The other day the Head of my Department called me into his office. There was a small pile of slighty-outdated electronic equipment sitting outside his door. He jovially requested that I facilitate their removal as he was concerned our colleagues might trip on the outdated products. There were also two large cabinets that were causing the hallway to look “dingy” and I was also asked to figure out a solution for that urgent dilemma.
*The following is a real and accurate account of an actual incident that took place in my office. It has been recorded with my utmost honesty. I did not change any details for entertainment purposes*
I promptly double-checked the list of items, complete with serial numbers before I called Help Desk to arrange for their pick-up. I got a friendly email back saying that someone would meet me in the lobby the next morning. I follow-uped with a carefully thought-out “kindest regards” confirmation.
The next morning, I got a follow-up to my follow-up stating that Luke was ready to receive the items. I followed-up stating that I was ready to receive Luke. I followed-up to my own follow-up explaining that by receiving Luke, I meant I was in my office and unoccupied (and by unoccupied I clarified that I had not yet begun tackling my intensely large To-Do list). The fellow-up response was a lengthy one filled with empathy and anecdotes relating to my overflowing in-tray/inbox, but I managed to, somehow, infer that Luke was on his way down with a trolly and that I should leave my office now.
There was no Luke or man with trolley that could be Luke upon arriving in the reception area. I decided to wait quietly for him. The receptionist was concerned when she saw me standing there, unoccupied. She told me I would be bored waiting, that I must have a lot of work piling up, and assured me that she would call me in my office when Luke had arrived. By the time I wandered back to my office, there was a missed call and a message from the receptionist telling me that Luke had arrived. I wandered back, noticing that my in-tray was, in reality, still empty.
I brought Luke and his massive trolley to view the small pile of surplus items around the corner. He asked if I had a copy of the list of items that had been filed with Help Desk so he could double-check that they were the correct items. I assured him there were no other surplus items. He said he still needed to double-check and he would require a pen to check off the items to make sure he was not missing any. I told him I would be right back with a pen. The receptionist asked where I was going, so I decided to save time and ask if I could borrow a pen. She peered down at the pen she was holding and said that it was her favourite pen and she’d rather not lend it out and that Ben and Martha had already borrowed pens but had not yet returned them. I noticed she had a highlighter on her desk and I said that would do instead. I promised I would bring it back and talk to Ben and Martha about pen etiquette. She nodded grimly saying that there should be a memo sent out addressing pen etiquette; I laughed, then realized she was not joking.
I apologized for my delay as I handed Luke the highlighter. “Are you sure you don’t have a pen?” he asked, crestfallen. “I always use a pen. And I don’t want there to be a inconsistency with my filing.” I retreated to my office and grabbed my favourite pen, a slick, clicky one, from the desk. After Luke had checked off the items, he wrinkled his forehead and pointed to the printer amongst the surplus items. “Is this item part of the surplus items to be removed?”
“I think so,” I replied.
“Because it is not on this list of surplus items that was filed with Help Desk. I can’t take it unless it is on the list,” Luke looked very sombre.
Because it was a new colour printer, I wondered if perhaps it had been placed there by accident. “I will go ask the Department Head,” I grumbled.
The Department Head was in a meeting but ushered me at once. “Have the surplus items been removed?” he asked urgently.
“There is slight confusion over a printer that has been left next to the surplus items. Luke it wondering if the printer is surplus, or just a printer.”
“Yes, I added that printer to the pile this morning. I don’t care for it anymore. Tell Luke it can be removed.”
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked curiously, thinking that I wouldn’t mind having my own printer.
“I just don’t care for it anymore,” the Department Head’s tone was final. “Now tell Luke to have the items removed.”
Luke was not impressed with the news of the printer’s urgent removal. “Because it’s not on the list, I can’t take it. Help Desk needs to be informed.”
“But Luke, aren’t you part of the Help Desk team? Can’t you tell them?”
“It must be officially filed.”
“So…should I go and type up a new document and send it to Help Desk? And then they’ll send you back down with the trolley another time?” I said slowly.
Luke nodded. “And you’ll need to get your Department Head to authorize it.”
“But he just said…”
“It needs to be filed and signed via written document with Help Desk.”
My heart sank at the thought of having to go back to that giant office with the newest, cared-for printers and interrupt the Department Head’s finance meeting again. “So…there’s no way, using my pen that’s right here, that we could just add this printer to the list?”
Luke frowned. “Well, technically we could…but we’d need the serial number.”
“Where can we find that?” I asked. “I can quickly Google it from my office.”
“Oh, no, there’s no need for that. It’s found on the bottom of the printer.”
“So…I can just bend down, pick up the printer and look?”
“If you want to,” sighed Luke. “Unless you want me to do it.”
“No, no. I insist! Allow me,” I bent down and looked at the code on the bottom of the very light, very uncared for printer. I read him the numbers as he slowly jotted them now on the list. He re-read the numbers out to double check. I re-read the numbers back to him to double check. Then together we loaded the items up onto the trolly.
“What about the cabinets?” I asked him, on the way to the elevator.
“Oh no!” Luke looked shocked. “Help Desk only deals with electronics! You are going to have to call Inventory and file a separate request with them. You’ll need your Department Head to sign off on it.”
I sighed. As soon as I arrived back at my office, I noticed my in-tray now had a few items in it. I also realized Luke still had my favourite pen. As I opened my outlook inbox to draft a Surplus Inventory Removal Request I saw that there was another e-mail from the receptionist; it was to the entire Department, RE: Pen Etiquette. There was also another email from Help Desk, asking me to follow-up with them on whether I was satisfied with the removal of the surplus items. I decided to go for coffee.
A few weeks later I saw the printer still sitting uncared for in our department warehouse. I took the trolley and brought it back to my office where it now has a happy home. I haven’t followed up with Help Desk yet.