The Toilet Trap

by Purple Wyrm on November 25, 2001

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything (as usual) but I have a good excuse. We’ve been moving office. This means that instead of sitting at a desk all day typing and mousing I’ve had to carry heavy equipment up and down stairs, which is not the kind of work IT professionals are designed for. But it’s all done now, and I can come home after work and do things apart from collapse into bed. Or onto the couch. Or the floor.

When I first joined the company in early 2000 we were bailed up in a pokey little room at the back of an ISP. Not long afterwards we got a big chunk of investment to launch a shopping portal, and moved out to spacious second storey offices in fashionable Subiaco. This was great, except we launched the portal (who’s name I shall not repeat, because the hollow shell is still online and it’s just too embarrassing to let anyone see) just as the dot.com bubble burst, and it was a complete and utter failure.

Actually we can’t totally blame the dot.com meltdown. The idea was we combine all our online stores via a clever front end that would make them look like just one big online store. A great idea, except that at that point our online stores sold…

So we ended up with possibly the world’s first power tool, liquor, lingerie, flower and knife portal. Needless to say it didn’t sell a thing, and before long crashed and burned, trailing funds and the company’s reputation flailing in it’s wake.

Thankfully we’d been smart enough to set the portal wing of the business up under another name (necessary for a .com.au domain name), so the rest of the company didn’t suffer too much fallout. But we were still stuck leasing expensive Subiaco office space, without the promised money pouring in from the golden goose portal to support it. This of course made moving to smaller premises a priority, and last week we shifted offices from our spacious, airy retreat high above Rokeby Road, to a slightly less (but still very) pokey little room at the back of the same ISP we started from.

Net result? Eighteen months and several thousand dollars to move the company one door down the hallway. But at least we’re still afloat, which is more than can be said for a lot of dot.coms these days.

One disadvantage of moving back to the ISP (apart from the fact that we have to fit the equipment of a 100 square metre office into about 16) is we have to deal with the bathroom issue again.

The ISP shares bathrooms with an investment company on the same floor, there’s a door from our side of the building into the bathroom hallway, and one from their side. This wouldn’t be a problem except that in a fit of paranoia the ISP directors decided that they couldn’t risk the occasional merchant banker wandering through and raiding the fridge. To this end they installed an expensive security card system on our door, meaning you need a magnetic card to get out of the hallway.

Yes, to get out.

In their infinite wisdom (or as some kind of sociological experiment) they decided to let anyone into the bathrooms from our side of the building. It’s the getting back out that presents problems. If you’ve left your card at your desk (as frequently happens when you’re concentrating on an insanely complicated programming issue and suddenly realise that can of cola you drank an hour ago wants out now), you end up helplessly imprisoned in the hallway.

It’s like some kind of fiendish trap.

Until recently the only way to escape was to hammer on the door and yell until someone came along and opened it. The door is at the back of the building, next to the kitchenette and away from the offices, so it usually took a good ten minutes of drumming to get anyone’s attention. Even worse, the Investment Bankers from the other side would often hear the racket and poke their heads in to have a good laugh or offer helpful advice such as “You have to knock really hard! No, harder that that!“.

Recently however, after many complaints from staff with sore throats and fists, the directors have seen fit to install an intercom in the hall. This means that you can now hold down a button and yell. Since the other end of the intercom is just outside the door this isn’t much better than the old system, but is at least a bit easier on the hands.

I feel like I’m living in a Dilbert strip.

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