Saturday, 21 December 2013

Oh Yes, Wait a minute Mr Postman

There are some endangered species in  the business world. One is the Secretary - gone are the good old days when an Amazon or a pretty young thing (you had a choice) would guard the entrance to your cabin, get you tea, organise your wife's kitty party, bring a shorthand notebook and take dictation (remember that ?), and do such other extremely important activities. It was invariably a woman - gender equality activists please note - and the choice of an Amazon or the pretty young thing depended on whether your need was mothering , or ....... you get the drift !

But this post is not about secretaries ! It is about another , what I though was an endangered species,  the mail room kid.


In the good old days, all offices had a big mailroom. Usually in the basement, this was a fairly large room into which all the incoming mail would come.  There was a massive pigeon hole contraption and the boys would expertly flick the mail into the relevant pigeon hole. This done they would collect all the sorted stuff and make their way to each part of the office, delivering the mail. 

Now, it must be understood that the mail room boy was the lowest on the corporate totem pole and it was the entry job for a young boy (always boys) who was , well, not qualified for greater things. There have been examples of those who started in the mail room and made their way to the corner office, but let us say, this was the exception. Being young, and in his opinion incredibly handsome, he was rather looking forward to that portion of his job that involved  delivering and collecting mail. His time and demeanor when delivering however depended on whether he was encountering the above mentioned Amazon or pretty young thing. A hopelessly big smile, lots of chit chat, a sing song voice, a general slowness of speed, etc etc all characterised the journey to those stations where the Amazon was not the resident species.

This of course, must be long gone. surely. Whoever has heard of a mail room still in existence - surely no dinosaur still writes a paper letter anymore.  Right ? Imagine my surprise when I read the news item that corporate mail rooms in the UK are straining under the weight of incoming stuff and they have had to take extra staff !!! What on earth is happening ? Have the Brits , with their well known fondness for ancient customs, gone back to snail mail ?

Well, it appears that the culprit is Christmas shopping. Staff are doing all their shopping on line and getting it delivered to their offices. So the mail room kid is making a comeback - instead of delivering a mountain of paper, he is now deluged with everything from frilly knickers to iphones ! He still does the rounds of the offices, whistling to himself, but alas, there is no Amazon to avoid or pretty young thing to chat up. Instead there are only dull boring spectacled oafs all hunched up over their keyboard.

The problem of a deluge of Christmas shopping deliveries has apparently reached epic proportions. Sir Humphrey Appleby (Ramamritham's guru and mentor) has issued a decree banning government department staff from ordering online stuff to be delivered to the office. He has invoked the principle that office was office and staff are not supposed to use the office facilities for personal stuff. The staff are protesting saying that since they have to be in the office all day, where else could they accept the deliveries. They are threatening Sir Humphrey that denying  Christmas shopping opportunities and making staff work instead, tantamounts to human slavery and denial of basic human rights (Mr Preet Bharara, please note !)  The matter had not been satisfactorily resolved at the time of publishing this post, and its only 5 days to Christmas.

Even endangered species make comebacks ! And this blogger has taken to posting utterly trivial and inane stuff as the holiday season approaches !!

PS : Regular readers with the exception of those old enough to know (Sriram and Ravi !!) might want to learn of the significance of the title of the post from here :)

9 comments:

  1. As if the trivial and inane blog posts happen only during holiday times; what an excuse! muahahahaha ;)

    For once, I am with Sir Humphrey on this ... the work address should not be used to get personal mails and parcels delivered there. I don't care if staff use the work computers to place their orders--I am ok with mixing of work and personal use in that context. But, delivery is another issue ...

    BTW, the younger generation readers at this blog are not the ones who need the explanation for the title you have used for this post. They are all awesome and well-informed and, like the people from Lake Wobegon, "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Hehehehe ;)

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  2. @Sriram - How will academic types ever understand what is trivial and what is important. Hahahahahahaha

    By your argument, companies should not expect employees to take calls at home, call people outside office hours, send mails and demand instant response at 2.00 AM, etc etc. The distinction between home and work life is long gone. So Sir Humphrey is, as usual, wrong !!

    As for the younger generation, really ......... And I was expecting a dignified remonstrance from the old(er) commenters on their classification :):)

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  3. This actually happened in our office. A nineties kid apparently ordered 3 ladies boots (each in a large box). Our good old facilities coordinator (no, we cannot call him a mail man) was not amused about carrying these boxes to the young lady, so she had to pick them up from the mail room herself. The fact that I've never seen this lady goes to show that the grapevine was rife with this gossip for days to come. Her senior tried to explain to her very politely that it might not be appropriate. But there was no logical reason why not. The kid was spending most of her time in office and didn't want to leave her expensive boots unattended outside her apartment the whole day. Fair point right? It's probably one of the things we'd have to grow up to accept. The other day I was at a dinner table with this lady who worked with my firm 10 years ago and she was telling us how she had to take permission from the HR to wear trousers to work. See!

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  4. @Deepa - Yup - a very likely occurrence although I think your facilities coordinator must have been nuts not to have gallantly carried it for a p.y.t !!

    By the way would the "nineties kid" have been a certain charming blogger we all know :):):)

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  5. Mailmen/mailwomen are most certainly extinct. We are a tiny office with about 40 people. The postie just drops all the letters at the reception table. If we feel like it we go check and on the rare occasion when there is a letter, bring it back to our desk (and if we see our neighbour has a letter we bring that back too). Having said that in the last two years the number of letters I've had is Zero, Zilch, Nil. Incidentally, NZ Post is scrapping daily delivery of mail and making it 3 days a week. The postie role has been outsourced to contractors. Sad to see them go.

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  6. @Kiwiw - Oh, well, Kiwiland doesn't seem to have discovered online shopping !!!!!!

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