‘Tis the season for one of the most widely-beloved Christmas stories of all time: Charles Dickens’ most enduring work, “A Christmas Carol.” You all know the story by now, as you’ve doubtless seen it played out on the big screen and small screen alike with Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, Homer Simpson, the Muppets, and just about everybody else. But this one has a special twist, one which any IT services providers out there will especially appreciate…
Ebenezer Scrooge was a tightwad, a miser, a pinchpenny, a skinflint. But of course, how would you have turned out if your parents had named you “Ebenezer Scrooge” in this day and age?
His business brought in decent enough revenue, and he made a decent enough profit; as he lived alone had little to spend it on but himself, so he had a decent enough balance in his savings account. And yet in Scrooge’s firm his employees went without raises, without even so much as Christmas bonuses. Most of his employees fled as soon as they could and were soon replaced; the ones who could not flee lingered behind like castaways stranded on a desert island. Scrooge hoarded money like a dragon hoards gold, or rather an iguana (or perhaps a gecko) who dreamed that one day he would become a dragon.
And today, no one was more exasperated with Scrooge’s penny-pinching ways than his put-upon IT services provider, one Bob Cratchit.
When it came to providing managed services, unfortunately, Bob Cratchit was quite nearly the only game in town, although not by shrewd business practices so much as by a quirk of geography.
He boasted a few dozen clients, most of which were only intermittently-irritating. But Scrooge… Scrooge was a thorn in the side of Cratchit Local IT Services. Ornery, ignorant, and demanding; always insisting on doing things his way, which almost inevitably would be the wrong way.
And when something did go wrong (and it did), Scrooge would berate poor Cratchit: “What am I paying you so much for?”
And when nothing went wrong, Scrooge would berate poor Cratchit: “What am I paying you so much for?”
Of course, Scrooge wasn’t paying Cratchit that much; for the amount of effort Cratchit and his IT team had to spend putting out his fires, it wasn’t nearly enough.
You just couldn’t win with a man like Ebenezer Scrooge as a client. But that didn’t mean that Bob Cratchit, nice to a fault, didn’t try.
“We need to talk,” said Cratchit, “about your backups.”
“Humbug,” Scrooge replied. “I have backups.”
“Tapes,” Cratchit said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “are not sufficient backups.”
“They’ve served me well before,” said Scrooge.
Too polite for his own good (and loath to lose what little money Scrooge did bring into Cratchit Local IT Services), Cratchit held his tongue rather than point out that the tape backups old enough to be his father were worse than useless and that Scrooge was begging for disaster. “How about… cloud backup?”
“Don’t I have Dropbox? Don’t I have Google Drive?” Scrooge rebutted.
“But what would you do,” Cratchit asked, “if you got hit with ransomware?”
“Who on earth would try to hack me of all people?” Scrooge laughed. “Besides, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
“Exactly,” said Cratchit. “This is prevention—”
“I don’t have the money to waste on your fancy toys,” said Scrooge as he interrupted Cratchit. “I am happy with what I have. And I won’t have you bloat my budget and fleece me out of my profits.”
Cratchit was about to speak up, but at that moment Scrooge’s phone began to ring on his desk. Scrooge scowled at it.
The phone kept ringing.
“Are you going to pick that up?” Cratchit asked.
“Probably trying to sell me something,” Scrooge muttered. The phone kept ringing until finally, Scrooge picked it up. “What?” he snarled.
The voice Scrooge heard shocked him. It was the voice of Jacob Marley, his old business partner.
“Hey, Ebenezer,” said Marley. “You got a moment, pal?”
Scrooge lifted the phone away, his tightening grip on it whitening his knuckles as a man who’d died seven years ago, nearly to this day, spoke to him from beyond the grave.
“Are you all right, Mr. Scrooge?” Cratchit asked.
“Get out of my office,” Scrooge hissed.
“O-Okay.” Cratchit stood up and made his way to the door, retreating with his tail between his legs, so to speak. “Let’s have this conversation later.”
“Tomorrow,” Scrooge said.
“But tomorrow’s Christmas Day—”
“Tomorrow,” Scrooge repeated. He turned his attention back to the phone as the door swung shut behind Cratchit. “Who is this? Is this a prank?” he asked Marley.
“You wound me, Ebenezer,” the dead man answered.
“Am I having a stress-based hallucination?”
Marley laughed. “Stress? What stress?”
“I’ll have you know I’m under a lot of—” Scrooge cut himself off, realizing he was arguing with a delusion. “I know! You’re a hallucination brought on by the sandwich I had for lunch that was two days past its sell-by date.”
“Let’s see if any of those letters are on the board, Vanna. Oh, so sorry. One more guess.”
“Took you long enough.” Scrooge could somehow hear his spectral tormentor roll his eyes. “Yes, Scrooge, I’m calling you from the afterlife to help you avert a terrible fate.”
Scrooge let out a nervous chuckle. “The afterlife, huh, Jacob? Is it sunny and warm in there?”
“Hot and uncomfortable, actually,” Marley answered.
“Oh, so you’re in Florida?”
“Listen to me, Scrooge. You’re heading down a dark path. But it’s not too late. Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Heed their words… Or end up just like me.”
“Hot and uncomfortable.”
“Yes.” Marley paused. “Also, the water turns into spiders in your mouth when you drink it.”
“Three spirits, heed their words, first one comes tonight at the stroke of midnight.”
“I go to bed at ten,” Scrooge protested.
“Set your alarm,” said Marley.
And then the phantom call disconnected, leaving not so much as a record in Scrooge’s call history.
Next chapter: The Ghost of Hard Drives Past