the mileage claims for the month!

      2. Vincent Ballard

        Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

        I was once offered mileage for my shoes by an interviewer, having turned down a taxi home. (It was only about 10 minutes' walk and a nice day).

      3. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

        "There was no offer on paying mileage on my tyres......"

        Strangely the UK Civil Service did and maybe still does have a mileage rate for bicycling on business. There is, however an omission. If in my car I give someone a lift there is an addition for a passenger, there is no equivalent extra for a tandem, only solo bicycles are considered.

        1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

          Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

          Still exists. Pedal cycle allowance for when traveling by bike to somewhere that isn't your normal place of work. I claimed it once, had to do a few days at another site during the lovely long summer days. Great days.

      4. Cian Duffy

        Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

        My EvilSuperGlobalMegaCorp employer has a mileage rate for bicycles, which I have actually claimed - along with my city cycle hire membership as I don't actually own my own bike currently. Both willingly paid as it lets them greenwash other activities

        They also require you to reclaim bribes given at customs / to police in dodgy countries (we do trade in a few) as bribes; and will pay them.

    2. Charlie van Becelaere

      Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

      Then I can say I've seen more of Scotland than you have.

      My direct flight from Detroit to Heathrow somehow changed to Detroit to Philadelphia (wait overnight) to Edinburgh to Heathrow. By far my least favourite route thus far.

      Shockingly, the weather in Edinburgh was beautifully clear, so I saw whatever could be seen out the windows of the airport.

    3. CountCadaver

      Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

      Edinburgh airport is only 2 levels, the car park is 4 or 5....

      Then again the thickest fog I've seen was driving through Dundee and you couldn't see the Tesco depot (right beside the road no less) as the fog was like peasoup....

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

        I've had the same a bit lower down on the A1 near North Berwick. There is a very large cement factory that, for various reasons, I needed to use as a landmark. It isn't far from the road, but the fog had completely hidden it.

    4. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Gatwick -> Edinburgh ?

      When I was a trainee back in 19{mmfty}{mmf} our instructor was very excited about showing us some new (and very expensive) vari-cap diodes. They were still in their paper bag when a porter dumped a heavy transformer on top of them, and asked where Brian wanted it.

      I had to commend his calmness when he informed the numpty that he was in the wrong department.

      To the amazement of all the trainees present (and a few bystanders) he then opened the packet, poured out the fragments, and holding up one diode-less leg said:

      "Hmmm. Monodes".

      P.S. He probably needed one of these ->

  13. Fonant
    Go

    Used to work for a small tech company, working for GM Truck in Detroit, spending one week on site every month.

    My boss saved money by booking a UK->USA ticket, and then USA->UK->USA return flights which were cheaper than the other way round.

    One trip I was due to fly home but all eastern-USA airports were closed due to storms. Since my ticket inferred that I was a US resident I was low priority for later bookings, and was told I would need to wait a week (in Detroit!) before the next flight home.

    Anyway, a phone call to our travel insurers later, I booked a one-way ticket on BA, First Class, leaving the next evening. Cost was astonishingly high, something like £2,500, but I really wanted to get home.

    My seat was 2A, just behind a certain Jackie Stewart (who boarded as early as he could and was fast asleep by the time us "ordinary" First Class passengers were allowed on!). I remember that Mr Stewart had a member of BA staff to carry his passport and tickets for him. And a group of Germans who made sure that they drank as much of the free champagne in the First Class Lounge in Detroit as they could.

    So that's how I got to experience First Class flying. Very surreal.

  14. sbt Silver badge
    Coat

    And people snigger at Scunthorpe?

    When this little market town is ripe for the plucking...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not on-call, but...

    Quite a few years ago I was part of a small team developing a software product. We had one customer in Australia who complained that occasionally, once every few months, it would lose a message. Since he was monitoring burglar alarms a lost message was serious, but despite a lot of work with the local field support we couldn't find the problem. Bug? Customer finger trouble? Incompetent local support? No ideas. It was only a small installation, but image-wise it was important for the region. Customer had been pleading for us to send someone out, and eventually one Monday our director got an ultimatum, in true Australian style: "if I don't see an engineer by the end of the week, your kit is going in the river".

    Our admin was given the task of organizing flights, while I went home to pack. One of the interesting things about booking a Europe-Australia flight at a few days notice is that "discount advance-purchase economy" isn't an option, it turned out that the cheapest way to get there at short notice was a round-the-world ticket. Fully flexible. In Business class.

    So, Wednesday I was in the embassy getting my visa, and early Friday morning the local sales guy picked me up from the airport. After a stop at the hotel for a shower & a change of clothes, at 11am I was blearily shaking hands with the customer & promising to resolve the problem. He was so happy to see a "real engineer" that after a short review of the situation I was dispatched to get over my jetlag & start the following Monday, which gave me a very pleasant weekend sightseeing around Melbourne, and being taken wine-tasting by the local field engineer.

