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Common Sense and Lack Thereof

Even though the academic semester is over for most universities, work still continues. This is my favorite time of the year: Grades are posted, my desk is a little clearer, and I have more time to write during the actual workday (during most of the year, I have to get up at 4 am to get in a solid hour or two of non-distracted writing before I get the kids off to school).

But, the Institutional Dads occasionally schedule mandatory faculty training sessions during the academic slow time. This week, several of us were scheduled to complete Title IX training on the Campus SaVE Act, about preventing workplace harassment (the policy takes full effect during the 2014-15 academic year). It was routine training, but interesting. One point raised in the session had to do with bystander intervention: i.e., it was hammered home in the discussion that if I overhear someone talking to another about being harassed or having been harassed, I (as a faculty member) am required to report it to campus authorities right away.

I get it about the zero tolerance and being proactive to ensure a safe environment for working and learning, and I agree with this policy. I just think it is unfortunate that we have to be on alert about boorish and poor behavior all the time, if you see what I mean. It is like what I have to do with plagiarism in my writing classes. I have to check student papers for academic dishonesty CONSTANTLY. It cuts into my instructional time, and I resent that.

It is as if common sense is a thing of the past.


Speaking of things in the past, this week’s training has made me think about office Christmas parties. I wonder what Emmett’s office Christmas party would have been like? Did Emmett and his colleagues do a “Secret Santa” gift exchange? I know he worked in small offices; he and his colleagues may have simply exchanged greeting cards or small gifts, or perhaps went out for a holiday meal together.

Amazon carries Festivus poles. Who knew? Source:

Amazon carries Festivus poles. Who knew? Source:

One difference between today’s parties and those during Emmett’s time is that we now call them Holiday parties, out of respect for our colleagues who do not celebrate Christmas. Most of the seasonal parties I attend include menorahs, Christmas trees, and Festivus poles, at a minimum.

The other thing I’ve observed about office parties (at least the ones I’ve attended recently) is if alcohol is involved, the party is held off site from the workplace. That makes sense.

We’ve all seen a colleague who  gets a little too tipsy at these office parties. Many times, it is harmless. The person becomes loud and slurring, tells some dumb or off-color jokes, and eventually passes out at his desk or at the elevator bank. His friends wind up stuffing him into a cab at the end of the night.

And then, there’s the colleague who drinks too much, and staggers to the mail room where the copier machine is located. Said colleague makes a Xerox of his private parts, and distributes the images anonymously to everyone via the office mail, a copy placed thoughtfully each employee’s mail slot.

This last example happened once at a party I attended at a friend’s office many years ago. I remember my friend calling me that following Monday to tell me what happened and that HR was up in arms about it: Back then, the company didn’t have a policy in place to deal with something like this!

After that, my friend’s company decided to hold their holiday parties off site. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Private Parts; I asked my friend if anyone knew who was the copier culprit. No one was able to figure that one out.

I just hope their copier was sanitized properly.

Our Emmett doesn’t know what he and his friends missed out on by not having Xerox machines back in the day…or did they?

I dug into this question a bit. I’ve come to the conclusion that Emmett and his coworkers may have actually had the Private Parts Copying Adventure (PPCA).

Mimeograph ad from 1900. Source:

Mimeograph ad from 1900. Source:

I know Emmett’s office had some kind of copying device on hand, but it was probably mimeograph machine like in the photo above. Some of them looked like fancy typewriters. You couldn’t make a good image of any body part when it would have had to be pressed flat or stuffed into a typewriter roller.

But, did you know that there were photostat machines in 1906? If you had a busy office, this would have been an ideal piece of equipment to have on hand. So, theoretically, it is possible that Emmett and his friends could have had the PPCA.

Making an image of one’s privates using an early photostat, like this one pictured at the right, would have been challenging. You’d need an assistant to do it; also, you’d probably have to have someone acting as a lookout.

Another option was that they could have traced their privates on regular paper, and then made photostat copies of their artwork to circulate among the office staff. That would seem more practical: No worries about workplace injuries or personal bits getting caught up in machinery in those days before OSHA, no worries about others involved in the prank, therefore enhancing the element of surprise come Monday morning, when the office mail is circulated.



It is possible. But not probable. I don’t see Emmett doing this kind of thing, but then, one never knows what can happen at office holiday parties.


Categories: Book Family Interesting & Odd Recommended Sources

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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