8 December 2008

Office Gnomes & Trolls - A Xmas Story

En liten engelsk läsövning. En julnovell skriven för avdelningens personaltidning, så av det skälet kommer här en liten ordlista:
GOS - Grade of Service, ett servicemått som är jätteviktigt för alla chefer, som ideligen uppmanar folk att ta samtal för att bibehålla nivån...
CSM - Customer Service Manager

Väggen med Glada Människor som det hänvisas till är ett stort fotocollage på högsta chefens vägg. Och slutligen, jo, det är nästan vardagspraxis att det bara finns en fungerande kopieringsmaskin på hela våningen...

Trevlig läsning!
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Christmas is the time of year when logic goes out the window and magic, fantasy and coziness fills every nook and cranny of our frostbitten world. It's also the time when we send grateful thoughts to those around us, the ones helping us, without whom we probably wouldn't function. I am talking, of course, of the office gnomes.

The office gnomes are all around us. There's the lift gnomes who ring their little bell every time the doors open or the printer gnomes who ensure no work skips the queue. There’s also the restroom gnomes who work hard trying to tidy up after the sloppy trolls, the kitchen gnomes, flower gnomes, PC gnomes and a long list of other gnomes working various areas of the office.

Gnomes don't like to be seen. They don’t have time to hide either. They simply rely on being so quick anyone who sees them won't catch them twice. You know when you think you saw something, blink and it's gone? That was probably a gnome you caught.

One of the quick, little gnomes is Tim. He and his brothers live in the coffee machine in 2/3S, where they ensure humans get fuel when they press the buttons. They take particular pride in blowing the bubbles of the drinks themselves, using straws. Gnomes in other machines use whisks, but that, Tim's father had taught them, was cheating.
"You wouldn't want whisked bubbles in your chocolate," he pointed out, "so what makes you think the humans want it? Always put yourself in the humans' pointy hat, my sons."

Gnomes like to work hard; their favourite past-time is overtime and little gnome children dance with joy when being awarded extra chores. True to their gnome nature the brothers therefore ventures out on the floor when their work is done.

One evening in November Tim met two small feet beneath a big pile of rubber.
“That’s very nice colours you’re carrying,” he commented, “what is it?”
“Oh,” the gnome behind the pile said, “we keep finding them since Halloween. We believe the humans use them as containers for their breath. They blow their breath into them and hang them up all over the place. Particularly on Fridays it seems. Now if you excuse, I’m busy.”
The gnome began to walk but turned his head and said:“Speaking of monsters, it’s been awfully quiet around the copy machine today, perhaps you could take a look?”

Tim went straight to the copy machine. Those gnomes were usually always busy, since not a day passed without the trolls jamming the machines. That was the course of nature after all. The trolls jammed, spilled, leaked and cracked. And the gnomes fixed. There were even mobile gnome squads running around trying to keep up with the mischievous trolls. And since happy humans are of outmost importance to gnomes you could, if you took time to listen, hear their calls all over the office:
"Make yourself available, please! Everyone to the printer in 2/3N! The Gnome Operational Service is currently 85%, we must maintain GOS, lads, we must maintain GOS!"

Tim climbed inside the machine and called out. There was no reply. This worried him, but Arthur, the CSM, short for Company Skiving Master, was content the missing gnomes lay in some corner sporting a belly ache.
“They’ve probably just found sweeties about. I must’ve gained a whole ounce myself since Halloween.” He chuckled.

But the gnomes didn’t return. Instead more gnomes disappeared. At first one at a time, but towards the end of November whole stations were abandoned. The gnomes were really shaken by that time, and over-worked. Tim found himself re-allocated from the coffee machine to one of the mobile squads. They worked day and night amending broken machines, trying hard to avoid the most heart-breaking sound a gnome knows. Complaining humans. But the complaints invariably came, even before the humans ate their first piece of chocolate from their advent calendars. Whining filled the air and humans ran around with distressed expressions on their faces, in search of a working copy machine. No matter how hard the gnomes worked there was only one operational at a time.

The humans even sent their own handymen. These would open the machines and poke around in all the wrong places, because they just didn't know how to remove troll slime from the cogs or how to unwind plaited cables. Usually they fastened a screw or changed the toner and got credit for fixing the machine. The gnomes would then smile affectionately from their hideout, as they knew that the real reason for the breakdown was the trolls playing SimCity with the circuit boards again.

Normally the gnomes sent a squad up to the North Pole for the hectic Christmas period. The Contact gnomes loved Christmas and usually fought over who got to help Santa, so when they failed to show up by mid-December Santa got worried and sent down a team of elves.
“Our friends are missing!” Arthur explained upset. “And we’re on our knees here and worst of all – Christmas is ruined!”
“Yeah,” filled another gnome in, “for everyone. We work so hard we haven’t had time to hang up the least tinsel, and the humans are so distressed they don’t even sing Christmas carols.”
“They don’t?” The head elf asked surprised.
“No,” confirmed Tom, “and that’s so depressing. I love to hear the contact agents sing Christmas carols between calls. But they haven’t sung a single one. Not even ’12 days of Christmas’.”
The elves exchanged looks and scratched their heads, realizing that the situation was indeed really serious.

