Separating the personal and the professional at work

Tom gave me some excellent fuel for an angry blog talking about an experience with a cow-orker having inappropriately loud personal conversations at work. Loud as in screaming. Repeatedly. From Tom’s Pigeon Weather blog:

Man’s Voice: No Anita, no. That’s not allowed.
Me: ?
Voice: No, Anita, we didn’t agree to that
Me: !
Voice: No, Anita, no, you can’t just do that. No. It’s not allowed. We didn’t agree to that. You can’t just. No.
Me #$%%@
Voice: Anita, listen. No. You can’t. No. You cannot. You’re not listening.
Me: grrrrrrr
Voice: Anita? Anita? Do you hear me? No. No Anita, no.
Me: …

There’s nothing quite like the inappropriate workplace conversation that you can’t escape. I worked with one guy who took this further by listening to all his voice mail on speaker phone. Really loud. He played his messages so loud the sound penetrated basically the entire floor. And he had so many fucking messages! It was as if the prick deliberately avoided answering his phone so he could play all those fucking messages at all of us later.

This guy was a Dilbert cartoon come to life. No amount of polite requests would make him stop. His response was “get over it” which, to a degree, is fair enough but when you throw down a challenge like that, you have to be ready for blowback. Some revenge was in order. What is the best way to make sure someone stops playing all their messages for everyone to hear?

Make sure they get a message they don’t want anyone to know about.

He played his messages at 9.15 every morning, regular as clockwork. All of us in the surrounding cubicles made sure we were there on revenge day (normally we went out of our way to be somewhere else when he was playing his fucking messages). The previous night, I had made the following call to his number:

“Hello Mr Smith (his name was really Smith so it looks like I’m using a pseudonym but I’m not), this is Dr Watkins from the sexual health clinic. Your test results are back and I’m afraid those spots on your penis are just going to clear up. It appears you have five different sexually transmitted diseases. I’m afraid those prostitutes you had unprotected sex with who assured you they were “clean” may not have been totally honest with you. If we don’t treat you immediately your penis will fall off by the end of the week.”

Juvenile to be sure but it got results. The first thing we discovered was that he didn’t pay much attention to his messages because it took him up to “five different sexually transmitted diseases” to react at all. Then he panicked and fumbled at the phone. He knocked the receiver off but the message kept playing. He didn’t hit the disconnect button until “totally honest”. So nobody got to hear my witty penis falling off joke but it was a pretty good result.

Everybody was “prairie dogging”, popping up over the cubicle walls as the call progressed. The laughter followed him as he ran out the office door. None of us ever mentioned it directly to him but he never played voice mail on speaker phone again.



Filed under Work

13 responses to “Separating the personal and the professional at work

  1. Jennifer

    Very nice and very creative solution. It reminded me of a temp we had at work once that used to talk on her cell phone walkie-talkie. I don’t know what is more annoying, hearing BOTH sides of the conversation, or the annoying BLEEP-BLEEP-BLEEP that sounded before either one of them spoke.

  2. That is the funniest thing ever. Too bad all of it was not played.

  3. You’re so damn smart. Really..hilarious.

  4. Oh man! Hilarious! Hows about the co-worker with the irritating ring tone? And they always leave their phone behind… and some moron is forever calling them…

  5. Paul Brown


    The irritating ring tone lead to one of my favourite revenge stories; my previous job was in an “open office”, basically an open space filled with desks so that you get the pleasure of hearing everyone’s conversations. The gimp on the desk next to mine had a habit of downloading poor quality ring tones (“Will Young plays the Bontempi Organ in an echo canyon” etc), leaving her phone on full volume and then leaving on her desk while she went out for the day. Her phone also had the single most annoying feature ever to be invented for mobile phones – when you miss a call it calls you back to tell you. FOUR TIMES!. I’m not here you fuckwitted machine – that’s why I didn’t answer the last three times.

    Anyway, every day she would go out and every day we would be subjected to her latest awful ring tone at least twenty times, until finally I’d had enough, picked her phone up and switched it to “silent”. Nothing else was touched, I didn’t read her messages, just a single button push to halt the noise.

    The next day I get called in by my manager; the bitch has complained that I “interfered with her personal property”. I get a warning – not allowed to touch her phone.

    Next day, back to normal with the phone going off, everyone shouting at me to switch it to silent. “Sorry, guys – I’ve been banned from touching it.” So one of the directors comes over, tries to turn it silent, can’t figure it out, so just opens up the back, takes the battery out and throws it across the room.

    Now do you wish you’d just let me switch it to silent, dumbass?

  6. I have to admit to being a little surprised at how much everyone likes this one. I will reward you all with a video re-enactment down the line.

    And the unattended mobile! How annoying is that?!?! What the fuck don’t these people understand about “mobile”. On the flipside, I think the least annoying ringtone I have ever heard was the Coldplay song with the piano intro. I don’t listen to enough Coldplay to know the name of the song but I actually looked forward to this person getting called because it sounded so nice.

  7. I had the Austin powers ring at a point in time. It was cool. But most of the time, I just use normal rings or vibrate.

  8. saly

    Oh my God, this is so funny. I will be so looking forward to your vlog on this one. Watch out Smith!

  9. Salaamat,
    I love it:)

    I know ALL the detailed Financial situation of this lady at work…
    she goes on and on with her mortgage broker,
    her bank, credit a really really
    loud voice.

    i just don’t get it…

    your ploy was a genius!

  10. man you have some good stories!

  11. I whole hoggedly approve and applaud this strategy. It reminds me of the book How To Work for a Jerk, about dysfunctional bosses.

    There are many ways to “fix” those asshats at work who screw with everybody. Way to go. This is good creative thinking.

  12. Someone actually stole this post in total to use on their (commercially oriented) blog. This will be the subject of a VERY angry upcoming blog post.

    I hope you all like the video version as much when I do it.

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