WARNING: This has nothing at all to do with the story that follows.
When I posted my last blog I put it on (as I usually do) the RAF Supplier's Past & Present page on facebook. The post, if you remember, was called A Creature of Habit and was advertised with two pairs of Converse trainers featuring Batman and Superman designs. This was because they were featured in the story. Someone, I don't know who, decided to report me to the Administrator of the page for reasons known only to him/herself.
Now, it was entirely possible that he/she reported the post because they thought that I may have been trying to sell something. If so, why not check the post out first? Maybe reading it would have convinced him/her that I wasn't trying to sell anything to anyone, but merely using the space I had to put a smile on their faces in these dark and depressing times of ours.
I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the anonymous person who reported me to the Administrator of RAF Suppliers Past & Present. It was as a direct result of his/her cowardly action that my blog got more hits than ever before.
The picture below is of the gold reserve at Fort Knox and I am going to use this image to advertise my post on the RAF Suppliers Past & Present page. This does not mean that I am advertising a Closing Down Sale at Fort Knox and nor does it mean that I have any gold to sell myself.
It's just a picture - and if you can't see that then you are a moron.
OK - so here we go - THE PAPERLESS OFFICE
I used to work in an office where my line manager would constantly send me emails, generally with attachments in them and most likely containing a single sentence that read: You may find something of interest in the attached document.
May find something of interest? By that rationale I could equally find something that was not of interest. You may find something of interest suggests that the sender had not actually read the attachment being sent. Perhaps a better way of wording the email would have been: You may or may not find something of interest in the attached document, so perhaps instead of reading it you would prefer to delete it as I am merely wasting your time sending it to you in the first place.
When I opened the attachment I’d more often than not find a ninety-five page document full of gobbledy-gook and management-speak that didn’t interest me at all.
I hate emails. I hate them because they are partly responsible for the lack of communication between people at work and after I had received a few of this type of email I decided that there was only one correct course of action to take and so, for a long period of time when I arrived at work in the morning my first action of the day was to delete all the emails my line manager had sent me without even opening them.
I felt an enormous sense of achievement when I did it, knowing full well that as I pressed that delete key I was achieving absolutely nothing. But it felt good to do it – in fact it felt so good that I started to randomly delete other emails that I received. After a while the urge to start work with a clean slate became so strong that I started to delete all my emails without reading a single one. For ages I didn’t open a single email; I would arrive at work and select all the emails and delete the lot without a single thought.
I’ve always had this theory that if something’s important enough someone will contact you if you haven’t done anything about it and so I sat at my desk and waited.
Nothing happened. Nobody contacted me about anything.
And that got me thinking; why stop at emails? Why not look at all the other stuff that had been littering my desk for such a long time and dispose of that? I went through the files in my in-tray and made a snap five-second decision on what I should do with each of them. Shredding them seemed like a good idea and so each day I would take a file into the Copy Room and run it through the shredder. Eventually I ran out of my own files to shred and therefore had to shred other people’s files. I came into work early to do this.
My colleague asked me if I’d seen a file of his that had disappeared, but I told him I hadn’t. At lunchtime that day he couldn’t find his daily newspaper.
The last time I’d had this much fun at work was in the summer of 1976.
I was in the RAF working as a Demands Clerk in West Germany. I was twenty-two years old and it was, without question, the most boring job I had ever done in my entire life. There were probably other jobs around that were arguably just as boring as an RAF Demands Clerk, but I couldn’t think of any at the time.
I worked alongside three other airmen with a Sergeant in charge of us and the only way of combatting the boredom was to find interesting things to do that occupied our young minds when the Sergeant was out of the office. During that hot summer of 1976 we spent the afternoons attempting to slice airborne wasps in two with steel rulers. It seemed a good idea at the time and was actually great fun until one of the guys had an allergic reaction after being stung in the neck by a particularly vindictive and persistent wasp. He was rushed to the Medical Centre and we didn’t see him at work again for six weeks. We closed the windows after that to prevent the wasps from getting in and the only time we opened them was to throw away Maria’s drinks.
