Doing things we shouldn’t in the office

October 18, 2007, 3:42 PM UTC

In today’s new Ask Bing section, a reader writes in to complain about his boss. Seems the guy spends a lot of time surfing porn sites at the office. He wants to know what he and his fellow employees can do about this deplorable situation.

Of course looking at objectionable, sexist, nasty porn at the office is a no-no. Worse than that, even, is the fact that the dangerous pervert is so indiscreet that his employees know about it. Good for them, the little weasels, for squealing on the miscreant, right?

Well… I don’t know. Really. A lot of people surf the web every day tracking the value of their portfolio, priapic (if they are men) or flushed with pleasure (if they are women) as their tiny greed muscles expand and contract. Is that any less pornographic? Isn’t money the new porn?

In my time in Planet Corporate, I have occasionally done a bunch of questionably recreational things at my desk, while, I may add, building one of the most successful business careers of anybody in my mysterious line of work. I’m not bragging. I’m just saying.

The computer is a weird window on the world, and an antidote to the perpetual state of boredom that is the bane of office life. Mostly, I’ve played computer games by the hundreds while writing, talking on the phone, signing things, waiting for the next s**tstorm.

I started with a dungeons game on what was called a Lexitron. I think it was called Gorp. Something like that. No… Zork! That was it. There were no graphics, but I followed a text-based troll down a myriad of caves and passageways, dying and being reborn as I went. After that came Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, The Rise of the Triad, Tetris, and so on and so forth. Right now, I’m addicted to Big Fish Games, which offers something called Zen that incorporates a visual kind of Sudoku and an evolved Mahjong game. I play when I’m on the phone. It IS kind of Zen, come to think of it. And which of us couldn’t use more of that?

I’ve joined virtual communities from way back, like the late 80s, believe it or not. Each of us had an early form of Avatar that you could build using facial parts as you would right now in Second Life. I went on those until it got weird. There were no webmasters in those days to kick off psychos. More recently, I joined Second Life, which I found so unbelievably tedious that I quit after only a couple of weeks. It compared unfavorably to a typical day of conversation at the office. Congratulations to people who have found a way to make that world interesting or, more important, profitable. My virtual hat is off to you guys.

I’ve also consistently kept up with gossip sites that report on the doings of idiots, the news destinations that report half-truths about my business, wrote my first novel, basically, while the rest of the corporation was being acquired and the only strategy was to be very, very quiet while the McKinsey types were hunting wabbits, stuff like that. I’m sure there’s more but I have to go in a minute because my phone is ringing.

I know a woman who has the #3 job in a very large corporation. She’s doing extremely well. Her desktop is a playground of game icons stretching back into the dawn of the computer era. I think I saw Pac-Man on there once. There is no time that she’s not in the middle of a game no matter what else she is doing. Is there something wrong with that?

As long as we’re functional, is there anything wrong with keeping ourselves amused, entertained, even aroused, as long as it doesn’t intrude on our effectiveness or (in the case of porn, I guess) our ability to manage others? Even galley slaves were able to use their oars to scratch their backs. Was that an unauthorized use of equipment?

How about you guys? Huh? What kind of unauthorized use of the hardware are YOU involved in? Do you play games on your phone? Do you text message your kids or your lover every couple of hours? Do you look at naughty pictures? Do you forward YouTube clips of dancing birds to your friends via company e-mail?

Come on. Enquiring minds want to know.