Playing Office Politics
When you visit you’ll be told, “Sit anywhere. No, wait …not there!”
Our office furniture might look similar but this one piece, well, something is different. It is that one chair which appears to have a life of its own.
Furniture deliveries might be mundane but I can clearly recall the day said chair arrived. “Sign here”, says a truck driver only slightly smaller than a front row forward for the All-Blacks.
“But we didn’t order a single chair?”
“Never mind, it’s got this address, this company name, paid for, must have been a required purchase, so it’s yours, mate.” The courier’s words wash over my focus on that piece of furniture while he thrusts an electronic form toward my chest with such force that I was too scared to refuse. You just can’t argue with something of those dimensions, and then what if he called in the rest of his rugby team? So I scribbled something I hoped wouldn’t be recognizable and wheeled the chair inside.
Office hockey was the first big event that brought recognition about the chair’s, well shall we say, idiocrasies.
“Get it – that ones yours Gorgy….come on,” he stretched and directed the cylinder, taped to a drink bottle towards our paper-sticky-tape-ball, just a fraction too far. Didn’t seem too far to me, but suddenly Gorgy was flat out on the floor, spreadeagle. Drawing a chorus of, “…Ex-cell-ee- ant face plant!”
“Score. 4.5, 4.7.”
His nose was streaming so much blood that the game had to be abandoned for injury time.
“I had that,” stuttered Gorgy, as he tried not to swallow too much claret. “I swear…the chair,
…it, it, it bucked me off.”
More than once that chair had absolutely no steering control. As if any preceding directional obedient, straight lines had only been a strategy to lull us into false sense of security. I’d make a statement under oath that our chair wasn’t playing by the rules.
As much as we try to prepare for the company’s owner to descend into our midst, there is just no way will anyone truly be ready for his arrival. Maybe it’s affluence, the worry of running the business, maybe it’s the way he seems to operate outside the bounds of normal social interaction, maybe it’s just a skin condition; who knows?
“Frank, good to see you; sit here.”
While the office girl, ‘Shads’ frowns and rushes off in an effort to avoid asphyxiation from cigarette fumes that sense-surround Frank’s clothes. Or she might have reeled away from old Frank’s equally rancid deodorant virgin’s BO. When Frank reaches across ‘Shad’s’ desk for a pen, sure enough the chair also crumbled and slid away.
“You right? Jeeze sorry Frank there must be a loose wheel on that seat. That should not have happened.”
Right about then I hope my face reflected appropriate compassion, though I wouldn’t really have meant it. As most of us agreed the smelly-one’s crashing dismount was fair payback for his too frequent attack on our nasal sensors.
Or the accountant, Ted weighing in at about 140kg, “just call me Teddy because I’m big and cuddly.”
I swear one day we are going to get him some letter heads, which state – Don’t make me have to explain this twice. That Ted also has a preference to multi servings of chocolate biscuits, or scones and whatever morning tea offerings that are going. Food was like a switch to him more effective that his changing the passwords on all sorts of accounts, “Only did it so you could check the balance any time.” Anytime someone lays out a spread, guess who shows up requesting paper work that had long since been archived. Turn around and there Ted would be. What was he up to while you searched for that requested invoice or contract? Shovel, shovel… enough said. Or he will be at pains to point out some sort of error in calculations, saying, “And I want 15% to keep quiet about this.” All while he devours most of the catering budget. Spillage crumbles seemed to follow him across desks or over just cleaned carpets. “Why is office cleaning so costly?” Is another classic Ted line. Not to mention those greasy finger prints on whatever paperwork he’d examined. Last time he took a tumble we were lucky enough to be able to blame the half sandwich that had found its way under the Chair’s wheel.
“I swear this is boring, no phone calls, no orders, nothing.” Someone whined.
To which Ted replied, “That’s because no-one wants to get any products just before tax is due. I for one would rather count customers than stock. Pity old smelly didn’t put on an end of financial year sale. Love that one, eofy…” Watching a blubber man dance about with his own private acronym, let me tell you, wasn’t pretty.
“I got an idea,” says Joe.
Forklifts are moved to one corner of the stock floor; chairs lined up, and teams were allocated for The Great Office Relay. Rules had to be set first, Ted wants to get into a spiel about start and finish points, legal strategies, but is distracted by the offer of an left over Easter egg.
“Come on, go….”
Suddenly that one chair pranced sideways, almost bringing four others crashing down, as if allergic to this newly assigned task.
“Oh that’s crap, who put the Chair of Death in here?”
I’m sure this was the first time such a title had been allocated.
You’d think one of the firm’s handyman types could fix the culprit-seat, but no. General chat concluded that the fault wasn’t something about the wheels, or to do with the variable back angle or seat height. Still at least these elements were subjected to extensive adjustment as everyone tried for a solution. All this activity gave those working-thing disassemblers and tinkers an interesting game and kept them from fooling with the fork-lifts, again. Last time that happened Pete nearly impaled the postie with the damn thing.
