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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Post Category : The Old Office : Page 1

Milk (redux)

In which we get a reluctant refund

A couple of people have, for reasons best known to themselves, asked how I’m getting on with the office milk lady since we fell out. Well, I don’t think I’m any more popular with her than I was. Fed up of there being no milk, and fed up of the woman in question – Administrator Of The Tea Fund – refusing to accept that tea supplies were anything to do with her, I told her that in that case she could give me back the balance of what I’d put into the fund, and I’d make my own arrangements from now on. Which might have been a bit petty, the balance being only 20p, but there you go.

She said “I’ll give you it later.” A few hours later, she phoned me up.

“Have you stopped chucking your little tantrum yet?” she said. “We’ve got some milk in – are you back in the fund or do you still want your money back?”

“I’ll have my money back, please.”

“You’ll be very thirsty this afternoon then.”

“Er, no I won’t be.”

“Well it’s very silly of you, you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

There was a pause. I wasn’t entirely sure what she expected me to say, other than possibly start begging for her forgiveness.

“So are you back in the tea fund now?” she continued, persistently.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Well, I gave you one last chance. I’ll get some change and bring it down for you in a few minutes. You said you don’t want your 20p back?” A nasty little switch at the end there.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Fine. I’ll see you later.”

So, a few minutes later she came downstairs, slammed 20p on my desk, and went away again. And since then, all has been peace and quiet. I can see why some colleagues, those who have to work with her more, don’t like her very much, though, after that conversation. This is someone whose job is to talk to customers over the phone, take orders, and so on – it makes me wonder if she tries doubling back on herself and making quickly misleading switches when she’s on the phone to customers as well as to colleagues.

Milk

In which we upset colleagues

At the office, I’ve been doing more to make myself unpopular. Specifically: I’ve fallen out with the woman who runs the tea fund.

My complaint is this: if you run the tea fund, then you’re responsible for buying tea, milk, coffee, sugar, and so on. If I give you money, to buy tea, then your job is to make sure tea gets bought. Tea Fund Lady – who has only taken the task on recently – did not see things this way. She was there to collect the money. The money sat in her drawer, and anyone who wanted to go and buy supplies could go and get some. Buying supplies herself, though, was entirely out of the question. It was entirely impossible, she said, because she doesn’t have a car. I was tempted to set up a “Stop The Tea Fund Lady Starving!” campaign, because if buying groceries is that difficult I’m not sure how she manages to stay alive.

So, the way I see it, I may as well manage things myself from now on. Have my own tea bags and my own milk, and see how much it ends up costing me. We will see.

Everyday Life

In which the truth is told

The last couple of years, I’ve posted “guess which bits are true” posts on April 1st.

I didn’t particularly feel like trying to fool anyone this year. Things have been a bit too stressful, lately, for me to spend much time writing here; for me to spend much time writing true things, never mind about making things up.

Work has been rather busy lately; a lot of upheaval. I’ve heard it said that when you see people under stress, it can bring out new qualities in them. It hasn’t seemed true, to me. It’s pushed people to become more extreme versions of their ordinary selves. The tetchy people are tetchier, the people who flap around panicking panic more, and the arse-lickers use their tongue ever more often. And, on the other hand, the nice friendly people are just as nice and friendly as ever.

At least everything else is going well. And we didn’t get too snowed-in, camping. I could tell it was a good sign when K – who had never been camping before – started saying “the next time we go camping, we’ll have to…”

Infamy

In which we discover more people read this site than we thought

I went for a drink with people from the office. This may have been a mistake – on the other hand, it’s better to know things.

“Oh, we all read your blog,” said someone from the Accounts department. “Your boss told us he reads it too. We know you change all the names, so we try and work out who everyone is. __ was convinced that she was ‘the cute one from the Accounts office’ and we kept trying to persuade her that it wasn’t her.”

Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t mentioned work much in the past few months, then. Or, alternatively, now I know they’re reading, that might mean I can mention them more. With it all understood and on the level.

Something for nothing

In which our eyebrows are raised when we learn that Americans all have free healthcare just like us

The scene: the office conversation, a quick conversation with a new member of staff whilst the kettle boiled. He was telling me all about his past, his former history of self-employment.

“… but you can’t do anything in this country nowadays, it’s terrible for small businesses, this government, it really is, they want to get control of every little thing…”

I thought: I know exactly what’s coming here.

“…it makes it impossible to run your own life…”

… any second now 

“it’s this Nanny State…”

BINGO! As soon as someone, especially a certain type of person, starts along that line of argument, they’re going to mention the Nanny State, which rules every aspect of our lives and tells us exactly what we can and can’t do. These are the people who believe that Christmas is being banned, or that the government has banned blackboards for being racist, and that it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad. And I don’t understand them. Do they never look at the world around them? Do they believe anything they hear or read?

He rambled on about how much better everything was in America – how life is far better, the taxes are lower, everyone is better off and lives a wonderful life without government interference.

“Yes, until they fall ill and can’t afford to pay for treatment,” I said.

“No, no, medicine is free in the USA too,” he replied.

“Really?” I said, because that really doesn’t square with everything else I’ve been told about the USA over the years.

“Yes, it’s all free, just as it is here,” he said. I was tempted to ask if the land is also flowing with milk and honey, with dollar bills and chocolate coins growing on the trees, but I’m not sure if he’d have realised where the joke was.

