Today’s story happened during one of the meetings that my manager looooved to organize, just to hear herself talking. Same as in most banks, our bank was always in the process of changing something: a monitoring scheme, maybe some reporting formatting or just adhering to new laws and regulations.
The information was transmitted in cascades, from the big CEO to high executive managers, down to unit managers, then to team leaders and, finally, to the worker ants. Some of my colleagues were referring to our jobs as being “on the plantation” but I was not as pessimistic. In spite of all the friction with my manager, my days at work were very pleasurable. I was part of a great team, with extremely helpful people and with a great sense of humour.
Sometimes a single word was making us all laugh like crazy. It was hard to stop because we were laughing at each other’s laughter. Other times, a word was not even necessary. Just a look was enough to make us giggle.
This time, an insignificant gesture disturbed the quiet of a team meeting and, to my manager's horror, made us laugh with tears, trying to hide behind each other, not to be seen. We were behaving like kids in Matilda’s classroom when Miss Trunchbull drunk the water with a newt in it.
At least in Matilda’s case the Headmaster was looking menacing. In our case, the wannabe Big Boss was a petite, innocent blonde with blue eyes. Nobody could ever imagine that she was so eager to climb the social ladder so fast that she would step over dead bodies. She was so brain washed by the corporation’s policies that she was carrying everywhere her famous notebook and during each team meeting she was taking loads and loads of notes. I am pretty sure she was writing our toilets breaks and our cigarette breaks too because she decided to hold a team meeting regarding those.
We got into a circle, in the middle of the office, and we were trying to get comfortable, knowing that the subject will create some debates. We all felt that the manager treated us like convicts. Because some people abused the rules in the past, we lost many of our rights. We lost the privilege to use a USB stick or the use of internet because some were using Facebook instead of working. We had exact times for smoking breaks and exact times for lunch so the team managers can keep an eye on everyone late for work. Everything was recorded on our electronic badge and the report was sent to the managers every week.
So, we were getting ready for one of those meetings and trying to stall it, to our manager's annoyance. When we finally decided where to sit, we got saved by the bell, since one of the desk phones rang. We had different sounds for internal and external lines and this was external, for sure. This meant that an Italian customer was in need of assistance, so somebody had to answer while the meeting continued.
There was a rule of 3 rings, so each call had to be answered before ringing three times. When my colleague passed me, running towards the phone, I happened to see a small thread on his lower back, on his shirt. I am a Virgo, so tiny details like this, that are ruining a perfect picture, are not accepted in my world. In an instant, I reach out for the thread and pick it up, happy to do my first good deed of the day so early in the morning.
To my utmost surprise, my colleague kept walking towards the phone and the small thread became longer and longer. But I didn't let go. I was holding it like my life depended on it, just to realize after a few moments that I was... unravelling the elasticated band of his boxers. I think the look on my face said it all and some of my colleagues, who paid attention to what was happening, started to pull faces, covering their mouths to conceal the laughs. Again, as always, this was Mission Impossible.
I was standing there, with a bit of my colleague's boxers in my hand, trying to act like nothing happened.
The manager saw the commotion in our area and asked, visibly annoyed by the disturbance:
- What is so funny?
Instantly, my mind ran again to Miss Trunchbull and her glass of water, asking the kids in the class: "What's funny? Huh? Come, speak it out! I like a joke as well as the next fat person!"
The continuation is not even important. I am pretty sure that I got told off, maybe the manager even added a new black bullet next to my name, on her infamous notebook. It happened 10 years ago, so I am not bothered anymore.
But I think that people should be allowed to laugh more at work. There are so many benefits, from bringing colleagues together and contribute to their mental health to effective physical improvements like lowering the blood pressure and working the abs. In a stressing, corporation environment, laughter should be encouraged. Unfortunately, some people consider that having a funny character is a sign of weakness, unprofessionalism or incompetence. I promise you: someone can be incompetent, but serious in the same time.
Life is short. Smile while you still have teeth.
Have a good one, everybody, and may you win at the Lottery of Life!