Friday, October 24, 2008

No Friend Of Mine

There’s somebody out there reading this blog who thinks they are my friend.

They know my name, my mobile telephone number and, more significantly, where I work.

Yesterday afternoon they thought it would be funny to send me a text message purporting to be from the Chief Executive of the Authority that employs me. It invited me to attend a meeting with the Chief Exec to discuss “blogging tactics used by me against” the authority that employs me.

Serious stuff. The stuff that, if proven, can lose people their jobs.

My first reaction was shock. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything on this blog that would count as “cyber terrorism” or “cyber sabotage”. I was on my way to University at the time to attend a lecture and so the feeling of displacement compounded my sense of confusion. There was no way I could sit calmly through a lecture with this hanging over me so I caught the bus straight back into town and to work.

So – a waste of bus fare and an important lecture lost to me forever.

Maybe at this point this mystery person who thinks they are my friend is chuckling away to him/herself (though I rather fancy it’s a him). Disruption caused. Panic initiated. Target hit.

I returned to work and the first thing I did was to ring my wife who was lovely and calming and supportive. But nevertheless the worry was very real. This could see me out of a job with two young children right before Christmas and with the country sliding into recession. Worst case scenario, perhaps, but it had to be faced.

Are you laughing openly now, mystery friend? Now that you know that your little joke ruined not only my afternoon but that of my wife? It must be hilarious to put someone through that sense of dread while you sit smugly at home in your armchair, proud of yourself. Such a consummate joker you are. Jeremy Beadle must be spinning in his box with sheer jealousy.

I had a couple of hours before the proposed meeting. Ample time to calm down a little and think it all through. Things weren’t quite right, you see. Things were – the more I thought about it – decidedly fishy. The Chief Exec hadn’t spelt his own name correctly. The originating mobile number didn’t match that on the work’s contact list. The grammar and punctuation was appalling, little better than that of a child (I know you’re not a child, friend, but this is meant to be insulting). And why would the Chief Exec use something as crass as a text when he could ring or send an email?

Of course, it is human nature to rationalize things. Although I was filled with doubts and suspicions – and these were gathering pace – they were not enough to completely eradicate the feeling that I still had to take the summons seriously and attend. Maybe he was a bad texter? Maybe the contact list was out of date? Maybe by sending a text he was making an effort to keep things “informal”?

At the appointed time I went to the Authority HQ and reported to the reception desk.

Friend, you are no doubt thinking at this point, “Success!” You got me there, mouth dry, ready for a showdown with the big boss that could see me potentially out of a job. Would I erase my blog? Would I remove the offending posts? No. I’d already talked this over with Karen. I believe in the things I have written here. I’m committed to them. I believe in them and my opinions. Let the worst happen but my writing stays.

This eleventh hour, friend, is the hour when you could have redeemed yourself a little. This was the moment when you could have rung and launched into your “Ha! Fooled you!” speech. I would have sworn at you. Called you an irresponsible little turd and worse. But that would have been the end of it.

But you didn’t ring. You let it all go ahead.

Do you consider it bravery, this allowing the joke to run on to its natural conclusion? Do you think in some way it proves that you too have the courage of your convictions?

Thankfully I had enough about me and enough suspicions to not drop myself in the poo. I pleaded ignorance as to the reason for the meeting, explaining that I’d just had a weird text summoning me here at this time. They confirmed my suspicions very quickly. The Chief Exec had not sent any text (he wouldn’t send texts anyway) and was in fact in Coventry this afternoon. I explained my suspicions that I’d been the victim of a hoax. They were very supportive. It’s amazing how supportive real friends and even casual acquaintances can be.

Did I still have the number that sent me the text?

I was tempted to give it. So tempted. But in the end I said that I’d foolishly deleted it. Better to nip this in the bud right here, I thought. Too many questions and I could be under close scrutiny for real...

So you got away with it, friend. But I did that for me – not for you.

Of course, now all is calm again I can see that I had nothing really to worry about. Blogging is not illegal. I haven’t written anything I believe that is damaging to my employers. Indeed I have never named them or the people I work with. And as Karen later pointed out, this is England not Zimbabwe. I am allowed to have and voice an opinion. It is not a sackable offence.

I’m proud that when it came down to it my opinion meant more to me than my job. But perhaps this is more foolishness on my part – a backward priority – but then there’s a lot of that about, isn’t there? It’s rather akin to putting an opinion or an idea – or a joke even – before a friendship. People do it.

I returned to work after apologizing to the receptionists for wasting their time. The few work colleagues I’d confided in were pleased to see me back and more pleased to hear how it had all panned out. The census of opinion was the same. Who would do such a thing? As jokes go it wasn’t even funny and given the current economic climate it was actually very nasty. Did I have any idea of who it could be who was behind it?

Oh yes, I said. I had a few ideas. A few inklings.

