take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I stuck a note on the printer.

I know what you’re thinking, but it wasn’t one of those passive-aggressive notes "politely" informing the reader to cease and desist from whatever potential minor contravention was envisaged.

It was a helpful note.

I sit opposite the printer. I see the comings and goings of the users of the printer. I hear the bleeps and see the lights of the printer when the printer is unhappy. I see the frustrated user grappling with the drawers of the printer, tutting with exasperation when their document fails to emerge from the jaws of the printer.

Having worked as a secretary on several occasions in my murky past, I have built up a good rapport with printers. I know how to touch them, how to coax them, how to load them up and press their buttons. Where others slam the doors and jab angrily at the control panel, I calmly remove the paper jams, replace the cartridges and summon the friendly whirr of a happy printer with my gentle machinations.

So, sitting as I do opposite the printer, I often step in to help when I hear the bleeps that signal frayed tempers and concertina’d documents. Even though I rarely print anything out - existing in a largely paperless world, apart from my manuscript book where I scribble my ideas in pencil. This generally involve words with arrows pointing at other words, weird doodles and half-arsed to-do lists (the other day, I wrote "Need to " but then obviously became distracted and never found out what I "needed to" do...).

I would notice the hard-copy fanatics replenishing the paper. This would involve marching off to the opposite end of the office, bringing back one lonely packet of paper, putting half the packet in the printer, and leaving the remainder on top of the cupboard opposite the printer. The cupboard which overlooks my desk. A few hours later, this scene would repeat itself, just with a different user (whoever happened to approach the printer at its moment of need).

Knowing of the director’s penchant for a tidy office (woe betide anyone who leaves a coat on the back of a chair, let alone a half empty packet of paper on a cupboard), I took it upon myself to implement a system. Being a system implementer by trade, I felt qualified to do so. I went to the other end of the office, and picked up several packets of paper – as many as I could carry without contravening Health and Safety regulations. I piled these packets of paper quite neatly, in the (mostly empty) cupboard opposite the printer.

And then I stuck a note on the printer. Large, Arial font, nice and clear, neatly stuck on with backward-looped sellotape.

There should be paper in the cupboard behind you.
If not, you’ll have to take a walk...

Helpful, informative – and a little bit cheeky. Appropriate, I thought, for an IT department.

For several days, I was able to witness the beautiful efficacy of my system. The user would approach the printer, realise it had run out of paper and then turn toward me in a neat pirouette, open the cupboard and find a ready supply of paper. The supply of paper in the cupboard was maintained. My note was working.

Then one day, inexplicably, the note was gone. My colleagues and I speculated at some length on its disappearance, wondering whether a bin audit might reveal the culprit. But then Christmas came, and all was forgotten.

I noted, with some satisfaction, that the memory of my note lived on, as I witnessed further printer users turning instinctively to the cupboard for the paper supply. Evidently, others’ memories were not so efficient, as the departmental email today confirmed:
Please note that paper is kept in the cupboard opposite the printers. Please do not leave half-empty packets of paper on the cupboard tops.
There would have been no need for the email if they'd just kept my note...


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