Friday, August 22, 2008

The Madding Crowd

Open-plan offices can be great fun. Imagine twenty or thirty people all sharing the same workspace, and the fun that can ensue from the various tensions within the team, there for all to enjoy. If there are partitions between the desks then everyone can bob up and down like meerkats to watch the show.

I return to my desk in such an environment next week and here's what I've got to look forward to.

Window Wars:
Soon to be filmed by George LooseAss. The plot goes something like this. A clerical officer has a window seat, and therefore, ultimate control of the window. Another clerical officer covets this resource and declares war. The reigning CO, who doesn't want to sit in a draught in a cold Irish summer, leaves her desk for twenty seconds to talk to a colleague. The CO on the offence immediately springs to the window, flinging it open thereby causing an environmental disaster - i.e. a puff of wind upsetting a stack of carefully ordered forms. Some choice language ensues when the first CO returns. EO bursts a blood vessel laughing and has to be taken away for early tea.

Private Telephone Conversations:
Ok, I had this before. Calls to family, friends, radio competitions and various service professionals are broadcast freely across our open space. Yes, annoying, but can be fun too. The best ones are the double entendre ones. A cat-loving colleague loves to talk about the latest exploits of the family pet. Or "pussy". Fnarr Fnarr.

Non-Sequitur Conversations:
Some of the folk in our office are somewhat eccentric and for a few of them, work comprises the majority of the social interaction they are likely to experience. So, for the lonelier folk, any excuse to talk is seized upon. An example I had recently:

A car alarm goes off outside the building.
Lonely CO (standing behind EO): My god, those car alarms can be really annoying.
Up-the-walls EO (not looking up): Umm, yes.
Lonely CO: I have a house alarm, you know.
EO: Err, yeah, you told me that last week, when you got it fitted.
Lonely CO: It's great, you know. But you have to be very quick to punch the code in.
EO: Yeah.
Lonely CO: It took me a long time to choose a code I could remember. Do you want to know how I picked it?
EO: I think you told me that as well. Wasn't it the year of the battle of Clontarf multiplied by the first five digits of a Fibonacci sequence divided by the square root of Hitler's height in metres? And add one?
Lonely CO: Wow! How did you remember that?
EO: I just did. By the way, I like what you've done with your hallway. And those biscuits you kept in the cupboard near the back door were really nice. Do you have any more?

The Sweary One:
This one is simply:
Phone rings.
Govstooge - still up-the-walls: FUCK OFF!
COs look on worriedly as Govstooge picks up phone.
Govstooge (posh voice): Good afternoon, Govstooge speaking, how may I help you?
After the call has ended:
Govstooge: What a fucking TWAT!

The Boss:
HEO (whispering very, very softly):
Govstooge, did you get that email from Personnel regarding one of your COs?
Govstooge: Sorry, could you repeat that. There's a lot of background noise in here.
HEO: I can't - I don't want anyone to hear. And the meeting room is occupied.
Govstooge: Jesus. Can you mime it?

The Entertainers:
Colleagues who sing incessantly. Thankfully there are none in my current office, but I've had to share offices (in my private sector days) with people who had shit taste in music. Stuff like that fucking horrible French accent song "Where do you go to my lovely" (Bleugh) and Foreigner's "I want to know what love is". In the latter case, I downloaded an article from the internet about sex and reproduction and forwarded it to the singer.

Another colleague liked to sing "If I were a rich man" from Fiddler on the Roof (Or Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani). I admit I used to join in...
Colleague: If I were a rich man, yadda yadda yadda...
(Pre-Gov) Stooge: ... I wouldn't work for _______ (insert company name here).

So you see, it can be fun. I'm still holding out for a promotion, though, and then another so I can finally get my own office away from all the madness. I reckon it will take about thirty years, and by then I'll be so deaf none of this will matter anymore.


galwaywegian said...

We changed caretakers a couple of years ago. The new guy's job contract included the stipulation "must not whistle while at work."

Govstooge said...

Next thing you know they'll be banning people from wearing noisy flip flops... oh wait, that's my idea.