Monday, September 18, 2006

Becoming a dreaded drone

Ever since I started work as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduate trainee in 1989, every workplace has had some kind of security card access for entry into the building. This common sense approach to preventing robberies or lunatics entering the building (ones not on the payroll at least) is commendable and was not worthy of much introspection on my part.

What I always refused to do, however, was to encase the entry card in a plastic sleeve and then wear it around my neck in a lanyard. For people with lives, a 'lanyard' is one of those ribbon string things that kids normally use to hang their tamagotchis from, and I sure as hell didn't want to be seen wearing one for the greater part of my waking hours.

You see, they made the wearer look as though they were trying to be important: all they needed was the white labcoat to complete the picture of being able to gain top-secret access into the underground nuclear bunker that was housing Elvis, the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot and the Tasmanian Devil. Instead, they reminded me of beings so unimportant that the ability to keep a card in their pocket or wallet was beyond them, as was using their hands to hold one. Lanyard wearers also tended to be the types that have hobbies that earn a polite "Oh," in response before quickly walking away/finding someone more interesting to talk to during the first aid course's morning tea break. "Oh, so you make your own toothpaste?" "Oh, a shrine to the group Supertramp?", or "Oh, I wondered why you were rhythmically slapping your head with the Windows95 User Manual..."

On the other hand, if the Lanyard Loser in question wasn't sad, certifiable or just odd, they were deeply, deeply committed to their work. Some of those entry cards were no longer white and rectangular but a grotty brown oval with the plastic covering curling up at the corners revealing ancient, blobby grey adhesive stains. The first impression given off by the wearer would then naturally lead to the assumption that a) you weren't going to shake their hand; b) they had worked here since saving up their first pay cheque for that groovy new BETA video recorder; and c) no longer had wives or houses to go home to. "Hey MillyMoo, how come you've declined the meeting I've scheduled for 7am on Monday? What about if I make it 5.15pm this Friday instead?" "Aw come on, we need you to make up the final team member in the Touch Rugby/Volleyball/HopScotch Thursday Lunchtime Final!"

In spite of my derision and decision, I finally decided to get a lanyard today. Campus Services rang for the final time to express their annoyance at having my entry card being handed in more regularly than a sex-education library book. I had left it in the toilets, the mailroom, the coffee shop, the deli, the chocolate vending machine, the centre's kitchen, the carpark, FoodLand, the chemist's and 'Price Slashers Discount Variety Store.' One more time and the university would consider revoking my access and leaving me to rely on the punctuality of others to let me in.

That situation would definitely not do. Hanging my head in shame, I shuffled into the uni bookshop, pointed reluctantly to the one hanging behind Debbie the cashier and muttered, "One of those please." Moments later I exited the store with my posture slumped badly enough for me to get far-too-close-a-look at my navel: the damn lanyard was weighing me down with the sheer mass of dagginess and conformity. All I needed now was to go the whole hog and get myself a pair of SuperSoft diana ferrari slip-ons, knee-high stockings and a cable-knit cardi.

Maybe tomorrow. I won't have time to shop after watering the pot plants, placing the fortnightly stationery order and counting the plastic document holders...

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