Little Jonny: “Dad, Dad, wake up, Dad. The Home Office is attacking your computer!”
Dad rolls over in bed.
Dad: “Snuffle, ppst, eughhg, snuffle. What’s that? No thank you. Snuffle.”
Little Jonny: “Dad, Dad, wake up, Dad.”
Dad switches on the bedside light.
Dad: “What’s the matter?”
Little Jonny: “The Home Office is attacking your computer.”
Dad: “How do you know it’s the Home Office?”
Little Jonny: “Well, Dad, the attack says on it, From the Home Office.”
Dad: “Oh, I see, right.”
Dad goes into the cupboard under the stairs.
Little Jonny: “Dad, where are you going? The computer isn’t under the stairs.”
Dad: “I know, Son. I’m getting a hammer.”
Little Jonny: “Dad, what do you need a hammer for? The attack is in an email.”
Dad: “Trust me, Son. I’ll sort this out. Just you leave everything to me. These emails are pesky things. It’s spyware, malware, pokeware, smokeware.It’s robware, nickware, stealware, Son. You can’t trust stuff like this at all. You’ve got to nip it in the bud, stop it dead in its tracks.”
Little Jonny: “With a hammer?”
Dad rips the computer from its position on the office table, snapping out cables and sending the desk light crashing to the floor. Jonny picks the fallen light up.
Little Jonny: “What are you doing now, Dad?”
Dad: “I’m taking the hard disk out, Son. This is tricky computer work. You’ve got to find that spyware on the disk, Son. It’s difficult to do because finding spyware is harder than catching eels covered in Fairy Liquid.”
Little Jonny. “Don’t you use the screen and keyboard to find spyware, like the IT guys at school?”
Dad: “No, Son. Trust me. It takes too long. You hold the hard disk and I’ll hit it with the hammer.”
Jonny leaves the room. Crashing sounds can be heard.
Little Jonny: “Dad, have you hit the hard disk, yet? Only it’s just that I’ve found an explanation on Mum’s computer. Apparently there really is a Home Office survey being emailed to this house, and it’s not spyware at all.”
Dad stands up with a mangled computer disk in his hand.
Dad: “I’d best have a look at your mum’s laptop then.”
Little Jonny: “It’s alright, Dad. I’ll do it.”
Jonny takes his dad’s hammer and returns it to the cupboard under the stairs.
Little Jonny: “Have you contacted the Home Office lately, Dad? They say they’re surveying everyone who contacted them within the last twelve months, in order to gauge their levels of satisfaction.”
Dad: “I did. I sent them an email about four months ago to explain that their police resources website was incorrect. The site claimed that the annual budget for Norfolk Constabulary was ten times bigger that that of other forces of a similar size. Well, that’s it, Son. You’ve solved the mystery. Let’s all get some sleep.”
Little Jonny: “Can’t, Dad, we’ve got to fill these questions in. Were you happy with the Home Office response to your enquiry?”
Dad: “I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t unhappy. They fixed the figure on the website. What more can you ask for?”
Little Jonny: “Was that before you contacted them, after you contacted them, did you contact them any more in between? Did they write clearly and concisely? Were you very happy, fairly happy, not very happy, or very unhappy? Please state your reasons for giving the answer that you gave.”
Dad: “Well, I don’t know! Fairly happy I suppose. They fixed the figure on the website. Now, can I go back to bed?”
Little Jonny: “OK, Dad. But, just one more thing: Would you describe the Home Office response to your query as very professional, fairly professional, professional, or not very professional at all?”
Dad: “How the hell would I know? I don’t fix typos on websites. What would I know about it?”
Little Jonny: “OK, Dad. This is the last question. I promise. Would you describe your satisfaction level with the Home Office as being high, medium, or low?”
Dad: “Every time you ask me one of their silly questions, Jonny, my satisfaction level gets lower! It’s four o’clock in the morning. The central heating’s off, so I’m freezing. I’ve got to drive all the way to Edinburgh in the morning, and I’ve destroyed my computer for no good reason.”
Little Jonny: “Well, Dad, the Home Office email, here, explains that they did contact all recipients by letter in order to inform them that they would be sending out an email survey.”
Dad tuggs his hair and grimaces.
Dad: “Jonny! How on earth could the Home Office contact me by letter? They don’t know my address! I contacted them by email to explain that their website was wrong. How can they possibly send letters to me, when they don’t even know where I live?”
Little Jonny: “So you didn’t get the letter then?”
Dad: “No! No! No! How many more times?”
Little Jonny: “Oh, dear, and now you’ve destroyed your home computer. Well, what do you want me to write in this survey? Shall I write down that you were fairly happy, until you received the survey? And now that you’ve destroyed your office, got no sleep, frozen your butt off and answered loads of stupid questions which don’t apply to you, you’re not happy at all?”
Dad: “Yes, Jonny, put that down! I’m going back to bed!”
Patrick Mackeown, June 2006
Picture: Craig Parylo