Meet the merry pranksters who keep the workplace interesting, if not productive
What to do with the boss who refuses to answer the phone? Or wants a bigger cubicle? Revenge, that's what
Who, Me? The Reg's weekly confessional column, Who, Me?, is on holidays with shoes off, a festive drink in hand, and a warm fire. That's a combination that's set our mind wandering into the Who, Me? mailbag for a roundup of some stories we think deserve to be told together.
A few months ago, you may recall, we told you about "Philip," a reader who played a prank on his perspex-enclosed boss by the simple expedient of clamping the telephone line. Oh, the hilarity.
Phil's exploits inspired a few Regizens to recount their own tales of skulduggery for us.
Some of these were fairly minor and harmless, like "Buddy" who found himself and his team assigned to work inside a constrained glass cubicle. In typical '90s buzzword-friendly fashion, Bob fastened a sign to the outside of said cubicle, bearing the slogan "Thinking outside the box."
This went unmolested for some time until management ventured within the cubicle one day to see that the other side of the sign read "Thinking inside the box." At that point Bob's superiors were less impressed.
Further cubicle-centric high jinks were employed by "Legolas" and his crew, who were all, including their supervisor, consigned to a space "Eight feet wide and 20 feet long." Ten people were expected to work in that cramped cubicle, so you'll appreciate why it was nicknamed "the sardine can."
Well, that would be OK, as long as everyone got on well and worked as a united team. Thing is, the supervisor, "in deference to his rank," was provided with a divider about four feet high (that's a meter and a bit, top up that drink, please). This provided no privacy, but was clearly there just to illustrate the pecking order.
So the other nine sardines hatched a plan whereby the supervisor's partition was moved, ever so slightly – about an inch a week – to make the space smaller. The desk and chair and filing cabinet were also moved relative to each other so it wasn't obvious what was going on.
After two months the head sardine lamented that he must be putting on weight, at which time the scheme was exposed.
The telephone-meddling aspect of Philip's prank inspired "Dobby" to tell us about an annoying and lazy manager at his former workplace who would start his day by forwarding his phone to a random company line, thus rendering himself uncontactable. If anyone complained he would blame a "telecom SNAFU".
Well, a SNAFU is exactly what Dobby gave him. A quirk in the system meant that call forwarding from an extension didn't work if another number was already forwarded to that extension. But any number of extensions could be forwarded to a single extension. So that's what Dobby and his mates did – in the depths of night, going from desk to desk, forwarding every phone in the place to their lazy manager.
You can imagine that closer checks were kept on the use of call forwarding after that.
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And finally there's "Hermey" whose boss was a neat freak who simply could not tolerate bugs. Not software bugs, actual bugs.
After the boss captured a few crickets that had been tormenting the office, Hermey hit upon a plan. He obtained a few "chirper" devices that could be strategically hidden, and would emit a noise very much like that of a cricket at random intervals. He placed them on shelves and behind cabinets, and waited.
The boss went crazy, climbing up on a small step-stool to reach the hiding places and retrieve the irritating noisemakers. Confronting the staff, he demanded that the pranking stop forthwith. The staff assured him it would be so.
But Hermey crossed his fingers for that last bit, and sneakily planted one more chirper. The boss, infuriated, searched on every shelf and beside every cabinet. He became convinced that this one must be a real cricket, because it seemed to move around the office. Wherever he looked, it sounded so close, but he couldn't find it.
Eventually, the chirping stopped. Those chirpers don't have infinite battery after all. The boss presumably thought the cricket had gone to greener pastures. Hermey knew it was still taped to the underside of the step-stool.
And with that we leave you for a restful and hopefully cheerful holiday season. Who, Me? will resume on January 9. Of course, if you feel you'd like to interact with us in the interim, shoot an email to Who, Me? with your own tales of techie derring-do and we'll share them in 2023. ®