WEDNESDAY, JULY 11: “It’s eleven o’clock pm. do you know where your children are?”
This public service announcement began airing on television in the 1970s.
It was a good question to ask.
The Vietnam War was raging on, women were asserting their economic independence (remember all those power suits we wore?), Richard Nixon resigned and for a moment, it almost seemed like there would be peace in the Middle East.
In 2012, the world still remains a complicated place. Only now, everything moves at breakneck speed.
Here in Bermuda however, things move a little differently. While the global financial markets continue round the clock, in Bermuda, time practically stands still every day for approximately fifteen minutes.
What is going on, you ask? Are the citizens of Bermuda being called to prayer?
Well, if there could be a public service announcement that could be heard over loud speakers throughout all of Hamilton, you would hear this: “It’s 4:30pm. do you know where your employees are?”
Every day, at the same time every day, thousands of Bermudians leave their desks at 4:30pm to “get ready to leave.” This is a phenomenon that occurs only in Bermuda.
In a country that takes water so seriously, you have to wonder why so many of its citizens spend so much time in the bathroom.
Could it be that nearly every office window has a view of the water, creating what I call the Titanic effect?
I refer to the movie and not to the actual tragedy. Years ago, when the movie was first released in theatres, I noticed that everyone was getting up to leave.
Turns out it wasn’t the unfolding drama that had moviegoers leaving their seats, but the need to visit the restrooms.
The power of suggestion was just too great since nearly every scene was filmed against a backdrop of water.
But back to our subject; do you need to make a doctor’s appointment, speak with your lawyer, your accountant? Have you tried your bank? If it’s 4:30 in the afternoon, don’t bother. Do not call. You will only hear a voicemail message announcing that the person you are trying to reach is away from their desk.
If your matter is important, then kindly dial extension blah, blah, blah and you will be connected to Mr or Ms So and So who will assist you.
I tried that once at my bank and dialled no fewer than three extensions, all of which went immediately to voicemail.
In order to protect the guilty, I won’t mention the bank but I will tell you that the one person who did answer his phone was the CEO. I still have an account there.
Which brings me to one very good thing about the 4:30pm exodus to the bathrooms all over Hamilton — and that is, one can usually speak with the person in charge.
Who knew that the mark of a really important person in a Bermuda company was their ability to have excellent bladder control?
They probably don’t take sick days either, but that’s another subject. Sometimes, if I’m really frustrated, I don’t even bother to call; I just show up.
In military terms, this is the equivalent of the rear offensive, no pun intended. The CEO never saw it coming. His team is too busy in the loo and without a gatekeeper, one has total access. I highly recommend this strategy. It also helps to know his home address, too.
I wonder if there could be an incentive programme for employees willing to cut down their, ahem, stall time. It could work. For every minute you shave off your “getting ready to leave” time, you could have a minute to be more productive and hence, increase profitability for your company.
Then maybe you would get a raise or a bonus. You would be the envy of your colleagues as clients sang your praise for being available. A lot can happen at 4:30 in the afternoon — why miss it?
I propose that a new corporate challenge be created. According to The World Toilet Organization (www.worldtoilet.org), 40 per cent of the world’s population is without proper sanitation.
Their mission is to improve sanitation conditions around the world and restore health dignity.
Pick a local charity and “penalize” your colleagues, say for one dollar for every restroom visit longer than five minutes.
You’ll increase productivity in your office and quite possibly have a laugh.
And if you’re going to get all dolled up just to go home, you may as well make your absence from your desk meaningful.