In the beginning there was paper. Paper begat more paper.
In the 1980’s Banking thrived on paper. No matter what it was there had to be a paper chit, or page, or book or ledger.
International Operations was no exception. We loved paper. Every piece, without exception, had to be either initialled or, if it was a particularly worthy piece of paper, it had to be signed. So paper was constantly moving about.
Our office space was large and long with about seven or eight rows of desks. There was also another floor above, but I was never allowed to go up there so I’ve no idea what went on, or who was there. Consequently, it took quite some time for anyone to move paper from one row, or indeed floor, to another.
(Well you couldn’t just walk past someone without asking about their weekend, family, dog, cat, children etc, could you?)
Time and Motion people (the enemy) had noticed this, and as they were Gods, we had to accommodate their ‘suggestions.’ It was their recommendation that we install a ‘Tube System’ to move the paper.
There were to be several terminals for the system and one had to be in the Dealing Room where I was quietly passing my days. When in use, the system gave out a warning sound similar to the collective intake of breath at a football match whenever a hard tackle occurred. This was followed by a large ‘thwump’ as a tube arrived. Small sandbags had been placed in a receiving bowl to try and reduce the velocity of arriving receptacles.
If you were close to a receiving area, you were conditioned to expect the inevitable ‘thwump’ by the warning ‘ohhhHHHH.’ However, if at the time of the warning you were outwith its audible range, you were totally unprepared for the thermonuclear ‘thwump’ that followed. I’m sure many a lifespan was shortened by this.
However, despite numerous problems noticed during the ‘testing’ period which were normally resolved with smelling salts and a trip to the toilets, the system was declared to be safe and working and put into use.
In all honesty it did what it was designed to do and foot traffic about the place did seem to fall. But it actually took longer to get the paper to where it was required.
This was because either an incorrect code was pressed thereby sending a container to Credits (upstairs area where I think they ran some sort of ponsy scheme) instead of the Dealers, or Cheque Desk or Ledgers. It all seemed a bit of a hit or a miss.
But we were resourceful crowd if nothing else.
If in the dealing room we received a container for ledgers, we concluded that there must be a block at the ledgers station resulting in their delivery being sent to us because we were next on the list. There was therefore no point in redirecting the tube to ledgers so we just took the tube and walked up the department, meeting and greeting colleagues as we passed and dropped the container into their basket. Result.
One day, one of the dealers, who will be nameless (let’s just call him Bill Campbell) went to the City Bakeries to get his lunch. As he left the dealing room the boss came in with a guest. It must have been someone very important because not every visitor to the department got a guided tour. The boss explained the virtues of the new tube system and eventually they both left.
The nameless one returned to the Dealers room just as a tube arrived. Thwump. An empty tube had appeared from somewhere. But rather than put it into the filing cabinet where we were storing seven other containers because we were fed up walking all over the department, the nameless one picked it up and opened it.
“Whatcha doing with the tube?”
“Hehehe” was the reply. “I’m sending Tom his lunch.”
At that, the container wheeched off into the unknown.
“I saw Tom in the banking hall and he asked me to get him his lunch” said the nameless one (Bill Campbell in case you’ve forgotten).
We never thought anymore about it. Not for the next five minutes, that is.
In came the boss, container in hand with the fragmented remains of a cheese sandwich inside it.
It seems it had been on quite a journey, bouncing around, being continuously redirected in an effort to find the correct Tom (we had several) and arrived at Credits – where the boss was with his important guest!
He was not amused. Neither was the wee cheese piece.
Oh, and neither was poor Tom, who I don’t think ever got his lunch.
(Eddie McPhie – International Division)