In the early 1990s, while working as an IT consultant/programmer, I once designed and wrote a series of modifications to our software to handle some specific warehousing requirements for a local chemical company. My main contact was the head of their accounts department, Roger. I had met him on many occasions; he was both a funny and a grumpy man who was approaching his retirement with a somewhat carefree attitude. I liked him.
When the warehousing modifications were complete, I invited Roger to our offices to view and hopefully approve the amendments; I said we would probably need about 2 hours. He asked if he could bring along the main warehouse manager (who was also just months away from retirement) as he would be using the software on a day-to-day basis. Naturally, I agreed. We set a time of 10 AM, and I booked one of our demonstration rooms for the morning.
Roger and his colleague arrived 10 minutes late. I ushered them into the room I had set up, and Roger then introduced me to the warehouse manager. “Stewart, meet Wiggy”. We shook hands, and I looked at him properly for the first time; it was obvious why he was called “Wiggy”. The picture below is not him, but I think you get the idea.
It seemed a bit disrespectful to call him “Wiggy”, so I asked him for his full name and pretended we needed it for a health and safety register. “Wiggy’s fine, don’t worry about it.” Roger said to me, “Go on, Stewart, ask him why he’s called Wiggy”. I felt a little uncomfortable about this but asked him anyway to which he replied, “I’ve no idea really, a guy in the warehouse once called me it, and it kinda stuck”. Roger laughed his head off; it was clearly a windup.
As we were already behind schedule, I quickly made some coffee and attempted to get started. Roger and Wiggy were happy just to be away from their chemical plant for a morning, and I soon realised that they were going to string it out for as long as possible. They initiated conversations, either with me or between themselves, about the state of the traffic, the weather, the coffee I had made, last night’s Coronation Street (honestly) and what they could anticipate for lunch. I’m sure there was a tactic of delaying my presentation so that they would still be off-site at lunchtime and I would have to arrange for some sandwiches to be brought in.
I looked at the clock; it was exactly 10:30. I knew we had a lot to get through and I felt I had no option but to act like a schoolteacher in front of a couple of unruly children. I explained that time was getting on and I asked them to put their newspapers to one side and to focus on the screen at the front of the room which was still showing the opening introduction slide. At that moment, Wiggy picked up his copy of The Sun, rolled it up and put it under his armpit, stood up and headed for the door. “Where are you going?” I asked. Wiggy replied “I always have a dump at 10:30” and headed out of the door. I couldn’t believe it; I asked Roger if he was deliberately winding me up to which he replied, “No, it’s true, it’s a well-known fact within the company that he indeed has a daily dump at 10:30.”
Wiggy returned over 20 minutes later. I reckon it was a skiving tactic he had used for decades and had become an unbreakable habit; either that or this was a remarkable pre-planned tactic to make sure that they got some free sandwiches at lunchtime.
My presentation went as well as could be expected and Roger could see no additional changes or corrections would be required. Wiggy sat quietly throughout the whole demonstration; it was clear he had not used computers very much in his lifetime and was uncomfortable with the fact that the company was becoming more hi-tech. As he had not contributed to the session, I gave him the chance to comment at the end by specifically asking him what he thought and whether he was happy with what he had seen. I will never forget his reply, “It’s all very nice this Fancy Dan stuff, but you can’t beat pen and paper”.
I did have to order some sandwiches, and after all the additional chat, they didn’t leave until after 1:30 PM. I reckon their mission was successful.