Voodoo terminology

In which we speculate on understanding, and on pretending to understand

There are three types of people that I’ve always had to deal with at work. By extension, there are probably three types of people in the world, because I’m sure that none of the places I’ve worked at have been particularly unusual. There are three types of people in the world, and they can be divided like so: those who know what they are talking about; those who don’t know what they’re talking about, and admit it; and those who don’t know what they’re talking about, but are desperate to hide it.

There are two ways I could look at this. One, being uncharitable: they know they don’t know what they’re talking about, and are just trying to hide that.

The charitable view, though: I don’t think some people realise that words do have meanings, precise meanings. They’ve heard people who do know what they’re doing talking, and they want to fit in, so they string together words they’ve heard other people use, in ways that make grammatical sense, without noticing that they are making completely meaningless sentences. Maybe they think that this is the way normal humans talk. Maybe they think that if they use a word that they’re not sure of the meaning of, its meaning will change to suit them. Essentially, though, they’re behaving like small children: imitating without understanding.

These are the people who brought you the phrase “log on to our website”. They call the main case of a PC “the hard disk”. They will refer to “the system”, and expect you to know exactly what you mean. One colleague today, scrolling through her inbox looking for an email, said: “I know it’s in the system somewhere.” “That is not,” I wanted to say, “what that word means.”* These are the people who call me and say “the system isn’t working! We can’t do anything at all!” when what’s actually wrong is: they have pressed Num Lock and don’t understand why numbers are no longer appearing.** These are the people I have to work with, and the chances are, this is what the people who run the country are like too. These people, who not only don’t understand words, but don’t understand the importance of the right words, nevertheless get into important positions. And that scares me.

* She was looking for an email, because she wanted to print it out. She had called me over because her printer “was not working”. She didn’t have a printer selected in the print dialog box, and did not understand the error message she received, that said: “You have not selected a printer.” When I pointed this out, she said: “That’s never happened before. I don’t understand all these technical terms.”

** Yes, this has genuinely happened.

Ouch

In which we wonder what happened to Big Dave

Talking of Room 3B (The IT Office): long-term readers (who remember the air-conditioning fight) might be wondering what Big Dave has been up to for the past few months, since he left, and what he’s been up to.

Well, the answer is, I don’t really know. He’s popped into the office, once or twice, since then. He’s kept in touch with a few people round the building. But I don’t really know what he’s been up to. The only news I have is: Big Dave’s broken his jaw. How he broke his jaw is a mystery. It’s very possible that he doesn’t know himself, of course. So, unfortunately, no tales of entertaining-but-horrific fights outside bars. No tales of unlikely-but-possible accidents involving server racks or poorly-secured hard disks. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

Why the weather doesn't bother me

In which I am remarkably unbothered

“Ohh, isn’t it awful weather lately?” people keep saying. “It feels like it’s winter already.”

Well, the weather doesn’t bother me.

Cool days are a good thing. Summer heat is too hot. A cool grey breezy day is relaxed, the sort of day work can get done. A windier day is energetic, the sort of day you want to do work. Both are useful.

Rain is a good thing. Rain doesn’t bother me either. I don’t mind walking in it, getting slightly wet, when I can always get dry again later.

The one other reason the weather doesn’t bother me, though: I rarely see it anyway. I don’t smoke. Room 3B (The IT Office) has no windows. I’m insulated. Some days I wish there was a cool grey breeze on me, instead of the standard filtered and air-conditioned air that flows out of the ceiling vent.* But, nevertheless, the weather doesn’t bother me.

* Although we had to fight to get it, if you remember back that far.

Smoking

In which the office suddenly becomes a much busier place

Room 3B (IT Office) is – as is standard practice for Room 3Bs and IT Offices, I think – located deep in a remote part of the Head Office building. Not many people pass our door, other than the people in the adjacent rooms. Not many people pop by to say hello, because our office isn’t exactly in a well-trafficked area, it’s not on a busy corridor. Sometimes this is a good thing. We don’t get disturbed much, when we’re busy.*

That’s all about to change. Tonight, the Upstairs Smoking Room closes, and we suddenly will be on a busy corridor – the direct route from most of the office to the new Outdoor Smoking Area – or, the bike shed, as it’s also known. To be fair, it was built specially for the new workplace smoking law. On the other hand, it is definitely a bike shed; there’s a bike rack in it.**

Some of the management are a bit unhappy about this. Not because it might mean extra fraternisation with the IT department, but because of the distance involved, crossing from one side of the building to the other to reach the Outdoor Smoking Area. It might mean smoking breaks being extended by a whole 2 minutes or so, just to cross the office. Me, I don’t particularly care; although if people are going to pass by and say hello more, it can’t be a bad thing.

* Although, of course, you can guarantee that when we do get interrupted, it’ll be when we are busy.

** Update, August 28th 2020: A couple of years after writing this, I came across a copy of the official regulations for what counts as an enclosed area for the purposes of the English smoking-at-work laws, and discovered that in actual fact the smoking-shelter-cum-bike-shed wasn’t actually legally usable as a smoking shelter at all. It had three full-height sides, and therefore in law counted as an enclosed area with no smoking permitted. So there you go.

Breaking camp

In which it’s time to go home

I’m always sad when a holiday’s over; when it’s time to pack up the tent and drive home again, leaving nothing but a little patch of yellow-white grass behind.

And then back to the office, where little has changed* and I have a big pile of work waiting for me.

* except for the Office Gossip’s resignation