It's a long-standing Microsoft tradition that when someone goes away for an extended period of leave, they're at risk of having a prank played on their office. The great Larry Osterman filmed a hilarious video a while back listing many of the examples he's seen, and if you're ever on campus and get the chance to go to the Microsoft Visitor Center, there's a small photo album of some of the better ones.
As regular readers will know, I took four week's paternity leave recently after the birth of our third child. The day I came back, I stumbled back down the corridor to my office, thinking to myself how it felt like I'd only been away for a day, when I abruptly stopped at my office door to see a sign that clearly indicated that my office had been given over to a new starter. My nameplate was gone too.
What the heck? I know office moves are as regular an aspect of working at Microsoft as the changing of the seasons, but I was still surprised that they'd gone ahead and moved everything while I was away. I'd skimmed my email before coming back into the office, but I hadn't noticed anything obvious.
My surprise was still greater when I opened the door. There was another desk in the office - someone had already moved in. The cheek! And what a mess they'd made too... My desk was still there, jammed in the other corner of the office, so I was clearly expected to roomshare with this unknown individual, and my favorite WPF-branded orange couch had disappeared to location unknown. I knew that space was getting pretty tight in our building, but I was still pretty amazed that nobody had given me fair warning.
Unnerved, I retreated in the general direction of the kitchen to get myself a coffee. You might have thought that by now the "prank" alarm bells should have been going off, but my territory had been violated, and I wanted to know who was responsible. I met Steve Cellini, our general manager, Mike Swanson, and Laurence Moroney in the corridor, who for some reason was holding a camcorder (seemed like a strange Channel 9 video to be filming, but I've seen more curious topics in the past!) Steve mentioned something about needing a 1:1 with me, and Mike asked me if I'd met my new roommate yet. Apparently she was something of a character...
Finally, oh so belatedly, the light started to dawn on me. The many subtle hints left on the desk should have been obvious, really - the MacBook Pro, the Linux and Java books, the Blackberry, the RedHat cap, and the sachets of undrunk Kool-Aid, to say nothing of the rather over-friendly coupling of the Channel 9 guy and the Linux penguin. I tried to pretend that I'd seen through the whole thing from the beginning and I was just playing along with my usual dry British humour, but I don't think anyone was fooled, and anyway Laurence has the tape to use as evidence against me at a later date.
So it just remains for me to congratulate Laurence and Ernie for a well-executed prank that fooled me very well - it was appreciated, even if I'm still getting the odd visit from people who want to know how I managed to get out of an office sharing arrangement so easily. Well done guys... just make sure you don't go away any time soon!