It was in the days that a manager still was called a chief. The chief was in total control and very aware that his subordinates should be controlled every single minute. If he wasn’t there, there should be a replacement to watch the workers. Our chief was very much like that and he liked to make it very clear that he was the man in total control. And he would make it certain that there were no nice things to make the work more enjoyable.
On this day the Tour de France had started. We started a petition to have a radio in the office. That would make us able to listen to the things that were happening in France. There were a few very good cyclists from our country in it. The chief enjoyed it very much to say that it was forbidden. The higher management had decided not to allow it, he assured. We checked this and were told that nobody at higher levels were really bothered to think about this. If the chief said no, it was a no.
When he heard of our probing about this, he was very angry. We were doing things behind his back. So he told us that he was really sharp now about behaviour during working hours. If he could catch us at something, he would not hesitate one second to ask that the persons involved would get punished in an appropriate manner.
We worked in a sort of hall divided by two long rows of very high filing cabinets in the middle. If you wanted to have a look at the other side, you had to walk round. The chief was sitting on the other half of the hall, we were controlled by his deputy. He was a pitiful old man that really had no idea what we were working on. But his only task was to see to it that we kept on working, so that was not a real problem for him. And the chief ordered him around like he did with us.
On my side of the room there was a sort of cubicle built in, with two doors. One to enter the hall from that cubicle and an exit door. On my side the cubicle had been made half open, to make it into a counter. Here we had to give people advice and answer questions. For this purpose we even had real scribbling pads.
I heard somebody coming in the cubicle and went to the counter. An old man with a walking stick stood there and showed me a piece of paper. “For your information: because of throat cancer I have to talk with a mechanism that is placed in my throat”. I nodded that I understood; we got a great variety in people we had to talk to, so I wasn’t really surprised. My last ones were a man without arms and a lady with a blouse that was almost completely unbuttoned.
The man started to talk in his mechanical way and I could give him all the answers he needed. While doing this, I heard the chief yelling: “Who has put on a radio?” Nobody answered, they were all doing what they were supposed to do. I heard the chief stamping towards the cubicle while the old man assured me that he understood what I said. “Immediately turn off that radio!”, the chief shouted.
The chief ended his stampede next to me. One look at the old man was sufficient to make him fall silent. His face turned purple and you couldn’t even hear his footsteps when he walked back to his own desk. The old man watched this quite interested, it didn’t seem to really annoy him.
When I was finished, the old man thanked me and left. While I went back to my desk I thought I saw the deputy chief grinning. The next year the higher management allowed us to listen to the Tour de France under the condition that it should not harm our work. ============================================================================