Peter, The Cubicle, The Manager, and The Sea Knight

I remember attending an airshow with a gaggle of my friends. We approached a crew member standing at the ropes in front of his aircraft, eager to get some information To our surprise, he asked if any of us worked in an office. I replied that I did. He then asked me if I talked about my office on the weekend, and before I could reply, said that the aircraft was HIS office and he didn’t want to talk about it on the weekend. I can tell you, Loyal Reader, that his words echoed in a stunned silence. I was so flabbergasted that I didn’t even take notes about the aircraft.

Anyway, I would have told him that there were occasions when I would “talk about the office” on the weekend. There were times when I would speak out in a group of friends when someone would said something about one of the programs I worked with which was clearly incorrect. ( Not that I particularly liked talking about the subject during “my time”, but I hated incorrect information being dispensed.)

Anyway, this week I will be writing about my office, my own personal hiding place, my base of operations, where “the magic happened”.

When I started working as an Employment and Insurance Officer, I was provided with a chipboard desk with drawers, a swivel chair, an overhead rack, a blotter and a garbage pail which was painted Olive Green. The walls were baffles, connected by hardware and they had the alarming habit of swaying noisily should you lean against them when entering the cubicle, or sometimes even when you simply closed your door.

Normally one was free to decorate their own little fiefdom with (tasteful) photos a) or other knickknacks that reminded one of the Life which existed beyond the office.

However, I do remember one Regional Director who decreed, in his infinite wisdom, that the “walls” of our cell were to be unadorned and bland. That particular situation lasted for about 18 months, until he was “replaced”. He actually toured every single office in Toronto on his “farewell tour” and was able to confirm that we had cleaved to his brain crushing conformity. The first thing I did when I got into work the very next morning was pull out all my trinkets from their storage place and redecorate the place.

You might notice that I didn’t mention a computer when I described the layout of my office. That, Loyal Reader, is because we didn’t even have computers when I began my journey as an E&IO, at least at the local office level. We received them a few years later, so long ago that the training password was “WKRP”. Each office had a computer, but printers were rather “thinner on the ground”. The supervisor had one, as did the receptionist. There was one located in the aptly named “printer room” which was accessible by the entire unit. The ongoing maintenance of this particular piece of equipment lay at the feet of the users, my unit mates and I. Thus did I get introduced to the bliss of finding the damned thing jammed or out of paper, and having to solve the problem with great dispatch, as we could get quite busy. I remember once I walked in and saw a cluster of people thumbing through the operating manual of an obviously not operating machine. I leaned over, unplugged the thing, counted to “ten bananas”, plugged it back in and it worked just fine after that. Smugly I returned to my office.

One day I was interviewing someone and I leaned back in my chair. With a loud “crack”, the chair broke and I wound up lying on the floor, jammed between the walls and my desk. One of my colleagues rushed in to assist me, while the client I had been interviewing protested their innocence.

Me, I was laughing hysterically, and it  took a few minutes to restore some semblance of order to the whole situation.

Sometimes I interviewed a client outside the office. For example, I worked once at the CN Tower. On another occasion, I conducted an interview on Bloor Street in front of the “Senator David Croll Apartments”, a venue which might be familiar to some of you under a different name. Sadly, I had to do this interview on the sidewalk because the client was wheelchair bound and was unable to come into the office. Thankfully great strides have been made since then as far as accessibility is concerned.

Finishing off this week with the most unusual place where I ever did an interview. I was at an airshow and, to my delight, there were a number of U.S. Marine Corps helicopters in attendance. I was carrying my camera and a notebook, and was asked if I was a reporter. I said that I was an Employment and Insurance Officer with the Canadian federal government. One of the crew members mentioned that he was finishing his “hitch” soon and wondered if I had any tips on job hunting for him. 

So it was, Loyal Reader, that we sat beside a CH-46 “Sea Knight” and I did a Service Needs Determination Interview with him. He was so pleased that he wanted to give me one of his unit’s patches. I turned it down because I didn’t want to accept any “gifts” for simply doing my job. He nodded and went off to buy himself a beer. I went my way, but, to my chagrin, later lost the notebook with the identifying information about that particular helicopter, so I never could build a model of it   😦 .

See you soon.

a) Although for some time I had a black and white picture of Franzetta’s ” The Death Dealer” mounted obliquely on my wall.


A confirmed Cat person, Peter dabbled with being a water boy, a paper boy and an altar boy before finally settling on a career with the Canadian federal government.  Once, in his youth, he ate a Dutch  oven full of mashed potatoes to win a 5 cent bet with his beloved sister Mary’s boyfriend. (Of course he was much younger and a nickel went a lot farther!))

He has retired to palatial “Chez Montreuil”, which he shares with his little buddy CoCo the Fashionable. He is blessed to have the beautiful Betty in his life. He is not only a plastic aircraft modeller, but a proud “rivet counter”. Military aviation and live music are among other interests of his, and he tries to get out to as many shows as he can. He will be here for your enlightenment whenever the stars align. Profile photo courtesy of Pat Blythe, caricature courtesy of Peter Mossman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: