Friday, October 21, 2011

The Outside View (Part the First)

I'm pleased today to introduce part one of a guest posting following on from a visit by a leading academic in the area of occupational psychopathology  to my work unit. It's about bloody time!

A visit to the Department of Pedantry by Doctor Constantin Constantinopodopoulous of the Department of Psychiatry and Public Service, University of Chipping Sodbury.

At first glimpse, it looks like an ordinary civil service building. Peeling paintwork, suspicious carpet stains, grey men and women staring blankly.

A cursory glance into the office canteen at tea break time confirms this suspicion initially. The tables are occupied by a variety of interesting specimens. In particular:
-          CO staring out the window as three-inch long rope of drool hangs from the corner of her mouth.
-          CO staring at the wall (table not adjacent to window) as five-inch long rope of drool hangs from the corner of his mouth.
-          CO standing at back of canteen staring at nothing in particular, but with a strange look of murderous intent on his countenance.
-          Large group of middle-aged female EOs talking about Eastenders and cackling loudly. People at adjacent tables wearing ear protection.
-          Senior managers pretending to discuss policy documents over coffee – in reality they are trying to finish the Irish Times crossword, which they have photocopied and slipped in with the weighty looking stuff.
-          Private contractor (wearing VISITOR badge) looking around him in bewilderment.

However, behind this dreary and grubby fa├žade, there is a surprising flurry of activity.

A visit to the Apostrophe Enforcement Unit proved that things were not quite as they seemed.

The unit is staffed by two HEOs, three EOs and three COs and is responsible, as the name implies, for the regulation and enforcement of correct apostrophe use. Forms are submitted by members of the public to this unit, when an infraction of the relevant punctuation mark  by a business or advertiser has been identified. Forms are also completed internally by a member of staff who monitors the media, specifically print journalism and the Internet for misuse of punctuation. The forms are collated and processed, and a member of this unit’s staff visits the offending business premises and attempts to “re-educate” them in proper English. A variety of weapons are at the unit’s disposal for this purpose. Pens, multicoloured sticky notes, Departmental letterheads and leaflets entitled: "Common Grammatical Errors and You, You Illiterate Fuck".

More recent additions to the responsibilities of this unit include Text Speak Infractions (outside of mobile phone usage), and this alone has ensured that the volume of work has increased tenfold since the proliferation of mobile telephony in Ireland. The attendant impact on everyday written communication of the 140-character-or-less short messages has been devastating.

When I first entered, a HEO was busy training two of the COs in correct form-stapling operations. One CO had correctly collated several dozen forms and was progressing well. The other CO had managed, in the short observation period:
1:         To staple his thumb and forefinger together
2:         To staple a (bloodied) form to his sleeve
3:         To staple himself to the HEO.
When this last incident occurred, the local first aid representative had to intervene, and both officers were taken to A&E to be separated. 
One of the EOs came forward and wiped up the blood from the desk, so I could sit and observe the remaining staff. "We're used to blood aroud here", she said apologetically.
I made myself comfortable. It was going to be a long day...
In Part 2: More bodily fluids,  forms, red tape (nothing to do with blood this time) and commonly available stimulants.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

ButtCacks.... er.... Cutbacks

Much has been happening in the Department of late. The recruitment freeze and general cutbacks are making their presence felt. Staff morale is lower than normal; some COs are now so inert they can't even muster the energy to log onto Facebook during work hours. They sit, dribbling on their forms, marking time until their tea break.

Staff who have retired/ transferred/ died/ sublimated have not been replaced, and consequently there are a lot of empty desks in the open plan areas. The Personnel unit have attempted to alleviate these lacunae by placing mannequins dressed as civil servants in strategic locations around the building (i.e.  the ones clad only in suspenders, PVC knickers and lacy bras have been assigned to all senior managers' offices as "personal assistants").  

One retiring EO  has written the Department into his will and intends to come back  here after death as a stuffed civil servant. It is argued that there will be no discernible impact on his work output. 

More cutbacks have been announced. Some of them are devastating. The CO attached to the senior managers' washroom has opted for worksharing, and in the absence of a work partner, senior managers must now either wipe their own arses in the afternoon, or hold it until they get home. 

Members of the public have been advised to fill out forms using pencil. This way, once the form has been processed by the Department, the details can be erased and the form can be re-used, therefore cutting down significantly on reprinting costs. A dedicated CO has been fully trained in Eraser Operation for this purpose. A FAS intern has been assigned to lick the forms that have been stained by tea or coffee. He is frequently off sick. 