Has your laughter now finally abated, friend? Are you rubbing your hands with glee and carving another notch into the arm of your chair?

You’re probably outraged that I’m making such a big deal of this. You’re probably thinking me a drama queen and asking why I don’t see the funny side. Well, that’s easy to answer, friend: there isn’t one.

Most of all, you are probably thinking that you are still my friend.

But you’d be wrong.

I don’t have time, energy or the inclination to keep friends like you.

This is truly where the joke ends.

See you. Wouldn’t want to be you.


Lucy Fishwife said...

Steve, what a nightmare. Find out who they are and flytip the bastard's front garden!

Steve said...

I must admit, Lucy, I'm fuming today but I doubt the offensive dickhead in question will have the guts to own up to it. I am however wondering what use I can put their mobile number to... they didn't have the nerve to answer it when I rang it yesterday.

Tristan said...

Sorry to hear that you've been the victim of such a sick joke. Unfortunately blogging, being a public medium, does lead to this kind of malicious crap...

Steve said...

Hi Tris, yeah I'm starting to see that the price of both fame and notoriety are pretty much the same...

Anonymous said...

oh how horrible for you......but I do feel a tiny bit sorry for the sad sad person that has to behave this way.....good on you for what you wrote in the post though...

Steve said...

It was a horrid experience, Deirdre, and my sympathy with the perpetrator is non existent I'm afraid. If they'd had the decency to pull the plug at the last hour and come clean I'd be more forgiving I'm sure. Such a prank is the behaviour of a true coward in my opinion, hiding behind their anonymity.


I can only imagine how frightened you must have been.You have 2 ways of dealing with the situation,my personal favorite is Karma and usually Karma will get them.However, I would like to say that I am really good and righteous and would rely on Karma but if someone has really pissed me off then I would resort to number 2.Number 2 is revenge and in my book it is best served up cold, so if you feel compelled to do something then wait and find something truly fitting.
I am glad that you are feeling better about the situation now.

Steve said...

Ally, no. 1 is definitely the right path. The path of light. But I have to say that no. 2 is beckoning with come-hither eyes and I can feel myself sauntering over and girding my loins for a small dalliance...

Anonymous said...

Frightening, sad and pathetic.
I read your blog and blogs like yours, that remind me that despite the awful and constant newsheadlines, that there are all sorts of wonderful, decent people out there, doing good things, openly sharing their news, insights and lives....and then reading this, I remember, oh yeah, there are those other fuckers out there as well.
Who would do a thing like that?
Go the karma route, you are the bigger, better man by a far.

skatey katie said...

ha! i love what ally says.

that is definitely bad juju eyeball, mr texter.
(soz if ya get this comment twice, steve - blogger is being a pain X)

Steve said...

Thanks Missbehaving - your comment has made me feel a helluva lot better about it all. And made me feel like letting the whole awful situation go and just moving on... thank you.

Thanks Kate - it looks like the Karma route is (possibly) getting the majority of the votes. My name is Earl... I'm just trying to make the world a better place...!

Brother Tobias said...

What a sad, illiterate little shit. Makes you want to post the number on an appropriate web site, saying the owner is looking for dates with animals.

Seems to me this person has committed a serious disciplinary offence, and possibly one under the Telecommunications Act. Hang onto that number.

It would be a shame if, after the responsible and careful balance you have struck between your freedom to blog and your loyalty to your employer, the interface between the two gets messed up by one of its own halfwitted employees, who would be better off working for Orkney District Council. If the problem persists, your employer has a responsibility to resolve it...

Hang on in there, and keep the moral high ground.

Steve said...

Hi Brother T, the situation has also got a degree nastier as the mystery foe sent me another text this morning saying "Hi Steve, just to say that you have been blogged." No way to identify them... no way to even find the blog. They're obviously up their own arse enough to think I read their blog regularly but I'll be blowed if I can find it. It's certainly none of my blog buddies from here but the horrible thing is that this little scrote - by not coming clean - is trying to make me suspicious of everybody. Is it a friend? Is it a work colleague? The inappropriate and ill-thought out joke on Thursday was bad enough but now it's dipping into the realms of stalking and leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. I'd like to know who it is to cut all this bullshit right out. I'd like them to stop using my mobile no. as I really don't want to have any further contact with them. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wonder if they'll have the courage and decency to come clean and own up?

I'm not holding my breath.

Inchy said...

Unfortunately there are arseholes everywhere. My initial reaction would be to administer a swift kick to someone's testicles, but I think your "nipping it in the bud" attitude is probably the correct one.

Vive le Bloggertropolis!

Steve said...

I'd love to give your solution a try, Inchy... I just need to identify the offending testcles...!

The Sagittarian said...

Steve, crikey! I go away for a few days and all this happens!! How awful for you. Karma, however long it takes. Meantime, nothing wrong with a bit of wishful thinking...

Steve said...

Amanda, please never go anywhere ever again - I don't think I could cope! ;-)