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Larking about when the boss isn’t looking

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Something for the Weekend, Sir? Guns? Check. Ammo? Check. Bloody squibs. Er no. Chainsaw? Oh, yes indeedy.

Right, let’s have a jog around the office, maybe waste a few dudes. And do please keep the camera steady, will you? We want to make sure this gets on video.

This is not, as you might imagine, a case of going postal at work or happy-slapping taken to its inevitably murderous conclusion.

Rather, it’s just another late evening at the office for a bunch of IT hacks determined to produce creativity out of their oppressive professional working environment.

In other words, we were pissing about.

Own up, we’ve all done it. For some, it may be a bit of office cricket with crushed paper balls and a hardbacked book. For others, it may involve pretend gunfights with staplers, leading to arguments over who gets to use the long-arm stapler machine-gun.

Mug coasters and beermats become the shurikens of a ninja. Wastepaper baskets become cannon. You and a mate find two cardboard poster tubes among the morning’s deliveries and burst into a spontaneous light-sabre duel.

Acting out scenes from movies is the best. Every manager I know has, at some point, invited an underling into a meeting room, donned sunglasses, leaned back in the chair and commenced the staff appraisal by saying: “So. Mr Andersonnnnnn…”

Surely you must have arrived at work on a rainy morning and begun a "wooden dummy" kung-fu fight with the hatstand?

Come on, who hasn’t burst into the ladies’ loo carrying the chromed hose of a vacuum cleaner and announced, in a stilted Austrian accent: “Are. You. Sarah. Connor?”

Did you just SLAP your LCD display to get it to work?

On another occasion, I was asked to test a portable digital projector that had its lens mounted distinctively on a moving arm that hinged up akin to a mini OHP. With a few additions, most notably one of those accordion-like expanding document wallets, I had my very own Voight-Kamff machine with which to interrogate replicant colleagues.

“My mother? Let me tell you about my mother.”

All this was brought home this week when I went to see Edinburgh Fringe hit BLAM! at London’s Peacock Theatre. It’s promoted as some kind of nutty circus performance in which bored office workers play out fantasies from action films, but I feel that it is more of a documentary. Did the rest of the audience think this kind of thing doesn’t happen in true life?

My only criticism of the show is that it’s apparent none of the performers have worked in a real office. The backing soundtrack of typewriters and dot-matrix printers was a giveaway, and at one point they slap their malfunctioning LCD displays to try get them to work.

Yup, gotta shock those moving parts into working, eh?

Skipping back to the circumstances involving the guns and chainsaw at the beginning of this column, I can reveal that it was a re-enactment of Doom.

Armed with a weedy toy gun and a very unconvincing plastic chainsaw, my colleagues filmed themselves – well, just their hands – bobbing up and down in front of the camera as they shuffled around the semi-deserted offices of Ziff-Davis Publishing in first-person perspective, looking for monsters and zombies to waste between the PC Magazine desks.

We were working for the only genuinely fun IT magazine that has ever existed in print – ComputerLife – and best of all, we were being paid to act the fool. Every issue came with a CD-ROM containing the idiotic pre-Jackass things we showed readers how not to do. Our home-made Doom video was lined up to feature on the next issue, alongside the shareware trial of Quake 1.0.

Notoriously, IT hack and amateur videographer "Tall" Paul Monckton wanted to be paid £700 for jostling the camera “because that’s what a professional would get”. Worth a try, I suppose. Did that mean the editor himself, the legendary Rob Beattie, could have charged an extra grand for his voice acting talents in panting, grunting and saying "eeeerrrrgh" as the screen went red?

I have been accused in the past of writing bollocks simply to provoke El Reg readers into stuffing the Comments, and this time at least it is true. I would be fascinated to learn what you get up to in the office, armed with nothing but two presentation laser pointers, a broken keyboard and a pack of ring re-inforcers.

Links to video evidence would be appreciated.

Yippee-keeyi-yay motherfuckers. Over to you. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. Since he went freelance, the opportunities to act the fool in his home office have declined. Fortunately, his recent entry into property tycoonism has provided him with 2,200 square feet of wall-to-wall fun space in the heart of the Silicon Roundabout.

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