Journalist Richard Glover recently wrote a wonderful column about shocking millennials with his tales of the stationery cupboard. When he first joined the workforce, everyone had to convince the stationery gate-keeper that their pen (allotment, one) was indeed empty of ink before being issued with a replacement. “Don’t be ridiculous!’ said bright young things to Glover, disbelieving his account of cruelty in yesterday’s office.
On his radio show, Glover repeated the anecdote, only to have listeners begin ringing in with their own tales, of taking a pencil to the stationery monitor only to have the one inch of pencil put into a sharpening device and handed back. Another listener recalled a metal sleeve that could be attached to the stub to extract a few more weeks out of a pencil and yet another recalled staples being given out one row at a time. Carbon paper had to be proven to be completely exhausted. Of course, a millennial today would ask; ‘what is carbon paper?’
How many of us marvel at the freedom and ‘absolute bloody luxury’ of the unlocked, help yourself stationery cupboard? My first experience of office life involved filling out requisitions to the stationery department. There was a small team of people who sat in a far-away office behind a roller door and they sent back our orders wrapped up as if it was the first week of school. This was also the era of the Telex, the last days of switchboards with plugs, post deliveries to your desk from a trolley and the tea lady. The tea lady stood guard over the biscuits and allowed us one each. As they weren’t chocolate coated, I decided to let her live.
Photocopiers routinely needed toner and it was a brave person who handled this fine, black powder without a thought for their dry cleaning bill. It was a brave man who leaned anywhere near a shredder wearing a tie. I hardly see a tie these days but when I started work, I recall a young guy being sent home to put on a tie, because he had turned up without one.
I could go on, but I won’t. Work has changed and a lot of things have changed for the better. And then again, we lost a few things along the way too. It may be the halo effect, but I think we had a bit more fun. Of course, most of our humour was highly inappropriate, often alcohol fuelled and offensive and would certainly shock a millennial today, but we did laugh. Somehow we survived the torture of rationed stationery and biscuits, until someone calculated the costs of trusting people to help themselves against the full time salaries and on-costs of putting employees on guard duty.
Sincere apologies if you made it this far just to read about sex. I only put sex in the title to grab your attention. Of course, if any blog readers actually attempted sex in a stationery cupboard, then I applaud you and say good luck to you. I have no such experience to share and would have been far too worried about the risks associated with scissors, staple guns and loose drawing pins. We had more fun, but we weren’t completely barmy.