She was young, she was inexperienced and she was shy -- and she'd been told to do something very, very wrong. We could argue all day whether she should have said no, where culpability and freedom end, and the obligations of survival begins. We can, I hope, agree that whoever was ultimately behind the call deserves our scorn: calling me up on a Monday morning to pitch a story on network management software is not a job for the young, the inexperienced or the shy.
Nor is it a suitable task for those who don't understand network management software. Nor if you cannot answer questions on what exactly in their 'market-leading' product makes it of any conceivable interest to anyone apart from their EMEA marketing manager.
I fear I may have made this last point overly clear, and she decided to pursue other prey -- possibly another career. I put the phone down. Seismographs around the globe barely had time to settle and I'd just begun to concoct a grade one rant about imbecilic PR companies, when the newsdesk cleared its throat in a 'if you've quite finished, Rupert' way.
"Is this a story we should chase up?" They're looking at something the BBC's written about a breakthrough in Web serving. I barely have time to click on the link before I get a saliva-flecked instant message from the tech team. "Have you seen this rubbish???" it says - well, nearly. They too have seen the story.
At first blush, the story appears to be balderdash. Still on an apoplectic high from the previous caller, there's no problem in pronouncing it so: I peer at it more closely and try to unpick what it was trying to say, but give up and content myself with dashing off a Grumpy Old Man note to the Online feedback link. I fear I may have been immoderate.
Later that same day, things are calmer. I've mainlined enough caffeine to return to a state of recognisable humanity, managed to be nice to at least two people and am no longer in danger of flash redecorating the office in Pantone PMS 209 (cranial artery red). It is at this point that the writer of the BBC piece, Mark Ward, emails back. He is a good and knowledgeable chap, and were the Beeb to byline their pieces more often I would have taken a more equitable approach.
His note is so nice and so sensible that I feel a crushing guilt over being nasty. He's also quite reasonable in explaining why he wrote what he wrote, which doesn't help either. I reply in kind, but… oh dear. I did bad.
Still feel awful about it. Just not quite awful enough to resist passing on this snippet of an IM conversation with another BBC chap: