Mischief Afoot!

If you are lucky, the people you work with become like another family, your “office family,” if you will.  You share your triumphs and failures with them, confident of receiving warm congratulations or sincere sympathy, as appropriate.  They know your “home family” and are frequent participants in the major events of your life.  They dance at your wedding (hopefully not on the table) and happily accept the pink or blue bubblegum cigar (and in one case, both!) when your child is born. They come to parties and celebrations.  They grieve with you at family funerals.  And you do all the same with them.

As with all families, office families play jokes on each other. Naturally, in the course of day-to-day office activity, you get to know these people very well, and they you.  You learn their preferences and they appreciate your idiosyncrasies.  And sometimes, this knowledge erupts into delightful (and frequently hilarious) office shenanigans.  My favorite job and my favorite office family were at a software company.  Because it stands to reason that the software industry would draw some pretty creative people, it follows that office shenanigans could also be quite creative.

To wit:  Mike (the names have been changes to protect the innocent) had a thing about his “stuff.”  You could borrow his stapler or tape dispenser, but you had better return them.  Alas, because people are people, some didn’t, and Mike would be forced (in high dudgeon, I might add) to go in search of his stuff the next time he needed it.  It became a “thing,” and poor Mike took some world class teasing about it   One Monday when he came into work, Mike was greeted by the product of  his co-workers’ creativity.  Every single object on Mike’s desk – his phone, his computer, every pencil, every piece of paper, every paperclip, everything – had been labeled with Mike’s name.  We were all issued notepads bearing the company logo at the top and our names at the bottom.  Mike’s weekend marauders had cut his name from the bottom of his note pad sheets, and taped it to everything on his desk.  Gotcha!

To wit: Mary was a little obsessive about order and organization.  Everyone had an 18-volume set of documentation at our desks, and nothing drove Mary crazier than to have one of the books out of order on the shelf.  These manuals were not numbered, you understand; they had subject matter titles on them.  But Mary knew what order they should be in (and it wasn't alphabetical), and heaven help anyone who returned a manual to anything but its proper position in the rank. Too good to resist, right?  The weekend marauders hit again.  Monday morning, Mary came in to find every manual in the wrong place on the shelf.  With much grumbling and grousing, deep frowns and deeper sighs, Mary immediately restored the books to their correct position.  I mean, really, who can work when things are not as they should be?  It didn’t take her long to discover that she had been yet another victim of the aforementioned creativity.  Turns out, the manuals were never moved from their rightful place on the shelf at all.  But the paper title labels that slid into a sleeve along the spine of the books had been removed and shuffled.  When she meticulously rearranged the books to put the spine labels back into the right place, she had actually been moving the books out of order.  Gotcha!

To wit:  One responsibility of the job was to teach week-long customer classes, during which one was out of the office. Because the company was growing so quickly, there was always a shortage of desk chairs.  When someone was out of the office, their chair was often moved temporarily to the cubicle of a newbie for whom a new chair had not yet been delivered.  I really liked my chair.  It had good back support and tilted just enough.  It was a great chair, and I was MUCH more productive in that chair.  You know what I mean, right?  Right?  I was one of the lead instructors, so I was frequently out of the office.  And, sure as the day is long, I would return to find my chair gone.  Off I would go, examining every chair (which all looked the same) to find my special chair.  Well, I finally got smart, and attached my name to the back of the chair.  Now I could just walk up and down the rows of cubicles and easily retrieve my chair.  One Monday I returned after a week in class to find a lawn chair at my desk, bearing my name on the back.  (Very funny… bunch of wise guys!)   I started down the row of cubicles, and lo!  Every single chair in every single cubicle had my name on the back.  Gotcha!

I really loved that job, and I miss it.  But it’s not the work I miss.  I miss my crazy family.

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