Why return to the office? To have a lark about when the boss isn't looking, that's why!
Blow each other's heads off without going to jail
Guns? Check. Ammo? Check. Bloody squibs. Er no. Chainsaw? Oh, yes indeedy.
Right, let’s have a jog around the office, maybe waste a few dudes. And do please keep the camera steady, will you? We want to make sure this gets on video.
This was not, as you might imagine, a case of going postal at work or happy-slapping taken to its inevitably murderous conclusion.
Rather, it was just another late evening at the office for a bunch of IT hacks determined to produce creativity out of their oppressive professional working environment.
In other words, we were pissing about.
Own up, we’ve all done it. For some, it may be a bit of office cricket with crushed paper balls and a hardbacked book. For others, it may involve pretend gunfights with staplers, leading to arguments over who gets to use the long-arm stapler machine-gun.
Mug coasters and beermats become the shurikens of a ninja. Wastepaper baskets become cannon. You and a mate find two cardboard poster tubes among the morning’s deliveries and burst into a spontaneous light-sabre duel.
Admittedly, it’s generally blokes that do this.
I’m not sure why. One argument is that men never grow up. I prefer the theory that it’s a kind of masculine telepathy.
Acting out scenes from movies is the best. Every manager I know has, at some point, invited an underling into a meeting room, donned sunglasses, leaned back in the chair and commenced the staff appraisal by saying: “So. Mr Andersonnnnnn…”
Surely you must have arrived at work on a rainy morning and begun a "wooden dummy" kung-fu fight with the hatstand?
Come on, who hasn’t burst into the ladies’ loo carrying the chromed hose of a vacuum cleaner and announced, in a stilted Austrian accent: “Are. You. Sarah. Connor?”
I was once asked to test a portable digital projector that had its lens mounted distinctively on a moving arm that hinged up akin to a mini OHP. After adding a few extras with sticky tape, including one of those accordion-like expanding document wallets, I had my very own Voight-Kamff machine with which to interrogate replicant colleagues.
“My mother? Let me tell you about my mother.”
It was only much later that I realised that I wasn’t just me or my journalist colleagues who indulged in such horseplay when I saw the Edinburgh Fringe hit BLAM! It was promoted as some kind of nutty circus performance in which bored office workers play out fantasies from action films, but I feel that it is more of a documentary. Did the rest of the audience think this kind of thing doesn’t happen in true life?
My only criticism of the show was that the performers had probably not worked in a real office. The backing soundtrack of typewriters and dot-matrix printers was a giveaway, and at one point they slap their malfunctioning LCD displays to sharpen the screens.
Skipping back to the circumstances involving the guns and chainsaw at the beginning of this column, I can reveal that it was a re-enactment of Doom.
Armed with a weedy toy gun and a very unconvincing plastic chainsaw, my colleagues filmed themselves – well, just their hands – bobbing up and down in front of the camera as they shuffled around the semi-deserted offices of London’s original riverside Ziff-Davis Publishing office at Hays Galleria in first-person perspective, looking for monsters and zombies to waste between the PC Magazine desks.
We were working for the only genuinely fun IT magazine that has ever existed in print – ComputerLife – and best of all, we were being paid to act the fool. Every issue came with a CD-ROM containing the idiotic pre-Jackass things that we showed readers how not to do. Our home-made Doom video was lined up to feature on the next issue, alongside the shareware trial of Quake 1.0.
Notoriously, IT hack and at-the-time amateur videographer ‘Tall’ Paul Monckton wanted to be paid £700 for jostling the camera “because that’s what a professional would get”. Worth a try, I suppose. Did that mean the editor himself, the legendary musician and author Rob Beattie, could have charged an extra grand for his voice-acting talents in panting, grunting and saying “eeeerrrrgh” as the screen went red?
Years later, Hollywood nicked our idea and had the audacity to replace the world-famous Rob and Co with such newbie lightweights as Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban.
I would be fascinated to learn what you get up to in the office, armed with nothing but two presentation laser pointers, a broken keyboard and a pack of ring re-inforcers. Let me know in the comments. Links to video evidence would be appreciated.
Yippee ki-yay motherfuckers. Over to you.
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Since he went freelance, the opportunities to act the fool in his home office declined, hence his penchant for taking on contract work when it’s offered. How else can he indulge in profitable time-wasting?
I only had one 'goof off' activity, during the summer, when the building was empty for vacations, I would open all the hallway doors on the second floor, stretching from the old building, over the atrium, and into the new building. Being the pack rat I was, I kept all the mechanical mouse balls before ditching the broken mice. I loved rolling those dense balls down the corridor, over the bridge in the atrium and into the new building. There were many smaller doors and door jams, and the bridge over the atrium for obstacles. Getting one to go the distance was the challenge! Somehow I never managed to retrieve all the mouse balls, some were lost for the cleaners to find!
And I don't want to hear about your mom!
In a project that fell into my lap, very overdue, I had to work long nights to get it back on track. That also meant most nights my team was alone in the office, a large square open plan designed around a central area, with a corridor going all around, desks on each side of it and partitioned sections in each corner for the various managers' offices.
Each full compile (excellent à propos XKCD, btw, https://xkcd.com/303/) meant some 30 minutes of leisure time. So we did what was expected and raced chairs, right until the one time someone failed to negotiate one of the 90º turns and slammed head-on onto one of those manager's offices. An half-broken screen went flying, as did the desk behind it, with everything on top of it scattered around (no clean desk policies at the time).
So we took an extra hour that night trying to put everything back in its original place, including paperwork and personal stuff and, after figuring we couldn't, concocting an explanation to give in the morning... In the end we just blamed some clumsiness on the part of the team member in charge of bringing our nightly pizzas, he'd tripped on a misplaced chair - the manager even praised us for working as hard as we did :)