In my own immediate vicinity, Nosher has been put on verbal warning to lose weight, as the Facilities Management Unit can no longer afford to replace his chair every time it collapses under his 20 stone plus frame. The Trappist EO, sickened at the impact on his take home pay of the slashes to the overtime budget, has taken on a second job as a bingo caller. 

The worst is yet to come! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where the South Wind Blows...

Averse as I am to any manifestation of bodily functions in the workplace, I like most people, do occasionally have to do “things” in the Department’s toilets.

Last night’s triple strength chilli wasn’t going to be digested without putting up a fight. All day I had stomach rumblings and borborygmi of Fukushima proportions. Mostly tremors - an actual volcanic eruption wouldn’t occur until later, when I was in the smallest room in my own Ballyfuck home and accompanied by some apt reading material and cool, moist, Aloe Vera impregnated toilet paper.

The working day was spoilt by the constant pressure of digestive gases on the nether regions of my anatomy and, due to my impeccable manners and genteel disposition, the expulsion of said gases in the working environment is an absolute no-no. Also the office chair upholstery is of a type that may harbour said gases for an indeterminate period of time, occasionally releasing bursts of stale flatulence every time one sits down. Like one of those ridiculously overpriced motion sensor air fresheners. Only with stink. Or, like Reggie Perrin’s boss CJ’s chairs. Only with smell and not sound. Which is worse. It’s not as funny.

The downside of my politesse is that I periodically had to waddle to the bathrooms when the pressure became too great. Also there was a risk of loss of sphincter control in the event of my dropping – for example - a form on the floor and then bending to pick it up. The shame! I never drop forms.

The toilets were a minefield of potential embarrassment also. The dread of bumping into a HEO or a CO was palpable. Smells were OK here, they would merely mingle with the more noxious and long lasting smells emitted by the effluvium of thirty or forty civil servant arses post lunch break. The bathrooms were empty when I entered, however I heard the outer door opening and someone entering once I had locked my stall. I used the flush mechanism to disguise any nasty noises for the other occupant’s benefit.

Only, once the flush finished, my bum suddenly produced a “FLAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP” worthy of Wynton Marsalis on speed, with a Vuvuzela up his backside. “Fuck” I thought. What now? Would I exit quickly and run the risk of the other person emerging from their stall as I washed my hands. I could see the headlines in the staff newsletter: “TOILET TERROR AS EO FARTS”. Or, worse, wait until the other person had finished their business, (Hopefully) washed their hands and exited. The danger there was that they could bump into a pal outside the entrance door and smirk knowingly as I came out. I decided to opt for the former course of action. I unlocked the door and made my way briskly to the sinks.

As I dried my hands, I heard a sound from the other person’s cubicle. “Phoooot” it went. And then: “plop plop plop plop plop”. I sighed with relief, for all I'd done was make a noise, and here was another toilet user unashamedly dropping the kids off at the pool. 
I bounded happily out the door. I bumped into another colleague right outside, and watched as the other occupant, a stuck-up AP emerged a few minutes later. I didn't smirk. I am the soul of discretion. Anyone's arse can let them down. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Civil servants' claims expose deadly danger of papercuts - Irish, Business -

Poignant article by Nick Webb in the latest Super Soaraway Sunday Sindo:

Civil servants' claims expose deadly danger of papercuts - Irish, Business -

"Papercuts of unprecedented agony are thought to have brought entire government departments to a standstill on occasion."

That's what I've been saying for years. FORMS CAN KILL. I am aware of a HEO keeling over from the shock of having to process a form himself because of staff shortages. Forms have been known to come back from the front lines splattered in blood, poo, and many other disease-bearing bodily fluids. And we have to handle them. A papercut from one of those filthy bastards could lay a CO low for six weeks!

"6 per cent of all claims against the State for employer liability, public liability and property damage come from our 36,000 civil servants. Gardai made 5 per cent of the claims, with prison officers accounting for 4 per cent in 2010. Civil servants were only marginally less likely to claim against the State than prisoners."

Is "Prisoners" the new shorthand for Prison officers? I thought they were two entirely different entities.

If so, I want to change my job title to "Executioner". It has a much nicer ring to it, don't you think?

Hmm. And I think we may have found the source of the unexpected increase in population calculated in this year's preliminary Census results.

