Monday, August 29, 2016

Top five office moments

The interesting thing about office life is there's nothing remotely interesting about office life. In over four years in the same office I could count the interesting things that have happened on one hand. And here they are: 

1. The office Christmas party
In the lead up to Christmas there is magic in the air; people are more social; barriers come down; fun is to be had. By New Year, and back at work, the spell is broken. It was spoken about for months after but even by the Monday after the Friday office party just before Christmas, even the people who were there were unsure about who sat on whose lap, whose pocket her flicked gold chocolate coin had miraculously landed in, who put out whose cigarette with the fire extinguisher. 

In other words, details were hazy two days after the event, let alone eight months. Seemingly insignificant events assumed massive proportions. Who threw the first cherry tomato? Was Steve  really levitated? Did I really juggle with lemons? Details were hazy.

The evening did not bode well. For a start the company was down to thirteen members of staff. It had been double that six months ago. By the time bingo, musical chairs and musical statues had finished (I'd come second in the last two; story of my life), and Secret Santa's opened, it was 5:30pm, and several people went home on the dot. Nothing more was expected to happen. They'd been nibbles and a few drinks. No one was feeling very merry. There was eight of us left. We toyed with going to the pub, but with booze, food and music in the office, we decided to stay.

We all started drinking and dancing. The two MDs of the company (both women), another three women and three guys, including me. One guy was too cool to dance, he just leaned against a post, stroking his beard. It was down to me, Amy, Steve and Laura to do the moves. Suddenly, a cherry tomato comes flying my way – and hits me on the arm. And that signals the start of the food fight. Tomatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, lemons, scotch eggs, crisps, cup cakes and chicken legs all go flying around the office. I'm pretty sure I juggled with the lemons.

At some point, one of the MDs opened the floodgates by smoking a cigarette in the office. It felt very naughty and decadent indeed. So others followed suit, even Steve, who hadn't had a cigarette for years, though I'm sure it was him who then let off the fire extinguisher. By now we were all pretty drunk, and started playing the shopping list memory game, 'I went to the shops and bought...' Traditionally a children's game, we played the adult version with an assortment of sexual toys in the basket, only some of which I'd actually heard of. I did quite well nevertheless.

Next the MD suggested levitation, something I used to play at school, where a group of us would put a couple of fingers underneath someone lying down and miraculously lift them up as if they were light as a feather. After a few false starts (giggling), I was chosen to lie down. Each person put their fingers underneath me, and spoke the same lines: 'He's looking sick / Call an ambulance / He's looking very ill / Where's the ambulance?' Then, 'He's dead' and whoosh – up I went. Sort of.

We finished with pushing each other around in the office chairs, went to a bar about 2am, then headed home. Naturally, I got lost about 3am or so when the night bus left me stranded in the middle of nowhere. Nevertheless, it had been a good evening.

2. The big showdown*
One was a production manager (PM), the other a freelance graphic designer (FGD). They didn't quite see eye to eye: the PM would design pages; the FGD would tinker with them for days. The showdown was like what the meeting of De Niro and Pacino in the film Heat should have been like. They were working opposite each other. It was lunchtime, the office virtually empty. Something snapped in the PM; probably it was the overpriced FGD fiddling with the Quark (yes, Quark) pages yet again. The PM started shouting at the FGD about changing the pages just before press day. The FGD had no choice but to shout back, telling him his pages were rubbish and needing changing. This goes on for a bit and by now they are both standing up. Then the FGD utters the words which might actually be straight from the film Heat: "If you want me gone, just say the word. I'm gone in five minutes. I'm out of here and you'll never see me again." Four years later, he's still there and the PM isn't.

3. The dramatic resignation*
The new magazine editor was born on exactly the same day, month and year as me – we had been on earth exactly the same time, and had had different life experiences to say the least. More worryingly, a young woman we worked with – well, her mother was also exactly the same age as us. He had issues: since leaving the army he'd been listless and lacked direction. I didn't know anything about him, except he'd only just met his nine year-old son for the first time the previous year. He'd had a turbulent affair for six months with a Spanish woman (who he said was crazy) a decade previously. Ten years later she'd called him up and said he had a nine year-old son. He'd been able to meet him once, in Spain, chaperoned by his son's mother's sister. Neither the mother or the sister approved of him, and didn't want him seeing his son again.

He worked with us for a few months. He obviously wasn't enjoying it. One day, just before home time, he was getting upset about being dictated to by PR agencies; he said he couldn't work under these conditions. The managing editor informed him it was the nature of the beast. His face turned red; he slammed a load of papers down on his desk; stood up, and declared, in that case, 'I resign'. It just came out, I wasn't sure he actually meant it. He looked surprised that the words had come out of his mouth. People don't resign like that any more; I admired it. There were only a few of us in the office, but the words had been uttered, and he had to pretty much follow through with it.

4. The crazy freelancer*
She looked like what I imagine a Marxist lesbian would look like. Very intense, she could barely look at men, and sneered when I suggested she could use the men's toilet (the women's being occupied). She slammed drawers and office stationary loudly and muttered to herself. The incident happened, again, at lunchtime; the office was almost empty. She was a freelance reporter, interviewing someone on the phone for a magazine article. At some point a couple of us sitting nearby realised she was having an argument with her interviewee, and her voice got louder and more aggressive. She had our full attention by the time she was shouting at him "You will not hang up on me! You will finish the interview! Don't you dare hang up on me!" She was gone the next day.

5. I resign
I saved the best till last didn't I?

*I know what you're thinking – the office was virtually empty in all three episodes – how was I the only person to witness all three events? Just lucky I guess.

I know I moan about office life a fair bit (see below) but seriously, taking a bunch of random people; putting them in a grey box with strip lighting (ie an office); staring at a screen all day; getting them to have to work together eight hours a day, five days a week; where passive aggressive behaviour is the order of the day; and do activities that are at best pointless, at worse painful; I don't know, it just seems like a perverse joke.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The dream of basic income for everyone
Don't become a graphic designer
Wasting time
Just a quick one
Four-day working week
Introverts vs extroverts
'In terms of' overtakes 'literally'
London Bridge Lunches
The Metros
Email étiquette
I'm literally not being funny but let me ask you a question
Aspire to be average
The Offensive Office


Caspar said...

Just a few observations:
I wish I'd been there when PM and FGD had that confrontation! And I bet PM kicked himself many times afterwards for passing up the opportunity to let FGD walk.
Your office life actually sounds far more eventful than most people's. Levitation? Arguments? Smoking? That's wildly decadent for this day and age - I don't know what you're complaining about.

Barnaby said...

Yes it’s non-stop rock ’n’ roll. Indeed, last night we had a quiz up the Shard. Divided into teams, one of the team members, an ex-MD of the company, was late as she was buying sex toys from Ann Summers. Our team won; the losing team all got sex toys (gimp mask, leather vest, whips) – and were walking around in a bar afterwards wearing them.