    Monday morning I pitched in, and by Thursday had found the problem. It was a bug, a typo in an array subscript which meant that if two messages arrived within a mS or so of each other the second would overwrite the first before it had been processed. A rare, but not impossible condition. Embarrassingly it was in a bit of the code which I had written (I didn't tell the customer) but, hey, nobody's perfect, these things happen...

    Bug fixed, customer happy, I took full advantage of my flexible ticket & remaining vacation to stop in New Zealand, San Francisco and Boston on my way home to a very envious girlfriend (I sent her postcards, maybe that didn't help).

    My boss wasn't best pleased when I admitted the root cause, but he signed off on the business expenses and the happy customer turned out to be a useful reference site. Fun days.

    1. IHateWearingATie

      Re: Not on-call, but...

      You *admitted* that it was your code? Fool!

      It's always the code that they guy who just left wrote. Unless he left as he's been promoted above you. Then it's clearly a Microsoft OS bug.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Not on-call, but...

        With proper source control system, can't deny if change was your fault (& also code reviewers fault)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Not on-call, but...

          "With proper source control system"

          Back "quite a few years ago" (the time frame referenced by the commentard) that wasn't necessarily an option. If there was any kind of "code review" it may have been his mate at the next desk. The world has changed quite a bit in a very short period of time.

          1. Scott Wheeler

            Re: Not on-call, but...

            SCCS goes back to 1972 - almost 50 years. RCS dates from 1982, and RCS from 1986. Source code control has been available for the whole professional life of almost all people still working in the industry, though perhaps they may not have known to look for it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not on-call, but...

        " Then it's clearly a Microsoft OS bug."

        A system was sold to a customer involving W95. At a late stage of testing the solution - it was found that it could only handle an unexpectedly small number of network connections.

        I managed to debug the problem to a logic error in an OS module - which I patched neatly. I now wish I had kept the telex from Microsoft acknowledging I had found a bug - and they would fix it in the next release.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not on-call, but...

      My one and only visit to Australia was to conduct a pre-qualification audit of a company wanting to bid on a project for one of the UK utilities companies. The Sidney off had been agreed (no idea why, especially as they were planning to run the project from their Singapore office) so off I set. My wife dropped my off at the local airport at noon on the Saturday. Three planes later and it was 8am in Sidney. I departed there 4pm on the Thursday and was collected from the airport by my wife around noon an the Friday. Just six days and I'd been to Oz and back; took about another week before I reckon I recovered from unrequited jet-lag.

      What was particularly annoying was that I couldn't sleep on the way out so, by the time I was on the flight home, I zonked out. When we landed in KL for refuelling, the chap next to me apologised if he had woken me when stepping across to leave his seat earlier (he hadn't - I was out cold) - he explained his brother was the pilot and had invited him to the flight deck, and would have invited me if I had been awake!!!

      1. John R. Macdonald

        Re: Not on-call, but...

        Worst case of jet lag I've seen in a person was a former GF. Her company, to thank me for helping them out on a thorny technical matter, had invited me to their week long annual shindig, in Senegal, which ended on a Saturday when we flew back to Paris. Sunday GF and I departed on our holiday, from Paris to Bangkok and by Tuesday we were in Hong Kong. GF was totally wasted and no longer knew where she was nor why. It took her days to recover.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not on-call, but...

          Senegal is on GMT, so not much jetlag there from the UK. perhaps the "week long annual shindig" was more the issue? ;-)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    moving DC with no bribe

    Years ago, I was moving kit between France and Switzerland.

    One ops "manager" (aka, a complete racist, sexist and homophobic arshole with huge anger mgmt issues) on the french side happened to be from India.

    That day, we were supposed to move, amongst other stuff, half of the core systems authorization solution. Because it was redundant (active/active).

    Since the ops team never switched off the kit, I did (properly), then the rack were loaded on the truck and off it went. I was soon to follow.

    All of a sudden, I spotted this "manager" running and gesticulating at me, shouting and all, in full blaze. I finally managed to realize why the ops team "forgot" to switch the kit off. Active/active is redundant only if workload is normally below 50%. Here, it stayed routinely higher than 80, which the ops team "forgot" to tell me.

    Therefore, we basically disrupted the services and support lines were ablaze, CIO involved etc ...

    I told the dude the truck is on its way and we'll prioritize this piece of kit, to which he replied "and please, also give customs staff ... something, so it goes faster".

    I stared at him, at first failing to get the point. Then I understood: yep, bribe, in good old India fashion. Of course, I didn't even try this. Really terrible idea in Switzerland and France !