"But there are 4.8 million people in the country, as opposed to just 360,000 civil servants."

Aha! So it's not births... it's civil servants multiplying tenfold since the earlier paragraph was written! So much for the Croke Park agreement! I didn't know we could reproduce so quickly; I wasn't aware of my capacity for mitosis, might come in handy all right for that meeting I couldn't be arsed attending...

Thank you Sindo. I've discovered a whole new side of myself. Ten of them, in fact. Bwahahahahah!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wee Shall Overcome!

A rather disturbing thing has been happening to me at work.

I'm a fan of drinking lots of water during the day as it's supposedly good for me. The Department supplies us with all the nice cool Filtered Assistant Principals' Piss .... uhem!.....drinking water we need.

Physiology being what it is, however, the liquid ingested must emerge somewhere, and I find myself needing to visit the workplace bogs four or five times a day. This is a problem, in a way other than the obvious smells I must endure (ref:, passim).

My wee cycle seems to be synchrous with that of a CO from a neighbouring section. About three times a day, every day, this CO and I cross paths in the toilets. It's gotten to the point where we are nodding awkwardly at each other when she enters while I am washing my hands or vice versa.

I swear, it's like this, from Scrubs, only in a women's toilet. And we are both Doctor Cox.

I suppose we are lucky that it hasn't come down to this:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Billy, don’t be an EO

Not that the civil service is hiring at the moment or anything, but seriously, who would want this job?

Being securely ensconced in paid employment at the moment is providing little consolation to me right now.

The disquiet coincided with the advent of a new boss, to whom I will attach the title of “Hexecutive” a rather apt contraction of “Higher Executive Officer”. The Hexecutive arrived in the Department of Pedantry, fresh from a rather important assignment in another Department, to find herself, in conjunction with our existing HEO, sharing control of our not-so-important unit, which has yet again been restructured.

I, as the least grey of the incumbent EOs, have been targeted by the Hexecutive to be her personal guide through the workings of the unit, given my aptitude for remembering where things are, how things work and general all-round efficiency not yet stifled by twenty years’ stagnation at the top of a pay scale. Not yet.

The Hexecutive has entered the unit with all guns blazing, criticising our work processes – many of which were inherited from other units during the restructuring – and making sweeping changes. As the first to agree that a new outlook is often beneficial, I usually welcome changes, however when changes are made to my work process without my knowledge, it’s not long before steam starts coming out of my ears.

Hexecutive: Govstooge, why have you filed these GQUIFHQF-7700 forms under “Existential Anguish”?
Govstooge: That’s where they’ve always been filed. Look, it says so in Page 988 of the Unit Manual.
Hexecutive: No, they should now be filed under “General Ennui and Despair.”
Govstooge: Oh. Fair enough, but I wasn’t told. Should the PQIOQPROQKOJF-7797727 forms also be filed under “General Ennui and Despair?”
Hexecutive: No, I’ve made a new category for those, they’re now under “Despondency”.
Govstooge: Super (!) And does "Despondency" now replace the categories of "Torpor" and "Languor"?
Don't be silly, why would they?
Fuck knows. I don't know what the hell is going on around here anymore. Call me when you've sorted it out.

The other EOs look at each other over their copies of The Irish Times, Take a Cake and Incontinent Functionary Weekly and thank God or whatever fusty grey deity they pray to that they have, so far, escaped the Hexecutive. Their turn will come, oh yes. Because one day, this turbo-charged HEO is going to have them in her sights, and, thinking, "What exactly do they do?"

There has to be a more efficient way of completing the Pimplex crossword, after all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Dun (For)

Yesterday's capture of Al-Quaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden made me think. Not about what a great, albeit symbolic victory for the US and some small consolation to the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks. Or about the Navy Seals' persistence and courage in the pursuit of their mission.

Nope. I'm bloody fascinated with those little cameras they had on their helmets to relay images via satellite back to Obama and Hillary et al in Washington. Where can I get one of those? I can see infinite uses for it in a civilian (that is to say, a civil servant) context.

1. Imagine, if you will, an EO giving a performance review to a CO. The CO's performance has been piss-poor and as a result the review is not a good one. As the EO looks downwards to sign off the form, the CO makes the most horrible faces and sticks out their tongue at the top of the EO's head. One of those army camera thingies would capture this, and enable the EO to subject the CO to further criticism along with a spot of waterboarding, if the EO is feeling generous. In the case of a hostile CO, camera WITH helmet would be advisable.

