Sunday, June 19, 2005

I shall be out of the office

Back in the 1980's I worked for Hewlett Packard Melbourne. It was most of the 80's as it happened, April 1980 to August 1988. This was before the age of email. Not that email changed things much; these days someone you barely know is going on leave and they'll send an email to everyone and his dog informing you that they're going on leave and that if something arises that demands their instant attention they can be contacted on such and such a phone number, or at such and such an email address and failing that you can contact someone else you've barely heard of and that person will forward it.

In short, they're so important, in their own estimation if no one elses, that the foundations of society as we know it will crumble if they can't be reached.

Back in the 80's we conveyed this via the office notice board. Thus I'd see a notice from Joe Kropopl (not his real name) informing us that he was on leave for the next fortnight - contact his secretary Emma Chissit if it was urgent. The odds on my having anything so urgent that I'd interrupt Joes leave was vanishingly low but then again, I regard leave as something inviolable. When I go to Australia in September the only person who will be able to contact me is my wife. The office? No way no how.

Actually the odds on my needing to contact Joe for any reason was zero but we won't go into that!

After seeing maybe the four hundredth such notice appear on the board I could take no more. So one afternoon, as I was going on leave, I wrote up my own notice. It read approximately thus (no I didn't keep a copy so I'm reconstructing from memory).

'I shall be out of the office for the next 2 weeks. If anyone needs to contact me please see Ian Boring, or failing that, refer to the brown dog up the street.'

Opinions were divided. Some found it funny; others felt it undermined the dignity due to a Hewlett Packard employee.

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