New Guy

I had my weekly inane conversation with Rachel from HR today. It ran thus:

“Hi Rachel, how’s it going?”


“It’s like a furnace in here. How do you work in this heat?”

“It is a bit hot, I suppose. Can you do me a favour and switch on the air con?”

“But…it’s the middle of winter. The heat is in fact artificial. It’s coming from the radiator.”


“I mean…why don’t you just turn the heating down?”

“…*frowns*…oh, we don’t have any control over the heating.”

“Um, then who does control it?”


“Why don’t you call them and ask them to turn it down?”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not? Are they nazis?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never spoken to them. Why don’t you call them if you care so much?”

So I called maintenance and spoke to a guy called Steve. He told me to switch on the air con. When I pointed out that having both systems in operation was neither cost-effective nor environmentally friendly, he told me that the last time he had responded to a request to turn the heating down, people started complaining that it was too cold, so he had simply refused to accept any future responsibility. When I asked if he always took this evasive attitude towards criticism, he hung up, thereby confirming that he did. I decided to bring up the heating/air con paradox at the next staff meeting. Luckily, there happened to be one that very afternoon.

2p.m. Staff meeting. First item on the agenda was a new procedure for photocopying. With a view to cutting costs, all photocopies must now be done using HR’s new printing service. Requests for photocopies are to be e-mailed to HR 24 hours before they are needed. Ridiculous. I told them so:

“It’s completely impractical. I know how to use a photocopier. Why on earth should I outsource this basic task to HR?”

“As we’ve already explained, the printing service will save us money.”

“I see. Well, I can suggest an alternative money-saving idea, if you like.”

“And that would be?”

“You could turn the radiators down when it gets hot.”

“Why would that save money?”

“Because the current policy is to turn the air con on”, I said with a slight smirk.

“Why can’t you turn it down yourselves?”

“We have no control over the heating system. Rachel said so. And even if we did, we’d probably find it too complicated – just like the photocopiers.”

“Are you being sarcastic?”

“Erm, no.”

“Now I’m confused. Were you being sarcastic the first time and are you still being sarcastic or were you being sincere on both occasions?”

“Sorry. I was being sarcastic on both occasions.”

Sophie, the temp who had been taking minutes, looked utterly lost. I glanced at her notes. They simply read: new guy – weird and possibly sarcastic. She caught me peeking and threw her arms theatrically over her pad.

Back at my desk, I was horrified to discover that in the space of a week I had received 75 e-mails, 74 of which had been sent to e-mail groups rather than me personally. The only one that concerned me was an acknowledgement of a query I had made the previous week. Not an answer, but an acknowledgement. I expressed my displeasure with such an obscene amount of spam to my boss, Sharon.

“That’s not spam”, she said confidently, “all the senders work for the college.”

“Look, Sharon. An e-mail doesn’t have to come from penispumpsRus.com to be spam. As far as I can tell, any e-mail that doesn’t concern me is spam.”

“Hmmm, OK, I take your point. You know, there’s a way you can get rid of spam.” I raised an eyebrow, sensing a brainless suggestion was imminent.

“Just phone I.T. and get them to block the unsolicited e-mails.” Sharon beamed almost maniacally, clearly pleased that she had retained this useful snippet of information.

“But if by some miracle these people actually decide to send me something relevant, I won’t get it.” In the space of two seconds, Sharon’s expression went from surprised, to hurt, then to sulky, like a toddler who’s bashed its head and is trying to decide if there is anything to be gained by having a tantrum.


1 Response to “New Guy”

  1. 1 Lev Tolstoy
    November 23, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    In Moscow nobody has control over their own heating. The temperature is controlled by the local pumping station. It is not Nazi but is in fact communist. The result however is the same. It was -5 the other day but i needed to leave a window open in order to be comfortable enough for sleep. When i awoke the heating had been turned off and I was dangerously close to falling into a hypothermic coma. The moral of this comment is that nazi and communist policies, especially those concerning heat, are similar, crazy and quite quite wank.

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