2. Surreptitiously attach one to Nosher's clothing. In order that the eternal tea break debate "Can he stand up to wee with that big belly hanging down over his willy, or does he sit down in a trap like a girl?" can finally be resolved.

3. Leave one in the toilets. Not for pervy reasons, just to finally catch the dirty bastard who's been crapping in the sink. Also for use in the Ladies', in order to determine who's been sticking used sanitary towels to the wall. They don't deserve jobs!

4. Attach one to the table that the Trappist EO normally sits at in the canteen. Just what is that mystery meat in his sandwiches? I've a bet on that it's squirrel. Or possibly badger roadkill. A more conservative conjecture is that it's grey ham from just before closing time at the supermarket.

I could then have my very own YouTube channel, featuring all this and more!

USA forever! (As in Unfriendly Spying Apparatus)

Thursday, April 28, 2011


A thoughtful person sent this link to my work email recently. Harmless fun. I sniggered. Then I forgot about it.

A random HEO paid me a visit to ask me something, which involved my showing him where something was on the network, which I duly did.

Not realising, of course, that, as he looked over my shoulder, there on the taskbar was a browser button reading "ORGASMIC SIMULATOR". He was there two, maybe three minutes before I realised what was on my screen. Not to mention the fact that SIMULATOR is only one letter removed from STIMULATOR, which could have given the impression that I was shopping online for a bedroom accessory in the shape of a willie. On work time, no less! What bare-arsed cheek!

Remedied by: "Oh look, a meerkat" and a swift right click and close while the HEO was scanning the office for the unlikely intruder. Simples. The same could not be said for my bright red face.

Is this divine retribution for not ticking "Catholic" on the Census Form?

Too late now. I gave it back.

I'm a red-faced statistic.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

You Fill up my Census

Last week, I had the fava beans and Chianti on standby for the arrival of my local Census taker when he came to deliver the mother of all forms, the 2011 Census of Population. A bout of indigestion put paid to my hepatic-organ-munching plans and when the nice man from the CSO called around, I accepted the 24 page form meekly.

And what a form!

My first Census as head of household! Ooo the excitement of it all! No more will I have to tick the "Roman Catholic" box under "Religion" in order to pacify my parents. At last: my true calling.

My love of linguistics can also shine through for the benefit of legions of temporary clerical officers sweating over these forms:

The Census is really important for genealogical research in the future; by filling the form in as follows, I will give future generations a small taste of life as a public sector worker in 2011:

Also, how can you not have a nationality? And, can you make up your own?

Demography, eh?

People are bastards.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hey Mr Tambourine Man...Fuck Off!

Much change has taken place in my small work unit in recent weeks. (Oh no! Change! The enemy of the cossetted civil servant!) Personally, I like a nice bit of change. Keeps me on my toes and offers me an opportunity to stimulate the dim recesses of the brain which the Electro-Convulsive Therapy rods can't reach.

My erstwhile colleague, Morticia, has left for pastures new. A career break of some sort I believe. I think there's a Mediterranean cruise in there somewhere, so that Morticia can avail of the opportunities to drop in on friends like Benny in Rome, Nicolas' and Carla's holiday home in the French Riviera, BenAli in Tunisia - oops, scratch that one. She took the Atropa belladonna I presented her with some months back, and a large tub of emollient. Good luck to her.

In her stead comes a whole nut EO... I mean, a whole NEW EO. He has been redeployed from some other area of the Department which was found to have surplus staff. I call him Mr Tambourine Man.

Why? Is it because he carries around a small percussion instrument which marks out the tempo of his stride as he arrives into work in his Birkenstocks and white socks? Is it because he is always whistling Bob Dylan tunes?

Nah. It would be OK if he did these things. I could even forgive the tambourine. Those things are easy to grab and throw at people if they piss me off.

Mr Tambourine Man is yet another of that strange band of brothers in my new Department, the unattached Oedipal male. The kind of chap whose only experience of women is (a) Mammy, (b) Sister Nunzilla, the principal of the primary school, (c) Bridie from the Post Office, (d) Yer wan off Winning Streak. But particularly Mammy, as she is still washing his clothes and cooking his dinner even though he is now turning grey at the temples, has a cholesterol problem and is developing a middle-age spread (although not quite yet a member of the Masonic Order of the Generous Waistband like Nosher). He has been a civil servant since time immemorial and got promoted to EO on seniority because he dribbled slightly less than the other COs in his unit.

