Thursday 13 October 2005

Some notes on the relative adhesiveness of post-it notes

For a good portion of my life to date, I thought I would change the world. Maybe I'd invent a new form of transport, such as cars on legs or the hover bike. Perhaps I'd write a novel that quietly and unfussily became a life changing favourite of millions. Perhaps I'd rival Lance Armstrong for domination of the professional cycling calendar. With age my grandeur driven dreams are scaling back; I'd settle for being a junior cabinet minister or assistant manager of a non-league football club. But I still seize the chance to change the world for the better whenever I can.

And so it came to pass that I made a suggestion to our company procurement department that we get some better Post-It notes, as the packs that fill our cupboards only barely qualify for the adjective adhesive and have the embarrassing habit of fluttering from the wall like autumn leaves as long workshops drone on and on. In a transparent attempt to shame me, my suggestion did not disappear into the normal corporate black hole and I got a response:

we would like to conduct a small trial to determine the stickability of different post-it notes. We propose putting up sheets of both brown paper and white paper in a meeting room, and placing '3M Post-Its' and the Banner equivalent on them to compare. We can leave them overnight and next morning count numbers that have fallen and/or curled to determine whether there is any significant difference between the two. We would like you to be present when we put stick them all on & count them the next morning.

It didn't even end there, they've now actually conducted the trial and I am simultaneously smug and appalled that experimental evidence has backed up my assertions. My hopes and dreams have come to this then. I should be developing a domestic cold fusion reactor, instead I'm trying to persuade my employer to switch supplier of small slightly sticky bits of paper. Next week: biros.

Saturday 8 October 2005

How to fill a long gap in friendships

Over a long enough time period, nothing happens to anybody. For proof, conduct the following simple experiment: phone a friend you haven't spoken to for at least six months and ask them what they've been up to, chances are they will reply something similar to "ah, nothing much". If you're me the conversation will then die, and you will have to invent a dinner that has just finished cooking, a sudden knock on the door or a small housefire as an excuse to hang up and end the embarrassing silence. Social faux pas aside, I hope you concur that I have proved nothing happens to to anybody.

Now try this experiment: phone another friend you haven't spoken to for at least six months and ask them "what did you do yesterday?". Don't accept a short answer, genuinely quiz them about where they were when they woke up, how they got to work, what happened to them during the day. Lo and behold, plenty of things happen to everybody all the time. If you listen to people's answers and ask them plenty of follow up questions you can cover hours of conversation with this one simple question and avoid the awkward silences that pervade my Christmas reunions.