‘Numbing’ Jane Thackeray (one of the dregs of history)

Jane Thackeray was a victim of modern technology. She trained as a librarian and became expert in records management. She relished the idea of improving how records were kept and how to make finding them much easier. Her lecturers were impressed with the dedication that she showed, spending many hours each day voluntarily carrying out research so boring and mundane that nobody else could be bothered, and marked her out early for a successful career. More grounded people marked her out for serious injury if she wasn’t careful; she had a habit of wanting to talk about her boring research to anybody, whether or not they had an alcoholic shield in place.

As a graduate, she was employed by government and went to work in the Environmental Department. A very capable employee, she soon worked her way into more senior positions, and was eventually given the task of implementing an improved records management system. There were some warning signs of the disaster about to unfold. She was heard to comment on how much fun the staff would have playing with the new system, and despite the fact that she giggled hysterically at the time, she really thought people would have fun.

When she was also given the job of carrying out the departmental training, she really came into her own. Without any respect for anybody’s sanity, or the accepted wisdom that attention spans only last for about forty minutes, Jane organised three-hour training sessions. This was when she was christened Numbing Jane. She punctuated her sessions with jokes that only records professionals would understand. Historians have seriously considered whether she would rival Aethelbald of Wessex as the most boring person that has ever lived. Probably not, but they are open to debate.

The system she devised was so thorough that you could look for files using over three hundred different search categories. The problem was that the information needed to properly run the system meant that the time spent on any job was likely to at least double, once all the required fields had been filled in. This did not go down well with staff, many of whom came out of the training sessions with headaches, strange tics and twitches, and only a slim grip on their sanity. Some were holding their heads pleading, ‘Make her stop. Please, make her stop!’ On hearing of these training sessions, The International Red Cross wrote her a letter reminding her of the requirements of the Geneva convention.

She passed away when she took on a challenge from a rather disgruntled environmental officer who was drowning under the additional work from the ‘new and improved’ electronic data record management system. Dave Constable bet her that he could carry out a whole assessment in the time it would take her to enter into the new system his correspondence from all fifteen files of public submissions for a proposed gravel mine.

Caught up in an ecstatic rapture while playing with her new system, Jane Thackeray forgot to eat and subsequently starved to death on the tenth day into her task. By then she was a gibbering, drooling wreck, a pale shadow of the fine woman she could have been. Other records management and information technology professionals, saddened though they were, commented that it was not the system that was the problem, it was the user. Many of them were later admitted to hospital after a long line of staff lined up to punch some sense into them, one by one, over a period of several hours.

 

This is an extract from The Complete Dregs of History Available here

About George Fripley
I am a writer who enjoys writing humour, satire, poetry and sometimes a bit of philosophy. I live in Perth, Western Australia and occasionally get a poem or article published. It's all good fun! I have two books available for unwary readers, Grudges, Rumours and Drama Queens- The Civil Servant's Manual (This contains all that anybody could ever want to know about why government runs so slowly) and More Gravy Please! - the Politician's Handbook. (available through Amazon)

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