05 June 2006

Going postal in a Royal way

Warning : long post ahead!

Part 1: The Case

The term "going postal" is hardly in need of a learned commentary. It happens from time to time in many places, especially ones with easy access to firearms.

The British Royal Mail, however, succeeded to infuse a completely new meaning to "going postal". Instead of an employee, the whole management went barking mad. This is a case of the management decision being so mind-bogglingly dim that it redefines the known extremities of idiocy.

The NSS (National Secular Society) tells the story:

The Extraordinary Case Of The Pagan And The Multicultural Prayer Room

An extraordinary - one might almost say unbelievable - industrial tribunal case in Manchester in March gave a rare insight into how attempts to accommodate "multicultural" religious needs at work actually appear only to apply to Muslims. It developed around a spat between Muslim employees at the Royal Mail and a member of the Odinist Fellowship (a group that apparently worships the old Nordic gods).

The case - Royal Mail group PLC versus Donald Holden - was described in a document posted on the TUC website by Robin Jackson, the information officer of the Odinist Fellowship, who attended both days of the hearing. Mr Jackson reported: "Many of you will be surprised, as I was, to learn that, increasingly, employers with a large proportion of Muslim staff are being obliged to set aside rooms in the workplace for Muslim prayers, and to allow their employees to take time away from their duties to engage in these prayers.

At the Mail Centre where Donald worked, there was just such a room, which was designated as a "Multicultural Room". That is important, because never, at any time, did the Royal Mail claim that the Room was solely for Muslim use, or that non-Muslims might not use it for their own purposes." Mr Holden tried to use the room for his own religious purposes - which is ostensibly what it was for - but it quickly became apparent that it was, in reality, a Muslim Club Room, full of Korans and prayer calendars. Mr Holden left sheets of paper about Odinism in the room, on a chair by the sink. Obviously Mr Holden's use of the room was not welcomed by the Muslim employees and eventually an anonymous complaint was made to the management that a "muddy footprint had been left on the carpet of the Multicultural Room." As Mr Jackson reports: "What could this mean? There could be only one possible interpretation: quite clearly, the culprit had intended to attack the Muslim religion."

To make the story shorter (please do not deny yourself the pleasure of reading the whole article), Mr Holden was dismissed, sued the Royal Mail, won and is set to get a sizable sack of dosh. If you ever heard about a more inane application of logic and common sense by management, please let me know, and I will lay the cornerstone to the Idiotic Management Hall of Fame.

Part 2: The Bonus

If you were patient enough to get here, stay a bit and get a related (well, somewhat) yarn as a bonus.

Once upon a time in Britain, there was a young man (this is how it was told to me many years ago, and it tallies with the case above) who suffered from excruciating headaches. No medicine and no treatment succeeded to resolve or even reduce the suffering. After exhausting the gamut of NHS offerings, the young man was referred to an old, wise, private doctor - a renowned headache specialist. After a battery of tests and significant investment of money, the good doctor's verdict was crushing: "Young man", he said, "the only possible way to free you from these excruciating headaches is to remove your testicles. There is no other solution whatsoever. The decision is yours to make".

The man was understandably devastated. He was young and had taken for granted actively putting his "boys" to good use for years to come (so to speak), life without the complete set seemed worthless. He procrastinated for a while, but the excruciating headaches just grew stronger. A decision needed to be made, he could envisage two options: put an end to his life or take the doctor's offer. Being a man of sense, he concluded that life without testicles was marginally a better choice than no life at all. He agreed to the operation, and sure enough along with his testicles the headaches were gone. And so, his life went on, less productive but still he was alive...

One day the young man flies to Hong Kong (or was it Makao, anyway somewhere in the area) on business. Acting on a friend's recommendation, he decided to treat himself and order a few suits - Hong Kong (or Makao) was deservedly famous for excellence and punctuality of it's tailors. So our young man arrived at the address given him. Upon entry into the establishment a very old (and astute) Chinese tailor greeted him politely and with broken English, and the following dialog ensued:

"Greetings, honorable Sir. I see that you are here for a suit Sir. No problem Sir, this light grey cloth is just for Sir. Dear Sir will tell me how many suits Sir desires, and they will be ready and delivered to Sir's hotel tomorrow morning. I see that Sir's is size 44."

"No, my dear fellow. My London tailor always makes it 42!" replies the young man.

"Oh Sir, that is very strange, Sir. May I quickly measure Sir's trousers?" and with lightning efficiency proceeds to measure the young man.

"Well, indeed I see Sir's wearing size 42. Very strange indeed. May I ask Sir a question?"

"Sure, old chap, go ahead." replies the young man.

"Doesn't Sir suffer from excrutiating headaches?"


There must be a meaningful lesson here for the Royal Mail management, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm not sure it's directly related to 'The Case', but strongly suspect it is. Must admit though, I do feel some strange stirrings in my nether parts, and for some reason, inexplicably drawn to Odinism...