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: moving DC with no bribe

      I know a scientist who shall remain anonymous who wanted to take some mice to Paris. Flying from Geneva to Paris would have required lots of paperwork. He put the mice in his pocket, drove to the French side of Geneva airport and flew domestic to Paris. Problem solved.

      I once got mice from Paris to here in Dundee. Bringing live adult mice required rabies quarantine, I kid you not. I solved the problem by getting them to send the mice as day old embryos (balls of cells) in culture media in a 7ml vial delivered quickly by courier. We had recipient female mice ready to put the embryos back into ready and waiting.

      It worked.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: moving DC with no bribe

      A senior IT person took against our customer project - as he favoured another one doing ostensibly the same enhancement for another customer. He banned us from getting the latest sources of the kit OS.

      So we flew our gofer junior to the UK with instructions to take a disk pack and a bottle of whiskey to a particular building on the company development site. At the door he would hand them over in exchange for a disk with the latest sources. Then he would catch a plane back. The UK site management discreetly "didn't know" what was happening.

      We successfully completed our "impossible" enhancement with a week or two to spare before the customer's deadline. A very efficient team of the gofer plus two of us who knew the OS inside out.

      The other project employed a large team of people who had no experience of the OS. It exhausted its funding and was abandoned without producing anything.

  17. MGyrFalcon

    Creative Expense Reporting

    I used to travel to various European countries for work, mostly schedule, occasional short notice/on-call ish. The common way to get various expenses covered (drinks, excess food, etc) was to get a stack of taxi receipts and fill in a few (a lot) in small amounts to cover it.

    Once, however, I ran into a manager, 2 rungs up the ladder from me, at a restaurant after work with a group of coworkers. We ate, drank, etc oh his dime. As the evening started to wind down, said manager wanted to go to a strip club. Who was I to deny him. We ended up and some decent club and he was ready for a good time, while I was tired and ready to go back to my hotel. While leaning against the bar I asked the bartender if he could put 50quid on my company card, he said find. I gave that money to one of the strippers and told her to take my friend in back and keep him happy. He returned about 30 min later, very happy and still in the mood to party. I had the bartender get me another 50 on the company card and sent my manger back with a different stripper.

    Once the evening was done, I had the bartender write me a receipt for 'Food and Beverage' for all of the cash I handed out. That went on my expense report, which happened to get signed off on by the very same manager who I'd kept happy all evening, no questions asked.

    1. MrBanana Silver badge

      Re: Creative Expense Reporting

      "a stack of taxi receipts and fill in a few (a lot) in small amounts to cover it."

      At a previous company, on trips to the US, we were allowed to use the little tear off restaurant receipt coupons and blank taxi receipts, and could fill them in as we wanted. A little creative scribbling, and a slightly padded expense claim, made for a more comfortable visit. I confessed this to our accountant at one Christmas party. He wasn't at all shocked, in fact he knew who was doing it, and by how much. The blatant transgressors were very obvious and would get warnings and worse. But for the most part the actual amounts were relatively small, and would be dwarfed by the overhead that a strict expenses policy would cost him to implement. He was quite alright with letting people think they had got away with it, kept everyone happy and more likely to go on some of the less appealing customer visits.

  18. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Never had the

    call while working* for HM government, however during a minor disturbance about some rocks and some sheep in the south Atlantic, 10 collegues got a trip to Gib, 2 unlucky guys made it to Acension, and 1 guy spent 4 weeks on a borrowed cruise liner.

    Futhest I got was the Isle of Wight..... and even then they wouldn't let us land...

    *working = hanging around making cups of tea until the brown smelly stuff hits the fan and then you work 36 hr days 9 days a week and then the &%%&%ing tories give you a P45 in thanks....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never had the

      A nurse girlfriend joined the WRNS because she wanted to see the world. At that time there were a limited number of overseas destinations allowed for navy women - but they all seemed exotic and probably sunny.

      She spent all the (3?) years of her enlistment as a dental hygienist stationed at Holy Loch.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this talk of bribery brings me back to the legendary EDS Bribery & Corruption Mandatory Training.

    Had such classic question on as

    "A client offers you an envelope of money. Could this be a bribe?"

    "A customer offers to pay for you and your family to go on holiday to a 5 star resort. Could this be a bribe?"

    The only mandatory training I've enjoyed doing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No thanks

      I recall, many years ago, being offered a place on a supplier's party going to watch England play Scotland at Wembley - a weekend with all expenses paid. Clearly a bribe. Not a problem as, being an Englishman (with a very English accent) and the supplier was Scottish, it wouldn't have been a pleasant experience.

