After I graduated from college, I spent some time working as a temp. I alternated between theatrical work and office work, one for fun and the other to pay the bills. One of my office assignments was at Hasbro Interactive in Beverly. The company has been out of business since 2001, so I think it’s safe for me to share this story.
I was covering for an executive assistant who was on vacation. I arrived a few minutes early, got my badge, and was introduced to the executive whose assistant was on vacation. He showed me to my desk and outlined my duties, to wit: if a fax came in, I was to make two photocopies. I would bring one copy to him, and put the other copy and the original into the file cabinet.
That was it.
I read toy catalogs until lunchtime. I ate a tuna sandwich in the employee cafeteria, admired the view out the window, then went back to my desk to re-read the toy catalogs. This is where I discovered Elefun. I may have fallen asleep at one point.
Around 1:30 a fax came in. I was very grateful to have something to do. I took the fax and went to the photocopier, but it was displaying an error message: replace toner.
“Sorry to disturb you, but where is the toner?” I asked.
“Oh, we have a technician from Xerox on site. Call the number on the poster and he will come change the toner for you.”
I assured him I was perfectly capable of replacing a toner cartridge, but no, only the Xerox Guy was allowed to open the machine. Okay then. I called the number and left a message.
At 5:00, the Xerox Guy had still not arrived. I went home.
The next morning, I brought a book with me. When the executive arrived, I asked, “Are you sure there’s nothing else I could be helping you with?”
The executive thought for a moment. “Actually, yes! You can check the email account. If an email comes in, print it out and make two photocopies. Bring one copy to me, and file the other with the original.”
I didn’t even try to explain all the different ways this was ridiculous. It’s their house; I am just a guest. I launched the email app (Groupwise, if I recall correctly) and was prompted for a password.
“Sorry to keep bugging you, but what’s the password for the email?”
“Oh, right. Well, there’s something strange about our email system. No matter what you type for a password, it shows up as an asterisk. So everyone’s password is five asterisks.”
I went back to the computer, trying desperately to keep my face neutral. I entered five asterisks and the email account opened up. There were no messages.
When I got home, I sent an email to Scott Adams. I never received a reply, but a couple of years later, he wrote a strip that I firmly believe was inspired by my email.
I was there for a week. The Xerox Guy never did show up. I think he was on vacation too.