When the building is repainted in the lurid colour scheme of 'Teletubby Land', there is only one way to restore it to its former grey glory...

Year 1998 - Episode 29


I'm coming into the office in time for morning tea when I glimpse a sight on the ground floor that I have to share with the PFY.

I am rapid-dialling my mobile phone before I'm halfway across the foyer.

"Hello, Nigerian Embassy," the PFY answers, using this week's wrong-number diversion scheme.

"You'll never guess what they're doing on the ground floor!" I chuckle.

"Painting the walls radiation orange?"he asks.

"Oh. Of course, you've got CCTV, what was I thinking?"

"Yes, and not just that!"

"What?"

"Well, do you want the good news or the bad news?" the PFY asks, in a playful manner.

"The good news..." I respond, taking the lift for a change.

"The good news is that there's only one bit of bad news."

"I see, and the bad news is?"

"The painters started on the fourth floor last night."

"How bad is it?" I ask as the lift doors open, answering my question.

I am now staring at an office that looks like the inside of a heat lamp.

The boss strolls over, smiling benevolently - or is that malevolently?

"Awful, isn't it?" he asks pastily.

Ah! What I'd mistaken for a smile of benevolence was in fact a wince of distress. Easy mistake to make with the boss only recently back from sick leave.

"Who did it?" I ask.

"The building owners," the boss responds. "Apparently in response to the request of senior management. But that's not the worst. Stores just rang to say our purple carpet's arrived."

I choke down my gag reflex and manage to utter, "Why?"

"Because this study," the PFY cries, holding up a management rag, "says that certain colours are more conducive to an energetic workplace."

"I thought that was pale blues and pinks?"

"No," the PFY responds, recalling from memory sections of the article. "Pale blues and pinks are conducive to a calm atmosphere - which, incidentally, are the colours of our office."

"You're bloody joking!"

"No. Oh, and I lied about there only being one bit of bad news."

I rip down to my office to investigate.

"Yes, yes, I see what you mean," I say, relaxing into my chair. "It is a little calmer than the harsh metallic white of before. It's almost soothing in a way."

"It's not good to stay in here," the PFY comments. "It's dangerous - remember the negative ion generators...?"

How could I forget a former management plan to pump negative ions into our building in an attempt to make the PFY and I consider customer relations more.

"The computer room!" I cry.

The PFY, the boss and I head to the clinical safety of the computer room's harsh greyish walls.

"Much better!"

Through the viewing window in the fire escape door I see the IT workers going through their routines, unaware of the harmful effects of the wall colour.

"Poor bastards!" the PFY cries.

"It's too late for them! We've got to think of ourselves!" the boss blurts, echoing my exact thoughts.

(Which is a worry. Come to think of it, the boss's room has always been a bluish pinky colour...)

"What to do..." I murmur, looking to see the boss's level of commitment, "what to do..."

This goes on for another couple of minutes until the grey affects the boss's mind and an idea pops out.

"A fire!" he cries, as I make a mental note to give future bosses an hour a week of computer room therapy..."No! It'd never work - the extinguishers would cut in immediately."

"True!" I respond, "and all that water on the semi-cured paint..."

"It'd never wash it all off!" the PFY blurts.

"It doesn't have to wash it off! It just has to make it patchy!"

"...requiring a repaint!" the PFY finishes.

While the PFY and the boss complete their Laurel and Hardy act, I set to work removing a panel from high on the wall.

"What are you doing?" the boss asks in confusion.

"A small fire, while bloody dangerous, is not the answer, nor..." I add, silencing the PFY's next sentence, "is a big fire. We need a small fire, in the right place."

"And where's that?"

"In..." I cry, ripping off the plate to reveal a blocked-off galvanised iron duct, "the air-conditioning system."

"It'll blow the smoke all over the building!" The PFY cries, enlightened once more.

"Friends, countrymen," I cry, "lend me your jackets and shoes!"

"Will we get them back?" The boss asks, stupidly.

I pry open the ducting, stuff in the jackets, shoes, some tape listings, some tapes, a gallon of tape head cleaner and, what the hell, the boss's wallet (old habits die hard).

"Halon!" I cry.

The PFY dashes over and switches the fire alarm on.

"What the hell are you doing?!" the boss cries in terror.

Nothing happens.

"There's a wiring 'fault'," the PFY says. "The fire alarm switch holds off the Halon, while the Halon-hold-off switch turns it on."

"One of yours?" the boss asks.

"You're too kind," I smirk, chucking the lit matches into the ducting and closing the panel.

Quicker than you can say "Is that the fire alarm?" the fire sensor board is lighting up like a Christmas tree and the sound of alarms echo from all corners.

"To the new colour scheme!" I cry, lifting one of the raised-floor tiles and pulling out three lagers chilled to a crisp 17 degrees...

"Cheers!" the boss and PFY cry in unison.

And they say that orange inspires teamwork...