      And that reminds me (in true "Ducky" fashion) of a time I watched England play Germany in a Cretan bar. A Scottish couple started to get very vocal supporting Germany against "the auld enemy" - and were told in no uncertain terms, to shut up or get out. The locals still remembered WWII and fervently supported England; they just couldn't understand how Scots would not support their neighbours. I felt sorry for a lovely German couple in the bar!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No thanks

        My only trip to Scotland was in spring 2006 and I was watching UEFA cup match between Middlesboro playing against Steaua in a crowded bar. The locals cheered when Boro scored and won the game in the end.

        That was in Edinburgh, so perhaps not the most ferwent selection of Scotsmen...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No thanks

          "That was in Edinburgh, so perhaps not the most ferwent selection of Scotsmen..."

          In the late 1970s Scottish Independence was a hot topic in Edinburgh. A group of us were in a rather rough pub - when a colleague started spouting loudly about the independence issue.

          The problem was that his accent sounded very upper class English. We nervously hoped the other customers recognised that accent - a product of a public school in Fife that was a hotbed of Scottish Nationalism.

          On another occasion a landlord ordered me out of his Edinburgh pub when I greeted my friends who were waiting there for me. My friends later explained that my suit and English accent were taken as a possible undercover visit by the Met police drug squad. The landlord didn't want to upset the dealers in the bar.

      2. MCMLXV
        Happy

        Re: No thanks

        "I watched England play Germany in a Cretan bar"

        Did they move the tables to make space?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      One of the Yes, Minister programmes has a complete set of explanations as to why none of these can be bribery. "Special commission" etc.

  20. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Maidenhead

    I got too excited, thinking it was about when Maersk got cryptolocked...

    ...but was not disappointed with the story.

  21. TheFifth

    It's similar in Mother Russia

    Not IT related, but I had a similar experience in Russia around 2008. We were visiting the in-laws and I was leaving early. My Wife was staying on for a couple more weeks, so I was going through the airport alone. I was flying from a small(ish - at the time anyway) airport in the south.

    I was hauled out of the security queue and taken to a back room where I was shown an X-ray of my bags. They contained a couple of bottles of the Mother-in-law's home made wine. I didn't want to take it with me, but she insisted I did as a gift to my parents from her. Non-sealed alcohol was very much not allowed and there was much gesticulation and threats of Police involvement. With my best pigeon Russian I told them I would call my Wife who could talk to them properly. They spoke to her and told her to come back to the airport. I was sent on my way to the gate as my Wife headed back across the city.

    She told me that the customs officials kept saying to her "We SHOULD call the Police", so she feigned ignorance and said "OK, we know what you SHOULD do, but what ARE you going to do?". The conversation carried on like this for about half an hour, with them hinting in stronger and stronger ways that they wanted some cash. My Wife just kept feigning ignorance. She wasn't going to give them anything unless they specifically asked for it. Eventually they gave up and she left with them muttering about what an 'idiot' she must be to not understand what they wanted.

    I got back to Blighty and the wine was still in the bag, so not sure who the idiot was in this situation (apart from me for allowing the Mother-in-law to force me to take it!).

    Incidentally, as I was transiting through Moscow, the customs guys there took a great interest in my wallet. They were very disappointed when it only contained a £5 note. They kept asking "You don't have any more money on you? No Roubles?".

    I'm a lot more experience at travelling through Russia now, so I don't think I'd be as fazed any more.

  22. ChipsforBreakfast

    Sun, Sea, Sand & Expense Account!

    The scene, one dreary day in late march back toward the end of the 2000's. I was working as a lowly field tech for a now-defunct supplier of WiFi to some major hospitality businesses.The call, from a rather panicked account manager came at around 4 on a Friday - the local installation team had botched the job and the customer was threatening to cancel the contract, could I help?.

    Calls like that weren't too unusual (the perils of outsourcing installation work to contractors are well known round here!) but the location of the problem certainly was - a top-end resort in Marbella, playground of those with far more money to burn than I'll ever see. Needless to say I didn't hesitate for longer than it took to make sure my passport was still valid and without further adoo a ticket was purchased for Monday. I was a little bit surprised to see it was an open return but put it down to the situation and thought no more of it.

    Monday comes, things get stranger still. E-mail from the office with details of a hire car (we usually had to rely on buses or taxis!) that would be waiting at the airport. Business class seat on the flight too (apparently that really was all they could get!) - this was shaping up to be a good job! Got to the site to be met by the general manager who showed me the mess (and it was a mess!) left by the contractor - nothing installed, cables in a heap..a pigsty. He was naturally a bit p**ed off, especially since they were starting to get busy. After a quick inventory & walk around the complex (it's BIG.. lots of blocks) and I figured 3 - 4 days work would do it. Went off, found the GM & told him what I was proposing... which is when it got REALLY interesting.

