Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Office niggles part two

And the subject this time is...fire drills. These feature the tedium of evacuating the building without that tiny hope that there might be a fire. Not a big dangerous fire, just a bit of an overloaded circuit in the server room and a bit of smoke and melting, which would put the computers out of action for the rest of the day, so everybody would get to go to the pub, or get home in non rush hour traffic to curl up with a mug of tea and one of those black and white midweek afternoon films on BBC2. Even without the systems being out of action, you might at least get to see some hunky firemen.

Of course, it occurs to me that I might be alienating a fair few bloggers here, as quite a few seem to work in IT support, in which case you wouldn't be doing anything nice if there was a problem in the server room, you'd have to go back in once the fire was out and work like dogs to sort it out, possibly overnight. And as there are more blokes in IT support than women, most of you won't even get much consolation from the hunky firemen (although I could be wrong).

It also occurs to me that a lot of regular readers work in Central London, or for high profile companies, and that fire alarms might be a bit more disturbing in the context of the last year. Sorry if this seems flippant. However, a lot of you are probably like me, working for fairly uncontroversial suburban or regional companies where terrorism isn't a concern, and you might well be the only ones still with me here. Given the readership of this blog, this probably leaves one sales rep who works for an office supplies company in Barnsley. Come with me, Trevor, as we explore the world of the fire drill...

In most cases, a fire drill is announced a few days beforehand. There will be at least one office junior or work experience person who is mildly excited by this. These will be very young, however, as anybody who has lived in a university hall of residence will be wearily familiar with the setting off of fire alarms, and the inquest which followed if you didn't show up for roll call (or it did in my day at Royal Holloway). No matter if you explained that the last thing you heard in the corridor at 3am was a shout of
"Ooh Sean, you've just put your elbow through that fire alarm! Who would have thought we would end up doing that after re-enacting the Monty Python fish slapping dance in a confined space peppered with loads of alarms with easily breakable glass, after we had 7 pints of snakebite in the Students' Union bar?". No, it would be solemnly explained that you should have pulled on some clothes and stood around in the cold anyway. Let's not even go into the times when you had to mumble something about not being in your room that night. You would then, and this is no word of a lie, be asked where you were! Talk about invasion of privacy. I mean, we're not talking about a convent here!

Anyway, we were talking about fire drills (come back, Trevor). In a big organisation, this involves designated fire marshalls, who get to wear a florescent yellow vest with FIRE MARSHALL on the back. Or, more likely, F RE MARS A L. Attractive and hard wearing, then. They always look for volunteers to be fire marshalls. Your best bet is to suddenly look very busy. Either that or to nudge the office junior or work experience person, and tell them that it's a good way to show initiative. Suckers. The idea is that you all follow the fire marshalls out of the office, rather than following the person in front of you who might get a sudden urge to visit the roof. This is a bit silly, as you all know how to go down the stairs and out of the doors anyway. And if it suddenly got really hot and smokey, and you panicked, and couldn't see, and you needed a leader, the mug who got landed with the job of fire marshall would not suddenly mutate into one of the cast of London's Burning. It would still be Marjorie from accounts, and her glasses have just fallen off..

The first rule of a fire drill is that you leave your coats and bags, and make straight for the exits. B*ll*cks. You're going to be out there in January; you know how long it takes to find everybody present and correct. And of course, this idea will always be sabotaged by that small, wayward, maverick group...yes, smokers. They can recognise an opportunity when they see one. Linford Christie has nothing on the smoker who finds themselves marooned on the top floor on some obscure photocopying quest, with his cancer sticks in his jacket swinging forlornly on the back of a chair on the first floor, when the alarm goes.

So, once out of the building, you line up for the register. This will often, unless your company is very enlightened, be in the car park of the building in question. You are now safely outside the dangerous building. It might be on the verge of a gas explosion, or a bomb explosion, but that's OK, you're a full 10 feet away from its plate glass windows. Sorted. This register can sometimes become interesting in a small organisation, as there might only be the one individual out of, say twenty, who is late. Sheepishly, they apologise, saying they were in the toilet. Given that they were at least two or three minutes late, this gives the other staff members the smug satisfaction of knowing he was doing a "number two".

Wet and cold, you amble back in. You realise that, in your haste to get away, you left your email in mid-sentence, you know, the one thanking that new contact for their interest in your asset evaluation service. You'd been quite good, leaving your desk midway through writing an email, like you were supposed to (but only because you needed to find your fags). You'd only got as far as:
"Thankyou for your interest in our ass"

Unfortunately, all the smokers had brushed past your desk on their way to get their ciggies, and, through the magic of random mouse movement and keyboard thumping, the email had been sent in that form. Even more worryingly, there is a reply nestling in your inbox. Nervously, you open it. It seems surprisingly positive. Oh dear, Trevor, that latest stationery contract might involve some rather unusual terms and conditions...


Anonymous Random browser said...

lol nice story-telling

1:32 am  
Blogger Nic said...

Like I'm going to evacuate and leave my Car Keys in the office...
Or my iPod...
Or even my sandwiches, come to that...

11:45 pm  

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