Phones: Out of service
People scurry around corridors, like rats in tubes, panic-stricken, asking, between short breaths: “WHAT’S GOING ON?!”
Some even take the drastic step of writing, with pencil or pen, on paper, making lists of tasks for when systems are repaired. Others regress to the Neanderthal-stage of human development, either running like crazed hungry hunters in search of web-based sustenance or else scraping crude carvings onto walls with sharpened stones. Many of these daubings portray images of their lunches with the caption “NOM NOM” or some similarly primitive message.
Still others, unable to cope with the inability to share images of their lunch, stare at screens with glazed expressions, repeatedly clicking the Refresh button, apparently in hope, but with no expectation.
Someone in the Epicentre, the heart of Central Office, asks: “Shouldn’t we send out an email alert, or something?” a question which hangs in the dead air, drawing contemptuous glares.
“Well, at least we don’t have to do any work!” chimes a witless drone. This also invites silent opprobrium; clearly this is a situation with no funny side.
Bereft of the distraction/escape/gratification/reward provided by dozens of websites (all approved by Senior Management and The Central Committee, incidentally), delicate social ecosystems quickly break down as employees turn on each other in an orgy of petty rivalry and bitter recrimination.
Those lucky enough to have screens open experience the giddy thrill/perpetual terror of temporary reprieve. Aware of the precariousness of this stay of execution, they must resist the temptation to invite the sword of Damocles, represented by the Refresh button, or the many links to follow, lest they should be subjected to the ignominious Error 6489 (“Proxy Server Fault”) to which all others are subjected. Suspension in this quantum state of connection and non-connection is enough to attract the envy and suspicion of colleagues.
Most find the pressure too much and click a link; at least they are now part of the collective again.
IT Helpdesk staff are rumoured to be barricaded into their office, with some jumping out of windows to avoid the hordes thronging at their gates.
No service, department or office is unaffected.
The Brightest and Best make creative suggestions for alternative methods of communicating updates on the blackout (carrier pigeons, loudspeakers and “human loud-speakers” – essentially, people passing messages in a chain – are all mooted), while The Dullest and The Rest are forced to voice reason: there are no updates, and there is no way to communicate with other departments in their bunkered quadrants – until the blackout is over. They also contend that it will surely be over soon.
The Brightest and Best counter that the blackout may have been caused deliberately, in which case…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Desperate for guidance, and/or reassurance, Union Representatives are prompted to approach Senior Management. Reluctantly, they agree to try. However, Senior Management disappeared en masse moments before the blackout began, fuelling wild rumours and increasingly lurid threats of revenge. Even for a long-serving drone such as myself, the speed of the descent is somewhat shocking.
Nervous of the growing malevolence and febrile atmosphere, Senior Management finally issue a garbled statement from The War Room, hastily scrawled on post-it notes, delivered by a sweating PA who enters the room like a messenger approaching Rome with news of a disastrous military defeat.
After asking for quiet in a quivering voice, she reads tentatively:
“Please remain calm. The New Reality is difficult but we must be united to survive: If this gets out, we’re ALL FUCKED.”
As her body is carried away by the baying crowd, I am perturbed at noticing some of the drones now wearing some kind of war paint on their faces, (perhaps lipstick turned to a macabre purpose?). The New Reality will be no easier than the Old Reality.
I allow myself a momentary pulse of empathy for the PA, but I have not lasted here for twenty-four years by mourning lost causes.
I make my exit.
The whole thing lasts from 2.56pm until 3.13pm.
As a Clandestine Communications Operative, I will be called into action soon enough, charged with to rescuing or destroying data to create and consolidate The New Reality, as directed by The Committee.
I stroll out into the courtyard and feel the sunshine on my face.