At last it was decided that the elves would stay and help the gnomes. At night they’d help mending the machines and search for the missing gnomes, but they were too big to move around unseen during the day. Instead they used their idle time hidden behind plants, desks and boxes watching the humans. There was still time to report back to Santa who were good and who were bad. And that man who didn’t complete ID&V certainly wouldn’t get the WII he so deeply desired, the elves would make sure of that.

One afternoon only a week before Christmas something very unusual happened in the office. But busy as the humans were, hardly anyone noticed it. It started when Tim came back from a hot chocolate break and found his team hiding behind a toner cartridge in the copy machine in 2/3N.
“T-t-the t-t-trolls!” His colleague stuttered and pointed behind Tim’s back.
Tim turned around and saw the back of a troll leaving through an opening, a gnome slung over his shoulder. Tim immediately ran after him. He couldn’t fight the troll himself, but figured others might follow if he took the lead.
“Catch him, catch him, the troll’s got Tom, the troll’s got Tom!” He shouted as he ran.

Gnomes peeked out from printers, faxes, PCs and the like. They saw Tim running after the troll. One by one the gnomes jumped out from their places and followed Tom. If the humans had cared to look they would have seen a long line of tiny grey and red gnomes in pointy hats running across the floor towards the corner where the human called Jackie sat. In her office there was a wall covered with pictures of various happy humans. The gnomes climbed up underneath the pictures and disappeared into an opening none of them had known about.

They followed the troll through dark, winding corridors until, at last, there was light at the end of the black tunnel. The gnomes tip-toed to the opening and carefully peeked inside. Then their jaws dropped. They’d found the trolls’ lair. And the missing gnomes.

The gnomes reluctantly left the lair though, grudgingly admitting that they were too few to be able to rescue their friends. Instead they returned to work and awaited the evening. In the evening they revealed their discovery to the elves. Together they returned to the lair and burst inside without so much as knock on the door.

The trolls were taken by surprise in the middle of dinner. The gnomes could hardly fit in the over-full lair so they lined the walls, the elves blocking the entrance. For a moment they almost forgot they were on a mission. They looked around, eyes large as saucers. The lair was decorated from floor to ceiling. There was tinsel, evergreens, angels, gingerbread men, straw stars, heart-shaped paper baskets filled with nuts, oranges decorated with cloves, home-made candles, cotton snow, coloured baubles and everything else Christmasy imaginable. In the middle of the room glittered a fully decorated Christmas tree and tables were set with everything from apples, toffee and marzipan pigs to Christmas pudding, mince pies and turkey dinner.

“We just wished to try Christmas.” The head troll defended himself. “But we didn’t know how to do it so we borrowed a few gnomes to help us.”
“Kidnapped, rather.” Arthur frowned.
“We meant to set them free.” The troll assured. “But… It was so nice we wanted more Christmas, so we borrowed some more gnomes. And…”
“And that was so nice you wanted even more Christmas?” Tim snorted.
The troll nodded.
“Wasn’t it nice enough the first time?” The head elf wondered. “Is it really nicer with more stuff and more food?”
The trolls eyed their cluttered lair, so full of Christmas they could hardly see the walls, then they shook their heads.
“It is a bit too much actually…” The head troll said sheepishly. “It’s not even nice and cozy anymore.”
“Well then,” the head elf said, “perhaps you could make do with just so much so you get that initial nice, cozy feeling? Christmas is Christmas after all, you won’t get more of it just because you overload, right?”
“No,” a troll in the back complained, “you just get belly ache.”

The gnomes laughed. The rescued friends were eternally grateful for not having to find room for yet another stocking or glaze yet another turkey. When they made ready to leave the trolls asked if they could take some of the Christmas stuff with them. The trolls were sleepy but they couldn’t find their beds…

And so the gnomes and the elves brought tinsel, Christmas cards and baubles into the office. The elves spread the trolls’ decorations across Contact and left sweeties in various places. Meantime the gnomes spent the night fixing copy machines, printers and faxes. In the morning the humans would arrive. Some of them would notice the sweeties, a few would notice the decorations, many would give a sigh of relief when they noticed the copy machines was working again but all of them would sense this warm, jolly feeling inside them. Without being able to explain it themselves they would soon walk around with a smile on their face, and by lunch the first few ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Come on all ye faithful’ would be heard across Contact. It was the last thing the elves spread before they left in the morning. The Christmas Feeling.

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