What about when Frank allocated that chair to the fancy, freshly renovated reception area? The new girl on the phone had no idea. Nothing cropped up for a few days. In spite of constant supervision, where we kept sticking our heads in, on the feeblest of excuses. She didn’t even notice our multiple attempts at being on the spot to spectate the anticipated catastrophe.
“I need a new dot file.”
“Where are those office tarts we ordered for morning tea?”
“You know how to set up an empty stock file?”
“Just need to get a left-handed flexible ruler….or long weight (wait)…” Those same old sundry pranks got played out. Good thing too, Ted had long become immune, and there was no suggestion of any new apprentices this side of the new millennium. Yet none of our excuse to be in that swanky reception area gained the merest acknowledgement from the executor-chair.
Nothing eventuated, that is, until those screams. And we all missed being witness to the action. Turns out that new girl had worn some very expensive, fancy patterned stockings and quick as a flash the chair managed to snag her. Tearing a growing hole which expanded into an abyss bigger than Teddy’s waist measurements. And a nasty graze now grew on her leg flesh. Gave the first aid crew some excitement that did.
Once the chair had a thing about that director’s style seat old Frank-lee smellee put in to fuel the new marketing manager, Kim’s illusion of grandeur. Kim’s seat of power, we called it; cost more than the $350 standard office chair price-tag. Boy did big Ted have conniptions over that purchase.
The Chair of Death was drawn to this seat’s real leather, four way caster wheels, titanium frame or something chair-sexy like supporters who flocked to their team’s grand finale. On more than one morning we’ve found them both arse up, or shoved together under a desk. Usually where there was less room than necessary for two seats. It’s like the chair had a vendetta or contract out with the target being Kim’s throne. I’d like to think that these couplings were chair sex. After all Kim’s beast must have been furniture equivalent of a Jennifer Hawkins-esque cheer leader.
Before I aired the chair copulation theory, talk was that these grotesque pairings were the work of the cleaners, but why would they? Unless of course, that Ted was under paying them again.
Then Joe commented about the general shuffle of seats. Let’s call it a game changer of chair migration. Due to these movements a random sitter would inherit the chair of death. We all had to pay close attention because sure as eggs one day when you’re tired and plonked yourself down, or were seedy from last night’s drinks yours will be the chair. Cue movie music – Du du…du..du…a demon of the deep was lurking! Ready to slip from under you, or spin suddenly sideways, or the chair will catch something in your desk drawers and the entire contents will be on the floor like a madman’s stock-take.
We wondered why it was so difficult to identify the Chair. Frequently someone floated the idea of a distinctive scar. Like putting a stain on a random gene, but then we’d get distracted and this worthwhile preventative medicine wouldn’t happen. The chair found a way to blend, anonymous again like it was wearing team garb. Then, sure enough, an inevitable accident shone high-beam accusatory lights back on the Chair of Death. Ted was beginning to start up a new ledger to cope with multiple worker’s compensation claims. Questions were being asked.
Occasionally the chair played thank God its fa-fa-fa Friday pranks. A few beers turned things just a little feral. The less said about that the better. The rule here is – what happens Friday nights stays behind on Fridays nights.
But Christmas was the real party time! The last day meant limited work and mucho drinkie- poos. Alcohol hatched all sorts of schemes. Once enough of us had a skin full on board, we reached consensus easily. You see, at the time, it seemed a good idea, or at least a better one than the usual photocopy machine terrorism. Do you remember when Dave sat on screen? Best part of a week’s cleaning was needed to remove the oily film.
This whole thing was another of Joe’s ideas; a sort of office chair high-diving competition. We lined up – a few spins to disorientate, only stopping the gyration when the rider screamed,
Then a further push to build up speed down the hall, fast enough to skim over the carpet.
Where chair and rider would be tumbled out onto the grassed lunch area just over there. Chairs were selected, someone has the chair of death, but no-one cared because that contributed a Russian roulette type risk factor. Besides you never could really establish the chair’s actual location.
Teddy declared that winners of this event would be judged by the fastest time, most spectacular finish and of course had to be vomit free. Points were lost for excessive screaming, (after all you couldn’t really be sure smelly Frank was about) flying spittle, or wall contact.
Riding the chairs worked well a couple of times until Daz spun out the other way. Everyone held their breath as he careered towards the stairs. She’ll be right; we all thought, frozen grins on our faces, after all there were only five steps. He was laughing. It all looked like fun. Maybe everything would be fine.
“Go for it!”
“Good one Daz!”
A shocked silence settled, as we were open mouthed witnesses who waited for an inevitable train wreck; the diver hits his head on the tower; the car race vehicle is airborne; you know the sort of thing. Daz just vanished. Heck of a way to finish up before retirement. We had to give him the pre-chrissy trophy that year, even without a slo-mo replay, or Facebook footage. We all wondered if his hip will ever be the same?
OH & S really had their knickers in a knot about that one.
By Karen Lethlean from Australia