“Hello Gorby? It’s Me, Ronnie.”
One of my all time favorite series of posts on this little blog has been the “Office Archeology” series of scenes from my former employer.
From the first week I worked at the new employer, I’ve kept my eye out for potential Office Archeology items to continue the series. So far, no luck. This place is kept spotless. There are no weird wrappers on the stairs, no lockless keys on the hallway cabinets, and no abandoned staplers laying about. Nope.
I mean, that’s good, right? But almost a little weird too. Every office seems to have that bit of junk that everyone ignores. But not this place.
That said, I have managed to fine one item that, while not junk, absolutely confounds me. Here’s a poor quality iPhone photo:
This piece of historic telephony is located in the break room, right above the trash/recycling/compost bins. In fact, off to the left is the chart that provides helpful suggestions about where to toss your trash.
At first I sort of noticed it, but ignored it. My company has occupied this building for over twenty years, and I figured it was a remnant of the past. A leftover.
But over time, I became more and more fascinated by the red telephone.
Why red? Why in the breakroom? Is there a conspiracy happening?
If I pick up the red phone, do I talk directly to Gorbachev?
Look, for a child of the Cold War era, the red telephone means something!
Remember the days when Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office with his finger on the button and the red phone at his side? It was a staring contest to see who would blink first. Gah! THE RED PHONE!
Soon enough, my obsessive compulsiveness kicked in. I couldn’t ignore the red phone any longer. It wasn’t just something in the background but this THING that was there in my environment taunting me!
My need to be “the good girl’ and follow the rules (meaning, if it’s not yours, leave it alone) and my intense curiosity began to collide.
I must pick it up! I can’t pick it up! I must pick it up! I can’t pick it up!
I asked someone who’s worked here a while about the red phone. I hoped that answers would help ease my OCD.
“Um, I don’t know, I never really thought about it,” she replied, when asked.
This is what normal people do. They don’t obsess about a red phone.
Finally, when the days and nights of curiosity and agony were too much too take, and I found myself alone in the break room, I quickly looked left, I looked right, then lifted the red receiver from the red base, and held it to my ear.
I could hear nothing. “Hello,” I said in sotto voce, eyebrows knit together waiting for all to be revealed.
“Hello?” I said again to the silence.
Then I tap-tap-tapped at the hanging up lever.
Nothing. The phone is dead. I was right, it’s a leftover.
Not satisfied, a week later I sat in a meeting with a few members of our IT team, including the voice engineer guy. At the end of the meeting, I cornered him and asked about the red phone.
“Oh, that’s for disaster recovery. Since we all use VOIP lines on our desks and cell phones, we have to keep one wired line on every floor in case of emergency.”
Ah ha. Well that makes sense.
“Did you know that the phone doesn’t work?” I asked.
He shrugged and said, “Oh well!” and walked away.
Fabulous. The emergency backup phone doesn’t work. Now I have a whole new thing to obsess about.