The day the walls came down

Let me take you to the momentous occasion at Hansen Rubensohn – McCann Erickson when it was announced that we were to be thoroughly modernised. No more worrying about the size of our office or its number of windows. We were moving to “Open Plan!!!”

We were told one day that office walls were to come down, to be replaced by partitions of two different sizes – 6 foot and 3 foot high. I have no intention of translating this to metric but 6 foot would provide some shelter for a reasonably-sized human being, while only a gnome could find privacy behind a 3 foot partition. This would become important.

It was, of course, a silly idea. It became even sillier when it was further announced that on a given morning the Creatives would have the first opportunity to claim a regulated number of partitions each, with which to build their nests. They may have been referred to as “work stations”. This again shows how little we were understood.

Anyway, the morning came and so did the Creatives. They first attacked the stacks of partitions for their regulated number and, of course, claimed all the 6-footers. Then they claimed the windows. Then they built their nests, each taking up much more room than their traditional offices had previously provided. The Suits later arrived to find their choice confined to the gnome-only walls and any location they’d care to choose, other than by a window.

As an aside: it was noticeable that within days the Creatives had begun to draw their walls closer, reducing their individual space to more cosy proportions. I asked our resident Research Guru (one Tony Rothery as I recall) about this and his answer included some discussion of wombs and returning to same.

Not too much later, at about eleven one morning, I heard a familiar guitar riff from the nest next to mine. I don’t recall whether I was lying thinking in my big beanbag or writing on a lined yellow pad, as one did, at my tall student desk by the window. Other than a low round coffee table, in keeping with the times these were my furnishings.

It is probably giving too much away to reveal that “Beardie” had a guitar, and not much more, in his little womb. So I’ll reveal that he, with his voice and that guitar, later gained wide recognition under the shorter sobriquet of “Jo”. Our familiar tune at that time had a lyric. It went “Cold tinnie time”. It was beer o’clock.

So, we headed for The Dumbarton Castle. This was our nearby pub. It was where one went for inspiration. “Beardie” and I, probably searching for such inspiration on behalf of some Client and their soap, soup, soft drink or something, stayed on for a drink of lunch. Then, in spite of the fact that it was a Friday, we returned to our Open Plan Palace.

What we faced on our return was a scene of complete devastation. The place had been flattened. There was hardly anything visible on the landscape that was any taller than an upturned typewriter. It was as if a cyclone had struck, and in a sense it had. We never knew the details but it appears that one of our fellow Creatives, alleged to be “The Hulk”, had experienced a moment of dissent with some obviously misguided Suit and had coincidentally decided that he was not in favour of all these bloody partitions. So down they went, taking all before them.

Faced with this destruction, “Beardie” and I did what any two innocents would do, who would very much rather not be found at a scene such as this. We did an abrupt and perfectly coordinated about-turn and headed for the door and home. It is interesting that when we returned on Monday all had been restored and nothing was ever said. “Creatives”, in those days, were a valued breed and to be protected when the occasion arose.

4 replies
    • peter maxwell
      peter maxwell says:

      MY God Brian. It has taken me a year to find this comment. What a kick I had out of receiving it and the memories it brings back. I think I’d still sell you a headline for 75 cents or whatever it was in the day. Good to hear from you. Be well. Keep in touch.

        BRIAN AHEARN says:

        Hi Pete, your were always a little slow in seeking out money! The 75 cents is a bargain. Lets talk. What a great book it would make, I’m in the middle of a autobiography sprinkled with Mc Cann stories-no one would believe them!

        Drop me a line.


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