O is for: Offices. In a previous company, our building was converted from a large old house. There were rumours of a ghost in the basement and people who worked down there said they didn’t like to stay late. I was walking along the corridor one afternoon, with no one else around, when suddenly I felt three sharp taps on my shoulder. I turned – and there was no one there. I ran the rest of the way…
There may well have been ghosts in my next office building. Built in the 1970s, it was made up of two buildings joined together by a walkway in the middle and was such a labyrinth of rooms, I invariably became lost every time I ventured over to “the other side”. There are probably plenty of ghosts still roaming around of those who never made it back again…
I doubt there were any ghosts at all in our next building. It was built specially for the company and I can remember going with a colleague to see the enormous hole in the ground before work started. It lacked the ramshackle charm of our older building and there were no nooks and crannies. It resembled nothing more than an enormous call centre, with a gigantic open space in the middle I “affectionately” christened “the architect’s ego” much to everyone’s amusement. I reckoned he or she had been trying to emulate the famous turbine hall of the Tate Modern, behind which we stood.
The last building we moved to was (is) out in the wilds of Canary Wharf. After 28 years of feeling thankful at not having to get the tube into work every day, I now found myself having to do so and I hated every second of the journey. Even at seven am, the carriages were rammed, standing room only.
Having tackled that hurdle, the next one facing you upon arrival was the joy of hot-desking and trying to find a space for not only yourself but also your colleagues, whom you needed to be able to collaborate with at close quarters, not from right down the far end of the room.
So – you survived the vagaries of the London Underground system and you bagged your desk(s). Next up – the dreaded lockers. They didn’t always respond to your magic secret code number. We’ll gloss over the frustration that one caused, and the waiting around for facilities to unlock it for you with their big special key. Having finally plugged in your computer, did it work immediately? Not always. Only then did you discover that there was no power to your desk so, after all that, you had to trot off to find suitable accommodation elsewhere – all still within yelling distance of your colleagues, of course.
If all DID go to plan, you could expect to be up and running in about – ooh, give or take – half an hour after your arrival. You don’t want to know what hour I got up in the mornings to start work at a reasonably sensible time to allow for all of the above. I had two alarm clocks on the go, in case one of them let me down. Stressful was an understatement!
O is also for: Office parties. Go back three buildings for this one. It was amazing how much fun you could have dancing in your own office space once the computers and desks had been moved elsewhere; propping up the photocopier at one end and the odd stray post boy at the other. No expense was spared (I jest). Food and drink appeared from (surprise!) the cookery dept and music (tapes donated by staff, DJ usually someone from the art dept) got us all in jovial mood.
A member of staff fond of a drink or six herself (see post A) was probably not the best choice for (wo)manning the bar, on one occasion, but she took to the role with gusto and a very firm line with anyone she felt had strayed over their allocated quota for the night, which included the somewhat bemused company chairman at the time.
Prior to kick-off one year, a colleague swept across the carpet with a borrowed old upright vacuum cleaner, singing along to my Dusty Springfield’s Greatest Hits tape. Another perched on a chair to hang bunting everywhere, announcing to all and sundry: “It’s got to be perfect – I’m a Virgo.” Not a typo, just a quirk of that particular star sign. And particular they usually are (see “Z” for “Zodiac” for more).