    Apparently, I could only get access to rooms when they were vacant - not just unoccupied, vacant. He & I looked over the booking calendar and worked out a plan... it'd take almost 3 weeks to finish the job. A hasty call to the account manager, who called his boss.... and the job was authorized. The GM was so pleased that it would get done before some VIP's were due he comp'd the entire account - accommodation, food, beer, the lot!

    And that is how I ended up spending three weeks in a 3 bed suite of a 5-star Marbella resort, fully comp & working at most 2 hours day. I actually flew my girlfriend out for the second week...

    Best call I've ever done!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    never had a bribe in a work capacity but did at Uni. I did an M.Sc in international shipping back in the early 90's, which was mainly filled with foreign nationals, out of 15 or so of us on the course I think 4 of us were Brits. There were 2 Nigerians, one was a Nigerian Prince and the other worked for their port authority and was sort of like the Prince's lacky! Anyway he was sent on the M.Sc paid for by his government and most of the others had their course paid for by their companies. The Brits well we were all funding ourselves so were basically totally broke.. The Nigerian lacky really struggled with the Operational Research stuff we were doing so in a round about way offered me £200 to do his course work for him! £200 for a broke M.Sc student in the early 90's was quite a bit of cash so I dutifully accepted. A few of our lecturers were ex merchant navy and had plenty of stories of Nigeria and were always taking the piss out of the two Nigerians about corruption, etc!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "There were 2 Nigerians, one was a Nigerian Prince"

      Does he still keep in regular touch with you? He does with me!

  24. Borg.King

    Jollies (sp. jollys ?)

    Once had a week in Malta on a C++ training course. First day there was the world cup final, which I happily watched from a beachfront pizza and beer joint.

    Second one was a day trip to give some training in Germany, flight out of LGW at 6am, back at 6pm. Not much to in the way of excitement, and a buffet lunch in the conference room, but the trainees were nice people and it's a day out.

    Do half a dozen Apple WWDC's in San Francisco count?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Jollies (sp. jollys ?)

      "Do half a dozen Apple WWDC's in San Francisco count?"

      Only if you managed to spend most of the time North of the Bridge. San Francisco is a shithole.

  25. Martin Silver badge
    Happy

    Two of us once went to Milan to install some software, Went out on Friday night, expecting to need to take Saturday and Sunday to do the work and assist the users on Monday. However, we were told in no uncertain terms by the loca team that they'd work Saturday, but nothing was going to make them work on Sunday - which meant that we had to cut a few corners to get it installed on Saturday.

    So on Sunday, we visited the shops and the Duomo and then in the afternoon went to the San Siro to see AC Milan stuff Perugia 4-0. It was easy to get to the San Siro - you literally looked for someone with a red and black scarf carrying a cushion in matching colours and followed them. Eventually, you were just following the crowd. It was possible to just buy a couple of tickets at the stadium for the home section. Once inside, we found out why everyone was carrying a cushion - the seats were incredibly hard !

    Users were happy, too.

  26. Greybeard_ITGuy
    Thumb Up

    Bravo!

    I don't think I can top that.

  27. saxicola

    I used to be a bowling alley mechanic with an attached Crystal Maze. Not the one in the story though. Great job.

  28. Robert Sneddon

    Never got the chance myself but...

    Engineers who had an in with the muddle management sometimes got the chance to travel first-class to Malaysia and spend up to a week there on the company dime doing buggerall except waiting for a phone call. When that phone call came they took a hire car to the chip packaging plant, picked up a heavy suitcase of freshly-packaged prototype silicon and then headed for the airport where they'd get on the next flight back to Heathrow. The first-class ticket was, at least at that time, fungible in that any airline would honour it (in the off-chance the high-flyer would book with them next time). Saving a few days in prototype turnaround using a courier was well worth the trivial expense of the hotel, tickets and engineer downtime.

  29. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Support trip

    I used to play Dungeons and Dragons (TM) with some friends at work*. I'd phoned up Liz on the Monday to check that Thursday evening was on at her and her husband's place, and what refreshments I should bring. Everything OK. Couldn't get the correct refreshments, so called her again on Wednesday to check the replacement would be ok. Someone else answered the phone: "Sorry, Liz can't come to the phone right now, she's in Australia."

    A bit stunned I hung up. Surely she meant Austria? You just don't go to Australia on a day's notice.

    Well, Thursday evening came, and yup, Liz was in Australia. It seems that one of the state police forces had a problem with our product, could not reproduce the fault with test data, only with live prisoner data, so Liz had flown out at a day's notice to fix it, and spent the next two weeks there sorting things out. Then she had to fly home directly (no holiday for her). She had only just sorted out the jet lag form the outbound trip too, poor lady.

