The other day an engineer arranged a field trip to see some work going on, and sent an email to our group. Amidst the information and instructions was this tidbit: “…we’ll leave at 1:30pm and return by COB”. COB, of course, means Close Of Business, and in this context meant about 5pm.

However we have a couple of engineers who arrive irregularly, though usually late (9:30 to 10am) and dependably leave early (1 to 2pm). So in talking about the field-trip memo with our wise-guy engineer, who always sees a funny twist in everything, this guy said, “Hey, what happens if your COB is 1:30pm? What are those people supposed to do??”

I thought that was funny as hell. I rushed back to my cube and Replied-All to the original email with that question: What if your COB is 1:30pm? Then awaited the reaction.

First was our boss. She came out of her office laughing about it. I thought that odd since she is the one who implicitly approves all the short hours.

A staff engineer asked me about something else and before leaving said, “What does that mean? Is COB 1:30pm?” I said it was sort of an inside joke and if he didn’t understand it, not to worry about it. Fairly quiet after that, even when one of the targets of the Reply-All came in (9:30am) and the wise-guy and I razzed her some.

But at 1:30pm I stuck my head in her cube and said “COB!” The original staff engineer started collecting his group and before leaving told me, “Hey, I sure wish I could have COB at 1:30pm!” Smiling, I replied “But you can…anyone can in this group.” He looked surprised and departed.

At 1:40pm the target engineer left for her home. COB delayed by 10 minutes! And so it goes in our little corner of State work.


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