Maria was employed as our tea lady. She was a short, dumpy Dutch widow with a small face who wore droopy surgical stockings and Deirdre Barlow spectacles that were far too big for her. You could tell her the worst joke in the world and she would laugh at it. Maria laughed at anything. She even laughed when I told her I was going on compassionate leave to attend my Grandmother’s funeral.
The sergeant told me that Maria laughed all the time because she was nervous.
“People who are nervous don’t laugh all the time,” I said. “People who are mad do that.”
“Now, now,” he replied. “Just remember that it takes all kinds.”
“All kinds of what? Nutters?”
At that moment, Maria came into the office, pushing her tea trolley ahead of her.
“Are you alright this morning, Maria?” the sergeant asked.
She winked at him, laughed, and handed him his tea.
Maria made the worst tea and coffee anyone had ever tasted. I have no idea what she did to it but she was able to make even the most drinkable drinks undrinkable. When OC Supply Squadron held his monthly meeting with other heads of departments they would rush through the agenda in order to bring the meeting to an end once they realised it was getting dangerously close to tea-break. After their first visit people would actively avoid the tea room and would panic at the sound of Maria’s trolley. I once found two visitors who were close to tears hiding in the toilets.
“She knows we’re in here,” whimpered one of them. “It’s only a matter of time before she finds us.”
“Do us a favour,” the other one said to me, “Pop your head out the door and see if she’s still there. If we’re lucky we might be able to make a dash for it.”
“It’s no good,” said his friend, “I can hear her trolley jingling up and down the corridor. It’s like the theme tune from Jaws!”
We never drank Maria’s tea or coffee and instead opened the window of the office and poured it on the grass outside. Several weeks had passed by when my friend called me over to the window. There was some urgency in his voice and so I moved quickly to see what the problem was.
“Look,” he said, with a disgusted expression. He pointed in the direction of the grass underneath the window where we had been pouring Maria’s drinks.
It was horrible. It was disgusting. No wonder no-one liked her drinks. Underneath the window, where our unwanted teas and coffees had been soaking into the ground was a clump of the ugliest looking toadstools I’d ever seen.
When the sergeant asked Maria how her husband had died, she just smiled and said, “Poisoned,” before leaving the room with a roar of laughter.
The sergeant looked at his tea with a mixture of horror and disgust, before pushing it away from him. “Get rid of this for me, will you Steve,” he said.
I picked up his cup and took it over to the window, where I poured it onto the toadstools below. “It takes all kinds, Sarge,” I said to him, “it takes all kinds.”
The sergeant was decent bloke who insisted on a clear desk policy if we wanted to leave early on a Friday afternoon. This could be achieved in two ways:
1. Work really hard all week so that your desk is clear by early Friday afternoon.
2. Piss about for most of the week until Friday afternoon, whereupon you gather up all the paperwork on your desk, place it in a large envelope and address it yourself, then put that in the internal mail so that you to receive it on Monday morning.
I chose the second option and I used it for many years. I would have still been using it if it hadn’t been for the introduction of emails, which are difficult to hide.
Unless you delete them from your inbox and your deleted items tab.
My line manager was beginning to suspect that I wasn’t doing any work. She’d seen me wandering around with a clipboard in my hand, glancing every now and again at an out-of-date form that I had attached to it. My desk was always clear and I was always in early, but that was usually to shred files I had discovered in trays in the Admin Office.
“I sent you an email last week about training design. What do think?” she asked.
“I haven’t got a clue,” I said.
“What do you mean? You have received the email?”
“Probably? What do you mean probably?”
“I receive your emails but I don’t read any of them,” I told her honestly. “In fact I delete all your emails without even opening them.”
She looked at me flabbergasted. “Why?” she asked.
“Because you sit opposite me,” I said. “If you’ve got something important to say to me, say it to my face. Don’t just send an email and not say anything.”
I could tell she was about to berate me so I jumped in first, “That’s a nice dress you’re wearing. Is it new?”
“Well, yes . . . actually it is? How could you tell?”
“It’s just that I’ve never seen you in it before. Listen I’ve got to pop out for lunch – I’ll catch up with you this afternoon.”
“Oh . . . all right. See you later then,” she said, smiling at me.
As I left the office and headed for the shredder I heard her asking a colleague if she’d seen the Ryvita’s she had brought in for her lunch that day.
She was sure she’d left them in the top drawer of her desk.