Thursday, June 12

Office Scene

The modern office has been transformed because of what’s been invented in the past 40 plus years.

Personal computers, personal phones,the Internet,voice and e mail and even fax facilities which are now taken for granted simply didn’t exist then. Usually there was only a number of shared telephones and communication and storage of information was only a tiny fraction of what it is today.

Communication was largely by a hand typed letter which was reliant on the typing pool or if you were a boss via your personal secretary who took shorthand. Hand written notes were commonplace, even in official communication with external parties and most systems relied on manual input efforts or at best were mechanized inputs using accounting machines to record transactions onto hard copy individual ledger records.

Other aspects of office life that have almost disappeared include the beloved Tea Ladies, the ritual of formal morning and afternoon tea breaks, official sing on and sign off books, lunchtime interoffice sporting competitions,lunchtime card playing and the Friday afternoon office lunches.

When I was first began my working life I was also studying of an evening, for seven long years. Having left my home in the country for the city and residing in a not so flash boarding house, I often arrived late for work in a crumpled mess during my earlier disorganised years.

Ode to an old office scene

Drab and grey buildings greet your dreary day
Cold and unfriendly, they reflect our modern way
Murmurs of distant voices, dim echoes from my past
Sign the dreaded time book before your time is passed

There’s a murmur of a fact that cannot be denied
Lindsay’s train is late again, the boss is not surprised
Stagers in, faces grim, casual fashion one might guess
Forgot to iron his trousers and shirts a crumpled mess

He settles into work, to check the ledger cards
The system is manual; a checkers life's not hard
Tea break is upon him, tea lady says gidday
Not afraid to tell you, office secrets every day

Lunchtime is a signal for people great or small
Assemble at the front desk to represent us all
Teams are chosen wisely, football teams a must
Victors or Vanquished, return to slaps or cheers or hugs

Card players are a serious lot, there is no idle chatter
Game is called 500 and the rules are all that matter
For woe behold the new recruit to join the old brigade
To trump his partner's trump, can it ever be the same
Hangs his head in sorrow, prays to learn to play the game

The afternoon drags slowly on; the output's just a trickle
Soon all the work is done as we hear the knock off whistle
We stand in line in time to sign, our work is truly ended
Goodbye my friend, nostalgia time, that time I fear is ended


DellaB said...

Hi Lindsay,

Just popped in to say hello, and let you know that I am back blogging.

Not at the turningsixty site, (now that I have finished turning 60). I've started a new place called Barkley Blah!, which gives me a bit more scope.

As usual you have covered such a wide diversity of topics, I've had a very enjoyable read. Lots of things I could comment on, but as I'm supposed to be checking my links are current, I'll just say that your mention of playing 500 at work really took me back!

Those were the days..?


gfid said...

it's a whole different world.... i remember punching the time clock in my early employment years... and dress codes. women in skirts and dresses ONLY, please - men in white shirts and ties. i don't recall ever seeing any of the gents i work with in a tie, except at the annual Christmas dinner. and accounting class in high school, where everyone had to do long lists of sums in their heads! now the computer in my cell phone can do more than the whole office could, back then!

Lee said...

Memories - your post reminded me of when I first moved to Brisbane to work many years ago. The law firm I was employed by had a "tea lady" who came around each morning and afternoon. That was a real eye-opener for me as in my previous job, in a regional-country town, such a person was not heard of! Wow! I had really hit the big city! ;)

Seraphine said...

They still use punch-clocks,
what American's also call time-clocks.
Unless I was desperate, I'd never work on punch-clock again. It's so petty for employers to use punch-clocks, like looking around a table to make sure they have the biggest slice of cake.
It's... um... rather rude.
(I can at least understand it if one works on an assembly-line, where everyone is dependant on the whole).
I prefer to be treated as a person that a time tick and employee number.

susan said...

There have certainly been improvements in modern offices of which my favorite is access to the internet.. news, blogs etc. Of course, considering the fact that 'productivity' now means you do the work of two or three people who are no longer there to chat with, it's somewhat essential to have electronic access to the outside world.

I've been working for long enough that when I told a young guy a few days ago I remembered office buildings with windows that opened, he laughed at the idea. I remember pneumatic mailtubes for interoffice transfers of paperwork. I was a senior bookkeeper and used general ledger systems. Paper records were precious and rarely wasted. Now we waste reams of the stuff faxing, copying, printing and stuffing aside in little personal memory files.

Now I sign in on a telephone time keeping system which is also used for vacation days, sick days and comp time (which I never have because I can't stand to be there longer than 37 hours a week).

The only place I ever saw tea ladies was when I worked in London. It was nice and nice to be reminded.

Michael Manning said...


Have a nice weekend, Lindsay! :)

Zee said...

I am only a few years younger than you, but I experienced through my lifetime the same development.
The computer has positively increased the workload in any office today despite rumors of the contrary.
The good side, there are more people employed. The bad side, handwritten notes are hieroglyphs to most.
I would call that a recession, if not a depression.
Thanks by the way Lindsay for leaving a sparkle on my blog!

lindsaylobe said...

Hi Della, Gfid, Lee, Sera, Michael & Zee ~
Della-Welcome back and I look forward to reading your blog. Those certainly were the days of a more leisurely pace.
Granny F ~yes I can remember those dress codes and learning sums in my head.
Lee ~I had the same feeling moving to Sydney from what was then the small coastal town of Coffs Harbour!!
Sera~ I think we all prefer the personal touch; I would rather speak to a real person than a machine.Good points you make.
Susan- Old memories of things past as you indicate certainly highlight how much things have changed in our working lifetime!
Michael & Zee. Thanks for your visit and encouragement. Zee ~ we produce so much more, but what is relevant!! When I studied Commercial law the acts were only several hundreds pages and we all governed by only a handful of different commercial laws but to day they run to thousands and thousands of pages and hundreds of separate provisions and legislatures which so much more complexity with their prescriptive provisions.

Yet are we any more ethical?

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

Hello, Lindsay.
I feel a bit of a tug of nostalsia at this one.

No punch clock for me. These days it's a card scan with a little beep and a light.

You ask:
Yet are we any more ethical?
And I say, Certainly not, at least on a functional basis. Perhaps it is that we might be more advanced in theoretical topics, but functionally, sadly, no.
I will spare you the bemoaning in detail, for I would wish to focus on another topic.

In my high school years, I took care to acquaint myself with various teas, as I felt the knowledge would suit me well in later days.
I found that I like Kemun the best for drinking hot, and India tea for drinking cold.
That said, the most common of teas in the US is Pekoe.
I was wondering, what is it that you drink, do tell?