A lifetime of academentia

Jean Piaget - psychologist, biologist, pedagogist, and Swiss philosopher photographed in his office.

It strikes me that this is a very useful photograph for when somebody complains that your listening room is a bit messy.

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Replace the books with records and that is the image of at least 2 2nd hand record shops I know, complete with old geezer.

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Is that Simon’s trainers on the left?

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i am sure you and i have (had) colleagues whose offices resembled that! These days the H&S people get on your back about fire loading before anything approaching that occurs.

I recall a Prof in Maths, being found alive in his office after being dug out 5 years after retirement… kept coming to work… his Mrs, didnt even know he’d retired…

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I once went into the lab on Boxing Day only to discover someone who’d also come in the day before !

VB

I love this

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It is the kind of mad goings on that used to make Universities such nice places to work. Sadly, we are now managed to within an inch of our lives so this would not happen at my current place of work because reasons. I miss the old days.

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mine neither…any more

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Retirement day = no PC, no email account, no pass, no office (must be cleared in advance of your retirement date), no telephone. If you are emeritus or honorary then you get a desk in a shared room with an incoming calls only phone. You may plug your own PC/notbook into the wi-fi or LAN if you chose. It is very, very rigid now because of safeguarding and insurance concerns (to say the least).

visiting and emeritus get emails but pretty much the same as us.

The Museums world used to be like this - even more so - no-one ever truly retired, and the whole place would be littered with 60-90YOs still doing useful work until they got too frail for the rigours of commuting. Nowadays moronic rules and empire-building jobsworths get in the way, but the superannuated still attend daily, and since they sacked everyone else and replaced them with 12YO volunteers with mickey-mouse degrees, the Ancient Ones are the last repositories of Actual Knowledge. My old boss at the NHM retired in 2001, and still works 3 days a week, and is among the younger ones still to be so-doing…

I wish I’d catalogued some of their dens: many near-enough walled themselves in with spiralling complexes of unmovable book-and-rock-laden furniture, chiefly in order to deter the Stupid People With Stupid Time-Wasting Questions brigade (“Are you sleeping O/N in here? Have you eaten this week?” &c.), and the singletons especially tended towards a degree of crotch-rotted ferality that was a potent deterrent in its own right… They do sometimes die in-place, out of a complex with over 1200 people working within, I’d guesstimate we lost someone every eighteen months who generally wouldn’t be found - stiff’n’cold - until the next morning/Monday etc. No true horror stories lie therein, we weren’t that neglectful.

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National Health Museum?

We had one with a 2m desk - had so many copies of books, journals, student projects, theses, etc etc that he had effectively walled himself in. The whole desk surface was covered and the wall was about a metre high, there was a reasonably flat area about 300mm wide where his keyboard and mouse were. The phone had long vanished - people just stopped calling him, as they knew he wouldn’t answer cos he couldnt find it.

Now i think about it, during his last few years at work, he balanced his keyboard on a pillow on his lap, as the desk space disappeared…

When he retired and left the walls behind (for me to sort out), we were genuinely surprised to find such a large desk underneath…

I really hate it when retired colleagues leave a pile of shit behind for others to sort out. It is one thing dying in service, but people spend months planning their retirements and still leave 100s of text books etc… behind. Shit text books from long defunct programming languages, that nobody ever used, that nobody had heard of…oh and as they jauntily walk out the door they nonchalantly tell me to give them away to students…

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One of my former colleagues at Melbourne left an uneaten burger in his office for a decent period of time over the Xmas/summer closure. The cleaner was sure a rat had died in his room. We were threatened with pest control until the miscreant owned up. He had put a stack of paper on his Maccas and not being able to find the burger had simply given up looking. Words like ‘fire trap’ do not describe this bloke’s room adequately. It was a complete and utter disaster. He was a young man at the time (well under 30) as was I. You cannot believe what a Big Mac smells like after several weeks of neglect when the daily high temperature varied between 27 and 42C.

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Obsession trumps hygiene.

I faced such tasks a few times over the years, the worst was a legend whose tales I’ve regaled/bored everyone here with before - Mole Norris (NHRN) the Human Hippo - but his worst habit by far was abstracting important Type specimens from the collections, prepping them for photography / SEM work by removing labels, and variously coating/cutting etc. Then simply discarding the specimen on some surface in his study, or near it, like a discarded wank-rag. Once a specimen is dissociated from its data, it is effectively worthless, and may prove impossible to reliably identity again. There were thousands of these specimens, alongside newly-collected items from his many expensive overseas trips - all without data of any kind. Such problems make binning unwanted journals a cinch by comparison.

There were also MOUNDS of correspondence that had to be checked for archiving, often unopened, often personal, many were unpaid bills, others from overseas institutions demanding the return of hopelessly-overdue specimens, but which also included some actually-heartbreaking “begging letters” from his ex-wife desperate to have him pay the many years backlog of child-support owing for their disabled son before electricity/gas was cut-off, they were evicted etc. It was positively fucking Dickensian - and he hadn’t even opened the letters. Of course, I should not have read them, but our duty was to recover important documentation and correspondence for archiving, so it was unavoidable.

He was (and just about still is), a likeable, hale-fellow-well-met, filled with bonhomie, but the reality, as so often, was darker altogether, and still disgusts me…

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A colleague and I spent the best part of a week clearing our ex-boss’s office when he took early retirement. There were papers filed (!) in there relating to his divorce. We got in touch and asked if he wanted them forwarded. He did at least reply and say ‘Nope’.

In a lot of other ways the organisation did manage this sort of thing though. With a week or two to go you were issued with a sort of report card on which you had to collect signatures from maybe 12-15 people (asset control, library, claims, occ health, HR, etc, etc, and finally the pass office) confirming you’d returned everything that was theirs, accounted for the stuff you’d spent their money on, found someone else to take responsibillity for your staff …

The inducement was simple. We were paid in arrears and without a complete card your last month’s pay wouldn’t be released. There were stories of people accepting that and just walking.

VB

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Unfortunately for me, the NHM was (and probably still is) always careful to shit downhill. There was an “apartheid” between the PhD educated, mainly Oxbridge, “chaps” and the drones or “blokes”; akin to commissioned vs NCOs/other ranks. So They were always in managerial positions, and We were always in junior positions, and there was no upward movement possible, nor any experience among them of the chores of the Lower Ranks.

Judging by “The Journal of a Disappointed Man” this division existed from the raising of the place in 1881 and continues in diluted form to this very day. It meant that The Chaps were free to do exactly as they wished without censure - mutual discipline being a matter of great distaste amongst peers. Of course squeamishness is not a great moderator of human behaviour, and while absolute freedom of thought and action may be merited by those who will use it responsibly (and most did), the intellectual butterflies, like Mole Norris used it to satisfy their own whims, ephemeral curiosities and passing fads, without very much of it ever yielding published results…

This pattern continued until retirement - in those rare cases where it merited the name - and unto death or disablement in all other cases. In either case, it was left to us to sort-out the mess - though not everyone left one, and certainly no-one else left the ferret’s-nest of squalor, horror and despair that the hero of this tale did…

Something I missed out on but was very much looking forward to was pressing the delete on ALL my work emails when I left my last job.

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I didn’t have to bother. When I looked at my phone after getting out of bed on the first day of retirement last week, (before 7.30 because ingrained habits) my work email account had been deleted already. :man_shrugging:
Didn’t even have the opportunity to say goodbye.

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Haha, nice title edit :ok_hand:

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