Local government has a fine tradition of eccentric and idiosyncratic initiatives and ideas, most well documented by various elements of the press. “This could only happen in local government”, I sigh as I leaf through my e-mails on a Monday morning. Some “policy wonk” (a term of endearment used by a colleague) has suggested that the council adopts an “e-mail free dayto encourage verbal interaction and a return to listening skills”, the overly enthusiastic note imparts. I’m tempted to write back and suggest he hasn’t got enough to do if he can think up things like this. E-mail free day is Wednesday by the way.
I’m bored. I have minutes of a meeting to write up, a contribution to a strategy due last week, 121 e-mails sitting in my in tray and my wife has just sent me a text to buy some milk on the way home. It’s a beautiful spring day and I can spy my colleagues through the trees in the nearby park. I have a daydream about winning the lottery and becoming a groundsman, marking lines on the football pitches and preparing immaculate cricket wickets. “Stop looking out of the window” my colleague interrupts, “You’ll have nothing to do this afternoon.” I spill my tea laughing.
Honestly you couldn’t make it up, only in local government, blah, blah, blah. Remember, it’s e-mail free day today, so being the rebellious punk rocker that I am, I duly log on. And there sitting in my in tray is an e-mailreminding me it’s e-mail free day! Policy wonk has excelled himself, if it wasn’t for the council, where could this person find employment! I write back: “Sorry, I’m unable to read your message, it’s e-mail free day.”
I feel old. A dazzling bright young team manager asks for my advice over a practice issue. Once I come to my senses and realise he is being serious as opposed to pulling my leg, I sense that he doesn’t need my advice at all, just a sounding board for his fantastic and creative ideas. I nod my head enthusiastically, hiding the fact that I would have struggled to match his suggestions. “That’s great, I really appreciate that, thanks for your time.” His manners are impeccable. I bet he can dance too.
Oh it gets better. My policy wonk colleague has taken offence at my e-mail and has dropped a line to my boss. He calls me in for a word. “I hope he didn’t e-mail you on Wednesday” is the best I can do. I can’t believe this is being taken seriously and just as I begin to panic and wish I’d remained a member of the union my boss says, “I’m not worried about it, I’m just wondering how we can wind the prat up even more!”