    *Yes we were IT nerds.

  30. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Meh

    Client Reviews

    I worked for a company that did some security reviews of a major multinational corporation's European petrol pump card payment system. Strangely my boss went to Florence (had to be there for a long weekend, due to customer commitments it seems), and I got ... Helsinki.

    There was a very good reason for this distribution of work which I can't quite remember...

    1. Sparkus Bronze badge

      Re: Client Reviews

      Depending on the time of year and expense allowances, I think I'd be pleased with Helsinki......

  31. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Went to install some gear and software in Istanbul

    5 days allocated which I thought was taking the piss. Spent 3 days sitting around to hotel waiting for the equipment to be released by customs 'any moment now' before someone informed the boss that some folding forms would need to be 'filled in'. Got the stuff installed and working just in time for one night out and then home. 3 days with some of the most amazing places to visit all fucked up because of backsheesh! Miss you Dave!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Went to install some gear and software in Istanbul

      "Spent 3 days sitting around to hotel waiting for the equipment to be released by customs 'any moment now' [...]"

      Many years ago - a government gave a present of a computer to an Indian university. A team of people were sent out for a year to install the kit and train locals in its maintenance and use.

      The first problem was that Indian Customs wanted a large payment of duty on this gift. Eventually it was sorted somewhere - and the packing cases were transported to the university's new computer room.

      The building was still under construction - but the computer room would be ready to go once the air conditioning was installed. Asked when that would be - the answer was "three weeks".

      For the rest of their 12 month stay in India the team waited - eager to get everything running so training could start. Each time they asked about the A/C - the answer was "three weeks". Whether the kit was ever unpacked is unknown.

  32. Keith Oborn

    Tales from working in Cairo--

    -in the early 80s.

    Our project was funded by USAid. We had a lot of trouble getting stuff in and out of the country. There was a large, defunct PSU that needed to be sent back for RMA. It was time for UK leave. Packed the unit in old socks in a small suitcase. Egyptian colleague drove us to the airport for the 6AM departure, and I asked him to stick around "just in case". BA checking guy has an assistant to put your bags on the scales for you. Two large cases, no problem. Then the small one. He struggled (it was very heavy). Checkin guy says "Could we have a look inside that please?" ( I'm making frantic "might need help here" behind my back to my Egyptian colleague). Open the case, and there is the PSU. With big transformers, fat capacitors and lots of thick multi-coloured wires. Looking, well, a tad explosive. Checkin guy starts asking questiona. "What do you do?" "Computer engineer". He looks at my passport, which for some odd reason agrees. Several other questions, then the killer "Who does it belong to?" "United States State Department. Would you like to call the embassy and check?" "OH NO Sir, that's OK".

    Another time we borrowed a fixit to help get our personal stuff out of customs, where is had been stuck for six months. "We'll start at the top, deputy director of customs". Into his office. Within two minutes we realised that A: we had just found the only known incorruptible Egyptian official and B: He was deputy director of customs. Ulp. We made our excuses, left, and went back when he wasn't around.

    I learnt, in carrying kit through customs without paperwork, to just say "Keep it, I don't care" No customs officer in the world can understand the concept of a smuggler who doesn't want to keep the stuff he's smuggling.

  33. Sparkus Bronze badge

    Had a similar experience

    hand-carrying a huge load of specialized electronics to the Philippines for the benefit of the US Military. The local 'fixer' never showed up at the airport so import duties/bribes were payable, immediately, and in cash (no receipt offered).

    I was so royally pissed-off that I expensed the lot on a paper expense form. Postal services being what they were in the 80s, it took a while for the form and claim to make it to my boss and then his boss.

    Understand, this was immediately after the Lockheed international bribery scandal and at the beginning of the Marcos' rise to power in the PI.

    Was politely asked by my then third-level boss to resubmit my expenses to him directly and "not be a smart ass about it" (direct quote). He promised to personally reimburse me for the loss of cash (which he did) and to look into the missing local fixer who was apparently paid a large retainer to prevent this sort of thing.

    After that, I got my self a fixed-base assignment in Hong Kong where, at the time, local officials were almost pathologically honest.

    I'm saving the story about importing a Xerox 9700 laser printer beast to South Africa for use at a remote astronomical observatory. The local trucking firm managed to roll off the mountain access road and dumped the million dollar asset down about 700 meters of rock.

  34. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Best I've had recently...

    Is 3 nights in a hotel in the UK during a pandemic lockdown in January. It's like being in a slightly better than average prison. Room service only from a restricted menu, ie 2 options only. Or order in. No bar, nothing open, no where to go. And the job was in a tiny windowless room, alone all day. Dark when you leave the hotel, arrive at the site, leave the site and get back to the hotel. I don't think I saw a scrap of day light in all the time I was there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Best I've had recently...

