Petty & Trivial Week 2005…

Years ago I was an underling in the Facilities Department at a large business publishing company in San Francisco. A lot of the time my work kept me very busy, but occasionally, since my work was entirely driven by requests for service from other employees of the company, things would slow to a crawl. I had a coworker who was as much, if not more, of a smart-assed shit-disturber than I am. His name was Mike.

When things got dull and sluggish around the office Mike and I would find creative and slightly mischievous ways to absorb our time at work. We drew collaborative comics, manipulated company program promotional posters hanging on the walls (I doubt anyone who was there to witness it will ever forget our turning about a hundred such posters into menacing, Orwellian depictions of Mickey Mouse), played with the voice mail system, had rubber band fights in the storeroom and generally gave our poor, long-suffering manager a few extra gray hairs.

During one particularly slow period we found ourselves beset with ridiculous, time-wasting, pathetically stupid complaints from throughout the organization about things that were so ultimately trivial that it was all we could do to keep ourselves from screaming, “SHUT UP YOU WHINING FUCKWITS AND GET BACK TO WORK!!!” Of course to do so would have put an end to our gainful employment, but Mike did figure out a way to vent our spleen, demonstrate to our management that the stuff we were dealing with was totally absurd and put a wry dig in to our coworkers that we were, in fact, quite a bit smarter than most of them. To accomplish this Mike invented what would become known as Petty & Trivial Week.

During Petty & Trivial week we would announce (to those with enough sense of humor to deal with it properly) a list of 20 to 30 activities that everyone in the office was welcome to engage in that were sure to fluster and annoy the Facilities, Information Management, Accounting and other service departments throughout the organization. We’d announce a Petty & Trivial Week whenever the level of the petty and trivial we were having to deal with reached a crescendo. This would usually be about three times a year. Each list would contain a mixture of actual complaints and/or requests we’d received with utterly fictional stuff we’d make up out of whole cloth. Most of the time you’d be able to spot a few of the invented items, but a lot of the time the two types of items on the list would be indistinguishable from one another owing to the infinite creativity and strangeness of the average human office worker.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Petty & Trivial Week for the last few days. I’ve been thinking about it primarily because my days keep being consumed by the, frankly, petty and trivial problems of my customers at work.

We switched coffee brands in our complimentary beverage program this month. We did not do this capriciously. We actually held a blind taste test of four brands of coffee (two high-end brands and two mid-grades, one of which was out incumbent) over a period of three days. When the results were tallied there was an obvious preference for one of the mid-grade brands over all the others. So we decided to follow the will of the people and switch. The result has been an endless stream of gripes, complaints, comments and suggestions pointed in my direction.

This morning I came to work to be greeted by a nasty voice mail from a gentleman who compared our new coffee to pond water. Yesterday someone stopped me in the hallway to tell me that she suspected that we were lying about which brand of coffee we’re actually deploying because, and I quote, “this stuff tastes like cat crap.” As I’m confronted by my coworkers about the coffee switch I usually manage to remind them that what they’re complaining about is FREE COFFEE. No one is making them drink it. Honestly, if it were up to me I’d eliminate the complimentary beverage program entirely. Coffee isn’t good for you. We might as well be passing out cigarettes to our employees. Besides, we’re spending thousands of dollars a year on this crap, not to mention all the extra maintenance costs we’re incurring because adult humans don’t seem to be able to take three steps with a cup of coffee in their hands without spilling some of it on the carpet.

So, in honor of my soul being trod upon by endless coffee taste commentary, I give you…


During this event you may…

  1. Complain that there aren’t enough tables in your local conference room to hold all the catered food you’re bringing in for the meeting.
  2. Gripe that your photo on your security ID badge makes you look fat.
  3. Upon termination demand that the company pay to move your extensive and valuable Star Wars toy collection that you’ve kept in your office (in violation of company policy) for the past ten years to your home.
  4. Complain about the “food smells” coming from the company cafeteria.
  5. File a complaint with company security because your new Hummer doesn’t fit in any of the campus parking spaces.
  6. Request a key to the A/V cabinet in your local conference room so that you can hook up your XBox.
  7. Gripe to Information Management because you can’t connect to any wireless networks from your laptop (even though doing so is a violation of the corporate information security policy).
  8. Behave in a demonstrably irate manner because your department is expected to pay for the services and goods they consume.
  9. Request that caller ID be disabled on your phone because it prevents you from leaving nasty messages for your ex-husband.
  10. Bring your dog to work.
  11. After bringing your dog to work complain about fleas in your office.
  12. Ask the Facilities Manager to come look at an abstract painting in the hallway because you’re positive that you see an orgy depicted therein.
  13. Announce your resignation in menstrual blood on the restroom wall.
  14. Complain about the free beverages provided in the break rooms. (I had to put that one in there)
  15. When the price of sodas in the vending machines are raised 10 cents for the first time in seven years plaster every vending machine in your building with elaborate signs declaring that you feel this is an unjust gouging of the working man.
  16. Complain about the quality of the food in the company’s subsidized cafeteria but continue to eat there every single day without fail.
  17. Schedule an early morning video conference with Asia, requesting off-hours support for your meeting and then cancel the meeting telling everyone involved except for the poor shmuck in A/V services who had to get up at 3 am to come in and support the meeting only to arrive and find no one there.
  18. Demand immediate assistance with a crucial event, disrupting support for others who had requested support for their events in advance, receive said assistance and then call and complain anyway.
  19. Jump up and down in the middle of the corridors repeatedly shouting “BOO-YEAH!”
  20. Pack all of your office contents for an office move and label none of them. Arrive at the office on the first day after the move and angrily and loudly complain that none of your boxes are in your office.

If anyone would like to add to these from their own experience or speculate on which really happened, feel free to add comments.

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