When Office Space Meets 1984
If you’ve watched Office Space, or The Office for that matter, and read 1984, then you’ll hopefully follow this post.
This passage from Snow Crash is what happens if Big Brother invaded Initech. What we have here is a memo that the federal government sent to its employees–one of whom is the mother of a main character (Y.T.). I know it’s long, but stick with it.
NEW TP POOL REGULATION
By way of introduction, let me just make a few general comments on this subject. The problem of distributing bathroom tissue to workers presents inherent challenges for any office management system due to the inherent unpredictability of usage-not every facility usage transaction necessitates the use of bathroom tissue, and when it is used, the amount needed (number of squares) may vary quite widely from person to person and, for a given person, from one transaction to the next. This does not even take into account the occasional use of bathroom tissue for unpredictable/creative purposes such as applying/removing cosmetics, beverage-spill management, etc. For this reason, rather than trying to package bathroom tissue in small one-transaction packets (as is done with premoistened towelettes, for example), which can be wasteful in some cases and limiting in other cases, it has been traditional to package this product in bulk distribution units whose size exceeds the maximum amount of squares that an individual could conceivably use in a single transaction (barring force majeure). This reduces to a minimum the number of transactions in which the distribution unit is depleted (the roll runs out) during the transaction, a situation that can lead to emotional stress for the affected employee.
However, it does present the manager with some challenges in that the distribution unit is rather bulky and must be repeatedly used by a number of different individuals if it is not to be wasted.
Since the implementation of Phase XVII of the Austerity Program, employees have been allowed to bring their own bathroom tissue from home. This approach is somewhat bulky and redundant, as every worker usually brings their own roll.
Some offices have attempted to meet this challenge by instituting bathroom-tissue pools.
Without overgeneralizing, it may be stated that an inherent and irreducible feature of any bathroom-tissue pool implemented at the office level, in an environment (i.e., building) in which comfort stations are distributed on a per-floor basis (i.e., in which several offices share a single facility) is that provision must be made within the confines of the individual office for temporary stationing of bathroom tissue distribution units (i.e., rolls). This follows from the fact that if the BTDUs (rolls) are stationed, while inactive, outside of the purview of the controlling office (i.e., the office that has collectively purchased the BTDU)-that is, if the BTDUS are stored, for example, in a lobby area or within the facility in which they are actually utilized, they will be subject to pilferage and “shrinkage” as unauthorized persons consume them, either as part of a conscious effort to pilfer or out of an honest misunderstanding, i.e., a belief that the BTDUs are being provided free of charge by the operating agency (in this case the United States Government), or as the result of necessity, as in the case of a beverage spill that is encroaching on sensitive electronic equipment and whose management will thus brook no delay. This fact has led certain offices (which shall go unnamed-you know who you are, guys) to establish makeshift BTDU depots that also serve as pool-contribution collection points. Usually, these depots take the form of a table, near the door closest to the facility, on which the BTDUs are stacked or otherwise deployed, with a bowl or some other receptacle in which participants may place their contributions, and typically with a sign or other attention-getting device (such as a stuffed animal or cartoon) requesting donations. A quick glance at the current regulations will show that placement of such a display/depot violates the procedure manual. However, in the interests of employee hygiene, morale, and group spirit-building, my higher-ups have agreed to make a one-time exception in the regulations for this purpose.
As with any part of the procedure manual, new or old, it is your responsibility to be thoroughly familiar with this material. Estimated reading time for this document is 15.62 minutes (and don’t think we won’t check). Please make note of the major points made in this document, as follows:
BTDU depot/displays are now allowed, on a trial basis, with the new policy to be reviewed in six months.
These must be operated on a voluntary, pool-type basis, as described in the subchapter on employee pools. (Note: This means keeping books and tallying all financial transactions.)
BTDUS must be brought in by the employees (not shipped through the mailroom) and are subject to all the usual search-and-seizure regulations.
Scented BTDUs are prohibited as they may cause allergic reactions, wheezing, etc. in some persons.
Cash poo1 donations, as with all monetary transactions within the U.S. Government, must
use official U.S. currency-no yen or Kongbucks.
Naturally, this will lead to a bulk problem if people try to use the donation bucket as a dumping ground for bundles of old billion and trillion dollar bills. The Buildings and Grounds people are worried about waste-disposal problems and the potential fire hazard that may ensue if large piles of billions and trillions begin to mount up. Therefore, a key feature of the new regulation is that the donation bucket must be emptied every day-more often if an excessive build-up situation is seen to develop.
In this vein, the B & C people would also like me to point out that many of you who have excess U.S. currency to get rid of have been trying to kill two birds with one stone by using old billions as bathroom tissue. While creative, this approach has two drawbacks:
1) It clogs the plumbing, and
2) It constitutes defacement of U.S. currency, which is a federal crime.
DON’T DO IT.
Join your office bathroom-tissue pool instead. It’s easy, it’s hygienic, and it’s legal.
Now, come on, that’s funny.
It really seems like something Peter might have received (a TPS report, perhaps?) in Office Space. Or I could imagine Winston and friends gathering around to hear Big Brother read that memo, verbatim, from his Big Brother throne.
All that said, the bright spots in Snow Crash are becoming fewer and fewer as the novel wears on. And I emphasize “wears.” It’s turned into another science fiction slogfest. Review coming next week.