As a woman who does not fall into (a-d) above, I'm something of a curiosity to him. He likes to sneak glances across the room whenever he gets a chance. I am not dressed provocatively; my low cut tops with neon flashing lights "Boobs in here!" are kept for the weekends.

He doesn't know the correct method of initiating a conversation with a member of the fairer sex. A simple "Did you get any bastards canvassing at your front door last night?" would work for me, as I could describe my "BIOHAZARD- PROPERTY QUARANTINED DUE TO EBOLA OUTBREAK" sign that I had made specially for the front door. And the Petri dishes with the actual virus in them that I've placed at regular intervals around the driveway (I'm not saying where I got those).

Nah, Mr Tambourine Man prefers to let the woman kick off the discussion. He returns from tea break and paces up and down in front of my desk for a few minutes, in the hope that I'll look up and say, "How were the scones today, Colin? How many teeth did you lose today?" A pointless gesture, because I don't look up and enquire about the fucking scones. This pacing is disturbing and is having the opposite effect to what was intended. His attention seeking does not stop there, however. He puts his hand in his pocket and proceeds to play with an unfeasibly large...


...NO! unfeasibly large amount of change. Jingle jangle. And more fucking jingle jangle. "Oh Colin, what an awful lot of money you must have," he seem to be willing me to say. Seriously. Is the sound of clinking monetary shrapnel the equivalent of the Sirens' song to Ulysses?

"In the jingle jangle morning, I'll come following you..."

I won't follow you, so fuck off, Tambourine Man, and put it in a pint glass on your bedside table like most normal people. I bet you pay for your scone in the canteen with 1c coins.

Earlier in this post I said I liked change.

Why do they punish me so?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bring it on!

Lower ranking civil servants to take on extra duties:

Well, hahahahahahahaha!

We do most of the work anyway!

What additional duties will we be taking on? Tea-drinking? Brown-nosing? Black Ops on PS3 in the conference room?

I'm sure I could make time for such activities in my busy day.

Should have been done years ago...

In other news, Langer replaces Biffo as head of Zanu FF.


I still won't vote for the pricks...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Worst ... Aid ... Ever!

Now that the beta-blockers that the doctor prescribed for me to control the crazy physiological manifestations of my utter OUTRAGE (even the HEO ducked for cover, and the building was almost evacuated) at the sight of my first 2011 payslip last week have kicked in, I am now able to put my no longer trembling fingers to keyboard to compose my first post of the year.

I’m not going to write about the changes to my take-home pay and the attendant austerity measures I must adopt in my lifestyle. I may die in the pro...........

..... hmm. That light was very bright. It gave me a migraine.


Earlier this week, a friend who is currently in college asked me if I would like to participate on a first-aid course currently being undertaken by herself and other members of her class. Given the cost to non-students, I politely declined, saying also that a similar course is periodically offered at work free of charge.

I’ve never done a first-aid course at work. It’s a useful skill that can, for once, be used in the real world outside the Civil Service.

The problem is, if I did do the course in work, I would be listed as a first aid practitioner (and possibly defibrillator operator) among others on the Department’s Intranet.
What if I actually had to do something? There are a lot of fairly unhealthy looking types in the Department. You can hear them wheezing, puffing and panting on the stairs. Their red faces serve as emergency lighting. Most of them have bad teeth, skin problems and are challenged in the niceties of personal hygiene. The others are arseholes. The very thought of having to give mouth-to-mouth or defibrillate the bare chests of any of them makes me want to puke.


... I might just have the power to decide whether they live or die! To play God! BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!

Imagine! A prostrate, purple-faced psoriatic EO with week-old sweat stains under his arms, or a cyanotic CO whose smugness suddenly seems to have left her...with only me... ME! as the one to grasp them and firmly reinstate them on this mortal coil. Or a talkative CO with an annoying voice struggling to breathe, necessitating an emergency tracheotomy with an old biro to keep the airway open – sure why not rip the vocal chords out while I’m at it?

Endless possibilities for evil, violence and fun, while helping to keep employment levels down. Helping the public sector employment statistics for the Croke Park agreement.

Although, knowing my rotten luck, it’ll end up being me prostrate on the floor, especially if there are any more cuts or tax increases. Well, at least I have nice skin, good oral hygiene and shower and change my clothes daily. I’d have some chance of surviving, I suppose.

Anyway, happy new year and all that, motherfeckers.