      I spent a lot of time working stupid hours and living in hotels during the week, I'm not sure if returning to a hotel at 11pm when the restaurant had already closed but the disco goes on until 1 am would be worse than staying in a covid constrained hotel or not.

      I did learn that if you are away on valentines night just get a MCDonalds.

      I lost track of the days one year and ended up booking a myself a 'treat meal' in a lovely Italian overlooking the river. I was greeted with a rather surprised look by the maitre de and then spent the next couple of hours surrounded by a couples just wishing I was anywhere else.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Best I've had recently...

        [...] just wishing I was anywhere else.

        It is now considered ok to declare yourself as your own perfect relationship partner by marrying yourself.

  35. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Meh

    Regrets ... I've had a few

    I realise that when I started in the business of consultancy, with overnight trips, I should have taken a camera and photographed the view from every hotel room I stayed in. I would now have a book's worth of photographs or air-conditioning vents, car parks, road junctions, interior light wells, bus stations, kitchen bins, and several variations of brick walls. When the 'hotel' management realises that you are staying for one night only, and will most likely never be back you get the worst room in the place :o(

    Of course none of them beat the supposedly 'bridal' suite I had on holiday in a UK coastal town. Now, I admit to the excellent sea-view, but it was on the first floor directly above the restaurant / entertainment area. There were large windows, allowing people on the promenade a good view into the 'suite' the curtains did not quite meet in the middle, the floor was a layer of carpet over one layer of planks. The PA was screwed directly to the supports, and the Tuesday night band had the drums under one end of my room, the guitars, singer and main speakers under the other. I was offered a discount of 'one night' for the disturbance, which turned into £25 off the the standard nightly fee when I came to check out. (There is no way the breakfast was worth the difference between £25 and the full cost of one night.). I've not been back.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Regrets ... I've had a few

      On an assignment to Bristol there was a conference that had booked all the usual city centre hotels. So I ended up in a sort of motel out of town. An early night to bed was disturbed by a very vocal woman in the next room and the wall vibrating rhythmically. At the customer the next day I mentioned the strange noises - and they told me it was notorious as the local knocking shop.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The company posted me out to Africa in an emergency when the major support guy posted there had been in a serious car crash. I quickly started to sort out their system bugs - just like being back in the office at home.

    However after an initial warm welcome the locals started to get less warm. It seemed I had offended them in some way. My problem was I was making it look easy - and the highly paid local staff just weren't capable of doing the job. It turned out that my predecessor - who I knew was technically good - would fix a bug then spend four days lazing on a suitable beach.

  37. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

    What a great gig! Similar to a trip I was sent on once. In the UK we had some bespoke kit from a supplier in California. We were taking this kit away to a remote site for a few months and I would be operating it. Remote meaning satphone only or 3 days travel. My bosses decided I should go to the supplier for a bespoke operating and maintenance course - in San Diego. As a junior engineer, who was I to challenge that?

    So I was booked for a whole week in California and I thought I did quite well booking my return flight on a Sunday so I could get the Saturday off for some sightseeing. I turned up at the factory Monday morning and by Tuesday lunchtime the chief engineer says that we're all done and I've learnt everything there is to know. I did make the honourable effort to bring forward my return flight but only by one day. So I got to spend 3 days in California, touring through the mountains on expenses.

    The kit supplier was awesome. They specialised in custom high power electronics and their design philosophy was that the user could do pretty much anything and the kit wouldn't break. At one of the factory acceptance tests they demonstrated the electrical self protection by donning a big rubber glove and jamming a high voltage cable into the equipment outputs. Cue a big flash and bang as the breakers all went, a few quiet seconds and then the gentle reassuring hum of the fans starting back up and all the status lights going green. Awesome stuff!

  38. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

    I had a tech support gig supporting an exhibition in Florida once. Boss bought me premium economy seats on BA, was upgraded to first class, promptly arrived in FL hungover and jetlagged (full of steak and champagne) at an airport with local alligators.

    Strange week that one.

  39. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Sadly, the furthest I've been for work is central london. As I live and work in the suburbs, that's not really a massive change. That said, last time I went on a course, it was in the BT Tower, with a rather nice, if a little basic, buffet lunch in the revolving restaurant. Sadly, it wasn't revolving that day, but the views were amazing none the less.

