Munch Break

1 Conversation

Pinniped here, but not alone! There'll be a friend of mine along in a minute to help with this one. I hope you don't mind. The story I'm going to tell you is true, or at least some semblance of a story buried under all this nonsense might have been true, once. The entity and its message really existed, and the words are mine (at least when arranged in this particular order).

An alternative explanation is that it reflects what the subconscious Pinniped would like to happen to Scott Adams. Interesting thought....

Four men cramped onto one desk

...There was once a job that was pretty stressful and highly challenging. Very often the staff would be trying to expedite work on many fronts at once, and everyone was always working to tight budgets and even tighter programs. There was always so much riding on everything; every individual contribution had to add up to a perfect team effort.

I remember now; it was your job, in fact.

Most of the people who work in your field are good at dealing with stress, of course. The people who aspire to your level of responsibility aren't allowed to take it on, unless they've first shown the aptitude to handle it.

But the trouble is this. To survive stress at work, you need more than individual aptitude. It has to be a team-thing. You mustn't go setting people nerve-wracking challenges unless you give them high levels of support. Challenge and support naturally go together in good organisations. People have to know that the moment they scream, help will be at hand. Either that, or they'd go mad....

(At this point, Edvard Munch's painting 'The Scream' enters. Except that it isn't a painting. It's a real, solid thing, emitting the loudest silence you've ever heard. It's upraised arms and it's contorted face are frozen; the only part of it that moves is the lower part of it's night-black gown, which wreathes and billows as if in a high wind. This is surprising because there doesn't seem to be any gale blowing in the vicinity of your computer. Pinniped, meanwhile, continues his discourse as if nothing unusual has taken place. Typical).

Scream or go mad. That's what this monstrosity really means. Back in the place where you work, it will henceforth appear in the presence of people under extreme pressure. Not to make them feel worse, but to remind them that others are mindful of the stress they're under, and are ready to help. After a while it will move on to another person, like a kind of chain-letter for challenged people who need support.

Don't be alarmed. It will work for many people, and it will actually make them feel better. It won't please everyone, but even the people who dislike it will get benefit. This is because an angry reaction to its appearance will be a sign of someone already in need of real support. People at the end of their tether will even go looking for it, to make sure that others get the message about how they feel. So it will provide a useful emergency warning too.

The Scream glides forward, still wearing the same baleful expression. A piece of paper flutters from its grasp :

A Brief History of 'The Scream'

'The Scream' was painted by some Norwegian geezer named Edvard Munch, on or about 2nd August 1909 (Warning : This date and several of the other purported facts in this note are not in fact true). It resided for many years in the Hafnafkjolk Gallery in Joltfjoltnjokl, just quietly becoming famous. In the early 90s it was stolen, and ostensibly quickly recovered and restored.

The painting now exhibited in Norway is a kjopy, and manifjestly a fjake. The Real Scream came into the possession of an internationally-renowned art connoisseur named Pinniped. It took on a strangely 3-dimensional life of its own, and mysteriously visited the workplaces of several of his acquaintances, where it tended to materialise in the cubicle of whichever member of the project staff was most put-upon at a given time.

It has now followed Pinniped here, apparently determined to epitomise the silent agony of new victims of the system.

When it appears in your vicinity, you should allow it to stay there for at least one week, but no longer than two. Then you should help it to move on to another distraught individual who might find solace in its comforting gaze.

If you don't do this, Thor only knows what might happen, but it will surely involve blood and large hammers and have lots of Js and Ks in it.

Placed by the Friends of the Scream

You feel a damp flipper on your shoulder.

'Think how you felt when you saw that thing', says a tiny piping voice, interspersed with grunts. 'That's how some of your workmates feel all the time'.

Do you know what to say? If so, say it below!

Pinniped pulls out the valve in the Scream's back. It begins to deflate, and the smelly little creature gives a satisfied nod. 'Meanwhile', he says, 'got any fish?'


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