I have often written in these articles of the origins and manifestations of my weird and veering sense of humour.
What I haven’t gone into yet is the downside of this – which is that people who know you will assume that any act that seems to fit your sense of humour MUST be down to you!
I first became aware of this becoming a problem around Christmas of 1978. I was working at the Chelmsford office of Barclays Bank Trust Company (towards the end of the first of my two stints there) and, in the interests of being sociable, signed up for an early manifestation of the office “Secret Santa” scheme. I don’t recall who I did draw to purchase an anonymous present for – but I know who it wasn’t!
The Manager of the Tax Department was a Taxation “Expert” on account of his having written a book about the “new” (i.e 1974) Unified Tax System and thought that this made him a good Manager too.
Actually, compared to some of the right BASTARD Managers and Deputy Managers I experienced later on in my Tax career, he wasn’t too bad – he just tended to micro-manage the technical side of things. Letters to the Inland Revenue (known these days as HMRC) would be stopped, for example, if they didn’t quote chapter and verse of the Taxes Acts at every opportunity – as if the Civil Service rank and file at the other end would have understood those references anyway!
Meanwhile back at the Secret Santa ceremony, this Manager – let’s call him Brian for no other reason than that was his name – was the first to be handed his present. This turned out to e a book entitled “Teach Yourself Office Management” and his face turned first red with embarrassment then a kind of purple with supressed rage!
And all of my dear Tax colleagues (about 25% of those present) immediately looked at ME!
I shook my head but the only way I could have disproved everyone’s assumption would have been to quickly state who I had bought for and what it was I had given them – which would have defeated the object of the exercise! Besides I didn’t think of it in time!
Denials notwithstanding it may be no coincidence that I was transferred to Norwich two months later.
Some years later I discovered who the real culprit was – a “fast track” Graduate lady on our team who was Brian’s favourite. I think THAT status would have changed rather rapidly had she confessed!
And then, whilst at the Norwich office, the pompous, right-wing, womanising Deputy Manager (first mentioned here https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/12/16) strongly suspected me of being the instigator of the forged application for him to join the Norfolk & Norwich Branch of the Labour Party which listed his good friend the local Conservative Party Chairman as a reference!
I did not do that one either, although I was one of four people including the real guilty party who knew all about it. And I am not going to “grass” on that person now, even after 30-odd years.
Similarly I know, without having been involved in any way, just who it was who slipped into one of the offices I was working at VERY early on the morning of a particular April 1st and sellotaped down the buttons under the handset of every single telephone, Managers’ included, in the entire office so that they carried on ringing after said handset was lifted. Again, I’m not telling!
In view of all these denials I suppose you would like to know what jolly japes and wheezes I will put my hands up to.
The answer, actually, is “not many” – once I realised I was going to get blamed for other peoples’ stunts there seemed little point!
I will, however, confess to a couple of things.
When we first centralised at Peterborough I had in my team a particularly tiresome trainee. She was a middle-aged lady (who kept Ferrets – which has nothing whatsoever to do with the story) and despite never having worked in tax before you could not tell her anything! She argued whenever I stopped her letters for any reason (especially if it was “only” that she’d got the facts completely wrong) and was always trying to do things with the computer terminals we were using that they weren’t meant to do.
These were not desktop or laptop computers – just DEC terminals that could be toggled between the Tax Return completion application and the work management system. They weren’t even colour monitors – unless you count the green or yellow writing that appeared on the invariably black screen but this person thought it was a PC and kept mucking about with the settings.
What she expected to achieve we’ll never know but she ignored me as usual when I told her she’d break it – until, that is, the day when she forgot to log out of the terminal when she went out to lunch and I noticed. Now I had found out some things about these terminals and made some changes before locking the screen as she should have done.
I wasn’t actually watching when she came back and went to resume working but I heard the shriek and saw the sun-like flare that emitted from the glaring bright yellow screen with black writing on it! She stopped messing about with it after that!
Later on when we were given actual Personal Computers to work with I took a great delight in altering the graphics settings of anyone who annoyed me – there is a thing you can do which inverts the screen image by 180 degrees. It doesn’t sound much but you try putting it back the way it was when the mouse pointer moves the opposite way to what you want!
When Barclays sold its Tax Department (the word “out” is still often silently inserted after the word “sold” by some of us)and it became, for reasons that no-one could fathom, “ieTaxguard” the old management structure was left in place with the Teflon-coated GIT who had been in charge of me at Cambridge and initially at Peterborough taking the position of Senior Bastard, sorry, “Manager”!
As I have related elsewhere on this site they decided, after only 6 months of trading, to cut costs and I was one of 20 long serving staff made redundant.
I decided, with nothing to lose, to explore the blurred lines between practical joking and sheer vindictive revenge!
I was at that time doing a job called “Systems Liaison” which included administration of the company word processor system whereby all routine letters were produced by selecting pre-set paragraphs and on my last day I changed the hard coded signature box for my erstwhile boss. This appeared on all of his letters automatically and HE didn’t have the permissions to alter it.
Thus instead of “B**** S****, Senior Manager” appearing on every letter he produced, the words “Senior Manager” were replaced by “is a complete shit!” I often wonder how many he printed before he noticed.
Oh, and the other thing I did on my last day was to fill my desk drawers with oranges and bananas before locking them and leaving with the only two keys! Sadly I couldn’t get fresh fish but I was told that eventually the smell got so bad they had to throw out that unit.
In my subsequent IT career I was made redundant again in 2004 and have already related how my parting shot there was the addition of their main customer, Tesco, to the banned words list on their email filter.
When I left MBM Produce (redundant again!) in 2009 there were no staff left to play tricks of that sort on and the Accountants ruining (sorry, another typo – that should be “running”) the company wouldn’t have known a joke if it bit them in the arse!
Since then, everyone I’ve worked for on contract has been far too nice to do things like that to – besides, it wouldn’t do my reputation in this business any good and I need to keep working for a few more years !
You have now been warned about what upsetting me can lead to – just in case!