Photo Courtesy of Amy Williams D’Apice

The Great Global Turn-on/off

Adelia Ritchie, PhD


It’s no secret that the world population in the early 1990s had been completely turned off by too frequent reports of certain government officials being repeatedly turned on, and often having to leave their posts in shame. The truth is that many of them fled when the media discovered an even darker secret lurking in the corners of their executive offices.

They left because, after years of trying, they were still incapable of learning how to operate the postage machine. No, actually it’s even more basic, and embarrassing, than that. They were incapable of learning how to turn on the postage machine (or any other office machine, for that matter).

As a victim of this insidious syndrome, I too was forced to depart my post as a technical journal editor. It was a constant source of amusement for our composition assistant, when, on Monday mornings (as a volunteer, I often worked weekends alone), she would find a small pile of unstamped envelopes on her desk with an obscenely phrased note cursing all design engineers in the known universe (and also Washington, DC) for not putting the on/off switch on the front of the machine, where it could readily be found even by absent-minded techno-nerd rocket scientists operating in a parallel dimension.

It was bad enough not to be able to turn on a PC without personal instruction (that’s why Macintosh is my clan). But that’s a conspiracy of a different byte. the on/off switch conspiracy, revealed through independent scientific research, was conceived in the late 1960s when miniskirts and hot pants exploded into the office fashion scene. The resulting sudden popularity of floor-level filing cabinets in male-dominated offices was short-lived, however. Clever miniskirted babes quickly learned to kneel demurely when retrieving that bottom-drawer-all-the-way-in-the-back file. “Downward Facing Dog” pose had morphed into “Squatting Frog.”

Clearly, an engineering breakthrough in the dynamic instability of hemlines-viewing was inevitable. Recently declassified documents smuggled from the lead-lined basement of a certain top-secret Air Force facility provide a clue to its origins. These extra-galactic on/off switch engineering drawings were determined by leading scientific minds to have been introduced to planet Earth by Boneheads of the Third Kind in a devious plot to so effectively disrupt daily government operations as to bring utter chaos to the new millennium. The NSA (No Such Agency) warned of a Russian conspiracy.

To all office workers of the female species, heed this warning: Whatever you do, don’t bend over that machine to seek that all-the-way-in-the-back-at-the-bottom-against-the-wall-impossible-to-reach-or-even-find-without-standing-on-one’s-head on/off switch. The entire office could get turned on before the machine does, which might explain why government officials seem to be in trouble much of the time. And to all you bureaucratic and corporate executives who would like to get some work done on weekends, stay home with your families and don’t risk the embarrassment of not being able to turn anything on. Otherwise, you may eventually find it necessary to resign to private life.

Meanwhile, I must now type this article, but first I have to look for the tiny on/off switch under the flip-down panel at the back of my portable confuser, the switch needing to be pushed in with an object just a bit smaller than a fingertip, and it’s recessed and you have to know it’s there, and it’s a small wonder some of us can’t seem to hold a job.

- Adelia E. Ritchie