Just lately I've started to suffer more than ever before from QALS. I'm sure most of you reading this have exactly the same affliction, albeit to varying degrees. I've had it all my working life, of course - I'm a techie, after all - but it does come and go, and right now I'm right in the middle of a peak.

For those who have not yet been diagnosed, and who therefore don't know what I mean, I'm talking about Questions At Lunchtime Syndrome.

The morning can be as quiet as a graveyard. Users will use systems without breaking them, and the phone won't ring with people moaning that the network is slow - even if it is.

But as soon as you reach for your sandwich, all hell breaks loose. People converge from all corners, the phone starts ringing, you get more email dropping in your inbox in five minutes than you've had since this time yesterday, and you know that your chances of a quiet lunch hour are nil. Not only this, but most of what you get asked is inane, pointless garbage which people didn't want to bother you with before you stopped for lunch BECAUSE YOU LOOKED TOO BUSY and they didn't want to bother you. AAARGGGHHH!

The symptoms of QALS are easy to spot:
1. The volume of users wishing to interact with you starts to grow geometrically as lunchtime approaches.
2. The time between you picking up your sticky bun and someone saying: "Sorry to bother you" starts to be measured in milliseconds.
3. The degree of relevance of users' questions to anything to do with their work is classified somewhere between "minuscule" and "infinitesimal".

Thankfully, there is a cure. And although I'm not a doctor, I am an engineer, so I'm qualified to prescribe it.

When you see the first signs of at any of these symptoms approaching, then at one minute before lunchtime you must spring up, grab your coat, shout loudly and cheerily: "See you in an hour", and bugger off to the pub.