    A friend of mine though worked for a huge company in Canary Wharf. She was a tech support bod. One morning, she got a phone call. Something had failed in their regional office in Edinburgh. She was told to report to an airport, where there was a private plane waiting. I thought this sounded rather glamorous. She assured me it wasn't. They just wanted her to get to Edinburg, solve the problem and then back to London the same day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That still sounds more glamorous than

      Finish in the office in Manchester at 6pm

      Drive up to the lakes

      Wait until midnight for machine access

      fix problem

      drive home at 2 am

      Get to bed at 4 am

      appear in the office at 10

    2. Eclectic Man Silver badge
      Happy

      BT Tower

      Hi, Stuart, I've been up the Post Office Tower, now the BT Tower several times. On one occasion, we were 'honoured' with a BT Tower Certificate of the panorama at night, 'signed' by Sir Mike Rake, dated for the specific event.

      Actually the best view is from the open air gallery just above the restaurant, but you need special permission to visit that (and to promise not to interfere with the microwave antennae).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BT Tower

        On a network support visit to a prestigious car maker we were offered a tour round the shop-floor. Unfortunately such tours were currently banned for some commercial sensitivity. Our IT guide blithely announced we were "just going to look at some hubs".

  40. Spanker

    I stopped at ‘fine market town of Maidenhead’. I live here and the best to be said is it’s next to Marlow and some way from Slough.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Maidenhead

      It does have a very nice clock tower, which I admire as I sit on the train, or rather would as I've not actually been on a train for over a year now.

  41. Spanker

    Actually I once drove a Citroen BX to Norway and back with 12 loaded UE2s in it in 97. We were fed up with the courier smashing them to smithereens so I volunteered.

    Five days per diem was enough to get me to nordkapp, grabbing some souvenirs, and back to Oslo in time. Case of beer each for the lads in the office (Norway’s booze is stratospheric expensive) and I was on my way.

    Trouble is I got stopped by customs on the way home in Newcastle. It was the only time I could look at customs officer in the eye and answer when asked what carrying “computers and antlers”

    I mounted them onto my monitor back in Milton Keynes like Grizzly Adams taking a desk job.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We did a month's tour of Finno-Scandinavia. The final leg to Nordkapp was clogged with tourists so we carried on East on the E6. Eventually arriving in Helsinki there was a sudden nasty noise as our Range Rover gearbox seized and we kangaroo hopped along the motorway hard shoulder. To cut a long story short - we were fortunate to have a reconditioned gearbox fitted by a local garage in a few days.

      Back in the UK we went into the Customs Red lane and explained the very large broken gearbox in the back of our car. This apparently was novel and the official went away for discussions. Quite quickly he came back to announce that running repairs did not incur any duty.

      As a bonus - on that day we were the only car from the ferry in the Red lane - so we were clear very quickly. Way ahead of all the other cars in the Green lane who unusually were all being subjected to questioning.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Last century I was a lowly intern (completing the mandatory practical phase of my engineering degree) at a company developing (at least in that division) communcations equipment.

    One of their former contracts had been with the German navy. THey were not in that business any more, but they got an urgent call for the repair of the sender of a warship. They had build that thing and the current contractor could not help.

    Out department head called an all hands meeting and asked wich of one had high level security clearances for them.

    One engineer was a reserve officer with current clearance for the army and no one else, besides me (I had done my metal working internship at a naval yard 1 year before that). A short call to military counterintelligence (MAD) gave them the all clear for the both of us, but lowly civilian me was to be the "responsible adult" for the RO. I had full access rights to that type of ship. They reactivated the RO to cut some red tape and off we went to Norway by plane and then by naval heli to the frigate. Bad weather made this a rollercoaster ride.

    On the ship we saw, that the antenna assembly had been moved without recalibrating the standing rate ratio. The reflected power had fried the high power amplifier assembly. About 100kW going back into the module was way to much. Anything inside was black sooth, the metal casing and heat spreader were brittle.

    The whole system had to be rebuild. There was no spare and is was bespoke. So a few calls later our whole development department with engineers (degree holding ones) had to work overtime and the full weekend to build one from the original contract drawings (they still had them in a safe). All electrical coils had to be hand manufactured to spec. I did learn much that week.

    Then we flew back to the ship and reinstalled and calibrated the system. And I was in for a shock. Checking the system maintenance logs, I saw the last person, that had signed the log. And it was my signature as 2nd set of eyes in it. 1 year earlier on the other internship I had checked that system under supervision. Then I lost it and ripped the captain (who had ordered the move of the antenna) and the chief engineer a new one for stupidity. They were somewhat subdued and overly friendly and we were suddenly extremly popular in noncom territory.

    On our second flight home my RO collegue told me laughing, that both were fearing for their carreers. My "every part of the ship and more than them" clearance with my name in that log lead them to assume that I was not truly a civilian intern, but working for the military counterintelligence (MAD) as supervisor for people doing work on critical infrastructure.

    Two return flights to Oslo and 4 heli rides with landing on and starting off a frigate. Quite an experience. But we had to work for it.

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