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'Joe, who's Arabella Stockingfiller?' Rice asks, calling across the office.
'Birthday card?' I ask casually.
Alison perks up. 'Arabella Stockingfiller,' she repeats softly, 'she sounds really hot. Does anyone know what she looks like?'
'Never heard of her,' Rice admits.
Alison's got the scent. 'Maybe she's on MySpace,' she mumbles hopefully. 'I really like the sound of her…'
'She's a unit test,' I say, breaking the bad news before Alison falls in love too much.
'A test?' she asks, crestfallen.
'Is Jason Felafel also a test?' Kevin asks.
I nod. 'And tomorrow it'll be Hugh Janus.'
'I feel stupid now that I've signed the card for Bishop Abel Muzorewa,' Colin mumbles in the background.
Alison nods. 'You've cracked the birthday card database then.'
It's been two months since the new HR policy has been in effect. As part of a program to make us all feel wanted and a part of a loving family, we now get a card on our birthday. It's sort of worked. As a team it's brought us much closer together as we stand around and slag off the countless others that we've never met and yet have the affront to have birthdays. There's an endless stream of them and it feels like it's getting worse.
'I spoke to Pam, upstairs,' I explain, 'and she let slip that they've had a new server installed in HR. I talked to the server lads and one of them let slip something about a new MySQL installation.'
'Nice one,' Rice says. 'So now that we're in what next?'
Alison's in with a suggestion first. 'How about we just delete the whole thing.'
'They'll notice,' I counter.
Kevin's next: 'You've obviously done some adds, how about some changes and deletes?'
I smile. 'I've deleted the lot of us for a start. As well as everyone called John, Derek or Tamsin.'
The team nod appreciatively.
'What about the changes?'
'Well,' I sigh, 'I think the Boss is going to be a bit upset when his middle name gets out.'
'Is it Tarquin?' Alison asks.
'Nathaniel' Kevin guesses.
'Engelbert,' is Rice's suggestion.
'No, his middle name is Barbara,' I admit.
'Very nice. When's his birthday?' Alison asks, keen now for the Boss to have his card circulated to the entire organisation.
'It's been shifted forward 9 months. The card's probably doing the rounds already. It should be with us by tomorrow, for presentation on Friday.'
'Anything else we should be aware of?' Alison asks.
'Sure. Don't be surprised if you have to sign 60 cards for Eileen Carty tomorrow.'
'Who's Eileen Carty?'
'She's the one who started the sodding card scheme in the first place. There's going to be 60 cards a day for her until someone snaps and shoves the cards where no database would dare to go…'